Persona 4: Dancing All Night was one of the weirdest rhythm games to come out in the past few years, mostly because the original game was a distinct JRPG with no reason as to why it should be a rhythm game. However, it worked due to its oddly compelling story and killer remixes mixed with some cool gameplay. Following this trend, Atlus announced the release of Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight and Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight, two similarly themed rhythm games with the P4D approach to music gameplay. A package bundling both titles (as well as a PS4 port of Persona 4: Dancing All night) is available as well, and it’s certainly the best way to enjoy these zany rhythm games.
While most people compare the Persona Dancing subseries to the Hatsune Miku Project Diva games, I liken it to Superbeat: Xonic, down to the UI. Players will have to hit notes that land on six different inputs which correlates with one of the buttons on the PS4 d-pad or face buttons. There’s also a scratch mechanic that advanced players can utilize by flicking the analog sticks in order to rack up more points and a longer combo; getting a good or miss judgement will cause the player to miss and break a combo. Scratching enough notes correctly will cause a fever time to occur, where two characters will dance with each other and cause an opportunity for a lot of points to be gained.
There are also notes that you’ll need to hold, double notes that will have to be pressed twice in succession, and union notes that need to be pressed together. While initially easy to follow (even in later songs), harder difficulties will test your hand-eye coordination, as the hardest, All Night, will change up union note positions. It’s a system that works well on the console, and the huge screen space is much appreciated here. Additionally, surviving a song is not enough; you have another bar that gauges your life, but you’ll need to keep it up to a green level by the end of the song in order to pass. This adds a layer of challenge that favors consistency over powering through a song by mashing buttons (as it’s hard to recover at the end unless you do a perfect job). However, while newcomers or those not acclimated to rhythm games might have a problem with harder difficulties, controls are solid and feel great, with options to adjust calibration and input lag if there’s an issue with your television.
While Persona 4: Dancing All Night had a Visual Novel-esque main story featuring the deconstruction of the idol singer world, Persona 3 and 5’s games eschews a serious narrative in favor of a more lighthearted one. Both the Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad and the Phantom Thieves are brought into the Velvet Room by their respective attendants (Elizabeth in 3 and Caroline and Justine in 5). The hosts announce that the casts are brought here for a night of fun and dancing, which they won’t remember after the night has passed, so it’s up to the characters to enjoy themselves. It culminates with a contest to see which cast can win in a dance off, with Elizabeth getting in a petty argument with Caroline and Justine over this. This premise is crazy compared to the original Dancing All Night, of which that game also justified the cast’s dancing skills by them practicing for a big number. Since apparently none of the characters can dance, it’s a rather contrived coincidence that they can construct moves but just thinking about them; weird flex, but ok.
In regards to the story, the game follows a social link system rather than traditional story elements that act as an achievement system as well. You can interact with different characters based on different goals (for example, Fuuka and Futaba open up as you complete more songs on any difficulty), and the overall narrative is advanced with the attendant events. Personally, I loved Elizabeth’s segments in 3 more than Caroline and Justine’s in 5 just because the former is a bit of a nutcase, but very endearing and just wants to have a good time. While the cast of 3 mainly doesn’t interact with the cast of 5, there are references to both (such as Caroline and Justine’s punishment if they lose or the fact that Fuuka and Futaba indirectly communicate with each other through computers in their room). For those who were looking for hours of story ala Dancing All Night, you’ll be a bit disappointed, but at least there are some story elements here. Also, one small complaint that doesn’t affect the overall story, but I’m kind of sad that Koromaru isn’t in Dancing in Moonlight. While it’s referenced that he’s not there (thanks for noticing, Ken), it’s odd for his exclusion considering Teddie and Mona are playable representatives. Former S.E.E.S. member Shinjiro is available as DLC, so maybe there’s hope for my furry friend.
The main differences in Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight and Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight are in aesthetics and songlists, which are based around their respective games. Both games run at a smooth 60 FPS, and they look amazing; the character models look more fluid than the ones in Persona 4: Dancing All Night, and the choreography looks more solid and fresh. The addition of both Japanese and English dubs is a great option for both new games, though Persona 4: Dancing All Night only includes the English dub. I think that Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight is a better option for those who can only choose one, as it feels more like a Persona 5 sub-game than an overhauled experience; the character models are consistent to the graphics of the PS4 title, and the graphical engine looks great. However, I have a personal attachment to Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight due to the fact that I connected with the songlist and characters more, so at the end of the day, it’s a matter of preference.
Now for the main event, the songlists. Each game features a base setlist of 25 songs, depending on which one you get. From battle music to theme songs to even live performances, there’s an eclectic mix from both games represented here. Most songs will have a set character which you can customize with costumes and accessories gained from social events, with partner characters coming in at certain parts of the song. In addition, some songs have music videos or other multi-character sets in the background, which are pretty flashy and entertaining to look at. My personal favorite is Dancing in Moonlight’s take on an electronic version of The Battle for Everyone’s Soul, which features all the male characters in attendant outfits and hilariously doing the operatic parts. While I appreciate the Persona 5 soundtrack due to the “YOU’LL NEVER SEE IT COMING” memes, Last Surprise and Wake Up, Get Up, Get Out There were pretty awesome tracks.
While most of the songlist for both games is great to listen to, there are a handful of songs that are just a drag to play. For some reason, both games have a song that has three variants (Burn My Dread for Dancing in Moonlight and the aforementioned Last Surprise for Dancing in Starlight). This is okay in a music game with more than 50 or 60 songs, but seeing as how there are less than 30 in the base games, it feels like filler rather than a touching tribute to the songs. In addition, the end credit songs are also included for both games, which are slow and not great in a game that advertises to be fast-paced and high-energy. They’re accompanied by some pretty cool ending credit sequences, but hampered by the fact that they’re not fun to play.
The problem with a slightly small songlist is exacerbated by the fact that you’ll have to play a lot of these songs multiple times in order to activate certain social link events. Due to the fact that the games do not have Persona 4: Dancing All Night’s comprehensive story mode, the playtime length does feel bare if you’re not into high scores or enjoying the rhythm gameplay. For those looking for those things, however, you’re in for a treat.
Speaking of which, the Endless Night Collection includes an exclusive download code of Persona 4: Dancing All Night which makes the $99.99 price tag for three games a pretty sweet deal. While you might see a downgrade in visual models if you jump from the newer games to this one, it’s still recreated faithfully, with this version taking advantage of PS4 technology and offering a smooth experience as well as a fully-voiced story campaign and a set of trophies for achievement hunters. If you haven’t played the original, the Endless Night Collection is the package to get, mainly due to the fact that you won’t be able to get the PS4 version of Persona 4: Dancing All Night anywhere else for the time being. I didn’t appreciate the fact that paid DLC may be returning on this version though, as I feel like the PS4 port should be a definitive version that includes all the songs from the original game.
Persona Dancing: Endless Night Collection
Featuring a great value of three games in the package, the Persona Dancing Endless Night Collection is the best way to experience Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight and Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight. While a bit grindy later on, some killer tracks, entertaining gameplay, and a refreshing aesthetic, the games in this collection are chart-toppers.