Atlus has released the Day One edition of Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight (P3D) and Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight (P5D) with a nice additional surprise – they threw in Persona 4: Dancing All Night (P4D) for free. As a long time fan of the series, I was ready with the download button as soon as these games launched. But do they live up to the hype?
Great Rhythm Gameplay
P3D and P5D have the same rhythm-based gameplay as their predecessor P4D. The goal is to fill a ‘hype’ meter in order to complete each stage. You match the beat with the correct button, sometimes pressing two buttons together or holding down a button and releasing it at the right moment. For additional points, you can flick the left or right stick when prompted and perform a ‘scratch’. If you do well enough, you’ll enter fever mode and another character will join you in the dance for a few fun quips and shared moves. The interactions between characters in Fever mode are believable based on their relationship in previous games; especially fun is watching Aketchi and Joker duke it out on the dance floor as Aketchi slowly begins to unravel and reveal more of his insanity.
Sadly P3D and P5D don’t include the ability to call a character’s persona at the end of a song if you do really well. While you won’t be seeing Carmen play the jazz sax or Arsene bust out a mean guitar solo, which is a real shame, the group dances that unlock after you complete several stages in either game, like the one in the game footage below, are a pretty fun addition.
The One Where Everyone’s in a Korean Boy Band
All that’s missing is Koromaru in a tux with a rose in his mouth
As a fan of rhythm-based games (ah, Elite Beat Agents <3) I was pre-disposed to enjoy the gameplay here, but the easy, normal and hard modes really do feel differentiated and offer a decent challenge; prepare for aching hands if you choose to tackle the more difficult modes!
Social Links Unlock Accessories & Dance Partners
In the main Persona games, social links are a mechanism by which you improve relationships and receive additional powers, benefits in battle or perks outside of battle (like being able to buy better merch or stronger potions). In Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight and Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight, you can watch social link events to unlock accessories and additional dance partners. Fans of the series will appreciate the interactions, although Morgana’s thing for Ann is amped up to super creepy levels here.
More Dances Unlock as You Complete The First Available Set
In Persona 4: Dancing All Night, you complete the story mode to unlock additional dances in free dance mode. P3 and P5 dancing, however, don’t have a story mode, so to unlock more dances you complete the ones already available. Dances get progressively harder the further down the setlist you go, and there are some funky remixes of familiar tunes to enjoy. It’s good to see Atlus respecting the musical style of each title, which is very much intrinsic to the feel of each game; Persona 3 is edgy and full of rap, Persona 4 is joyous and funky and Persona 5 is jazzy, with Lotus Juice and co making appearances for their famous numbers.
The One Where The Antihero Dances Like a Broken Doll
Joker and Aketchi dancing together is a strangely captivating sight
The Settings are Interesting and Characterisation is Strong
The premise of P3D and P5D is that our characters have been spirited away to a disco version of the velvet room, for a one-night-only dance event that will be wiped from their memories the morning after. I was disappointed not to see a story mode here or more of a crossover between the two games; the president had been set with Persona Q and as the two groups were engaged in a battle to prove who was the best dancer, it would have made sense to see them overlap and challenge one another.
But Story is Sadly Missing
One of the best things about P4D was that a lot of thought had gone into the story. It played like a visual novel with rhythm bits built in and pitting the investigation team against a shady figure who was stealing away idols made sense; Rise was an idol, dancing was already part of her character, it’s understandable the others came to her friends’ aid. The story in P3D and P5D could have been intriguing if Atlus had built it out – am I the only one who would rather have had a single Persona Q Dancing All Night game with characters from both P3 and P5 and seen a story develop between them? As Persona has always been about the story and relationships, sidelining this essential element of the game and cramming bits of dialogue into a separate social link function that doesn’t impact on gameplay feels lazy and uninspired.
In a Nutshell
While I still can’t quite feel comfortable with the ultra-emo protagonist from P3 smiling away and happily dancing, there are lots of good things about P3D and P5D for Persona devotees who want to see more interactions between beloved characters. Fans of rhythm-based games will also find lots to admire here, the gameplay is good, challenging if you want a challenge and accessible if you’re new to the genre. Those of us who were hoping for a P4D-style story mode will be disappointed, and the fact that you can’t purchase a special edition that includes the CD feels like a massive oversight for a game that is based on the strength of its soundtrack. I bought the special edition of P4D when it first came out in 2015 purely because it included the CD soundtrack, and I would have thought a lot of series fans who appreciate Persona for its music will be disappointed here. Atlus please give us our soundtracks soon.
My advice is to pick these up and enjoy them if you’re a fan of the series, but expect them to be short and have under-developed stories. I thoroughly recommend getting the Day One Edition which includes Persona 4: Dancing All Night for free, as this is the far superior game for story development.