Reviews// Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight / Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight

Posted 11 Dec 2018 11:02 by
Persona 5 has one of the greatest soundtracks, not just in video games, but in anything – that's a strong place to start for a rhythm game. That being said, I usually avoid rhythm games like the plague - turns out I just needed one with music in it that I already love.

Last year’s Persona 5 was almost my game of the year, but 2017 was one hell of a year for games. The music was the icing on a ridiculously stylish whole. I was worried that the remixes in P5 Dancing in Starlight would be horrible.I was also worried that my aversion of rhythm games would make reviewing it and Persona 3 Dancing in Moonlight a chore.

I am glad to report those worries were unfounded.

Both games share a common base; they are mechanically identical as far as gameplay goes, which means your preference for the related games will alter which of the two Dancing spin-offs you’ll prefer. It’s been a whole decade since Persona 3 hit western shores and its characters and music had faded in my memory, although I still enjoyed working through the songs and it also planted a seed in my heart; I really want remasters of the older Persona games.

A typical session with these games sees you selecting a song from the tracks you’ve unlocked so far. You choose "modifiers", costumes and equipment and start the song. As you play, the character will dance in the background, though you’ll barely notice them because all your focus is on the notes that fly from the centre of the screen to one of six prompts arranged around the screen. Each note is colour coded to represent the kind of interaction required as they pass over the outer markers. The closer you get to hitting the button in the centre, the better your score.

There are also rings that require either a flick of a thumbstick or press of a shoulder button. These help build up a gauge that triggers a bonus phase which rewards you with score multipliers - though I was terrible at hitting them. The sequence of notes almost always has a pattern and rhythm you can learn, and I found that I performed better on songs that I already enjoyed. Each song has a difficulty rating based on BPM, length and other esoteric criteria.

There are multiple levels of difficulty from easy to an unlockable difficulty that will, when attempted, make you want to snap your controller in half on even the simplest of songs. You can further alter the challenge with previously mentioned "modifiers", with each one contributing to your final score. A good example is the option to continue a combo even if you only get a Good rating on a note. Though this reduces your score by a percentage, it makes it easier to hit a high combo rating potentially giving you a higher total score. Alternatively, you can choose to receive bigger penalties for missing notes, but hitting them hands out meaty rewards.

Outside of the dancing, the scores, "Perfects" hit and a bunch of other tracked stats unlock the Social links – in the original games, characters are representations of the Arcana - the major Tarot cards - and doing different things opens up their personal stories, with each character's part in the story being linked to a different tracked stat. Meeting the requirements allows you to converse with the members of your party and whilst the story mostly feels tacked-on, it is always nice to spend time with these characters.

The way both of these new Persona Dancing games handle the story brings me to my only real complaint and also allows me to address the elephant in the room – Persona 4 Dancing All Night. This game featured a fully-fledged continuation of its base games' story, and was presented in a much richer manner. As mentioned previously, the story in the new Persona 3/5 Dancing games feels tacked on and, in all honesty, lazy.

Music is a subjective thing, wholly dependent on personal tastes. It is also something I bang on about in a lot of the reviews, because I personally feel that the soundtrack can lift or sink a game. P3 Dancing in Moonlight and P5 Dancing in Starlight both have fantastic sets. P5 has the stronger outing of the two, but that is in due part to it being a newer game. I the last decade video game music has come on leaps and bounds and that shows strongly in Persona 5’s soundtrack, which is a tour de force that bursts with energy. I worried that the remixes would muddle that excellence, but some of them are genuinely brilliant and some are so strange I couldn’t help but enjoy them.

The bottom line is, both games are great; the music is excellent and the mechanics are friendly even to someone who previously avoided rhythm games. Depending on personal tastes and which soundtrack resonates strongest with you will determine which of the two games you’ll get the most out of. I highly recommend getting the collection that also includes Persona 4 Dancing All Night, purely because its story is so much better - plus P4’s music was also excellent.

+ Absolutely cracking music with surprisingly excellent remixes
+ Each game retains the stylistic slickness of their original games
+ Mechanics are friendly, even to newcomers and those with two left thumbs

- The story/social side of P3 and P5 are lacklustre compared to P4

Score: 8/10

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