It’s very rare that you get a birthday present from a publisher that you like. This year I did, and its Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight. Now just to clarify, no I didn’t actually get this game as a present, but it does release on my birthday and I did received a review copy from the publisher, so I’m going with it.
So what is Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight? Well the short answer is that it’s a rhythm game set in the Persona 4/5 universe. Both games parallel each other with this game focuses on the cast of the fifth entry in the series. Taking place after the conclusion of Persona 5’s story, we get a new shorter tale centered on a contest between the assistants from the velvet room. A contest to prove who are the better assistants by having the main cast of the Persona 3 and 5 games prove who are the better dancers. Now you don’t actually see them clash or dance with each other, but it is implied. Really it’s just an excuse to have the persona characters in Dancing games.
Let’s address the flaws first
Now because I am a Persona fan and I already have my own biases towards this series I thought I’d address the flaws of this game first so that you don’t need to listen to me fanboy from the off. The first flaw is that the game ships with 25 songs, many of which repeat as remixes. For the asking price of sixty dollars, I don’t think that’s enough. For example.: the rhythm game, Elite Beat Agents had 19 songs out the box, but none were remixes. Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X had 30, again no remixes, but this, this is a bit of a let down for the asking price. The game also doesn’t benefit from a meaningful story like the series it derives from, and unless you plan on beating it on every difficulty it won’t last as long either.
So what what is there to like about it?
Well It’s freaking Persona for one, and if that’s not your fancy, then what are you doing with your life? Seriously though the game is supposed to have 30 additional DLC tracks, some of which are free. Counting the free tracks that’s a total of 31 tracks for the price of sixty dollars, with an additional 19 tracks costing different prices.
Also included in the purchase is a cast of 8 characters with a 9th being unlocked from play. These characters include; Ren, Ryuji, Ann, Morgana, Yusuke, Makoto, Futaba, Haru, Caroline and Justine. Caroline and Justine count as the unlockable 9th playable character. Each character is customizable, and gains new outfits as well as accessories the more you play. This includes changing their base outfit, hairstyle, headgear, eye colour, and hair colour.
Oh and yes my P-Life folk, there are swimsuits. In the name of P-life let’s take a moment for me to share the gospel. Gaining the male and female swimsuits require two different methods, and I’m sure I speak for all of you when I say, “ain’t nobody cares about the blokes swimwear”. So for acquiring the ladies swimsuits, you’ll need to complete all 8 of Ann’s social events. This will require you to clear tracks with 70 different outfits. Keep in mind changing accessories do not count as changing outfits.
Now back to your regular review program…
The characters all look graphically the same as they do in the main game, and they all have full English and Japanese voices. The colours used for this game are the same black and red theme for a base with other colours used for effects. Stages mirror locations in the main game or some stylized AMVs. One stage even features a live concert. That’s actually my favourite stage in the game, and I wish there were more like it. The way music at a live sounds is so different and the visuals for it actually got me to re-watch the replay a couple times.
The regular stages are fine too with each featuring a different character from the phantom thieves as the lead. Each character has their own unique dancing style that mirrors their personality in very interesting way. Ryuji for example has a modern American hip hop style of dance while Futaba has a cute j-pop style of dancing. These styles sometimes intersect when characters share a stage together, but somehow they all work well together.
If I had to critic any aspect of the visuals and audio it would be that some of the dances don’t seem to fit the music, and not all songs are equal. Price for example is epic, while Will Power is just something you endure.
Hitting the right notes
Like most other rhythm games, Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight requires timed button presses for hitting notes. The buttons include the use of the UP, Down and Left on the D-pad with the Triangle, Circle and X buttons. These are represented on two curves on each side of the screen. The notes start at the centre of the screen and work their way out to the curves which sits at the edge of the screen. Depending on your timing you can either get a Good, Bad, Great or Perfect button press. Some notes also require holding a buttons or pressing multiple buttons at the same time. You’re also able to scratch by flicking joysticks when special circles form without notes on them. Mixing all of this together you get one of the toughest rhythm games to date.
Do not, and I repeat, do not start this game on medium difficulty if it’s your first time. Start on easy and work your way up. Also keep in mind that the notes always move clockwise, so be prepared for the next note to be on the next spot on in a clockwise rotation.
It’s Fever time
Each stage also has special scratch rings that activate a bonus routine called Fever Time. These routine usually results in another member of the phantom thieves joining the dance, thus altering it a little. Fever Time gains you a higher score and is usually possible twice in each stage. If you’re able to keep a good combo going then your Hyper Gauge in the top left corner of the screen will fill. To complete a stage the the Hyper Gauge must not hit zero.
Stages can be customized to reduce penalties, offer boosts and more. This is called support and will lower your overall score, but will allow for easier completion of the game. It is also possible to gain more points by using another form of customization called challenge. Challenges boost your overall score percentage by making stages tougher. These custom effects are unlocked as you play, so don’t be afraid to use them if you’re having a tough time or need more of a challenge.
Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight also has a perfect play, no notes and choreography modes for completed stages. The No notes option unlocks from completing Ryuji’s social events. The game also has VR support, but as I don’t have a PSVR headset, I can’t speak too much about it. What I can say is that you are able to view characters in VR, and once you complete a character’s 6th social event, you are able to visit their rooms. The rooms are all fully rendered in great detail, and they can be viewed in VR as well.
Should you get Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight? Well, that will depend on if you’re a fan of the Persona series, and fancy Persona 5 in particular. If that is the case then yes. It’s a good game for fans of the series and offers enough enjoyment for about 11 to 20 hours, depending on if you wish to complete each stage on each difficulty and unlock each outfit. If Persona is not your thing, then I’d say stay clear of this game. At $60 USD it’s hard to justify this purchase to anyone that isn’t a Persona fan. As a rhythm game it is basic as they come and lacks enough stages to warrant more than a rental. For the uninitiated I recommend getting Persona 5 and giving that a try first.
The copy of Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight used for this review was provided to us by its publisher, Atlus.