The Phantom Thieves are back on your screens again, but this time they’re dancing to the remixed and original tracks of Persona 5. Like Dancing in Moonlight, this comes with plenty to unlock and a lot of scenarios, but it has the same issues with a puzzling UI, especially in the harder difficulties.
Dancing in Starlight takes place within a shared dream among your team during the events of Persona 5. Caroline and Justine, the protagonist’s guides throughout the game, want you to compete against their older sister’s team of Persona users (P3) in a dance competition There isn’t much story to be gleamed from this dance party, as it is all a dream that they will forget, but the character conversations you unlock by doing certain tasks gives you more interesting context to each character’s history and preferences. All of these are told through simple cutscenes that are fully voiced (and well acted) by the same cast as Persona 5.
But the main meat and potatoes of Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight is the music of course with 25 songs to play. Similarly to the Hatsune Miku games, you press buttons in relation to the beat. The D-pad resembles the left and the buttons resemble the right. With the analog stick, you can make a DJ-scratch like noise, which can give you extra points and more for your combo, but is not necessary. During specific sections of the song, another character comes on screen and dances with the person designated to the track you are playing; this is called Fever Mode.
This game can be unnecessarily tough to play, especially on the harder difficulties. It’s hard to keep track of the notes on screen due to the UI. Both sides of the note highway are hard to read at the same time as they’re so far apart. If you are responding on one side of the screen, you have to use your periphery vision to see the other side in quick succession if they are played simultaneously. It’s difficult to grasp, and over time, you can figure out how to play Normal to an efficient level, but harder modes shoot notes at you too fast to process what is happening at times as they’re literally out of your sight unless you know to look at that specific direction.
In Persona 4 Dancing All Night, the scratch signs are less obtrusive on screen, and they should have stayed that way, so on top of the hard to follow UI, the scratch marks are distractingly big and brightly coloured. Having some sort of customization with the UI in-game would have been helpful.
Dancing in Moonlight doesn’t give you a lot of room to fail, as well. If you stumble just a few times during a 3 to 4, to maybe a 5 minute song, you either clear the song (which is the bare minimum) or fail it. It’s brutal, especially in the harder difficulties. And you need to clear songs with a Brilliant rating to unlock the social links for . The difference between a Brilliant and the perfect score, King Crazy, is very low.
Most of the song selections are bangers with fresh, cool, and exciting remixes of Shoji Meguro’s music by artists such as: ATLUS Kozuka, ☆Taku Takahashi, and Jazztronik. These artists help gives the soundtracks fans are familiar with a new balm of life. The remix of Tokyo Daylight, by ATLUS Kozuka, for example, is an uptempo summer bop that adds a tasty percussion beat that elevates the original track. Wake Up, Get Up, Get Out There is already a delightful track with catchy lyrics and excellent vocals, but Jazztronik’s remix adds an extra drum beat, giving it more flair.
However, some of the remixes are not as strong as the ones available in Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight. President’s remix of Will Power is a puzzling mixture of percussion, KAIEN’s remix of Beneath the Mask goes against the calmness of the original song with obnoxious dubstep, and tofubeats interpretation of Hoshi To Bokura To felt too slow and odd for the characters to dance to.
Some of the original music, such as Last Surprise, Life Goes On, and Wake Up, Get Up, Get Out There is still in this game however. And they’re still jams to rock out to.
However, P-Team opted to repeat the representation of songs multiple times, and it’s disappointing that some tracks won’t have any regard at all in this celebration of Persona 5. Last Surprise is used three times! Five of the 25 tracks in the game only show a video in the background, as well; they feel lazy and uninteresting to play to. The OP, GROOVY, is also annoying to play as there’s background music from Last Surprise during the song that’s really distracting. The game’s so lazy with these that they included the credits of Persona 5 in this with the text scrolling down and all; what makes this worse is that it takes FOREVER to finish and you’ll likely miss notes just from sheer boredom.
The layouts for the note highways make sense with the songs and each one feels different to each other and provides a different style of challenge. When you have a streak going, it feels great as it lays out two button presses, hold button presses, and quick succession taps to the beat in a thrilling fashion.
What highlights the music, is the choreography on screen. Each of the characters groove to the music in a flashy, dramatic and hype-inducing way, but the choreography also reflects the characters’ personalities on screen. It gets even better as Fever Mode activates and the partners dance with them. You really get the camaraderie the group has shared over their difficult journey, and the way they work together can be fixating or very kawaii.
Despite the tricky UI set up, you are able to acknowledge the dancing on screen, but to its detriment, the gameplay doesn’t actually affect the dancing. You don’t see them stumble during the dance if you screw up. And the music doesn’t falter. Instead, your team members are mentioning how you’re doing through voiced lines, which can be fun to hear at first, but repetitive as they deliver the same catchphrases time and time and time again. You can turn these voices off, but you won’t get that gratifying feedback you need while playing the game.
There are so many unlockables in Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight. You complete tasks, such as finishing a certain amount of songs in Brilliant or clearing a song with different outfits or accessories, to unlock social links with the cast of characters. To finish the game, which takes around 10-12 hours, you have to finish Caroline and Justine’s social links by having a significant amount of social links watched. Different outfits and accessories are rewarded throughout the game and vary greatly, but if you have already played Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight, many of the costumes are the same. I found it addictive to collect everything in Dancing in Moonlight, but as Dancing in Starlight had the same content, that drive wasn’t there.
Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight suffers from a difficult UI, a steep difficulty curve, and a weaker playlist of remixes than it’s sister game, but half of the music is thrilling to play with exciting choreography, and if you haven’t played through Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight, there are plenty of unlockables to keep you playing.
This review is based on a review copy provided by ATLUS