Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight is the latest in the dancing spin-off series of the recent Persona games, carrying on the trend from Persona 4: Dancing All Night and releasing side-by-side with Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight. Set as a rhythm game after the main story, P5D moves away from traditional combat in favour of dancing to jazzy music and remixes from the main game, alongside slight story elements in the form of social interactions with the main cast. Featuring cross-save with the Vita, P5D and P3D breathe some new life into the handheld console.
While P5D doesn’t have a typical story mode it does contain small story beats to compliment the songs. As you complete tracks, challenges or side objectives you will unlock short conversations with the Phantom Thieves and the twins of the Velvet Room. These conversations are mostly to discuss the new environment they find themselves in, bonding with one another or helping one another dance better. There is a small challenge at play, as P5 versus P3 in the world, but this game mostly sticks to the P5 crew.
The story is set up after the main story of Persona 5, where the crew are currently asleep. Caroline and Justine want the party to dance in a competition with the opposing team, to be named the greatest guests of all time. With no danger in your wake and no worries of people finding out, we can dance to our heart’s content and please the twins with our style. It feels really out of canon when they say that the party will not remember this, probably a huge hint that this game will be outside of said story, but a nice distraction nonetheless.
Currently, the game only contains 25 tracks, so completing what it has to offer will only take a few hours based on your skill with rhythm games. Though like many other games in this genre there are plenty of challenges to complete, like getting a full-combo, more brilliant scores and messing around with costumes or accessories. It can take over 6 hours to completely unlock all the confidant social interactions, but to do so you must replay the same tracks over and over which may seem tiresome to less avid fans of this style of game.
P5D plays similarly to other rhythm games on the Vita, with some twists added in to spice up the action, though this review is based on the PS4 version. Each song will have the player press Triangle, Circle or X for the right side of the screen and Up, Left and Down for the left side of the screen. Notes will fly from the middle of the screen to the outside, where there are circles, once the notes are in the circle the player must press the corresponding button to score. The more centred the note is, the higher the score.
Alongside normal button pushes, the player will also be “scratching” circles as they emanate from the middle. Once these circles reach the radius of the play area the player must then move the left or right Thumbstick. Scratches don’t break combos, so they are optional points. With scratches, there are also fever circles, which add a point to the next fever gauge. Fever is a sort of “Cool mode” if you have ever played PaRappa the Rapper. Whilst in Fever your dance partner will join into the dance and the player will be temporarily immune to misses, allowing for an easier time.
Along with normal gameplay, you will also be able to change the outfits or accessories of your dancers, including that of their partners or who even will be their partner. Most of the outfits are from the main game, featuring plenty of seasonal wear, but there are unique P5D costumes for all characters and even some that make a return from previous DLC. Wearing these optional pieces of clothing will also count towards some of your confidant socials, so they will be mandatory at some point in your game time.
Conversations within P5D take a more visual novel style approach than that of the main game, with front facing characters and emotion lines all around. Characters are definitely less animated, with repeating animations playing while they wait for the player to advance the dialogue. It can be a bit distracting, especially if you were used to the style of Persona 5, but since the game isn’t focusing too much on story, but more on gameplay, it isn’t such a bad thing. Animations through songs take it up a notch and are a joy to watch.
The music in P5D is spot on as is the case for plenty of Atlus properties, featuring 25 tracks in total with another 30 announced as DLC down the line. 9 Of these songs are straight from the main game, featuring little to no alteration, 11 being remixes, the theme song for P5D, a live performance and 2 pre-order bonuses tracks featuring Goro Akechi and Shinjiro Aragaki. Some people may be put off by the number of unaltered songs, as they may feel a bit repetitive after spending 100 hours in the main game, while others will love being able to dance to them.
Difficulty in P5D is rather constant, showing the BPM and difficulty level for each song as you select them. If you’re not an avid rhythm gamer than this entry may prove to be a bit much for you, but thankfully there are several difficulties to select from. The game also includes custom modifiers, which are unlocked as you play. You can set it so Good hits don’t break combos, your hype gauge which is essentially HP will grow over time and more. On the flipside, you can make songs even more difficult, by increasing the tempo and insta-death if you break a combo.
While the game plays smoothly, with the gameplay itself being enjoyable, the background animations and dances can be somewhat off-putting during gameplay. You will be keeping to the beat and watching for notes, but when the dancers start getting wild and interconnected it can be distracting, even to the point where you might not see notes as they blend in with the videos. This is felt the most in the live performance and the final song. Where others may be able to ignore this, others may feel it is unnecessary. The background videos and animations do make an interesting visual for viewers, however, great for live streams and recorded videos.
Overall Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight gets a 9/10, it is a short-lived masterpiece of musical delight that only slightly oversteps its bounds. The price tag is a tad too high at $59.99 with only 25 songs on offer, being completed in a couple of hours. The side-content and faux story do add into your game time but come at the price of repeated play of previous songs. Remixes are great to listen to with some awesome background animations, though videos can be a bit distracting during gameplay. If you can get this game on a deal, or the collection, it would be a great addition to your Persona memorabilia.