Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight and Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight, two games being reviewed as one. Why? Because for all intents and purposes, they’re exactly the same.
Ripping the characters out of their respective games and placing them in a dance hall in which time stands still, Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight and Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight could have been bundled together as one game. And they probably should have been, given that unlike Persona 4: Dancing All Night, neither of them have a story mode. Yet still, even as their own separate but very overly similar entities, they’re worth checking out. Simply because they’re fun, and the music is great in each of them.
Both games open up with brilliant intros that let you know that you’re in for a musical treat. And as soon as you’re given some context as to why you’ve got to dance, you’re free to do as you please. Well, as long as what you want to do is dance. At least initially, anyway.
Gameplay wise, little has changed from Persona 4: Dancing All Night. Button prompts emerge from the centre of the screen moving outwards, requiring you to press the appropriate button depending on their location. To complicate matters, sometimes you’ll need to hold notes, press two at the same time, or perform a scratch, and all the while a Persona character will dance along. The only real differences you’ll spot between the gameplay of Persona 4: Dancing All Night and both Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight and Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight are that scratches, including the Fever variety, are more easily identifiable, there are less distractions during gameplay, and that the difficulty has been toned down a little. At least on Easy, anyhow.
Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight and Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight undoubtedly play better because of these changes. They result in more of a gradual learning curve, allowing anyone to pick up the games and play, and the less cluttered screen gives your eyes a bit of a break, too. Persona 4: Dancing All Night is constantly too busy, bombarding your senses to the point where it gets a bit exhausting after minutes of play. And, considering you can play both Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight and Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight in VR, they’d simply be too bewildering if they’d kept Persona 4: Dancing All Night‘s cavalcade of visual fireworks.
Despite there being less happening on screen, however, Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight and Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight are still both very nice looking games. Both games maintain a presentation style fitting of the their original source material, and both feature clean lines and plenty of bold colours. Dancing is a stylish performance, and that’s what both of these games ooze – style. Though while you’re playing, you probably won’t be able to admire the brilliant moves being performed by the characters. Thankfully, there are unlockable Choreography and Replay modes for that.
Initially, you’ll only have four songs to play in each game, but as you complete them on Easy, Medium or Hard difficulties you’ll unlock more songs to try your hand at. While Persona fans will obviously get the most out of the tracks on offer, even players like me, who don’t have much of a background with the series, are likely to very much enjoy them. Honestly, while the gameplay of the mainline Persona games bores me, I really do like their music. And there’s not only songs to unlock, either.
As you achieve a wide range of objectives, you’ll unlock customisation items for each of the characters available, as well as the option to select your dance partner in songs. There’s also an extensive list of game modifiers to unlock. Some will make the game easier, others harder, and some just allow you to tweak certain parameters more to your liking, like changing the note speed. Many of these modifiers will affect your score accumulation, too. And then there’s the Social element to both Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight and Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight, allowing you to watch interactions between characters and chime in here and there in order to form bonds, unlocking yet more modifiers and customisation items to enjoy, amongst other goodies.
You can just perform once dance after another in Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight and Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight if you wish. Tweaking the gameplay and watching social scenes is largely optional, but it’s those who dive in and out of the action to see how characters interact with other and play around with alternative settings and modes that will get the most out of it – especially if they have an attachment to the characters involved. Like I said earlier, it’s hard to appreciate the effort put into dance routines while you’re playing, so being able to eventually watch them without needing any input by you is a delight. And one that you can tailor to your liking thanks to an abundance of accessories and costumes.
Ultimately though, whether you should buy Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight, Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight, or both, comes down to how much you’re prepared to spend to listen to some great music while engaging in enjoyable but pretty generic music rhythm gameplay. As I’ve mentioned, both games play exactly the same, so it’s the music here that’s really the deciding factor. Both games feature at least 25 songs, and while I think there are hardly any duds on either, I prefer Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight‘s tunes to Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight‘s. But you might not feel the same way.
The loss of Persona 4: Dancing All Night‘s story mode also means that these titles feel cut down in comparison, but then that game’s story mode was also quite frankly dull. If Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight and Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight were a bit cheaper than your typical game release, then it probably wouldn’t be an issue. But for many, they won’t offer great value for money.
So it’s simple. If you’re a fan of the series and don’t mind the cost, simply buy the game which you believe has the best soundtrack. And if you like the soundtracks of both Persona 3 and Persona 5, maybe pick up the Endless Night Collection which saves you a bit of money on both and also includes Persona 4: Dancing All Night. Those who simply love music rhythm games and haven’t got much experience with the Persona series, though, should probably just dip their toes in with Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight to test the water. And maybe wait for it to go on sale before they do so. Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight and Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight are both very good, but they don’t quite feel like they’re worth their asking price.