Let’s get this out of the way: I LOVE Persona. While not an old fan (having started with 4), I’ve found nothing but enjoyment in all of the Katsuya Hashino-directed games, including the numerous spin-offs. As such, the Persona Dancing: Endless Night Collection was essentially made for people like me. That being said, I don’t imagine rhythm game lovers will be disappointed with the gameplay but might find the content otherwise lacking.
Spanning all three of the main games, Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight, Persona 4: Dancing All Night (previously released), and Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight, all find each protagonist and their friends dancing to appease the collective unconscious. While Dancing All Night has a full-on, canon story, Starlight and Moonlight don’t, something I admit to finding a tad bit perturbing.
That’s not to say there’s nothing. While All Night has a narrative centered on idols and how television affects our minds, Starlight and Moonlight are connected in that the Velvet Room attendees from each (demigod-like entities that assist the protagonists in their respective games) have gotten into a disagreement over whose “guest” is the most amazing. This leads each to create a space outside of time, collect their guest and their allies in their sleep, and pit them against one another in a dance-off.
While this connection exists, don’t expect any interaction across games. While Persona 4 Arena Ultimax introduced Persona 3 characters into the lives of the Persona 4 cast, no such cross-contamination exists here. Instead, there’s a Social system that functions similarly to the way Social Links do in the base games. As you pass certain criteria, interactions with each character unlock, and you get to know them a little more.
These Social Link cutscenes are probably the best part of the experience. Each character is well-done, so interacting with them directly, even if it’s only for a short while, is a nice feeling. Even the characters who have been left dormant for a while (the Persona 3 crew) feel exactly like they do in their own games.
The visual style of each game is also reflective of their source material. Moonlight has smooth fonts, cool tones, and muted visuals overall, while Starlight explodes across the screen with harsh reds and blacks, jagged interfaces, and loud movements. This distinctive nature lets each stand out in their own way, and even All Night matches the aesthetic of the game it attaches to.
The gameplay itself is a bit abnormal as far as rhythm games go, at least here in the States. On the right side are you Triangle, Circle, and X buttons. On the left are Up, Left, and Down on the d-pad. Notes come from the center of this circle, and you press the button they overlap with as they overlap. This, combined with occasionally tilting the stick for Scratches, is the entirety of the experience. While simple, it’s loads of fun and challenging in many ways. I’ve found myself really pressing myself for higher scores, and the choreography of each dance is fun to watch when you’re not scrambling to hit each note.
In this and many ways, however, Persona Dancing Endless Night shows its true colors. Some fans might not like it, but the fact is that these games were made for only us. Sure, I think they could work as a gateway into the franchise for those who love music and rhythm games, but the truth is, there’s not a lot of content for those people. The Social interactions presume that you know how these characters think and interact. As such, those who DON’T will find themselves looking through the glass, not really understanding what’s happening. In fact, I daresay that those people wouldn’t even care about the Social scenes at all.
This game is fanservice, plain and simple. People use that negatively nowadays but I think that, when you ARE that fan, things like this are fun and exciting. It’s not a cash grab for a developer to make more of what you love, and when they spin-off what you love, that’s just an attempt to add something new and unique to that thing you love. The music is all the music we already love, with some absolutely fantastic remixes as well.
The characters are lovable, the world feels present, and the environments and visuals are strong as can be. Hell, you even get to see into your teammates’ rooms and walk around them, something unnecessary but entirely welcome. Fans will find plenty here beyond “just a dancing game with a Persona skin”.
As I said in the beginning, this game was made for fans like myself, and I admit that anyone else will likely not find the enjoyment I did. However, I think this sort of love letter to fans is a good thing. While $99 is a hefty price tag, in the end, you’re getting three games that are made specifically for someone like you and all three are solid experiences.
If you like Persona, get it. It’s worth every penny.
A PS4 Review copy of Persona Dancing: Endless Night Collection was provided by Atlus for the purpose of this review.