It wasn’t enough for Persona 5 to totally steal our hearts when it released in 2016, with its expertly crafted story of relationship building, battle mechanics, and design because here we are craving just a little more time with the cast. Well, Atlus seems to have you covered, but in a less conventional way then simply making Persona 5-2, no, these developers seem to enjoy having fun with their characters and what better way than to put them in a rhythm game.
Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight brings the group of Phantom Thieves back together for another capper. Although Persona 5 was many gamers first time playing a Persona title, it seems these spinoffs don’t get the same reaction as the mainline titles, which is upsetting because there’s still a lot to offer here, even without the RPG elements.
Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight has players travel back to the velvet room for another mission. Right away, players will notice the lack of a traditional story mode. Instead, players will find all story related scenes in the game’s Social option. It was upsetting at first to learn that I couldn’t play through a unique story centered around these characters, but I couldn’t help but feel like this might be a direct response to the visual novel presentation of Persona 4: Dancing All Night. However, I actually ended up really enjoying the Social scenes for a handful of reasons, but back to the story.
Justine and Caroline have brought the Phantom Thieves to the velvet room to compete in a dance competition, which rivals a certain other group’s performance, and that’s all. Yep, the story is simply that Justine and Caroline want to prove that their inmate is the best. Now, I must admit that the premise put me off as this felt like this wasn’t enough, but again, after a few scenes of dialog my eagerness to succeed matched their trust in the group and I became as competitive as the twins.
Social scenes are story moments between the protagonist, Ren Amamiya, and the rest of the characters. These scenes are unlocked as the player progresses through the rhythm portion of the game, which we’ll get to soon. However, certain requirements need to be met before these scenes unlock such as accumulating a number of combos, wearing accessories, completing tracks, and so on. After each goal is met, the player can head over to the Social area and watch a nice story scene between the characters as well as unlock a costume on accessory.
The reason why I ended up enjoying this more than the visual novel structure of the previous game is that P5D forces the player to play through each song on different modes and in different ways, with the story scenes being a reward for those who spend more time dancing. On the other hand, the players who just want to play the game for the rhythm portions can totally do so from the beginning of the game and still be able to unlock various items.
One of the best parts about the story scenes is the character’s reactions and facial animations. Atlus truly spent a lot of time choosing the character’s moments based on what they are talking about. These animations seem to have no end as I kept seeing the characters do new things. I think my favorite would have to Yusuke Kitagawa’s scenes since I always seemed to be laughing by the end of them.
Another interesting feature is that the game does have a small adventure mode where players can explore each character’s room in the first person. Just when the game might be feeling like it has fallen into a repetitive loop, the game slaps this new mode in your face and you’re pulled right back in. During these moments, players can get a detailed look and explanation of each of the phantom thieves possession to learn more about them. Also, each time you visit a room, Justine and Caroline will hide a card that you’ll have to find, I will say that some are easy to spot, but others I found just be luck.
When it comes to gameplay, P5D brings back the unique rhythm system introduced in P4D. The notes fly from the center of the screen and require the player to tap the notes using the correct input on the controller. At first glance, it seems like it’ll be difficult, but I’ll tell you that not only is it easy to understand after a song or two, but the game is extremely forgiving when it comes to late or early button presses.
There are three different modes off, with a fourth for those who put in the legwork and want the game to kick their ass. If you’re playing for the social scenes, I’d advise playing through the game on Normal and then again on Hard just because some of the scenes require multiple playthroughs. I enjoyed seeing all of the character’s dance move, especially Ann’s and Huro’s. The game also has a large list of customizable options to make the songs easier or more difficult, which will reflect the final score of the song. Fever mode makes a return and offers some great moments between the characters which often distracted me and caused me to miss some notes.
Although I had fun with the game, I felt like P5D doesn’t boast the same quantity of notable tracks as P4D. Throughout the game you’ll notice that you’re playing the same song over and over, just remixed a little, which can make the game feel repetitive. I found that my most favorite tracks were the ones that didn’t have additional remixes.
Also, in the middle of the game, a song requires the player to play through the credits of Persona 5, and it just so happens to be what felt like the longest and slowest track. Having credits roll track in the middle of the game felt out of place.
Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight has so much to offer for fans of the series who spend the time on it. The game’s unlockables are fairly placed and will require a good 6 – 10 hours to unlock most of the content, depending on which difficulty modes the player feels comfortable with. However, Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight also understands post-story content, which I appreciated, and the unlockable content just keeps coming.
By taking out the RPG structure, Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight relies heavily on the connection between the player and the characters, it also helps to be a fan of visual novels and rhythm games. Although the tracklist can seem repetitive, there is enough here to justify hours of time unlocking new content and hanging out with Phantom Thieves, while dressing them up in some the most ridiculous costumes you can image.
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