Persona Dancing: Endless Night Collection – The Beat Don’t Stop
PS4, PS Vita
Following the 2015 release of Persona 4: Dancing All Night on PS Vita, fans of the series pleaded with developer P-Studio to give both Persona 3 and Persona 5 similar treatment. It’s a testament to the work of composer Shoji Meguro that each modern Persona title has a distinct enough soundtrack to warrant a rhythm-spin off, as Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight (P3D) and Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight (P5D) focus heavily on the characters, colour palettes and aesthetics of their source material to deliver more of what P4D had to offer. However, in the shift to PlayStation 4 and the increased graphical fidelity necessary, some elements have been stripped back leaving the end result a little bare.
It’s no surprise that P3D and P5D are dripping with style, leaning hard into the sumptuous menu designs that Persona 5 received praise for. This pays off in spades given the amount of time spent in them between selecting songs and customising costumes, helping make each title feel somewhat distinct. P3D resurrects the circular motifs and blue/green colour palette of that title, while the P5D menu system juxtaposes red against black and white stars designs. P-Studio have clearly gone to great lengths to overhaul the visual aspects of the series, as character models and animation are a major improvement over P4D and provide the most fluid and detailed renditions of the Persona 3 and 5 casts to date. Each character comes with their own unique dance style that is enjoyable to watch but becomes difficult to appreciate once the action on-screen starts to ramp up. Moving to a screen larger than the Vita’s 5-inch display unfortunately highlights some of the shortcomings of the UI design of P4D, which was built on the notion that players could see all notes as they travelled to either side of the screen without having to shift their focus, as well as use the rear touch panel to hit ‘Scratch’ notes. Because there has been no change to this in P3D and P5D, I found my eyes darting all around my 55-inch display to avoid missing notes in songs with a higher tempo or difficulty level. I’d also suggest changing the Scratch notes from the PS4 TouchPad/Analog Sticks to the L1/R1 buttons which I found. Combine this with the potential for lag on uncalibrated displays and I can imagine new or less experienced players becoming frustrated despite the Persona Dancing series being regarded as quite forgiving compared to other rhythm franchises. If this is a primary concern, I’d suggest sticking to the PS Vita release which should avoid these issues at the cost of visual fidelity.
With no major mechanical differences between any of the titles in the Endless Night Collection, which you’ll prefer should depend wholly on your feelings for the source material and, more importantly, its soundtrack. Personally, I think both the Persona 3 and 4 soundtracks come out a bit stronger than Persona 5 after receiving the Persona Dancing treatment. That’s not to say that P5D has a bad soundtrack, but I felt it leaned a little harder into Meguro’s jazz influences rather than the hip-hop of Persona 3 and some of the tracks don’t remix as well. One area that I’m somewhat critical of compared to other entries in the rhythm genre is the brief tracklists on offer, ranging from 25-27 tracks in each separate title before purchasing any DLC. This wasn’t as big an issue for P4D, which launched at a portable price point with a robust story mode, while both P3D and P5D are releasing at full retail pricing with a reduced narrative. Rather than a lengthy campaign that weaves performances throughout story sequences, both P3D and P5D instead feature a series of ‘Social Link’ encounters that are little more than a series of character vignettes tying together an overarching (and non-canonical) plot. With each game clocking in at under 10GB, I can’t help question why this wasn’t a single release with an option to switch between the Persona 3 and Persona 5 storylines at will. While both P3D and P5D can be purchased separately, Player2 were given the Endless Night Collection which I feel represents the best value for money and more complete experience, especially given the inclusion of P4D for the PlayStation 4 which was previously a PS Vita exclusive and has no separate release planned.
While the story portion of the Endless Night Collection may not be robust, there are a few additions that will please dedicated fans of both Persona 3 and Persona 5, more so for owners of a PSVR headset. Each character model can be explored in detail and swapped in and out of their costumes at will, with the ability to save favourite combinations at the press of a button. Perhaps more exciting is the inclusion of each character’s bedroom, explorable in full 3D/VR which provides further insight and some in-jokes. It’s not much, but will no doubt appeal to the Persona audience as the series works very hard to establish bonds between the player and characters. Despite some shortcomings, it really is nice to check in with the cast of each game for a few hours, further enhanced by the return of many of the original Voice Actors for both the Japanese and English audio tracks.
When examined individually, the titles that make up Persona Dancing: Endless Night Collection are a little uneven in terms of depth – the narrative is traded off for visuals and some tracks are more suited to remixing than others. Taken as a whole, however, this is a great package for fans of Persona 4: Dancing All Night who are keen to catch up with the cast of Persona 3 and 5. It’s also a great gateway into the rhythm genre for Persona fans who might have skipped P4D and would like to see what all the fuss is about.
It was whilst toiling away in the bowels of the now mythical Australian Gamer forums that Stephen del Prados attempts at writing were recognised by then up-and-coming Matt ‘Hewso’ Hewson as “not terrible”. Since then Stephen has contributed to such sites as The Age’s now defunct Screen Play, the recently retired Black Panel and currently serves under Editor-in-Chief Hewso for Player2.net.au, at least until the pattern of decline obvious in his previous engagements is picked up by Hewso and he is exiled from games journalism forever