Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Persona Dancing: Endless Night Collection Review (PS4)

Rhythm and music-focused games really only need two things - good songs and decent gameplay - and anything else is just bonus sprinkles on your delicious sundae. Anyone that has played the Persona series already knows that the games have amazing soundtracks, so the Persona Dancing spin-off games have that area more than covered, but how do the games actually play? Kinda just "OK", unfortunately. Hanging out with the great casts of Persona 3 and Persona 5 while listening to the awesome music does go a long way towards making up for that, though. Continue reading our full review of the Persona Dancing Endless Night Collection for all of the details.

Game Details

  • Publisher: Atlus
  • Developer: Atlus
  • ESRB Rating: "T" for Teen
  • Genre: Music / Rhythm
  • Pros: Awesome music; great presentation; hanging out with your favorite characters again
  • Cons: Price; rhythm gameplay is only so-so; not a ton of songs
  • Price: $100 (collection) $60 each (P5 and P3)
Buy Persona Dancing
Endless Night Collection
at Amazon.com
Full disclosure: I haven't actually played a Persona RPG outside of the first 20-minutes of Persona 3. I have, however, played the Persona 4 Arena fighting games extensively and watched the animes so I know the story and love the characters and especially love the music, which is why I felt comfortable reviewing the Persona Dancing Endless Night Collection because it puts the focus squarely on the stuff I'm familiar with - the music and the characters. 

I want to make it clear that this review is covering the Persona Dancing Endless Night Collection as a whole rather than reviewing the games separately. The Endless Night Collection includes three full games - Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight, Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight, and Persona 4: Dancing All Night for $100. This collection is the only way to play Persona 4: Dancing All Night on PS4, so if you're a Persona fan this is definitely the version to buy. The Persona 3 and Persona 5 dancing games are also available separately for $60 each, which are a pretty bad deal if we're being honest.

Why am I reviewing both (all three) games in one review? Because they all play exactly the same! The plot setups are all different, of course, but they all boil down to the characters from each game somehow coming back together for one night of dancing that they'll all forget once the morning comes. Persona 4: Dancing All Night actually has a full original new story mode to go along with the dancing, which the other two games don't have, but all three titles do have lots and lots of character interactions and social links and stuff between songs that series fans will love. Performing well while playing and completing social links lets you unlock a ton of special costumes and customization items. Each of the three games also has the distinct presentation style as far as UI and text boxes and stuff from their specific games, which is a nice touch as well.

As for the rhythm gameplay, well, it is pretty mediocre and all three games play exactly the same, which kind of makes you question why they bothered releasing them separately rather than in one cohesive package (money, the answer is money). The gameplay screen consists of six buttons - up, left, down, Triangle, Circle, Cross - on the sides of the screen. Button prompts scroll from the center of the screen to the outside and you press the proper button when it crosses that particular button icon. There are also some notes you have to flick the right stick to hit, and some notes where you hold one or two buttons together and release at the proper time. It's all pretty standard stuff as far as PS4 rhythm games go. And, of course, your favorite Persona characters are dancing away in the middle of the screen.

The problem is multi fold, however. Persona 4: Dancing All Night was first released in 2015 for the PS Vita. The gameplay worked well on that small screen since you could easily see everything. Taking that same exact gameplay and putting it on PS4, and thus much larger HDTV screens, doesn't work quite as well because you actually have to physically look around at different parts of your giant-ass TV to see all of the notes, which means you might be looking in the wrong place and miss notes flying in from somewhere else. It's just hard to see everything you need to.

The gameplay also suffers a bit because the notes you're button tapping away to seem totally arbitrary. They don't match up with the music or the onscreen dancing at all. You're just pressing random buttons so it isn't very satisfying. It is also hard to actually watch the dancing characters because your attention is usually on the sides of the screens rather than the action in the middle.

On the plus side, the game does have a number of fun unlockable mods to allow you to customize the gameplay more to your liking. Being able to play any note with any button or keep your combo with only "Good" ratings on notes are great additions that make the experience more fun. The character customization and social interactions between songs are also just as appealing here as the rhythm gameplay, so I'm willing to give the gameplay a slight pass since there are other things to do.

See our reviews of other rhythm games here - Hatsune Miku: Project Diva Future Tone, DJMax Respect, and Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum Session

The soundtracks in each game also deserve a mention for both good and bad reasons. Each game has around 25 songs and, as anyone who has dabbled in the Persona franchise in any of its forms should know, the music is freaking great. The issue, however, is that many songs have multiple versions and remixes that contribute to that 25-song total, so you aren't really getting that many individual songs, which is a definite bummer. Compared to other rhythm games with dozens and dozens or even hundreds of songs for the same price (or lower), it makes the high MSRP here even more questionable.

You aren't "just" here for the music, though, and the overall presentation in these games is pretty phenomenal. The characters look great and the dancing is very well choreographed and animated. As I mentioned above, each game also has its distinct UI and presentation style, which is another great touch. The games all also include full voice acting in both English and Japanese from the original casts and it is well done overall. I also can't stress enough how great the music is.

Just to recap - Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight and Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight are available separately for $60 each. If you buy the Persona Dancing Endless Night Collection for $100 you get P3, P5, and Persona 4: Dancing All Night which, obviously, makes it the best deal and the one I'd recommend if you plan on buying. It is a bit of a bummer, though, that the games don't include more music or that the rhythm gameplay is only mediocre, but for Persona fans the appeal here is the full experience with character interactions and the story, and in that sense I think the games do a good enough job as a complete package to be worth a look. If you're looking at these as rhythm games first, rather than Persona experiences, you'll likely be disappointed, however.   
Disclosure: A review code was provided by the publisher.