Persona Dancing: Endless Night Collection Review
Release Date: December 4th, 2018
Platform: PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita
Price: $99.99 (PS4), $69.99 (Vita)
This review will focus mostly on Persona 5 Dancing, as Persona 4 Dancing is primarily a port and Persona 3 Dancing has the same philosophy and mechanics as Persona 5 Dancing, but they will be mentioned and cross-examined throughout.
If there's anything people will tell you about the state of gaming in 2017, it's that one of the best RPGs of the year, and arguably one of the greatest ever made, was Persona 5. Nominated for tons of awards including RPG of the Year, Persona 5 helped expand the popularity of Shin Megami Tensei and its Persona spinoffs as a whole by creating a beautiful world filled with likeable characters, an enthralling story, addicting gameplay and, probably its most memorable trait, exquisite music that was constantly on loop in the game and out in our heads and speakers. Shin Megami Tensei, and subsequently Persona, has always held a special place in my heart and will forever be one of my favorite franchises in history, and with some of the finest music around, it makes perfect sense for Persona to revisit the dancefloor just like it was done for Persona 4 Dancing back on Vita in 2015 not with just one or two, but THREE massive releases compiled into one beautiful package that rivals the discography of some of music's most iconic artists.
Persona Dancing: Endless Night Collection brings together two new entries and an HD port: Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight, Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight, and Vita's PS4 makeover of Persona 4 Dancing All Night. Each entry gives a massive tracklist compiled of tracks from each respective game and has you playing through original tracks and remixes with the characters you've grown to love. The choreography from each game is fantastic and can sometimes be forgiveably distracting as you're hitting the notes in a 360 fashion as they make their way across all corners of the screen, but thankfully ATLUS has included modes where songs and dances can be viewed in their entirety without having to play anything or with any HUD in the way. These make for an amusing but equally great time to see any pair of characters you'd like dance it out in whatever costumes you'd like via unlocks and DLC you've acquired. With tons of crossovers such as Sonic, Yakuza, and Catherine DLC, the fan service is sure to appease long time veterans of both ATLUS and SEGA as they deliver what's arguably one of the most polished rhythm games to come out in quite some time, especially with other great hits this year like MUSYNX, Deemo, and Taiko no Tatsujin for consoles and Nintendo Switch.
While the gameplay itself is similar to the likes of Hatsune Miku Project DIVA and DJMAX in which specific notes are tied to specific inputs and will make its way across various parts of the screen, the presentation is delivered in a format akin to Superbeat: XONiC where a curved bar covers both the left and right portions of the layout and players must do their best to hit the notes on beat with the track for the usual Perfect, Great, Good, and so on scores and prompts. Doing well increases a gauge that allows for Fever time and point bonuses that help rack up the best possible scores for each track as you tackle each one. Each song has multiple modes that can be played, such as Easy, Normal, and Hard, and each grant their own bonuses for each difficulty at the end of each song to help contribute to your overall score. Other modifiers can be applied to help increase or decrease multipliers depending on what you select, but most need to be unlocked as you naturally progress through the tracklist. There is a big emphasis on playing through every single track this time to make sure you unlock as much as possible, and this is further strengthened by the lack of a story mode in Persona 5 Dancing and Persona 3 Dancing. In 2015, there was a narrative that continued shortly after the events of Persona 4 Golden in Persona 4 Dancing that helped clean some stuff up, though it was obviously somewhat comedic that dancing was the way to success. Regardless, it was a fun and lighthearted take on an otherwise deep and profound approach of Persona's standard narrative, and refreshing in a lot of ways. Persona 5 and 3 Dancing don't explicitly have a story mode, but there are social events that can happen when you accomplish certain tasks in a variety of tracks - almost like in-game achievements - that can be done with a multitude of characters, each with their own events. These are you standard interactions that you would find while playing a normal Persona game while outside of a dungeon, so it's a nice touch to have a chat with everyone and see what everyone is up to while they quite literally dance the night away.
An interesting thing about the Persona Dancing: Endless Night Collection is that, for the first time, VR capability was promoted on the box as well as through press releases, but to my surprise the game itself isn't actually playable, as when I first booted it up I had my PSVR headset at the ready and instead found myself only playing in big screen mode. The only true VR mode in the game is a section where players can go and view models of characters of each respective game in a large environment almost replicating the inside of a disco ball, but that's virtually (heh) it. I was under the impression we'd be able to actually play the game as that's what most people were led to believe considering the gigantic VR strip on its box art saying so, and having a more immersive rhythm experience like Project DIVA X, Future LIVE, Thumper, and Beat Saber; instead we find ourselves in a glorified gallery. It's a massive disappointment, though a lot of that disappointment is alleviated by having Ann Takamaki inches away from your face as her overwhelming beauty brings a tear to your eye.
With the amount of unlockables in all of the Persona Dancing games, each track and game session can be tailored to your liking and to appease your peak fan service. Partner up your ships, get nostalgic and sexy with Catherine, feel demonic with Shin Megami Tensei, go fast with Sonic, or lay the beatdown with Yakuza, the Endless Night Collection quite literally feels like an endless night of fun, joy, and some damn good music that will not only want you to replay every track a million times over until you completely master them, but to dance along to it yourself as well. The choreography is so well done but also identifies each character so well that you can tell a lot of thought went into each movement that complements the characters, environments, and tracks together, and as if that isn't enough, there are plenty more tracks and costumes to get via DLC both free and paid. I'm not sure I've ever played a game before that felt so good every time you played it with such customization that it truly feels like the game is telling you to "treat yo self." It's a fantastic and welcoming rhythm game that's great for veterans and newcomers alike, though admittedly things can get hectic with some songs and even on Easy mode those that may not be as proficient in the genre may find themselves frustrated with. As is with all things, however, practice makes perfect, and Persona Dancing: Endless Night Collection is a nonstop reward-fest that never stops feeling good.
Persona Dancing: Endless Night Collection is the ultimate package for fans of the Persona and Shin Megami Tensei series to celebrate a history of some of the greatest and unique music to ever appear in a role-playing game. Having a great cast of characters from decades of adventures and stories crossover and dance is as goofy as it is exciting and enthralling. It's fan-service done right and in a way that's also inventive, fun, and a hell of a ride. While the VR mode is lacking, it's still cool to see characters up close, but it's so trivial to the point that I don't understand why ATLUS went out of their way to put it on the cover art when it's more of an extra rather than a feature, especially since the game itself can't be played in actual VR. Overall, having a plethora of tracks between Persona 3 and 5, and having the fantastic Persona 4: Dancing All Night from Vita (a game I spent countless hours on, both in Golden and DAN) ported over to PS4 is a real treat, and this may be arguably one of the best rhythm packages ever made, which, contrary to what Persona 5 in general may lead you to believe, we actually did see coming.
The music selection is stellar, and the remixes breathe new life into an already full and rich soundtrack from each respective game.
Gameplay can get challenging at times but it's extremely rewarding. With a multitude of options to choose from, regardless of rhythm proficiency, the game is accessible in more ways than one for all players.
Added DLC makes the game more quirky and enjoyable, with added content from Yakuza, which makes it golden by default.
The dance choreography is really fantastic
VR mode is pointless, no matter how great it is to see Ann up close
There is little to no story in Persona 3 and 5 versions of the game, which, to me, is a bit of a step back from its Persona 4: Dancing All Night predecessor
Unfortunately fans are forced to purchase the Endless Night Collection if they want to also have the Persona 4: Dancing All Night port for PS4 since it is not sold separately, though I do think the $100 price tag is fair for three gigantic music libraries, but obviously it's a higher upfront investment that lots of people may not be able to do
A big thank you to ATLUS for sending us a copy of the game for the purpose of this review!