Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight Review – Fall in Love with S.E.E.S. All Over Again
Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight is a love letter to fans of third entry in the series that put Persona on the map for many JRPG fans.
I couldn’t help but smile from ear to ear as I booted up Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight on my PS Vita. A Persona game on PS Vita… in 2018. “Holy crap,” I thought to myself. This in and of itself is an absolute treat for fans who got their start with the series playing Persona 4 Golden. Thankfully, I’m happy to report that Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight is an incredibly solid rhythm game that should quench your Persona itch if it has been some time since you saw the credits roll in Persona 5.
But this is a game based on Persona 3. The entry that has always sort of been the odd one out of the three more “mainstream” entries in the series — Persona 3, 4, and 5. We have a lot to thank Persona 3 for, as it introduced many of the gameplay mechanics that the series has continued building upon and refining since its launch in 2006 on the PlayStation 2. Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight is a love letter to fans who got their start in Persona with the monumental JRPG.
Dancing in Moonlight does away with the multi-hour campaign that Persona 4: Dancing All Night had. Some fans may be turned off by this, but I personally didn’t have any issues with it. Dancing All Night’s campaign wasn’t very interesting in my opinion, and towards the second half, I had really lost interest in it as it had nowhere near the same weight as the mainline game’s story. In exchange for a more conventional story, Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight offers social events where you can interact with the members of S.E.E.S. in short spurts.
The cast of Persona 3 finds themselves stuck in “Club Velvet” a.k.a. The Velvet Room. It’s revealed through the social scenes that the members of S.E.E.S. are actually participating in a competition between Igor’s assistants. Throughout the game, there are slight nods to the cast of Persona 5, albeit they’re in another reality of sorts. Ultimately, the “story” doesn’t amount to much in the end.
There are also short segments that occur during the later social scenes where you can explore and search each party member’s room in first-person. It’s a little creepy considering you’re going through each character’s personal belongings, but you’ll be looking for a tiny card that was hidden by Elizabeth, Igor’s assistant in Persona 3. Snatching them will net you some new costumes and accessories that you can use during rhythm sections.
Unsurprisingly, you’ll be spending the bulk of your time with Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight dancing. Thankfully, the gameplay is as solid as it was in Persona 4: Dancing All Night. P Studio hasn’t done much to improve anything with the overall gameplay, but I don’t think much refinement was needed in the first place. However, it is worth noting that players should definitely turn down the brightness of backgrounds before doing anything in-game. It can be rather difficult keeping track of everything happening on the screen as you play, especially once you get comfortable enough to start trying the game’s harder difficulties. Button prompts will sometimes blend in with the backgrounds in-game and that can be extra annoying if you have the brightness turned up all the way.
To unlock social scenes in the story, you’ll need to complete different tasks like getting a specific rank on songs, wearing different outfits, and more. It requires a hefty amount of playing and at the end of it all, you’ll likely find yourself finely attuned to the gameplay. While “All Night” mode (the game’s hardest difficulty) was challenging to me at first, I found myself completely adept with it once I saw the credits roll.
The soundtrack in Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight is nothing short of fantastic. Songs from all across the third game have been included and they’re an absolute joy to hear again. While each entry in the mainline series tends to focus on a specific genre, the third entry blends both hip-hop and pop and it’s really freaking rad. There are a few repeated tunes thrown into the 25-song tracklist but they’re remixed differently enough where it’s hard to feel like they’re ever too similar. I do wish they had included a little more in terms of songs, as it took me around two hours to finish them all on Hard. There’ll be more songs rolling out as DLC over time, but I simply can’t help but wish there was a little more bang for your buck considering how little there is to do outside of the rhythm segments
In typical Persona-fashion, rhythm segments are stylized about as well as fans of the series would expect. Characters dance across the screen in the memorable set pieces of Persona 3. Prompts fly out from the middle of the screen towards a circular set of button icons you can press to hit each beat. It’s definitely one of the more unique rhythm games I’ve played, but if I had to compare it to anything, I’d say it’s almost like the Hatsune Miku games to an extent.
There are modifiers you can unlock throughout the game that’ll completely change up the gameplay. Half of the modifiers can help you and the other half will make the game harder. For example, you can have notes fade into view, change up their movement speed, change each prompts trajectory, and so on. Each one has a different value that’ll either increase your points or decrease them and you can mix and match modifiers to even out your overall score if you desire. It’s a nice addition to the game as it offers a good amount of replay value and allows players to challenge themselves in unique ways.
On top of modifiers, you’ll be able to unlock lots of costumes and accessories that’ll allow you to personalize the cast of Persona 3. You can make them look absolutely ridiculous or incredibly stylish. They’ll even acknowledge what you put on them, which is a really nice touch.
It’s hard not to admit that Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight can feel a little bare-bones once you’ve seen everything it has to offer. It took me about 13 hours to see and experience almost everything. As many fans will know, this is on the lighter side of play time when compared to the main entry games. That said, I’ll likely be going back to earn the game’s platinum trophy. I’m sitting somewhere around 80 percent right now. I think it would’ve been nice for P Studio to include additional modes or songs, even just some sort of online feature would’ve added plenty more reason for players to come back once all is said and done.
While Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight is weak on content, the game does a great job at celebrating the absolutely stellar soundtrack of the third entry in the iconic JRPG series. It’s an easy recommendation for hardcore Persona fans and a great reason to dust off that PS Vita one more time. I personally had a blast with the game and am excited to get my hands on Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight.