Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight (PlayStation Vita)

  • Gameplay
  • Story
  • Visuals
  • Audio
  • Entertainment
Also available on PlayStation 4
Review written by Stephen Deck; originally published 11/16/2018 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night
One of the big surprise games for me was Persona 4: Dancing All Night when I played that a year or two back.  It was…beautiful.  Definitely one of my favorite rhythm games probably second only to Elite Beat Agents.  When ATLUS announced rhythm games for Persona 3 and Persona 5, I was naturally ecstatic, and being a collector and a Vita fanatic, I naturally had to import the Japanese copies for my shelf and dove into the P3 game almost immediately.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t live up to the high standard that its predecessor set.
Part of the reason why this game impressed me so much less than the Persona 4 dancing game in addition to the fact that it didn’t have the excitement of being a “new” thing going for it involves the direction ATLUS took with the game.  Dancing in Moonlight (or, as it’s called in Japan, Dancing Moon Night) is much more like Hatsune Miku in its design.  It has a few little dialogue scenes in the very beginning, but it doesn’t have any kind of story mode like Dancing All Night had.  Obviously a rhythm game doesn’t NEED a story, but with the writing talent at ATLUS, Dancing All Night proved that a rhythm game can definitely benefit from a story, and unfortunately for Dancing in Moonlight, it just doesn’t seem to stand out from the crowd as much without that added narrative element.
One thing that the game does have going for it is the soundtrack.  As anyone who’s played a Persona game can tell you, the soundtracks are always phenomenal.  Again, though, following in the footsteps of Dancing All Night is a hindrance for Dancing in Moonlight; Persona 3 had a great soundtrack, but Persona 4’s soundtrack was legendary.  The tracklist just can’t stand up in comparison.  There are a few truly killer remixes in Dancing in Moonlight, but all in all, while it’s a terrific tracklist, again it just doesn’t really stand out from the crowd for the most part.  Visually, however, the game is great.  Seeing the characters from P3 return in such a jovial and musical setting is wonderful, and the choreography for the characters’ dance moves is great.  While I loved playing it on the go with my Vita, this is definitely a game that would also benefit from being played on PlayStation 4 or on a PlayStation TV if you have friends over as the dancing itself is good fun to watch.
The most important make-or-break aspect of a rhythm game is going to be the quality of the input controls, and while I may have had some arguably nit-pick disappointments with other aspects of Dancing in Moonlight, the controls give me absolutely no cause to complain.  It’s quick and responsive inputs are everything you’d want from a rhythm game.  That input factor is also another reason I went with Vita over PS4 for this one; while the DS4 is a great controller, having controls hardwired to a handheld rather than wireless via Bluetooth is always my preference when it comes to rhythm games.  I’m sure it plays brilliantly on PS4 as well – ATLUS isn’t one to release a sub-par product from my experience – but it’s hard to beat a good Vita game.
Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight doesn’t quite live up to the monolithic Persona 4: Dancing All Night, it is still an excellent rhythm game in its own right.  The soundtrack, while the least impressive of the three most recent console Persona games in my opinion, is still terrific with some truly great remixes of those songs thrown in for some variety and genre diversity.  It doesn’t do a whole lot to stand out from the crowd in any meaningful way aside from being based on Persona 3, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not a fantastic game.  It’s just perhaps not the most memorable rhythm game you’ll ever play.  It is, however, definitely recommended for fans of Persona or just folks looking for a good rhythm game to pass the time.

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