Endless Night Collection
Sony PlayStation 4
IT HAS been 16 years since Atlus thought to release Revelations: Persona on the Sony PlayStation. Expectations were modest then, with the title taking on many of the features of the Megami Tensei franchise from which it drew inspiration. Regardless of outlook, however, it wound up being a sleeper hit, in the process building an extremely loyal fan base and jump-starting a series with immense crossover appeal. For all its humble beginnings, it spawned an intellectual property giant. Boasting of memorable characters, killer soundtracks, and storylines that transcend genres, it now carries a name synonymous to great gaming — a veritable seal of quality that ensures unparalleled entertainment value.
To be fair, Atlus hasn’t simply been banking on name recall to deliver outstanding sales figures with every Persona release. Certainly, all the eggs hatched by its trusty goose have been, well, golden in characteristics and, thusly, deserving of critical and commercial recognition. Such is likewise the case with Persona Dancing: Endless Night Collection, which carries with it a PlayStation 4 port of PS Vita smash Persona 4: Dancing All Night and the all-new Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight and Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight. Simply put, they’re rhythm games presented in ways and profiles unique to the series.
Picking up from where Persona 4 Golden left off, Persona 4: Dancing All Night has the Investigation Team reuniting to help member Rise Kujikawa regain her footing in show business. En route to the scheduled performance at the Love Meets Bonds Festival, however, the intrepid cast finds its interest piqued by more than just dancing lessons. The entire Kanamin Kitchen — likewise slated to make an appearance in the event — has disappeared, evidently transported to an alternate dimension.
To save Kanami Mashita and company, the team will have to face Shadows and a mysterious figure who holds the puppet strings via battles at the Midnight Stage. In Persona 4: Dancing All Night, these set-tos involve dance-offs, underscoring its rhythm-game interface. As in the ubiquitous Project Diva series, gamers are required to keep track of notes traveling over predetermined areas by pressing the right buttons at the right times and in the right sequences. A conscious contrivance to fit the unique gameplay in Story Mode? Perhaps. Considering the dark themes and its serious underpinnings, a complete commitment to role-playing elements can be argued as superior.
Nonetheless, there can be no denying the pull of Persona 4: Dancing All Night through the three difficulty settings and the Free Dance option on tap. It works because of the smoothness of the controls and the catchiness of the music tracks. And, precisely because of the depth of the narrative and the richness of its characters, it stands as one of the best offerings in the rhythm genre, bar none. Parenthetically, the remaster is head and shoulders better than the Vita version; on the PS4 Pro, colors stand out and sounds are crisp, enhancing the emotional resonance while navigating through familiar tunes.
In contrast, Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight and Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight provide no overarching storylines. Instead, their progression is founded on more lighthearted premises. The narrative moves along via social links offering specific information on protagonists and triggered by additional character unlocks. Objectives are completed in the Velvet Room, where members of both the Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad and the Phantom Thieves dream of facing off.
Meanwhile, the gameplay of Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight and Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight is identical to that of Persona 4: Dancing All Night. Only in the character rosters, song lists, and background presentations do they differ. Needless to say, dance animations are extremely fluid, if not quite jibing with the chords. Difficulty is likewise three-tiered, with reasonable jumps to provide a fair challenge. At no time do the titles feel like they’re presenting Sisyphean hurdles to artificially inflate replay value.
Under the circumstances, prevailing biases will likely inform the preferences of gamers who go through Persona Dancing: Endless Night Collection. True, Persona 4: Dancing All Night has a built-in advantage for being first mover, as well as for retaining a more substantive story. On the other hand, Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight and Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight offer technically advanced graphics and sound mixes. In short, each title has pros and cons, and usage figures to be determined by personal partiality to specific characters and soundtracks.
In sum, Atlus manages to justify Persona Dancing: Endless Night Collection’s $100 price tag by leveraging on its intellectual property’s rich history. Even in a hitherto-unfamiliar genre, it succeeds in banking on the Persona franchise’s biggest come-ons. As far as rhythm games go, its offering doesn’t exactly break the mold. But because it lays claim to a distinctively fleshed-out look and feel, it winds up standing out all the same.
• A heady collection of games featuring characters from three Persona series
• Smooth interface, with nary any input lags
• Memorable track lists
• Difficulty levels present fair challenges
• Remixes are a mixed bag
• Narratives of two of the three titles on offer lack depth
• Visuals don’t always reflect gameplay progress