Being able to actually dance is a skill in its own right. Hell, being able to move your body in something resembling a pattern to music takes guts. I say this as a man who has neither these aforementioned skills, nor guts. My nights at university were mostly spent sat around watching old TV shows, and sweating like that Jordan Peele gif whenever someone even uttered the word “club”. If you’re looking for someone to accompany to you to the club, I am not your guy.
Enter Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight. At this point I’ve put god-knows how many hours into Persona 5 since it released last year. I found myself playing it up until 4 in the morning when it first released, which was right around the same time I started this job. Did I have my priorities in order? I’ll leave that for you to decide, dear reader.
Dancing in Starlight is the spin-off title from Persona 5, set to launch in December. It follows in the footsteps of Persona 4: Dancing all Night, the spin-off title of the fourth main Persona game (and the one that I’m playing my way through right now), but whereas there was a story in Persona 4: Dancing all Night that saw our main cast of characters working to uncover a murderer at a dance competition, this time the cast of Persona 5 are dancing because, well, someone told them to. We’re once again in the shoes of enigmatic protagonist Joker, and our entire crew from Persona 5 wakes up to discover themselves in a disco room, with twin prison wardens Caroline and Justine shouting orders at them to dance for their pleasure. We’re very much in the same position as Caroline and Justine: we’re having the cast of Persona 5 dance for our pleasure, but we’re thankfully not carrying prison truncheons and making vague threats of violence like the twins are.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the cast of Persona 5 are some of the best characters I’ve had the pleasure of digitally befriending in years. Being around characters like Ryuji, Morgana, Ann, Makoto and others makes me just feel at ease—none of the characters are out to antagonize you, all being outgoing and supportive of you. Bring these loveable characters over to Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight, and they temporarily set aside any emotional baggage from the main game, letting them function as a group of teenagers trying to just have fun.
In Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight, I think I’ve found the perfect video game for relaxing fun. On the lower difficulty especially, you’re there more for the music than for the actual rhythm game side of things, which allows you to kick back and enjoy some remixes of authentic Shoji Meguro bangers.
Speaking of the aforementioned bangers, in my demo of Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight, I played four remixes: Rivers in the Desert, Tokyo Daylight, The Whims of Fate, and Get Up, Get Out There. Atlus picked the best of the bunch to show off ahead of release, and it’s also a pleasant surprise to find out that the remixes haven’t robbed the original tracks of their spark and charm at all. In Get Up, Get Out There for example, there’s an underlying drum n’ bass track for the entire song, but it doesn’t ever overpower the main vocals or rhythm of the original mix. It’s brilliant that Atlus has managed to remix beloved tracks from Persona 5, while letting them retain the core rhythm that made them so great in the first place.
If you prefer a challenge, then there are always the harder difficulty options. Each track in Dancing in Starlight has three difficulty options: easy, normal, and hard. The first time you play a track on any of the three difficulty settings, you’re locked into a predetermined AI partner character. Should you manage to achieve frenzy status during a song (read: hit lots of buttons in the correct order), your partner will swoop in and dance with you for a short while, and the two characters combine for a variety of new moves. Every time you beat a stage on a certain difficulty, you unlock a new dance partner for that stage, letting you go back and replay it with a different ally.
This is where headcanon Persona 5 romances come into play. Yes, it’s a slippery slope, but hear me out for a minute. Ask anyone who’s played Persona 5, and they’ll tell you who they chose to romance. They might have chosen Ann to romance, or Makoto, or maybe Futaba (my choice), or Haru. Within a game that doesn’t have predetermined romances for its characters, player choice is king. And within a game that has such a tight-knit community, everyone has their own opinion of which characters go together as a couple. For example, I always thought Ryuji and Ann were polar opposite characters, but a cursory Google search of Persona 5 art from around the web will tell you that opposites very much attract in the case of these two characters, apparently.
This is what a truly love about Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight. We didn’t see the various characters of the main game interacting with each other too much outside of the core group led by our protagonist, and it makes a nice change to pair different characters up and see how they dance together. I mentioned previously that I pictured Joker and Futaba together as a perfect couple, and now’s my chance to see them come together as part of my own personal headcanon. I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for romances in the Persona games, and if Persona 5: Dancing all Night is an extension of this, then more power to it.
Finally, after many long years of trying, I have been able to find a dancing-related skill. I can press buttons on a controller in a sequence, to make animated characters on a screen dance for my entertainment. No, it’s not dancing, but it’s the closest I’ll ever come to being able to actually, properly, dance.