The Persona main series is a straightforward JRPG. People go through turn-based battles, doing the best they can to accomplish goals. This means they may have varying degrees of familiarity and skill with other genres, such as rhythm games. With Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight, it is clear that Atlus understands this and allows for certain accommodations. The result is a game that could be incredibly easy for newcomers who want a new way to enjoy the music from the series and enjoy some extra conversations or can be quite demanding for people who know what they are doing.
The basic gameplay for Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight showcases this. At the outset, three difficulty levels are available. These are Easy, Normal and Hard, with All Night unlocking after “Jaldabaoth ~ Our Beginning” is cleared for the first time. Easy is quite simple, not demanding people press too many inputs or rub a touch screen or analog stick to scratch frequently. But then, even Normal is a relatively easy affair, with note patterns that guide you around the circular UI. The kinds of notes available are easy to understand, with markers clearly showing you when you need to tap, hold or double tap. I feel like instances where you need to press two notes at once are the most clear, since the icons show pink bars that let you know exactly which two notes must be tapped, even if your attention is distracted by the video playing in the background.
The “scratch” segments are the only one that may really throw someone off, especially if they are playing on the PlayStation 4. This is a returning mechanic from Persona 4: Dancing All Night and one you could feasibly avoid, so long as you do not have a Challenge mode set to make hitting them a requirement. These require you to move a finger, most likely a thumb, off of a button and over to the touch pad or analog stick. I felt this was an easier adjustment to make when playing Persona 4: Dancing All Night on the PlayStation Vita. On the PlayStation 4, making that reach tended to throw me off.
But even then, the Custom Modes takes this scratch concern, as well as any thought that the Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight may be too easy or difficult, into consideration. Each one of these, after being unlocked, can make a big difference on gameplay. The Support option that automatically triggers Perfects on all scratch notes for you (オートスクラッチ) unlocks after you go through a song without scratching once. If you are a beginner who fears the game automatically failing you as you play, dealing with that unfortunate occurrence once allows you the option to avoid it completely after. Doing that one unlocks a support that will not allow you to “fail” if the gauge empties (途中終了しない). Having these two important Supports unlock after doing things that would necessitate them shows a level of understanding on Atlus’ part that I appreciate.
Likewise, some of the Challenges also unlock after you have proved you can handle the situations that would necessitate them. If you are really good at scratching, doing so 100 times will unlock a Challenge that penalizes you if you do not scratch, considering each avoided one a miss (スクラッチでMISS判定をとる). Changing the note speed to as fast or as slow as you possibly could offers Challenges that brings super speedy notes (ノートが超高速になる) or super slow ones (ノートが超低速になる) to test people. But my favorite difficulty enhancing option is one that automatically ends the song if you break the combo. If you can manage to fail any other song one within 10 seconds, you unlock this particular Challenge (コンボが切れたらゲームオーバー), which can be devastating. I like to think of it as turning Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight to a roguelike rhythm game.
Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight is the sort of rhythm game that understands its audience. It is simple to play, but eventually offers four different difficulty levels for people to choose from when they play. It has these Support and Challenge custom game modes, which you can earn by doing well or poorly, then apply to make the game easier or more difficult. It feels like it gets what people might want or need, then offers it to them, something very nice for a rhythm game.
Persona 5: Dancing Star Night is immediately available for the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita in Japan. It will be released outside of Japan in 2019 as Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight.