How The New Persona Dancing Games Slide In To The Persona Timelineby Richard Eisenbeis,
With two new Persona music games on the market in Japan you might be wondering, how exactly do they fit in with the rest of the series?
While about different sets of characters, seminal RPGs Persona 3, Persona 4, and Persona 5 all take place in a shared universe. Somewhat surprisingly, the series' various fighting and RPG spin-off games all fit into the shared timeline as well--and that's not all.
Back in 2016, we saw the release of Persona 4: Dancing All Night--a music game based around the awesome soundtrack from Persona 4 and its related spin-offs. Oddly for such a type of game, it also includes a full story mode--a canon sequel to the main title.
Now two years later comes the pair of games, Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight and Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight, which follow the same basic formula (but use music from Persona 3 and Persona 5 respectively). They also include an interconnected story--though, unlike in Persona 4: Dancing All Night, it is told through scenes that are unlocked in a non-linear fashion when certain in-game goals are accomplished rather than in a visual novel-style story mode.
It is through these scenes that we can discover when the games take place in the overall series timeline.
Note: This article contains major spoilers for Persona 3 and Persona 4 as well as general spoilers from the first hour of Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight and Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight.
The basic story of the games is as follows: Sometime after the events of Persona 4: Dancing All Night, Velvet Room denizen Margaret brags to her sisters Elizabeth and Lavenza about the experience, claiming it proves her Velvet Room guest is the best out of all of theirs. Unable to agree with their sister--but unable to disprove her--Elizabeth and Lavenza decide to have a dance battle between their respective Velvet Room guests (each aided by his own set of Persona-wielding friends).
Of course, if you have beaten Persona 3 (or seen the anime films), you see the problem with this challenge. By the time of Persona 5, six years have passed since Persona 3 protagonist Makoto Yuki sacrificed himself to save the world. He's not exactly available for a dance-off.
Thus, Elizabeth and Lavenza decide to set their dance battle in a dream world existing outside of time and space. With this location, Elizabeth can grab the Persona 3 team from when they were in their prime. The dream reality also allows the characters to dance exactly as they envision, regardless of whether they know how to dance or not. And so as to prevent any tampering with the timeline, both teams will forget everything that happened in the dream when they wake up.
Each game follows their respective casts as they train in their own version of “Club Velvet,” preparing for the impending showdown against the other team during one endless night of dancing and fun.
But when does this endless night take place from the viewpoint of our respective heroes?
Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight
Based on Persona 3’s in-game calendar, that game takes place over the 2009~2010 school year. So that gives us a basic timeframe for when Dancing in Moonlight must also take place.
One of the key rewards to completing the various objectives in both games is that, besides unlocking costumes and accessories, you also gain the ability to explore each of the character's bedrooms. (You can even look around these rooms in VR if you buy the PS4 version and have a PSVR.) And what's a common item in bedrooms? A calendar.
Indeed, on Yukari's desk is a calendar that has the date Monday, July 13 marked on it. Likewise, Akihiko's room has a digital clock that marks July 13 as the current day. So there we go. We have two sources. Everything is clear as day and we can move on to Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight, right? Not quite.
Simply put there is no way Dancing in Moonlight can take place on July 13. After all, at that point in Persona 3, neither Aigis nor Koromaru has joined the party yet. (Aigis joins on July 21 and Koromaru on August 2.) So with Aigis in the game and Koromaru mentioned several times, it's pretty clear that the July 13 date is simply a red herring.
Logically, the earliest the game could take place is on August 8, the day Koromaru joins the party. However, that's just the starting point. Based on the various conversations between the characters and the knowledge of when things happen in Persona 3, we can narrow down when Dancing in Moonlight takes place quite a bit.
In one conversation, Junpei alludes to his ongoing crush on Chidori, setting the game before her death on November 22. In another, Mitsuru talks briefly about succeeding her father as the head of the Kirijo group at some nebulous point in the future. (She technically becomes the head of the family after her father's death on November 4.) Likewise, Mitsuru mentions that SEES still has work to do, implying this is before the supposed final boss fight on November 3.
The date can be further narrowed down by what is not mentioned: namely Shinjirō. Neither him being a team member nor him being dead are mentioned (he appears in the game only as a non-story, DLC character). Given the stink that Ken makes about Koromaru being left out of the dance dream, it seems unlikely that no one would mention a human team member missing.
Likewise, both Ken and Akihiko seem normal, emotionally speaking, in their respective conversation scenes. They certainly aren't bummed out or depressed like they would be by the loss of an important friend. Thus it seems likely that the game takes place before he rejoins SEES on September 2.
And so by using the respective dates when Koromaru and Shinjirō join the party as a guideline, it's safe to say that Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight takes place between August 8, 2009 and September 1, 2009.
Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight
With Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight, it's actually a bit easier to discover when the game takes place. To start with, while Persona 5 proper doesn't ever directly state a year, based on the in-game calendar (i.e., what days fall on what dates)--and the fact that past Persona character cameos all imply not much time has passed since we last saw them--it's safe to say that it takes place over the 2016~2017 school year.
Now, before we go any further, I should reiterate that just like in Dancing in Moonlight, Dancing in Starlight rewards you by letting you explore the bedrooms of the main cast. In Motoko's room, both Motoko's clock and calendar highlight the date September 15. But just like the date found in Dancing in Moonlight, this date is definitely not when the game takes place.
The opening scene of Dancing in Starlight makes it obvious that the music game occurs after the final battle of Persona 5. Talking with Caroline and Justine, Persona 5 protagonist Ren Amamiya can ask why they are back in two bodies instead of being unified into one as Lavenza. (To which they respond that they can become two at will as their body remembers that shape.) Likewise, Morgana is shocked to see the twins at all as Ren's “rehabilitation” was supposed to be complete.
In the same conversation, none of the other characters seem particularly surprised or excited to see Ren, implying that this happens before Ren returns home during spring break on March 20 at the very end of Persona 5.
Indeed, what they're really surprised to see is that Morgana is back in his Metaverse body which was supposed to have been destroyed in the wake of the team's battle with the final boss. However, it's also important to note they are not surprised to see that Morgana is alive in general--meaning the game takes place after February 13 when Morgana and the team are reunited (and he explains why his real world body is still around).
But what really narrows the date down is a conversation scene between Haru and Makoto where the pair talk about their impending graduation and wonder what the school will be like going forward without them. High school graduation usually takes place during the first week of March in Japan. For 2017, this would have been March 3 at the latest.
With all this considered, it's logical to conclude that Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight takes place during Persona 5’s ending, sometime between February 13, 2017 and March 3, 2017.
Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight and Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight were released on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita in Japan on May 24, 2018. They are currently scheduled for an early 2019 Western release.
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