This may seem strange to some, but it is possible to streamline a game so much that it loses a lot of challenge. The correct level of difficulty is more of an opinion based thing, but I do feel like some games go overboard to be accessible, sacrificing the difficulty that makes playing so worth it in the first place. And one of the examples I’ve run into firsthand is in Persona 4.
Persona 4 originally came out in… 2008 for the PlayStation 2 system, and I actually own a copy, as it’s still available to buy in various places in that version, which many people refer to as Persona 4 “Vanilla” to distinguish it from what came later. I’ll get to that in a second.
Persona 4 is a solid Persona game, and an indirect sequel to Persona 3, taking place in the same world but later on, in a different town. The battle system has changed quite a bit, allowing players the option of directly controlling their team just like a regular RPG instead of using AI tactics. It also toys with the battle system itself, simplifying some spells and customization aspects, and then changing the mechanics used to regain health and magic in dungeons. I may disagree with some of these shifts, including some that I haven’t listed, but overall, it was received by the majority as a balanced game. It was difficult in spots, but once you grasped how everything worked, you could make some good strategies to get past the monsters you fought, and to me, that is what makes a good Persona game. It shouldn’t be all about raw power, but the way you approach an issue that decides if you win or lose.
Now let’s talk about the remake, Persona 4 Golden.
It came out in 2012 for the PlayStation Vita, and had a number of altered features, adding in new characters and events, and even a new “Golden” ending to look for. It also tinkered with some battle and out of battle features that many found clunky or annoying, and added some new difficulties to try.
This sounds great, right? Well… it was actually too great, in an interesting twist. Newer people who played this game before the original may have thought it was okay, but if anyone upgraded from Vanilla to Golden, they would immediately begin to see just how badly the game’s balance suffered with all these changes.
To better explain my concerns, the issues were not with the changes themselves, but the fact that the game’s challenges were not redone to even the playing field again. If you give your player a brand new set of weapons and features to make getting stronger easier, then they’re going to effortlessly crush everything in front of them as soon as they learn to maximize these advantages. There was no large buffs given to enemies to compensate, and so the balance was killed.
In the next few posts, I’m going to be focusing on some of the features that served to break Persona 4 Golden so badly compared to its predecessor, despite being considered the definitive way of experiencing Persona 4’s story.