I’ll start off with one significant change that Persona 4 Golden makes: It re-balanced the difficulty of many of the story-line bosses. Some of those changes I did agree with, as the first two main dungeons in the game do have a high difficulty curve due to your limited resources and the lack of weaknesses to exploit.
Spoilers below if you plan to play these games:
The two bosses I personally felt were weakened the most were Shadow Yukiko and Shadow Kanji.
In Persona 4 for the PS2, these two were what really made some players struggle their first time around. But with good preparation (after a few deaths as learning experiences), they could be defeated reasonably with your set party of the main character, Yosuke (who’s weak to electric but strong with Wind), and Chie (weak to Fire but strong with Ice).
In the original games, neither boss had an elemental weakness to exploit for more damage, but in Persona 4 Golden, they and their summoned allies are given a weakness, along with shifts in move-sets and possibly AI behaviors.
Shadow Yukiko is now weak to Ice attacks, which allows two out of three of your party members to hit her for extra damage and waste her turn by knocking her down a few times. She also now gives a text based cue for when she’s about to use Burn To Ashes, a really strong Fire spell that is guaranteed to do a lot of damage to the party if no one takes a turn to Block (this is even worse for Chie since it’ll knock her down or kill her if you’re caught off guard). Now this alone I thought was acceptable as a way to even the playing field, but Golden went even beyond that. It dropped a couple of the Boss’s stats by a point or so, weakening her offensively and defensively, and even with her raised HP, the loss of defense combined with that Ice weakness means she takes way more damage and at a faster rate than before.
Shadow Yukiko also summons a helper during the fight, and while it does about the same thing in Golden as it did in the original version (debuff, buff, and occasionally heal the Boss), it’s far more beneficial to waste time killing him now, since he’s weak to Electric (something you should have access to), and when you run him off, Shadow Yukiko wastes a turn of hers trying to bring him back, and it will always fail. That’s another free turn for you to heal yourself and/or do more damage.
With all of these changes in place, it feels a bit like overkill in terms of assuring the player can win.
Shadow Kanji is a bit more interesting in terms of changes. His stat points were also rearranged, though he gains agility and loses some points in magic damage. Agility seems like a pointless upgrade considering it doesn’t allow him to do much more. What I did notice was that his move-set shifts to remove his strongest physical move, which is certainly a nerf to him. He gains a couple of weaker ones to try and compensate, but he mostly gains new support moves and a weaker Electric spell. This means that Shadow Kanji is less likely to do as much damage per turn.
He has two helpers, Nice Guy and Tough Guy, and in the original Persona 4, One focused on healing Shadow Kanji, and the other one did extra damage with some physical attacks and removed any stat buffs you built up. Together, they could be really annoying when trying to fight the main boss, though they didn’t need to be defeated to win.
In Golden, Nice Guy no longer has any healing abilities, meaning that Shadow Kanji can’t recover, and he can be knocked down with a weakness to Ice. Tough Guy had his debuff move taken away and also gained a weakness to Fire. This combined with their lower overall endurance makes them way easier to remove from the fight earlier, as they are no longer resistant to most tactics.
Once again, I feel like this boss was stripped of a lot of the bite that made him so respectable. Maybe the stat rearranging and altered move-set for Shadow Kanji were enough, but the rest feels like piling on too much.
These two Boss examples are only the start of this game’s remake that I found unbalanced when taken into account with everything else that was streamlined.
In my next post, I’ll be talking about how the reward mechanics after battles have changed to further benefit the player, and how that fits into Persona 4 Golden’s overall difficulty problem.