I don't like JRPGs very much, but not for lack of trying. I've played most of the Final Fantasy games, but quit them all long before the end. Turn-based combat is just too slow and repetitive for my taste—and I'm not saying it's objectively tedious, I'm just not into it. But it hurts loving anime bullshit as much as I do while hating most JRPG combat.
To hold these two selves within one fragile human form is truly a hell. I love Final Fantasy's goofy, melodramatic mix of Dungeons & Dragons and sci-fi. Please do not miss me with Xenoblade's massive open worlds and stupid outfits. And now that Persona 4 Golden is on PC, I'm drawn once again to its jazzy tunes and field trips from mundane small town living into psychedelic nightmare realms.
This time, I'll actually finish it thanks to the PC port's excellent modular difficulty settings. And let me make this clear: if you're not a JRPG fan, but have always been drawn to the stories they tell, Persona 4 Golden on PC is calling your name.
I tried to play Persona 4 Golden on the PS Vita back in 2012 and got about 15 hours into the campaign on the Normal difficulty before getting burned out. The combat system is a big draw for genre fans, and I appreciate how it encourages experimentation and rewards repetition by balancing everything on simple elemental strengths and weaknesses. Golden's combat is good. Or at least tolerable, by my stringent standards.
Even so, after 15 hours I felt like I could see exactly where the next 50 were going. But back then, you couldn't change the difficulty level without starting over. I had to either toss 15 hours of my actual human life into the trash, or trudge through the rest of the game in an almost-but-not-quite pissed off state. The PC version remedies that fundamental problem by letting you change the difficulty at any point during the game, and without penalty.
It's not like they're buried and hidden away either—the difficulty settings are the second damn pause menu option, impossible to miss. It's clear Persona 4 Golden wants to help you eliminate friction the second you start chafing.
The settings go way beyond what you normally see in other JRPGs, allowing you to change individual aspects of the combat challenge and rewards. In a game like Persona 4, which drawn even clearer lines than most JRPGs between the narrative and combat sections, these settings are a godsend. They allow me to spend all of my energy and focus on the parts I like, which, yes are the parts where I invite fellow cartoon high schoolers to eat ramen with me.
I recommend taking a gander at those settings after you choose a difficulty at the start of the game anyway. There's a nice spectrum from Very Easy to Very Hard, but you won't get access to the more granular options until you start playing. From there you're able to tweak:
- Damage taken
- Damage given
- EXP won per battle
- Money won per battle
- Whether you get retries in dungeons and battles, independently
If you like challenging combat but hate starting dungeons over, no problem. If you like a moderate challenge, but want to spend more time socializing with your classmates, juice the EXP won. If you want to breeze through battles, but want to play along Persona 4's economy, just keep Money won at normal.
Or, if you're like me and feel nothing when you use a fire attack on an enemy weak to fire attacks and want to buy all of your friends expensive gifts, just drop everything to the simplest, most rewarding setting. Turn Persona 4 Golden into what it should be: an incredibly long-winded but very good anime you press the A button through. If only all JRPGs knew what I wanted.