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Choosing The Best Difficulty For You | Persona 3 Portable

Describing just how hard or otherwise a Persona title is can be a difficult proposition. Without prior knowledge of the battle system, with its diverse selection of weaknesses, buffs and debuffs, can make the new player feel like they’ve landed in a wildly alien environment. On the opposite end of the spectrum however, is that a player familiar with the systems involved, and indeed enemies on display, will likely find the majority of the difficulty options far too easy. All that being said, we’ve decided to put pen to paper (finger to key?) to describe exactly which difficulty suits each type of player, with accompanying consideration for their experience levels.


Beginner

Beginner Difficulty, Persona 3 Portable

It’s not too unusual for a developer to add difficulty levels when they update games, but these are mostly restricted to the higher end of the curve, designed to appease the hardcore market that these games often target. Fire Emblem: Three Houses, for example, added a higher difficulty as free DLC. Now, Persona 3 Portable isn’t technically DLC or a remaster, but it is an updated and improved version of the base game, but even so it was slightly surprising to see a difficulty added to the lower end of the spectrum.

To the difficulty in question then, and Beginner mode truly embodies it’s description. The enemies that you encounter throughout the game will barely deal any damage to you, allowing you to progress through Tartarus with little to no trouble. This makes it ideal for first time players to the Persona series, but we’d argue that it’s probably still too easy for those that have played RPG games before. If you have no concept of what it means to take turns in battle, or what it means to strike a weakness on an opponent, then this might be the difficulty for you. They even throw in 30 free full party resurrections, should you fall in battle.

Difficulty Summary

  • Ideal for players with no Persona and very little RPG experience at all.
  • Suited to those that want to witness the story without any challenging gameplay getting in the way.
  • Enemies in this mode will deal vastly reduced damage.
  • Your party will automatically have 30 x Plumes of Dusk, which automatically revive and fully heal the party, should you lose in battle.
  • Technically speaking, this is probably the quickest mode to choose, should you wish to witness the game in its entirety in the shortest time possible.

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Easy

Easy Difficulty, Persona 3 Portable

Strangely enough, the addition of a Beginner difficulty mode tends to leave the ‘Easy’ option in a rather strange situation. Functionally speaking it’s very similar; enemies will deal reduced damage to you, and as such your time in Tartarus will be much easier. The only real difference here is that you have less of a safety net in the form of Plumes of Dusk, since you’re only granted 10 rather than 30 in the Easy difficulty.

We’ve messed with both options for quite a while, and it would appear that enemies do slightly more damage than those in the Beginner mode, and we believe it is approximately 75% of Normal mode, though this is not confirmed. As you might imagine, we’d recommend this mode for those that have a small amount of experience with RPG games, perhaps through hearing about them rather than a great deal of play time, but we’d also say that it’s ideal for those with no experience of Persona titles. If you know what a turn based game is, are aware of the premise and basic rules but have yet to experience a Persona game, then this is the difficulty for you.

Difficulty Summary

  • Ideal for players with a small amount of RPG experience, but no knowledge or experience of the Persona series.
  • Damage dealt by enemies is less than normal mode, though we’d argue that it doesn’t scale opposed to higher difficulties – they seem to deal around 75% of their full damage here.
  • Akin to Beginner mode, you’ll have access to 10 x free full party resurrections, just in case the worst happens. 
  • Still a great option for experiencing the epic Persona 3 story, though perhaps with less of a hit to your pride than Beginner.

Normal

Normal Difficulty, Persona 3 Portable

The default setting for difficulty in Persona 3 Portable is Normal mode, and it’s likely the mode that most will get along with. This is because it’s seemingly designed for folks that are used to RPG games, but not necessarily the Persona series at all. Knowing that you’re familiar with the premise of dungeons, exploration and turn-based battles, most things should come naturally, albeit after a bit of adjustment to the weakness and 1 More system.

Should you be at all experienced with the Persona series, we’d really recommend that you look a little further on, rather than settling on Normal. Yes, you can fully experience the story and learn about the wonderful world of Persona 3, however it will lack any of the tension that battles and exploration should have in this series. It’s not too easy of course, and you can still land yourself in trouble if you’re not paying attention, but it’s nowhere near as challenging as a normal mode in a modern Persona title. We suspect this is because the difficulties were originally balanced for the base Persona 3 games, which didn’t feature the option to fully direct your teammates actions. 

Difficulty Summary

  • A good place to start for RPG fans that are new to the Persona series.
  • We would not recommend this for those familiar with Persona games. If you’re coming here from any title in the series, be it modern titles or even the 3DS duo, you’re not going to find a great deal of challenge in Normal mode.
  • Does not feature any life saving aids like the prior two choices.
  • Nor does it decrease or increase the damage of your opponents, after all Normal is the baseline from which they deviate.

Hard

Hard Difficulty, Persona 3 Portable

From a Persona aficionado’s point of view, Hard difficulty is where things really start to get interesting. In fact, the more that we think about it, the best description that we could give of Hard mode Persona 3 Portable would be to equate it to a Shin Megami Tensei game, albeit one that tends toward the easier side of things. We’re thinking of SMT4 Apocalypse, but not quite at the level of base SMT4. Enemies will regularly take chunks of your health away, and surely necessitate that you come well prepared for an arduous journey. You’ll need to do quite a bit of fusion to keep your arsenal up to date, and take your time out to fully equip your party members. Just how we like it.

Difficulty Summary

  • Well suited to players familiar with the Persona series of games. If you’re digging into the back catalogue after experiencing a modern title like 5 or Royal, then this will present a similar level of challenge.
  • Similar in level of difficulty to an easier SMT title, like SMT4 Apocalypse, or the normal mode of a difficult Etrian Odyssey game.
  • Ideal for those that enjoy the tension present in Persona titles, or indeed any other dungeon crawler type of game. 
  • Compared to Normal mode, enemies will deal increased damage and you’ll be ambushed in battle a little more than usual should you not manage to surprise your opponents. In practice, this second point doesn’t actually make a great deal of difference, and the damage feels like it should in our opinion.

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Maniac

Maniac DIfficulty, Persona 3 Portable
Persona 3’s version of a Game Over screen. Expect to see it a few times…

Perhaps you’re looking for a real challenge. Maybe you’re a big fan of the series, and like to pair it with a meal consisting of hard SMT and Etrian games during your down time. If this is you, then look no further than Maniac mode. We’d actually argue that it could be harder than this, and we’ve certainly seen examples of this being the case in some Persona titles, but it’s as good as you’re going to get in Persona 3 Portable.

Actually, in writing this section of our article, we realise that those inclined to play such a thing are very unlikely to read this. They probably made their decision way ahead of time, and currently find themselves knee deep in shadow entrails, trying to fuse their way up the ladder as soon as possible. They’re cut from a different cloth, the hardcore Atlus fanbase – think you’re up for the challenge?

Difficulty Summary

  • A good difficulty for Persona fans that are looking for a real challenge.
  • Prior knowledge of the battles and particularly enemy weaknesses is required.
  • Best described to fans of the developer as being akin to an Etrian Odyssey hard mode, or a hard SMT game, like SMT4 or Devil Survivor.
  • All enemies deal significantly more damage. It’s technically doubled, however in practice modifiers will alter the numbers slightly. They’ll certainly need you to do a great deal of fusion and planning ahead. 
  • Similar to Hard mode, we’ve read that opponents will ambush you much more often, should they simply run into you without being struck by your weapon. Again, this doesn’t make a great deal of difference. We always assume that missing means an ambush, and it holds true here too.
  • Nothing will carry over from your previous run, should you choose to start a NG+ on Maniac mode. Wouldn’t want it to be too easy now, would we?

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