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Difficulty by Region

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Games with variable Difficulty Levels allow you to choose how hard or easy you want the game to be from the start. While some can be easy or hard no matter which one you pick, some games may seem harder or easier just because of the region the game was made in. Typically this occurred due to there being a belief in Japan that Americans preferred harder games; often North American versions would have the lowest difficulty setting totally removed and/or an even harder bonus mode added. However, the inverse also occurred at times — some Japanese game developers felt that foreign audiences would not be able to handle a game's difficulty, so an international release would be made significantly easier — or even absent entirely.

Another reason for higher difficulty in international versions is that renting games is illegal in Japan. Either you buy it or you don't play at all (unless you borrow from a friend who has bought the game). This led to increase in difficulty for games which were considered easy and short enough that gamers could finish them over a couple of days of renting it. Higher difficulty means more time has to be spent with the game in order to beat it, which requires more rentals or buying the game.

Sometimes, the difficulties are the same but named differently to be more or less encouraging depending on the language/region. For example, one regional release might have Easy, Normal and Hard while another has the same difficulties, but labeled Normal, Hard, and Super respectively.

This phenomenon also manifests in a relatively unique way in online games - Lag. One's location in the world means different access to internet services, internet speeds, and proximity to dedicated servers. This can even manifest within the country as well - someone who lives in a rural or suburban area with fewer internet options (and needing wireless internet) will have much lower ping than someone who lives in a city just less than a few hundred kilometres away.

This phenomenon causes professional players and speedrunners to decide on a specific version to be used, or to separate the versions into different categories. This can also lead hardcore players to seek out the foreign versions and region-free consoles just to play harder versions.

Examples are listed by platform of origin:

    open/close all folders 

  • Aero Fighters - The international Aero Fighters Special is harder than the Japanese Sonic Wings Limited. Enemies fire more bullets and the bullets are faster.
  • Bionic Commando (1987) - The export version lets players keep their current weapon between stage, whereas the Japanese version (Top Secret) reverts it to the default gun. Additionally, the helicopters in the export versions are lesser in number, drop fewer bombs, and will eventually stop chasing you if you avoid them for long enough.
  • Black Tiger - The Japanese version, titled Black Dragon, features a greater number of enemies with stronger attacks, more aggressive bosses, more falling rock traps, and more expensive items.
  • Cadash - The Japanese and American versions are more difficult than the European and World versions (the version in Taito Legends Collection is the World version). Herbs and inns are more expensive, you can't carry as many Herbs or Antidotes, bosses have more health, the Priestess' Time spell gives less time, and the Dragon Amulet is worth less money.
  • Crime Fighters - The Japanese version featured a traditional lives/health gauge system, whereas the American version uses hit points that are gradually drained as time goes by. The Japanese version also has a back kick button that was removed from the American version. On the other hand, the American version allows up to four players, whereas the Japanese version is limited to just two.
  • Dark Adventure - A Gauntlet clone by Konami, the game underwent extensive changes for its Japanese and International releases, titled Majū no Ōkoku and Devil World (not to be confused with the first-party NES game of the same name) respectively, after the original version apparently underperformed in North America. Devil World ditches the melee weapons of the original in favor of giving each character a gun, replaces individual power-up items in favor of a Gradius-style power-up selection meter, and is completely linear in its overall structure (as opposed to Dark Adventure, which forced players to choose from multiple paths and figure out the correct way by themselves).
  • The Hong Kong version of DonPachi is insanely difficult (much more difficult than the Japanese version) and doesn't have cutscenes.
    • The Korean version is mostly the same as the Japanese version, except the first boss was made slightly easier and the text is in Korean.
    • The American version is much easier than any other version of the game, since in this version the difficulty is lowered significantly and the bombs get restored after every stage, which doesn't happen in any other version of the game. In this version, the text is also in English.
  • The overseas versions of Double Dragon III: The Rosetta Stone were made first and featured item shops where the player could purchase new playable characters, special moves and weapons (among other power-ups) by inserting more coins into the cabinet. Essentially Double Dragon 3 introduced the concept of microtransactions in gaming long before it was employed by other developers. This feature proved to be rather unpopular among players, so when the developers worked on the Japanese release, they removed the item shops completely and allowed players to choose any of the four character types from the get-go, with all their moves usable from the outset (they did make the Hurricane Kick harder to pull off to compensate for this). In the Japanese version weapons are found lying on the ground waiting to be picked up, a huge contrast from the first two games where the player had to disarm enemies first.
  • Fire Shark, as with Twin Cobra, had respawning only at checkpoints and no simultaneous two-player mode in the original Japanese version, Same! Same! Same!; enemies also fire more often. The western version removes screen-panning, which is a double-edged sword— on one hand, you're less likely to be surprise-sniped by enemies coming from outside the visible playing area, but on the other, you can no longer "seal" enemies by scrolling them offscreen. The developers at Toaplan regretted making the Japanese version too difficult; the later simultaneous two-player Same! Same! Same! is actually easier than the overseas version.
  • Get Star - The Japanese version defaults to the easiest difficulty, has the first extra life at 3000 points and then every 10.000 points after and gives the player character four health blocks. Its export version, Guardian, starts on the second hardest difficulty, gives the player two health blocks and defaults to extra lives only at 10.000 points with no option to rever to the Japanese settings. Bosses also do much more damage in Guardian - for instance, the first boss's web attack may take 3 hits to remove one block of player health in Get Star while being hit by hit once will always remove one block of health in the western version.
  • Ghouls 'n Ghosts - The American version makes armor appear in chests more often, gives bosses fewer hit points, and adds extra checkpoints to every level, including one before every boss fight. That last change comes with a downside, however — you can't get Gold Armor or change weapons before a boss fight, and since Ohme in Stage 4 requires a ranged weapon, getting there with the Sword makes it unbeatable.
  • Gradius features more aggressive enemies in the North American version (Nemesis). To make up for the increased difficulty, the game throws the player a fleet of red enemies every time he loses a ship, allowing the player to refill his ship's power-up gauge. Also this version offers "three" continues, as opposed to the Japanese and European version where losing your last life, means restarting the game from scratch.
  • Gradius III, in the "Asia" and "World" arcade versions, had the full length "technical course" of the Japanese version with the difficulty of the "beginner" mode. The PlayStation 2 port used the Japanese arcade difficulties in all regions, but added an Easier Than Easy (though still Nintendo Hard) setting in the options.
  • Haunted Castle had five different versions labeled E, K, M, N, and P. E, K, and M were the overseas releases, whereas N and P were Japanese releases. Version M in particular is the hardest of the four versions, where a single bone throw from a skeleton enemy in the very first stage will result in the player losing half of his health.
  • Jackal (aka Top Gunner) - In the Japanese version (version T), the player's machine gun will shoot at the direction their jeep is facing, whereas in the American (version U) and World versions (version V), it will always shoot north. The grenade/rocket launcher works the same way in all three versions though.
  • Kid Niki: Radical Ninja had mid-stage checkpoints in the American arcade version, whereas the Japanese arcade version (Kaiketsu Yanchamaru) forced you back to the beginning of the level upon death. The NES/Famicom port had the same mid-stage checkpoints in all regions.
  • Lethal Thunder - The Japanese version (Thunder Blaster) is much more difficult, featuring revamped stage layouts that put the tricky enemies and bosses up first and has generally more resilient and aggressive enemies. The difference is so dramatic that when played with autofire, the Lethal Thunder version is an almost-effortless one-credit clear while Thunder Blaster remains as tough as other Irem games, which is to say, very. This likely is due to subtly different arcade culture. The game's big gimmick is that the player's shot becomes wider and stronger the harder you mash the shot button, but in Japan, "serious" arcades mod Shoot 'Em Up games to include autofire buttons, while in the west, cabinets are usually kept stock. As such, the Japanese version was balanced to still be tough even if played with full autofire while the western version is to be played "as intended".
  • Mahou Daisakusen: The western release, Sorcer Striker, has a softer Dynamic Difficulty curve than the Asian releases, starting at half the Rank value on Normal mode onward, and growing much less. For instance, reaching the final level on the Japanese version adds 24 ticks to the Rank counter and only six in the western release. The Korean release is the hardest by a bit.
    • Similarly, Kingdom Grandprix starts at half the rank value of Shippu Mahou Daisakusen and grows less for subsequent stages.
  • Metamorphic Force: In the Japanese version, the player's health consists of a standard Life Meter. In the international releases, this was dropped completely in favor of having numerical Hit Points that gradually drain over time a la Gauntlet, forcing the player to complete stages quickly on top of avoiding enemy attacks and collecting health pickups.
  • Ninja Emaki was made easier for the American release. In the Japanese version, you die in one hit, but in the American version you get a life bar that lets you take three hits. You can also get power-up scrolls, which let you use one of several power-ups for a short time. In the American version, you get a life extension when you get a power-up scroll. In the Japanese version, if you get hit while using a power-up scroll, you lose it. In the American version, you can keep using the power-up scroll, even when you're taking damage.
  • The Japanese version of Psychic 5 gives enemies and bosses more health.
  • Raiden: The "Japan set 1" and "Taiwan" revisions send the player back to a predetermined checkpoint upon dying. All other revisions let the player respawn immediately between deaths, and reserve checkpoints for when all lives are lost.
  • The World release of Taito's Raimais completely removes the Warp Zone mechanicnote  from the game as well as other miscellaneous secret warps, forcing the player to complete all 32 rounds on each playthrough.
  • Shadow Force- The American version uses a complicated six-button control scheme, whereas the Japanese version has a simpler three-button control setup: the Hard Punch and Light Kick buttons were removed, and the "snatch" move (in which the player's character copies an enemy's appearance and abilities) is now performed by pressing punch and kick simultaneously instead of having a dedicated button. Both versions of the game also featured one-on-one versus segments between stages which forced players to drain each other's health, but these can be turned off in the Japanese version, whereas they're mandatory in the American release. A third version also exists that is entirely in English, but is much closer to the Japanese version in terms of gameplay.
  • The Simpsons was made much easier than the international version in Japan. Bosses were made significantly easier, you are fully healed in between levels, more food and weapons were added to the levels (including a new atomic bomb item that clears the screen), the slingshot was powered up to kill any enemy in one hit, and you can use weapons while jumping. The Japanese version also allowed players to add another "layer" to their health gauge by picking up food with full health.
  • Super Contra ends on one loop in the American version, whereas the Japanese version has a second loop in which the difficulty is set on the hardest setting (regardless of the game's actual settings) and continues are not allowed.
  • Whether through a glitch or deliberate, the American version of Super Street Fighter II Turbo has a very subtle change where after the very first round of a playthrough, the game will silently set the AI's difficulty to level 8, regardless of what it's set to in the diagnostics menu.
  • In the American version of Trigon (Lightning Fighters), the game-breaking Homing Trigon weapon is no longer available in 1-player mode. On the plus side, like Twin Cobra and Fire Shark, it has Respawn on the Spot instead of checkpoints, although you still lose all your powerups.
  • The overseas version of Thunder Force AC (named "New version" in the Sega Ages port) greatly reduces enemy and bosses HP.
  • Twin Cobra has a fair number of differences from its Japanese version, Kyūkyoku Tiger, but the one with the most dramatic impact on the game's difficulty is that Twin Cobra doesn't force the player back to a Checkpoint upon dying. The player's helicopter also moves a bit faster in Twin Cobra.
    • However, the bullet limit is higher in the Japanese version, allowing for increased firepower.
    • The sequel features more durable enemies in its Japanese incarnation.
  • Violent Storm: In the Japanese version, you earn your first extra life at 500,000 points and then another one at every 1,000,000 points. The international versions excise this completely, so you only get two lives per credit.
  • In the X Men arcade game, using your Mutant power in the American version takes three bars of health. If you are down to three or less bars, you use spheres that you can collect. In the Japanese version, you use the spheres first, then your health. The Japanese version also has health packs that can be collected, making the Japanese version easier.

    Family Computer / Nintendo Entertainment System 
  • The Addams Family: Fester's Quest - The European version is much easier than the American release, since it allows Fester's shots to pass through walls and obstacles. This prevents the frustration of shooting at enemies in narrow passages with projectiles that don't go straight. Enemies and bosses also take less hits to kill.
  • The Adventures of Bayou Billy - The NES version bumps the difficulty tremendously compared to the Famicom original titled Mad City. Anything in the driving stages causes the player's jeep to explode in one hit in the international releases. The Japanese version just takes a chunk of life away. And this is one example. As a rule of thumb, anything that would help you is halved (like your attack and defense), and anything that would hamper you is doubled (like enemies' attack and defense) when compared to Mad City.
  • Western versions of Adventures of Lolo II and III both contained some puzzles lifted from older Eggerland games that were never released in America. The Japanese versions of these games, titled Adventures of Lolo and Adventures of Lolo II (the first American Adventures of Lolo consisted entirely of recycled puzzles, and was therefore not released in Japan) contained new, harder puzzles instead. However, some of the puzzles from the Japanese Adventures of Lolo also ended up in the American Adventures of Lolo III.
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer: The level order was almost completely redone in the American release. To compare, if the Japanese version's order is 1-2-3-4-5-6, the American version's order is 5-1-2-3-4-6. To compensate for one of the late-game stages being put first, the pirate enemies no longer use projectile attacks, and one of the bosses has less health.
  • Air Fortress - The Japanese version of the shmup sections are even worse. In the other releases, you can at least pick up where you left off if you die, but dying in the Japanese version kicks you all the way to the start of the stage every time (and the spinning destructible obstacles take far more hits to kill.) As for the interior fortress stages, the amount of enemies in every stage was reduced, homing bullets were made easier to dodge, and the fireballs shot by the giant robots in the last level of each loop no longer deal knockback.
  • The American version of the NES port of Arkanoid has three extra levels, increasing the total amount from 32 to 35 (not counting the final fight against Doh as a level).
  • Battletoads, while still not a cakewalk, is much, MUCH easier in the Japanese version than the legendarily difficult international releases. There are so many differences in obstacle placement in every level that a full list of them would take up quite a bit of space. For example, Level 3 has lots of extra jump ramps, no midair ramps, completely removed the island jumping section with the flashing exclamation mark, and doesn't speed up at the very end. Each player also has five continues and five lives per continue by default (instead of three lives and three continues), which requires a cheat code to enable in other versions of the game.
    • This is also notable because future ports to other consoles, such as the Mega Drive/Genesis, adapted the Japanese version's difficulty. Naturally, anyone looking to brag that they've beaten Battletoads needs to distinguish which version of Battletoads.
  • The Western version of Bionic Commando changes around the difficulty of certain areas a bit. Generally, the early areas of the game were made much harder and the later sections were made easier.
  • Blaster Master has a room in in Area 4 that leads to Area 5 which was made much easier in the Western versions. In the original Famicom version (Chou-Wakusei Senki: MetaFight), the player has to make a Leap of Faith from a tall height and latch onto a one-tile ladder before hitting the ground and dying of Falling Damage. The NES version added a series of platforms instead. A much more drastic change was made in the Western versions that added a limit of four continues to finish the game on, as opposed to the unlimited continues in MetaFight.
  • Castlevania:
    • Castlevania - The Disk System version (Akumajō Dracula) not only had a save feature for up to three files, but also gave out morning stars earlier. The 1993 Japanese cartridge re-release took out the save feature, but added an "Easy" mode which starts the player off with more lives and hearts, removes Knockback upon getting hit, reduces damage taken, and doesn't take away subweapons upon death.
    • In the American version of Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse, every enemy takes off the same amount of health, and the damage they inflict increases in later stages, as with the first game. In the Japanese version (Akumajō Densetsu), different enemies take off different amounts of health, and the damage they inflict remains the same throughout the entire game. The international version also has more enemies in some rooms (such as additional bats in the last room before Dracula), and Grant's throwing daggers (with an attack range that reaches across the entire screen) were replaced by a stabbing dagger with tiny range. The Cross and Holy Water were also made rarer and removed from random drops, Alucard's bat power drained hearts twice as fast as well as costing a heart to activate, and Dracula's third form could attack in 16 direction and twice as frequently. To compensate somewhat, the game had a code that gave you 10 lives, even after a game over, and sending you back to before the pendulums after losing to Dracula allowed you to pick up a Game-Breaker Axe for use on Drac's third form.
      • The European version is based on the American version but made slightly easier: enemies do one less damage in early levels and the Stopwatch lasts one second longer.
  • Contra - While the Famicom and NES version are practically identical in terms of difficulty, the Famicom version has a stage select cheat that does not exist in its NES counterpart.
  • The Japanese version of Taito's Demon Sword, Fudou Myouou Den, had twice the number of stages, a greater variety of enemies and bosses, and overall was much more difficult, with the player starting as a One-Hit-Point Wonder and having to collect "Revival" items to sustain multiple hits before losing a life. On the flipside, the Japanese version had the Password Save option accessible directly from the title screen, while the American version locked it behind a cheat code.
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (NES) replaced two of the three town stages from Hōma ga Toki with recycled versions of other stages. Admittedly, these stages were most likely cut out due to their suggestive content rather than their actual difficulty, since the player could refill Jekyll's stress gauge by visiting a certain woman's apartment, who proceeds to pays him with cash while romantic music plays in the background (although, sometimes the opposite happens as the woman proceeds to drain Jekyll's stress gauge and steal his money instead). Nevertheless, their removal does affect the game's difficulty, since there's no other way to restore Jekyll's stress gauge.
  • Double Dragon II: The Revenge restricts the game's length depending on the difficulty level in the NES version, whereas the Famicom version allows the entire game to be played on any setting (which have standard labels, instead of the NES version's idiosyncratic difficulty levels) and even allows continues without the need of a cheat code. There are other specific differences between the two versions as well, such as the disappearing platforms from Mission 6 being much easier on the Japanese version's easier difficulty settings and enemies having way more health on the Japanese version's hardest setting.
  • Double Dragon III: The Sacred Stones adds more enemies and reduces the player's total health by ten points per character in the American version.
  • Dragon's Lair improved over the original American release in its Japanese and European versions by making the game faster and smoother, thereby reducing the difficulty level a notch.
  • Fist of the North Star, originally released as Hokuto no Ken 2 for the Famicom, made some of the earlier sub-bosses (Balona, Buzori) easier to defeat in the American version and also allowed continues to restart at any stage (whereas continues in the Japanese version warp you back to Stage 4 in later stages). However, the NES version added a Game-Breaking Bug that causes the player to go throughout glitched versions of the four Vs. Mode stages and then end up in a empty room with a bottomless pit, rather than showing the ending (making continues rather worthless).
  • In the Famicom version of Karnov, the eponymous character dies in one hit (as in the original arcade game), and you can only continue up to two times after a Game Over. The NES version allows him to sustain one hit (signified by Karnov turning blue), and continues are unlimited.
  • Kid Icarus (1986) made a few changes to the last level in the American version: the screen scrolls automatically rather than based on the player's movement, you no longer have to hold the Jump button to fly, you can fly through the bricks and pillars, and enemy patterns have been changed. These differences make the American version a little easier.
  • The Krion Conquest: The Japanese version, Magical Kid's Doropie, gives the player the option to continue playing after a Game Over. The English version does not. The automatic checkpoints at the beginning of boss battles were also removed.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The Legend of Zelda:
      • Very minor example: the North American version added Keese to a couple of originally empty rooms.
      • In the original Famicom releases, the player could use the microphone in the system's second controller to instantly kill all Pols Voices in a room. Since the western NES lacks this hardware feature, they were given a weakness to arrows instead, making them slightly easier to deal with outside Japan. This becomes most apparent in the second quest, where they appear before the bow.
    • Zelda II: The Adventure of Link:
      • Exports added weak XP-draining monsters and monsters that can only be harmed by the Fire spell (one of them appearing well before the player gets that spell).
      • Increasing Link's stats is a lot easier in the Japanese version, where the experience points needed to level up stopped increasing once it hit 4000 points. Other versions raised the maximum cap to 9000, and made P-Bags drop rather less often from enemies. Needless to say, many players who were in the latter category would spend a ton of time level grinding. There is a bit of compensation with P-Bags found in set places, as they are usually more generous in EXP in the American and European versions. On the other hand, when you save and quit (or get a Game Over, which will happen quite frequently) in the Japanese version, all three levels (Attack, Life, and Magic) are reduced to the lowest of the three (as the Japanese version lets you choose your upgrade since they all have the same EXP values), while international versions keep all levels between sessions.
      • Several enemies that used varying attacks in the FDS version will choose only one attack when they spawn and just spam that attack. This is due to an RNG bug common in FDS-to-NES ports.
      • The A.I. Breaker where Dark Link continually runs into Link's sword if he couches at the left wall does not work in the Japanese version. This is also a result of the aforementioned RNG bug.
  • In the American version of Life Force, a single player can have up to two attack drones (or one for each player in 2-Players Mode), whereas the Japanese version (Salamander) allows up to three shared between both players. On the other hand, the NES version got the Konami Code, which was not in the Famicom version.
  • Little Ninja Brothers has a significantly higher random encounter rate in its international versions.
  • The Magic of Scheherazade has a significantly lower random encounter rate in its international versions.
  • Mega Man 2: The game has two difficulty settings, Normal and Difficult, in the English versions. Playing on Normal doubles all damage dealt by Mega Man.note  The Japanese version, Rockman 2, only contained Difficult mode, and was deemed too challenging for most western players, explaining the change. The Wily Wars port for the Mega Drive is more faithful to the original Japanese version and has no difficulty selection.
  • Mega Man 3 has a commonly overlooked difficulty change within the fight against the Doc Robot that mimics Flash Man in the revisit of Gemini Man's stage. In the Japanese version (Rockman 3), when Doc Flash Man uses Time Stopper, he only fires a single bullet, and its duration is extremely brief. In the international versions, he fires a volley of bullets, and Time Stopper's duration was made longer to more closely replicate Flash Man's behavior in Mega Man 2.
  • In the original Famicom Disk System version of Metroid, enemies and bosses have randomized attack patterns due to using a different RNG, while in the NES version, they stick to one pattern until the console is reset, making that version easier. On the flipside, the FDS version has save slots instead of the NES's cumbersome password system, less slowdown, and a longer time window (2 hours instead of 1) to get the best ending.
  • Mighty Bomb Jack moved some items in the American version to make them easier to find and allowed you to break secret blocks in one jump, rather than several.
  • In the Japanese version of Gimmick! (1992), you start with four lives; in the European version, you start with eight lives. Additionally, it takes 20,000 points to earn an extra life in the Japanese version, while it takes 25,000 to earn a life in the European version.note 
  • Mystery Quest (Hao-kun no Fushigi na Tabi), when exported to the NES from the FDS, had the third world and last two castles cut due to the cartridge's smaller storage space, along with the first two worlds being toned down in difficulty. and the save feature was replaced with a continue option. Also, you have to play through the NES version four times to get the Golden Ending, while the FDS version just has one ending.
  • The NES version of Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom removed the Password Save (this was the first game in the series to have one), doubled the damage delivered by enemies (essentially reducing the player's health by half), limits checkpoints to only the beginning of a stage, and made continues limited. The version included in Ninja Gaiden Trilogy for the SNES reverted the difficulty back to the same level it was in the Famicom version.
  • Rainbow Islands has 5 continues in the European version, whereas the other versions have an unlimited amount and a level select cheat.
  • River City Ransom has three difficulty levels in the Japanese version (Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari), whereas the western versions only has two. The "Easy" setting was removed, while "Normal" and "Hard" became "Novice" and "Expert" respectively. The option to disable friendly fire was also removed from the western versions, and all shops had their prices altered, more often than not making items more expensive.
  • Rush'n Attack was released for the Disk System in Japan under the title of Green Beret, which featured instant re-spawns after every death (instead of the checkpoint system used in the NES version), greater ammo carrying capacity for the player (9 instead of 3), limited continues (as opposed to none) and hidden underground shortcuts. To balance things out, the NES version starts the player off with more lives and all the weapons give out full ammo (as opposed to the Disk System version, in which they had to be accumulated one by one).
  • The European version of Rygar is absurdly difficult toward the end, due to the EXP caps being reduced from 4095 to 1023 on both of Rygar's stats, with no corresponding adjustment to enemy strength.
  • S.C.A.T., also known as Action in New York in Europe, is a rare example of an NES action game actually being made easier for the export market. The Famicom version, Final Mission, started the player with three hit points and would revert the player's weapon back to the default gun every time the player gets hit. In the NES version, the player starts off with six hit points and always keeps his or her weapon no matter how many hits he or she takes.
  • Section Z was released on the Famicom Disk System and had a save feature that allows players to resume the game where they left off. The NES version on the other hand forces the player to complete the whole game on one sitting.
  • The European version of Star Force makes enemies and their bullets slower, and gives three continues as opposed to the American/Japanese versions' none.
  • Super C - Much like its predecessor, the Famicom version of Super C (titled Super Contra) had a stage select cheat that was disabled from its NES counterpart. Likewise, the Konami Code grants thirty lives per continue in the Famicom version, while in the NES version, it only grants ten.
  • Super Mario Bros. 3 has some subtle changes in its difficulty internationally. In the Japanese version, if you have a "tier-two" power-up (Fire Flower, Super Leaf, etc.) and you get hit by an enemy or hazard, you'll revert to Small form (same as the original Super Mario Bros. and The Lost Levels). This was changed for the international versions where being hit with a "tier-two" power-up will revert you back to Super form. This change also extends to the Japanese version of Super Mario All-Stars, Super Mario Advance 4, and its associated game style in Super Mario Maker and its sequel.
  • Super Spike V Ball - Much like Double Dragon II, the Famicom version of this game (titled U.S. Championship V-Ball) allows players to play the entire Tournament mode on any difficulty level, whereas the NES version restricts the length through different game modes (Exercise, American Circuit, World Cup) that aren't essentially idiosyncratic difficulty levels. Unlike Double Dragon II though, World Cup mode in V'Ball actually has additional opponents and exclusive ending not in the Famicom version.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game: The Japanese version has a slightly more relaxed difficulty compared to the international versions. The player's jump kick is just as powerful as the Desperation Attack (meaning it can One-Hit Kill most enemies) and can be performed at any point during a jump instead of just during the descent. Certain player attacks can be reversed, and enemies are less frequent in stages.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III The Manhattan Project: The Japanese version has a hidden options screen for extra continues, made accessible by entering an additional variation on the Konami Code. The American version had it Dummied Out.
  • The second Twinbee game on the Famicom Disk System had two difficulty settings in its FDS version (Normal and Hard). The later Japanese cartridge version added an Easy difficulty, but the international version, Stinger, removes the difficulty select entirely in favor of forcing the player to play on Normal (though Hard can still be played via a new second loop).
  • Wrath of the Black Manta, the international version of Ninja Cop Saizou, removed one of the original levels and its boss entirely and replaced the final level's Boss Rush with a single boss rematch.
  • Zombie Nation: In the Japanese version, Abarenbou Tengu, the player has to repeatedly press the button to shoot. Zombie Nation lets the player simply hold the button down for continuous fire.

    Super Famicom / Super NES 
  • ActRaiser isn't as extreme example as some: the Japanese version was overall more difficult, with some enemies having attack patterns that were removed from the American release. The simulation stages also were a little faster to get through in the American version. Additionally, while the American release required higher total world population sizes for gaining each level, it also had higher population maximums in each city, and each city grew a bit faster.
  • Brain Lord beefed up monsters in the American version.
  • Contra III: The Alien Wars had a couple of cheat codes in the Japanese version Contra Spirits (namely a thirty-lives code and a stage select) that were removed from the overseas releases. Moreover, the Japanese version has infinite continues while the overseas versions limit them based on the difficultynote , and allows the player to fight the True Final Boss on Normal, whereas the overseas versions only allow it on Hard.
  • The SNES port of Doom locks Episodes 2 and 3 behind some of its Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels in the American and European versions. More specifically, Episode 2 is only playable on Hurt Me Plenty (Normal) or higher, and Episode 3 is only playable on Ultra-Violence (Hard) or higher. The later Japanese release allows the entire game to be played regardless of difficulty level.
  • Donkey Kong Country:
  • Final Fantasy IV, retitled Final Fantasy II in America since it was the second game in the series released overseas, was significantly easier than the Japanese version. It eliminated a number of character abilities and items, simplified the removal of Status Effects, and made most of the bosses easier. A few months before its release, Square released an "Easytype" version of the game in Japan, based on a prototype of the American version that was even easier than the American version with things like Ribbons that absorb all elemental attacks on top of protecting characters from status aliments.
  • Illusion of Gaia has herbs fully recover your health in the Japanese version. Also, you don't have to attack the first boss's hands to hurt him, and the earthquake attack can be used to stun a boss.
  • In Lufia & The Fortress of Doom, the Final Boss's moveset is reduced to two attacks. The good news? Both of those attacks are magical, meaning the Mirror spell completely protects against them. The bad news? One of those attacks, Figual, can inflict confusion on your entire party and can lead to your party killing themselves off far faster than his other spell can.
  • The Japanese version of Nosferatu only allows the player to continue up to eight times after dying. If all eight are used up, the player will be allowed to continue one last time at the cost of being locked into the Downer Ending. The American version made continues unlimited, but dying eight times still invokes the bad ending.
  • Pocky & Rocky: The Japanese version gives you three lives and one Smart Bomb on each credit regardless of what difficulty is chosen. The international versions instead start you with five lives/three bombs on Easy, and two lives/no bombs on Hard. Additionally, the international versions increase the maximum amount of bombs that can be held at once from three to four.
  • The 7th Saga is legendary for being obscenely hard and featuring insane level-grinding in its American version. The average stat gains per level for player characters were reduced compared to the Japanese version. This also added an unwinnable situation, as they didn't tone down the stat gains your rivals get as bosses based on your level, so leveling up too much can literally make them too powerful to beat.
  • In the Japanese version of SoulBlazer, the first boss room had two conveyor belts pushing away from the boss and one normal bridge. The International versions instead have three conveyor belts, two pushing toward the boss and one away from it. This makes it harder to perform hit and run tactics.
  • Super Bonk lets you go off the top of the screen in the space stages in the Japanese version (Super Genjin). Doing this, though, sends you to a "penalty game" in which you must build up speed while running around the Earth and then jump back into space. In the international versions, this was removed, and Bonk simply bounces off the top of the screen in those stages.
  • Super Double Dragon has three selectable difficulty settings (Easy, Normal and Hard) in the Japanese version, Return of Double Dragon, whereas the American version doesn't have any. However, the difficulty of the American version is harder than the hardest setting of the Japanese version. Enemies have more health and weapons such as incendiary bombs and knives are more lethal. The American version also recycles boss characters more often and some of the added moves in the Japanese version, like the multi-hit Hurricane Kick and the ability to catch your boomerangs or exchange weapons on the ground, were not implemented yet in the American version. On the other hand, the Japanese version is slightly longer, with two extra areas added to the final stage, and the bosses of Mission 3, the Chen brothers, are fought as a Dual Boss rather than one at a time as in the overseas version.
  • The original Japanese release of Super Earth Defense Force allows players to increase their starting Hit Points from three to five in the options, while the same setting in the international releases only allows players to reduce from three hit points to one. Slowdown has been greatly reduced (meaning less wiggle room to dodge boss attacks) and the enemy placement has been revamped. The international release has less enemies than the Japanese release but the original enemy formations weren't necessarily more difficult despite their greater density, so the main consequence is that players do not level up their weapon as quickly. The Japanese version's invincibility Cheat Code was also removed, as was Easy mode.
  • Super Mario World has very minor changes noticeable between versions. The bonus level "Funky" in the Japanese version had three green berries which add time to the clock. Western versions added six more green berries. Vanilla Secret 2 has dolphins that act as platforms for the player to traverse across the water where a Porcupuffer would hound the player relentlessly. The Japanese version had Yoshi be able to eat the dolphins while the international version disables this ability to prevent screwing the player over while also probably avoiding offending people about the treatment of dolphins. The Game Boy Advance re-release puts the dolphin eating shenanigans back in.
  • Super Metroid: The European/Australian version makes the Phantoon fight easier by allowing the player to avoid its flame-sweep attack by going into ball form in either corner of the room.
  • Super Valis IV was made much more difficult for its American release. The player takes double damage, enemies often take more hits to kill, bosses take half damage, and the Easy difficulty was locked behind a cheat code.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time: The international versions of the game increase some of the config menu's limits: the maximum amount of selectable lives was increased from 3 to 7, and though the maximum amount of continues was changed from 3 to 5, it can no longer be changed manually and is instead tied to the current difficulty setting (3 for Easy, 4 for Normal, and 5 for Hard). The level select code was also Dummied Out.
  • The Twisted Tales of Spike McFang increases the defense of enemies, making level grinding obligatory if the player wants to do more than scratch damage to bosses. Many enemies turn into Boss in Mook Clothing thanks to this. It also removes the Level-Up Fill-Up mechanic and the option to restart with full health in the beginning of an area if you die.

    Nintendo 64 
  • The Japanese release of Buck Bumble makes enemies faster and more intelligent in certain stages.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask has the Owl Statues you find in-game as warp points and quicksave points in the international releases of the game. In the Japanese version, the only way to save was to play the Song of Time and return to the Dawn of the First Day. The inclusion of owl saves required Nintendo to reduce the number of save files to two. To this day, International Majora's Mask is the only non-handheld Zelda game to not have three save slots.

    Nintendo GameCube 
  • Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance removed the Harder Than Hard Maniac mode and replaced it with an Easy mode in the American version. Then again, the 255% crit chance forge bug was removed, and the typical Critical Hit Class like Swordmaster, Berserkers, and Snipers getting their critical hit boost back that was absent in the original Japanese version.
  • Luigi's Mansion with its Hidden Mansion mode. It wasn't too impressive in the Japanese and American versions, with merely rooms being a bit darker and some other minor tweaks. The European/Australian version though... completely redid most of the game. In this mode, you got the whole mansion mirrored, more (and harder) enemies in rooms, more treasure like golden mice, bosses with new attacks (rocking horses in the first battle went diagonal, you rode on the Poltergust when against Boolossus, and Bowser's mines exploded instantly in some cases), and annoyingly... you had to beat the Hidden Mansion to get an A grade.
  • Metroid Prime uses a hint system to show players where to go next. One of the members of the development team wanted more hints added to the North American version of the game because he feared that players would get lost in a game where you're on your own. The Japanese version of the game has fewer hints.
  • Resident Evil 4 has an "Easy" setting in the Japanese and European versions that was not present in the American release. This also applies to the PS2 and Wii versions.
  • Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door has several rooms in the X-Naut Fortress where Mario must follow a safe path along the floor to avoid becoming electrocuted. In the Japanese version, the safe path is only two squares long in the third of these rooms, compared to three in the North American and the European/Australian versions.
  • The western release of P.N.03 massivelly increases the cost of new suits and suit upgrades, and makes the Blackbird and Papillon suits much more time-consuming to unlock.
    • In the Japan version, unlocking the Blackbird simply requires beating the game once on Normal difficulty. In the western release, you have to purchase every suits and their upgrades.
    • Unlocking the Papillon in the original release was done by beating the New Game Plus. In the western version, you have to beat all 50 trial missions with a Professional ranking.
  • The Japanese release of Wario World gives the Final Boss an additional phase. This was likely to make up for it being an Anti-Climax Boss in the original release and for the Japanese release coming almost a year after the others.

  • Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn renamed the difficulty settings. The Japanese version's Normal mode became the English version's Easy mode, while the Japanese Hard became the English version's Normal.
    • The Western version also added the ability to make permanent (i.e. endlessly reloadable) saves mid-battle, with only Hard Mode retaining the 'suspend' (a one-time save that deletes itself when you reload it, basically just if you want to take a break) system from the Japanese version. A few new weapons were added and several skills were tweaked to make them more useful. (Wrath and Resolve now always activate as long as you're below the required HP threshold. In the Japanese version, both skills were chance-based)
  • Super Smash Bros. Brawl has various changes made in its European/Australian version; in addition to bug fixes, it made all the challenges skippable via Golden Hammer. No more hammer-proof challenges.

    Game Boy 
  • Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge has two sub-weapons in all versions, but in Japanese they're the Holy Water and the Boomerang Cross, while in the overseas versions the Cross was replaced with the Axe. To clarify: the Holy Water and Boomerang Cross are generally considered the best sub-weapons in the series — used properly, they can hit multiple times for absolutely massive damage and in some games the Holy Water can trap enemies in helpless hit-stun. The Axe... is generally considered borderline useless — it does decent damage, but it has a weird arcing trajectory that makes it hard to hit anything not positioned above you. Additionally, some of the items hidden in walls are different depending on the regional version.
  • Donkey Kong Land 2 has cheats in the English version allowing you to start with 50 lives, 40 Banana Coins, or 47 Kremkoins, but these cheats were removed in the Japanese version. On the flipside, the Japanese releases make an handful of levels easier, usually by removing inconveniently-placed Zingers around checkpoints.
  • Operation C, simply called Contra in Japanese, has the Stage Select mode activated by default there, while the overseas releases required a cheat code.
  • Survival Kids: The Japanese version is much more generous with item placements compared to the western versions.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Radical Rescue: The Japanese version is slightly easier than the international versions. The Japanese in-game map uses unique icons for the locations of bosses, locked cells, and key cards. The international map instead uses a generic dot for every point of interest. Infinite continues were also dropped in favor of only having two continues.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures:
    • The first game, Babs' Big Break, used a password system in its Japanese version. When the game was brought west, the password system was completely removed, resulting in the game having to be started from scratch on every playthrough, and the player only has two continues. Additionally, the amount of Hit Points the player starts out with was reduced from three to two.
    • The second game, Montana's Movie Madness, was released in North America on November 1993 and is notorious for its challenge level, not just in the levels themselves, but also because you had limited lives and continues, you only got an extra life for every 3000 points, continues being locked behind beating bonus games, and the bosses having three hit points. The Japanese version was released one month later and has numerous differences, including shorter and easier levels, with some sections of the levels being removed completely, easier bonus games, an extra life for every 2000 points, the bosses having two hit points instead of three, and the bonus games giving you an extra life if you beat them. Limited continues were once again replaced with passwords.

    Game Boy Advance 
  • Kirby & the Amazing Mirror had the damage output of the Missile ability slightly nerfed in the international versions, both from direct Collision Damage and the resulting explosion.
  • Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga:
    • The game has Heart Blocks in certain places in the Japanese version, which you could hit for a free heal. The international releases, which was released earlier, did not have this feature.
    • Another interesting but minor 'difficulty' change was adding a whole bunch of button icons everywhere in the menus. Like how the level up screen has Lakitu tell you how to move the cursor up and down or the bit in the intro where Toad is initially playable has a + Control Pad icon appear when you can take control of him.
    • On the other hand, the shop prices were way harsher in the Japanese version. Normal items cost between 10 and 100% more, and some pieces of gear cost literally THREE TIMES more than it did in North American and European versions of the game. One pair of pants in the international versions? 500 coins. Same item in the Japanese version? 1750 coins.
  • Metroid Fusion actually came out in Japan after its North American release, so Nintendo took the time to add selectable difficulty settings. There are three, Easy through Hard, and they work much like the ones in Zero Mission. Easy mode is of particular interest to speed runners because it eliminates many of the random factors that can cost time (for example, the second boss jumps a random number of times before exposing its weak point on Normal/the international versions. On Easy, it exposes its weak point on every jump.).
  • Pocky & Rocky With Becky, originally released in Japanese as Kiki Kai Kai Advance, upgraded the characters from One Hit Point Wonders to Two Hit Point Wonders in the Japanese version. A password system was also added.
  • The two GBA Fire Emblem games (that weren't No Export for You) got tweaked to make them slightly easier in the international releases. Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade nerfed the weapon effectiveness bonus from x3 to x2, weakened the Throne terrain (which most bosses stood on) and equipped a major Climax Boss with a normal magic sword instead of a life-draining one (though the chapter's hints still mention the "cursed, life-draining sword"). Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones, already considered one of the easiest games in the series, was made even easier; weakening enemies overall (enemies in Hard Mode are around 3-4 levels lower than in the Japanese version) and having Recurring Bosses keep the same stats in all their appearances (their stats got slightly higher in the refights originally).

    Nintendo DS 
  • Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time, like the GBA original, was released in North America first, making the Japanese version easier in most extents. The items are cheaper in the Japanese version, many bosses have half the health, and the badges and gear have more stat boosts. Heck, even things like the UFO to target in certain boss battles staying in one place, the save point being inside a shop in one area, certain bosses using less effective healing items, and three of the bosses having counterattacks. Unlike its predecessor, the European release actually carried over the Japanese version's changes.
  • Pokémon:
    • Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver, due to European ratings board aggression against any reference to gambling, did not feature the original Game Corner in international releases. Instead, said releases got a game that is best described as "minesweeper + Sudoku + (noticeably less) Luck-Based Mission". While attempting to earn prizes early would be a pain if you could actually lose money, it is instead fairly easy to get Dratininote  when you can't.
    • Minor example in Pokémon Black and White: Poison Touch has a 30% chance to poison the target with a contact move in the international versions, but it's 20% in Japan. If a Japanese copy of the game is in a Link Battle with a non-Japanese copy, Poison Touch's probability of activation is determined by game of the player with the Pokémon possessing the Ability. Thus, non-Japanese players are more advantageous when using a Pokémon with Poison Touch. However, the percentage has since been buffed to 30% across all languages starting in Pokémon Black 2 and White 2.
  • The North American version of Naruto: Ninja Council 3 is easier than the Japanese and European versions, for example, a mission in the Japanese and European versions required the player to kill 15 bats, in the American version, it was reduced to 10 bats.
  • The international versions of Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days are easier than the original Japanese. Enemies have less HP, Munny is now awarded for beating missions, and some enemies deal less damage.
  • The European version of Guitar Hero On Tour: Decades has "Satch Boogie", by far the hardest song in the game, as part of the main campaign's 80s stage (the next to last one). Other versions of the game have the song as an optional Superboss.

    Sega Mark III / Master System 
  • Ashura was an overhead action shooter that was released as a Rambo in American languages and as Secret Command in European languages. The original Ashura version released in Japan was slightly harder, as some of the tougher enemies required more bullets to kill or were only vulnerable using fire arrows.
  • Black Belt was originally released in Japan as a game based on Fist of the North Star. While the difference are mostly cosmetic due to the change in characters and setting, one of the bosses (the fire-breathing giant Devil's Rebirth) was replaced with a new enemy (Gonta the sumo wrestler) who fights with all new attack patterns. Black Belt also has more health power-ups compared to Hokuto no Ken.
  • Captain Silver is missing two stages and numerous enemy characters from the American version which were featured in the Japanese and European versions of the game, resulting in a much shorter and easier game.
  • Double Dragon only allows the player to continue up to two times any time in the Japanese release, whereas the American version allows unlimited continues until the final stage, which makes the game easier or harder depending on your skill level.
  • Wonder Boy in Monster Land was released as Super Wonder Boy: Monster World in Japanese, and gives all the enemy characters twice the hit points they have in the American version.

    Mega Drive / Genesis / Sega CD / Mega CD / 32 X 
  • Castlevania: Bloodlines: The international versions were made harder:
    • Normal difficulty in the Japanese version, Vampire Killer, is the equivalent of Easy difficulty in other versions. Normal difficulty in the international versions has more enemies and decreases the amount of damage done by the player's attacks.
    • In Vampire Killer, the player is given a password after choosing "End" on the Game Over screen. Entering the password puts them at a specific checkpoint in a stage with all of their continues restored. In the international releases, passwords are only given after clearing a stage, and they keep track of the player's amount of remaining continues, making completing stages with minimal deaths much more crucial.
  • Contra: Hard Corps features a three-point health gauge, unlimited continues and numerous cheat codes in the Japanese version (The Hard Corps) which were not present in the overseas releases. The European version is almost the same as the American in terms of difficulty, only it gives out less continues to compensate for the slower playing speed that makes enemies more predictable.
  • Decap Attack, released in Japan as an anime Licensed Game, Magical Hat no Buttobi Turbo! Daibouken. Decap Attack featured a Life Meter system where the Magical Hat version made the player a One-Hit-Point Wonder. To compensate for this, the stages in Decap Attack were redesigned, with more and harder enemies.
  • Dynamite Headdy starts the player with 2 continues in the Japanese version but none in the international versions and made continues harder to earn. Many other tweaks that made the international version more difficult, like Trouble Bruin's energy balls in 1-1, which can't hurt you in the Japanese version, but will in other regional versions. On the other hand, while Twin Freaks had its HP halved in the international versions, several other bosses, including the 5-3 Trouble Bruin encounternote , Gatekeeper and the Final Boss, Dark Demon, had their HP doubled.
  • Ecco the Dolphin, a notorious Nintendo Hard game, had its difficulty toned down when it was released in Japan an entire year after the American versionnote . The final stage, Welcome to the Machine, had three checkpoints added to it in contrast to the checkpointless international versions. Dying here also brings up a screen giving the option to either restart the stage or continue from the last checkpoint touched. The alien enemies also had their palettes changed from dark green to light gray in order to make them easier to see on the green background. The Final Boss, the Vortex Queen, not only takes less hits to defeat, but if you get swallowed up by her vacuum attack, instead of having to redo all of Welcome to the Machine from scratch, you're brought to a Japanese-exclusive mini-level called The Stomach. Completing it brings you right back to her.
  • The European version of Final Fight CD reduces the player's credits from five to three, alongside having Cody and Guy's Hurricane Kick special attacks not travel as far vertically.
  • Lunar: Eternal Blue, for some inexplicable reason, made an "addition" to the save system in the American release of the game that added a cost to save your game (from points awarded for winning battles). Working Designs claimed being able to save anywhere (which the Japanese version allowed) made it "too easy". Amusingly enough, this was only a problem very early on, after a couple of hours you would have so many points that you could indeed "save anywhere". Needless to say, there were plenty of hacks available to disable this system, as it was just a poorly thought out annoyance rather than legitimate difficulty. That said, the game made several legitimate increases to difficulty by buffing up enemy stats across the board and making items and healing statues more expensive.
  • The American Sega CD version of Popful Mail may just be the most drastic increase in difficulty a Working Designs localization has ever done: enemies and environmental hazards deal double or even triple the original damage, items that restore health or increase stats had their shop prices doubled or tripled and their selling prices reduced, and enemies drop less money upon death.
  • Puggsy had some minor difficulty adjustments pertaining to its Junior mode when it was released internationally. Some harder levels from the main game were replaced with easier ones, lives and pickups were made more plentiful, some puzzles were simplified, and the boss at the end had its health greatly reduced.
  • The western Robo Aleste toned down the Dynamic Difficulty increase and buffed the yellow weapon in response to player complaints about the Japanese version.
  • Rocket Knight Adventures has the same four difficulties in all versions, but the names are different: the Japanese version has "Normal", "Hard", "Very Hard", and "Crazy Hard". In the European version, "Normal" was renamed "Easy". And in the North American version, the same difficulties were called "Children", "Easy", "Normal", and "Hard". Notably, in the other versions, Very Hard and Crazy Hard require codes to unlock, but in the American version, all four difficulties are immediately selectable. Additionally, in the American and European versions, if you play on the lowest difficulty, you will skip the final boss fight and get a message that this is not the true ending. The final boss fight happens on every difficulty in the Japanese version.
  • Shadow of the Beast was an extremely difficult game in the first place, but the Mega Drive version ran too fast on American systems, making it almost unplayable. Averted in the Japanese release, which not only fixed this, it also let you start with more health.
  • Splatterhouse 2 was made easier for its international releases. The three difficulty settings change your maximum health: the Japanese version gives you 5 hearts on Normal, 3 on Difficult, and 1 on Very Difficult. The international releases give 4 on Normal, 3 on Difficult, and 2 on Game Master. The player is now fully healed in between levels (rather than only getting 2 hearts back like in the original arcade game), the amount of lives per credit was increased from 2 to 3, and the limit of five continues was dropped in favor of a Password Save.
  • The European Sega CD release of Starblade cuts the Easy difficulty and reduce continues from two to one. The former change actually cuts a significant amount of content from the game, as the Sega CD port had Easy difficulty use one set of branching paths from the arcade version and Hard the other one; European players have no way to access the alternate scenes.
  • The Japanese version of Stellar Assault has three difficulty levels and defaults to Normal. The western release, Shadow Squadron, cuts the easy difficulty, renames Normal "Easy" and defaults to Hard.
  • Streets of Rage 3 adjusted the difficulty levels between the Japanese and American releases with several notable examples:
    • The Japanese version had Easy, Normal, Hard, and Very Hard. The American version removed Very Hard, but at the same time, they buffed up the difficulty levels by one. Easy is equal to the Normal level from the Japanese version, Normal is Hard, and Hard is Very Hard. On top of having a harder game, enemies in the American game did more damage to you on harder difficulties while damage was fixed no matter what in the Japanese game. If that wasn't bad enough, Easy mode on the North American version only lets you play up to Stage 5, after which you'd get a fake ending and are encouraged to try again on a harder level. This could be averted through the use of cheat codes. The Japanese version let you beat the game on Easy.
    • If that wasn't enough, the American version also gave the bosses more health depending on the difficulty. The most glaring example is the final boss in round 7A, where, in hard mode, he has nine health bars.
    • The game also pulls this trope in reverse for the special attack and dodge system. The Japanese version has you lose more health if you used a special attack without a full power meter and the roll move doesn't make you move far. Streets of Rage 3 outside of Japan improved these mechanics where special attacks now don't sap a lot of health without a full charge and the roll mechanic pushes you a lot further to avoid attacks. These improved mechanics are encouraged to be used all the time due to the adjusted difficulty outside Japan.
    • Some elements in round 3 were altered between versions. The Japanese version had the falling barrels fall down with several seconds between barrels, allowing the player to safely get past where they fell. The localized version made the barrels appear almost immediately after the previous one falls off screen, which makes it trickier to get past them and it makes picking up the the first health pick up much more difficult to get unscathed. In the section where a Donovan chases you with a bulldozer, the you need to hit him just once to get him to back off in the Japanese version while the English version requires you to hit the bulldozer several times before it backs off.
  • The western releases of Thunder Force IV reduce boss health and add a cheat where the player can start with 99 lives by setting their life count to 0 in the option menu (removed in the Sega Ages version).
  • In typical Working Designs fashion, the western release of Vay makes a lot of changes to enemy and items stats, ressource costs and purchases prices, both to the player's benefit and detriment but mostly the later, as he increase to magic spells cost and enemy HP alone are enough to erase the concessions made in other areas. Also, the Japanese version had a joke event where the player could open a chest that contains only a single G: Working Designs changed this to that same chest concealing a "Gold Vortex" that sucks up all of the player's cash upon being opened, which can only be remedied by loading an earlier save.
  • Wonder Boy in Monster World plays Death Is Cheap for all its worth in the Japanese version, Monster World III — it warps you back to the last inn you saved at and charges you the normal inn fee (you can even just kill yourself if you don't feel like walking back). In the English version, if you die, it's Game Over; you have to use the Return spell to warp back instead. The Final Boss is also much harder in the American release: instead of a normal floor, the floor is a conveyor belt with a buzzsaw on it. The Dynastic Hero is based on the Japanese version of the game in all regions.

    Sega Saturn 
  • The Japanese version of Astal gives the titular player character five Hit Points and unlimited continues. The western versions only give three hit points and one continue.
  • The Japanese release of Bug has more starting lives (5 as opposed to 3), adds additional checkpoints, has more hitpoints, gives more ammo for the zapper and spit power-ups, removes the mechanic of being only able to continue your save games for a limited amount of times and tweaks some enemy behaviors to make them less aggressive.
  • The Western versions of the Clockwork Knight games give the bosses more hitpoints.
  • Magic Knight Rayearth, being localized by Working Designs, was made much more difficult in its American release by both giving enemies far more health and also making them move faster.
  • Mr. Bones gives the player a lot more hitpoints in the Japanese version.
  • The western versions of Panzer Dragoon reduce the numbers of continues (both your starting supply and how much you can gain through the shoot down ratio), adds additional enemies and attacks in stage 2, and make the twin sandworm midbosses at the end of that same stage pratically unkillable without relying on externally-assisted autofire.

    PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16 
  • Air Zonk: The hardest difficulty (Bitter Mode) gives the player two lives per credit in the Japanese version. The American version drops it down to one.
  • Exile (not related to the PC game series of the same name) was panned for being "too hard" in Japan, so Working Designs tried toning it down a little... making the game a cakewalk in the process. The reverse happened with its sequel, where it was basically made pretty close to unwinnable.
  • J.J. & Jeff was an Americanized version of Kato-chan & Ken-chan, a side-scrolling platformer based on a Japanese comedy duo of the same name. The changes to the game were mostly cosmetic, but one change that actually affect the play mechanics a bit was that the player's fart attack was changed into a spray can, changing it from a back attack to a front attack.

    Neo Geo 
  • Aero Fighters 3: Due to a bug, the game is permanently fixed to the hardest difficulty when played on the European BIOS.
  • Ninja Commando: The Japanese BIOS gives the player two lives, while in the western BIOS, you start with only one.
  • Strikers 1945 PLUS: The Japanese BIOS starts the player with three lives, while the western BIOS gives you two.

  • Alundra, being localized by Working Designs, was made much more difficult in its international releases, despite the manual claiming the opposite. Every enemy and boss in the entire game was given additional health and/or attack strength, and in some cases even received magic resistances they didn't originally have. The only instance of a gameplay mechanic being made easier was in Elene's dream, where a switch puzzle was given a longer time limit.
  • Crash Bandicoot:
    • Crash Bandicoot (1996) made the first boss harder in the Japanese version (five hit points instead of three and he attacks faster as he takes damage) and removed the password system (and in this game, you could only save after completing a bonus round or getting a gem), but it also shortened a level, switched two levels around to smooth out the difficulty curve, and added hints from Aku Aku (the hints are also in the Japanese versions of the sequels). The European/Australian version slowed down Ripper Roo but removed a checkpoint from The Lab.
    • Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back widened the radius of the Belly Flop, slowed down the shield enemies, and made it easier to clear Turtle Woods without breaking any crates (which is required for the Blue Gem) in the European/Australian version, but if you die on a Death Route, you don't get a second chance.
    • In the European/Australian version of Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped the power you get for beating the final boss (which enables Crash to run faster) is more effective than in the American version, making the timed goals easier. However, the target times for one of the time trials (on which you can't use that power) were revised. Besides that, a developer oversight in the two hidden levels gave them the same relic times as their entrance levels in the American version, which was amended in the European/Australian version. Enemies were changed as well: wizards have an extra hit point, robots fire an extra missile, and several attack faster. Additionally, dying repeatedly on a level will eventually give you two Aku Aku masks in the American version, but never more than one in the European/Australian version, and the differing Death Route mechanics from the last game also apply. Compared to the American version, the Pura levels had more enemies added in the European/Australian version and some enemies removed in the Japanese version.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • The international versions of Chocobo Racing feature a significantly higher amount of guardrails on the Fantasia track.
    • Final Fantasy VII received many changes in the international releases that the Japanese would not see until the International version:
    • Final Fantasy VIII makes Guardian Forces drawable in every boss encounter in the final level in case you missed any the first time around, but missing these the second time around makes them Permanently Missable. The Japanese version did not give players a second chance in drawing a Guardian Force in the final level.
  • Much like its Sega CD predecessor, the English version of the Playstation remake of Lunar: The Silver Star saw across-the-board stat increases for its enemies, as well as decreasing the XP and Silver rewards they gave, and increased the costs of items in shops by several times. Several puzzles were also made more difficult in the English version of the game.
  • In the Japanese version of MediEvil, the Dragon Armor drains your health while equipped and the Pumpkin King boss regenerates health, but you can buy more ammo for the powerful Lightning weapon. (In other versions, once you use up its ammo, it's gone.)
  • Metal Gear Solid has four difficulty settings (Easy, Normal, Hard and the unlockable Extreme mode) in the export versions, whereas the Japanese version only has two settings (the standard one, which is identical to the export version's "Easy" mode, and a "No Radar" mode that is also identical, but with the Soliton Radar turned off). The codenames used to evaluate the player's performance in the Japanese version were transferred over to the Hard and Extreme modes in the export versions.
  • Persona cut a more difficult alternate quest from the American release. Also, in a failed attempt at making the game easier, they made it harder by reducing the encounter rate to 1/3 and tripling the EXP gained from battles. The problem is, rather than their intended goal of leaving the player with the same amount of EXP with fewer battles... they forgot to factor money into it, leaving the player permanently poor and unable to afford the standard weapons.
    • The reduced fights also meant less chance for negotiations which allowed the player to create new Personae, get items, and stop fights whenever possible.
    • On the other hand, the reduced encounter rate also meant that characters had a better chance to take advantage of their SP (Spirit Points used for magic) regenerating while walking outside of battle, making SP management and healing easier.
  • Rapid Reload: The Japanese version, Gunner's Heaven, has infinite continues. The European version only allows up to nine.
  • RayStorm's PlayStation port, published by Working Designs (mentioned below), had its already Nintendo Hard difficulty jacked up for the American release, with its Normal setting being equivalent to the Japanese Very Hard setting, and setting the difficulty lower only allows you to play the first half of the game.
  • Resident Evil:
    • Resident Evil has an auto-aiming function in the Japanese version, as well as more ink ribbons and ammo available. The developers thought of furthering the difficulty in the export versions by making storage boxes not linked, meaning that items that were stored in one location couldn't be retrieved in another. While this was only implemented in review copies and not in the retail version, the idea was brought back to the "Real Survivor" mode featured in the GameCube version.
    • In the American version of Resident Evil 2, some of the item and enemy placements are different from the Japanese release. The American version's difficulty setting is featured as an extra mode in the Dual Shock-compatible re-release of Biohazard 2.
  • Silhouette Mirage was borked entirely internationally, as it originally featured the prototype of the color-swapping mechanic that later went into Ikaruga.
  • Spyro the Dragon (1998) had some gameplay changes made to its Japanese version. The camera was made more zoomed out and put into a fixed perspective, and Spyro's overall movement speed was made much slower, with his international movement speed being tied to a cheat code locked behind 100% Completion. Because of the speed and camera changes, many different areas in the game had their geometry simplified to make them easier to navigate.
  • Test Drive: The Japanese version of Test Drive 4 makes the AI more forgiving and speeds up the player being involved in the event of a crash.
  • Tokyo Xtreme Racer: In the original Japanese release of Tokyo Highway Battle, known as Shutokou Battle Drift King - Tsuchiya Keiichi & Bandou Masaaki, the opponent AI is more forgiving, and the controls are easier to get used to. The international releases tighten the AI difficulty and make the controls worse as a result.
  • In the original Japanese version of Thousand Arms it was fairly easy to defeat bosses before you could see the full range of their rather extensive combat quotes and animations. Atlus overcompensated for the American version, resulting in a game that, on top of the other issues with its combat system, is notorious for every boss being a tedious Marathon Damage-Sponge Boss.
  • Tomb Raider II features much weaker enemies and has certain traps removed in the Japanese version.

  • Chaos Legion: The original Japanese release of the game was criticized for being an easy game as Sieg was a One-Man Army who can steamroll through many of the game's enemies and bosses with relative ease, leaving the game's Legion summoning mechanics next to meaningless. The international versions not only made difficulty changes to make the game harder but also gameplay changes as well: Sieg's overall strength was nerfed, enemies and bosses became more stronger and aggressive, new enemies were added, introduced organic and metallic types of enemies, and inflated the EXP requirements for leveling each of the Legions' abilities and stats. The unlockable Super Hard mode was also changed in the international versions: originally only enemies can be killed in one shot in this mode, but in the international version, so can Sieg. The game's PC port was also based on the international versions, even in the Japanese releases of the PC version was labeled as "CHAOS LEGION International for PC".
  • Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening bumped up all of the difficulties by one notch for the original US release, so Easy was Japanese Normal, Normal (the only difficulty available at the beginning) was Japanese Hard, etc. The game was no cakewalk in the original release, and the "adjustment" elevated it to hair-tearing for first-time players who didn't want to drop down to Easy. The Special Edition re-release restored the original difficulties, with the American Hard becoming Very Hard.
    • It also restored the option of using the Gold Orbs (infinite continues, and gold orbs that let you revive right where you died) from the Japanese version... but still let you use the American version's Yellow Orbs (limited continues that are determine by the number of yellow orbs in your possession. Yellow orbs let you revive outside the last door you walked through, like the original DMC).
  • Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII had it where the American release removed Easy mode, changed the Limit Breaks to item usage, reduced the number of max slots per item and the money that can be obtained by selling them, and tweaked the enemy AI. On the other hand, it did improve the camera controls, allowed Vincent to double-jump, and increased Vincent's speed by 20% (American audiences can only boggle at how the original version must have played).
  • Final Fantasy X added the Dark Aeons to the European/Australian version, which are evil versions of your summons that function as a total of 8 Superbosses (9 if you include Penance, who is unlocked after beating all of the Dark Aeons). However, they're at a higher level than the actual Endgame Bosses- in fact, most guides basically come out and say "Your party for these fights should have AT LEAST 9999 HP, their fully activated Celestial Weapons, and the following very difficult to get armor perks..." This also makes getting said fully activated Celestial Weapons harder in the European/Australian version, as if you didn't get some of the Sigils within a short time frame, you'd find Dark Aeons blocking the area later on.
    • They're there because the European/Australian version is based on Final Fantasy X International, rather than the American version or original Japanese release, to make up for the delay and the technical issues of porting a game originally made with an NTSC analog signal in mind to the PAL image standard.
    • However, the worldwide HD remake of FFX is based on the European/Australian version, meaning everyone can now get in on the increased difficulty.
  • Final Fantasy XII: In the Japanese version, the Superboss Omega Mark XII has 10 million HP. The international versions reduced this to 1 million HP (a tenth of the original) and made it so Omega's attacks have 5% chance of inflicting the Berserk status.
  • ICO had its Japanese and European versions released after the American one and featured an increased difficulty, in addition to other bonus content. Notably, a few puzzles were lengthened by adding trickier bits, and the enemies are a lot faster and more aggressive - spawning more frequently than they did in the American version (where they only spawned if the player left Yorda in a different room or at scripted events).
    • Fixed in the PS3 rerelease, which also included all the extras left out of the original American version.
  • Iron Aces 2: Birds of Prey attempts to localize the original Kuusen by swapping the planes in the WWII missions of the game so that you're using western fighters instead of Japanese ones. The missions were designed with the more maneuverable Japanese planes in mind and were not adjusted to reflect the switch, making the early chapters more difficult.
  • Mega Man X7's North American version reduces the attack power of the player characters.
  • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty was first released in America. The Japanese and European versions later added a questionnaire at the start of the game that affected, not only which difficulty levels the player could choose, but also whether or not the player skips the Tanker chapter and starts right off at the Plant chapter. The European version also featured an unlockable "European Extreme" setting that was even harder than the already Harder Than Hard "Extreme" setting. The E-Extreme setting was later added to the Substance version in all releases.
  • Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, like the previous game, added an E-Extreme setting to the European version, which was also featured in all version of the Subsistence update.
  • Mister Mosquito let you suck blood from any exposed skin in the Japanese version, but in the American and European versions, you could only suck from small designated points on the body, some of which were literally impossible to reach without dying.
  • Shinobi (2002) had the following difficulty settings in the Japanese and European versions: Easy, Normal and Hard. Easy was removed entirely in the American release, which shifted the collectables from Normal to Hard and added in an extra "Super" difficulty with the Hard mode collectables. Super is the only difficulty where default character Hotsuma can't kill the later bosses in one hit.

    PlayStation Portable 
  • Dissidia Final Fantasy has a ton of differences in the American version and the original Japanese version which was also re-released as an Updated Re-release. See here for additional info.
  • In the Japanese version of Crisis Core, if Zack is KO'd during a side mission, it is a Game Over. In the American version, the game treats you as if you abandoned the mission and return you to the save point.
  • Danganronpa:
    • The Dying Clue in Chapter 1 of the first game is a set of "numbers" written in blood that are actually a word written upside down. It's so comically obvious that you'll either wonder if the developers seriously think you're that stupid or assume the game is taking a page out of the Ace Attorney handbook and the clue is fake. That's because in the Japanese version, the clue is exactly the same, and figuring out that the clue is written in Latin letters actually would be tricky for a Japanese player (and in-universe, the Japanese characters) to figure out.
    • The Hangman's Gambit minigame had to switch out the hiragana characters for Latin letters. Not a problem in the first game where the localization team was able to simplify the answers. The "Improved" Hangman's Gambit from Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, on the other hand, fundamentally changed the way the characters fly across the screen by having them lower influence (AKA Hit Points) if they crash into each other (instead of floating harmlessly off-screen like the did before). Since this was impossible to change, the Updated Re-release on the Play Station Vita (the first version released in English) ended up with literal translations that force the player to spell out every word of the final answer (roughly 4 hiragana characters as opposed to 10 letters in one case).

  • The Japanese version of Blinx: The Time Sweeper had many little tweaks to make the game easier. Sme enemies were removed or swapped out with weaker variants, some bosses and the Water/Fire spirits had their health reduced, and level geometry was altered in spots, seemingly to reduce the risk of players getting ambushed by concealed enemies. These changes were kept in the international "Platinum Hits/ Xbox Classics" budget rerelease.
  • The European release of Dead to Rights adds difficulty levels, reduce enemy and boss healths and has more forgiving timing for the minigames. These tweaks were integrated in the PS2 and Gamecube ports.

    Xbox 360 
  • Bullet Witch has Alicia's gun do less damage in the American version, as the localization team wanted American players to use magic more.
  • Death Smiles runs at around 150% the speed of the Japanese version in the American release, making it harder and preventing people from accurately comparing scores across regions—an unusual change considering that American players are, on average, less experienced with and proficient at the Bullet Hell genre than Japanese players. In a moment of Tropes Are Not Bad, the developers have stated that the American version is the game they had intended to make from the start, and some parts of the Japanese version were complained about as too slow.

    Personal Computers 
  • Age of Pirates 2: City of Abandoned Ships features three difficulty sliders in the Russian version - difficulty, rate of experience gain for the player, and rate of experience gain for enemies (i.e. how the much ahead or behind the level scaling will be). The English version lacks the latter slider altogether and it's set in the config files to the lowest possible value, making some parts of the game too easy and others (non-scaled) seemingly overly difficult in comparison.
  • In the Korean version of Combat Arms, if you played the mission with the Sand Hog, one of the enemies had dynamite strapped to themselves and tried to run into you. The North American version did not have that.
  • Dungeon Fighter Online, when released in America by Nexon, upped the EXP requirements for levels by THREE TIMES the amount required in the Korean version. Not that this changes the difficulty all that much, but it does make for a LOT of grinding to level up. So while you'd only be at level 20 on the American version, someone on the Korean version would be close to level 35.
  • As discovered by Ross's Game Dungeon, the European version of the Polish-made The Chosen: Well of Souls (a.k.a. Frater) is much easier than the North American version, with the absurdly powerful Elite Mooks in Level 3 being made much more reasonable to deal with. However, after suffering through the Hell of the North American version, Ross was in no mood to play the whole game again to find out just how big the difference is, and figures it's probably still a bad game anyway. Of course, he based this on the freeware version available on the developer's website, so it's possible they only bothered to fix the difficulty when they put the game up for free, and didn't bother to patch retail copies regardless of region.

  • Stern Pinball's NBA was originally intended to be released only in China, with simpler-than-usual gameplay to introduce Chinese gamers to pinball. When management decided to also release the game in the west, it was updated with several additional features to make the game harder for more experienced Western players.

  • As a general case, PAL is at 50 Hz and NTSC is at 60 Hz. Games that process the game frame-by-frame (that is, most of them) will operate 20% faster on a 60 Hz frame rate than they do on a comparable 50 Hz system. Unless the developers compensate for this, the European and Australian versions of a given game will be easier due to increased time to react. And just as well, Asian and American releases of some European games ran too fast, making them harder than intended. A notable example of this is Sonic the Hedgehog for Mega Drive / Genesis, due to the game's speed-based nature. Whilst the European and Australian versions are certainly fast, the game was developed for an NTSC signal, which plays faster, and many players in Europe and Australia believed that the North American and Japanese versions were better as a result (the Japanese version was the only one that also had scrolling backgrounds). In most rereleases, the game can be played at the intended speed.
  • Catherine was so difficult that a patch was released to make it easier. In the Japanese version, the patch can be turned on or off once installed, but the American version comes patched and it can't be turned off. Also, the "Undo" ability, which allows you to rewind up to ten of your last moves, was added to Normal difficulty in the American version.
  • Toy Story added a password continuation system not present in the American version to both the Japanese and European/Australian versions.
  • The early Guitar Hero and Rock Band games have a rare unintentional version of this trope. Due to a bug the game seems not to register some of the strums above a certain strumming speed, in extreme cases only registering about half of a players strums. While details are uncertain it seems the bug is linked to the television refresh rate, with lower refresh rates having a higher tolerance for strumming speed. Since the PAL signal mostly uses a 50 Hz refresh rate compared to NTSC's 60 Hz you can get away with strumming a little bit faster. This means that in songs that have very fast strumming it is much less difficult to get a Full Combo while playing the European/Australian versions.
    • Due to the refresh rate for NTSC 60Hz monitors, however, one song (Trogdor) is completely unable to be Full Combo'd on Expert or Hard on the Japanese and American releases, ESPECIALLY the PS2 version. Most of the documented FCs for either difficulty are on European/Australian PS2 releases through the use of SwapMagic.
  • Kirby's Avalanche and Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine, both being graphically modified versions of Puyo Puyo (1992) made for the foreign market, had a much shallower difficulty curve than the original.
  • Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U: In the European/Australian language versions, it's slightly easier to uncover 100% of the image in the credits due to there being more names.
  • Working Designs had a habit of tinkering with their localized titles' difficult for North American releases. In the Sega CD and PlayStation versions of Lunar: The Silver Star, for instance, WD added the ability to die after the final bosses without use of certain items, and in the latter system's version, enemies and bosses scale with the player's levels. The North American version of Lunar: Eternal Blue on the Sega CD also had a cost of skill points for saving the game that scaled with Hiro's levels.

    Mobile Games 
  • Azur Lane: In the Chinese version of the game, ships can be leveled up to 100 without limit breaking, while in the Japanese and English versions, limit breaks are needed to remove the caps at 70, 80, and 90. The Japanese and English versions also require approximately 12% more experience for ships to reach level 100. On the other hand, some early events were made easier in the Japanese and English versions, and 18 ship girls,note  many of which are among the best in their roles, were made unobtainable for Chinese players who had not already obtained them.
  • Pokémon GO practically exaggerates this. Even within regions like North America or Europe, if you live in a small town that does not have a good amount of cell phone activity and did not have a Ingress playerbase (which is far more common than you think), then you wound up playing the game on hard mode. Given that towns can be several hours away (with little to no public transportation) and you can go hours between Pokéstops... suffice to say rural and suburban players have a much harder time playing the game. The same also happens when one considers how much teaming up with players to tackle raids is required to obtain certain Pokémon and progress through the required steps for obtaining Mew or Celebi. Rural and Suburban communities are often dead as a doornail (with some people reporting the last update in the local community discords and facebook groups being as long ago as 2016). It's a Scrappy Mechanic for sure.