In this episode of Chatsu Shorts, Satsunami discusses his first experience with the Nuzlocke Run, a set of self imposed rules designed to make Pokemon that much harder. Will he succeed? Or will it be more difficult than anticipated?
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Stay safe, stay awesome and most importantly, stay hydrated!
Being a child of the 90s, I experienced my fair share of trends. However, one that took the world by storm was the monster catching series Pokemon. Since its inception, the franchise has evolved into a prominent media empire, from the games and anime series to pretty much anything you can slap a logo on. So after 25 years, how does the franchise stay so fresh? The truth is for us older veterans, it doesn’t. To make a long story short, there has been division amongst fans of the franchise criticising the games for losing their challenge. That however was soon to change in 2010 in quite possibly the most unlikely of places.
Enter Nick Franco, an avid Pokemon player who changed the way fans played the game in what became known as the Nuzlocke run. The name itself stems from the name of the Pokemon Nuzleaf and the character John Locke from the TV Series Lost. As a result, fans adopted the name and like wildfire decided to try their own Nuzlocke runs. But what is a Nuzlocke run? The run itself is a self imposed challenge that is formed of two core rules: you are only allowed to catch the first Pokemon at the start of every route and if your Pokemon faints then it “dies”. Of course in the cheery world of Pokemon, such concepts are rare but it was that edge that intrigued new players. I myself barely knew of its existence until I came across a forum where others shared their own stories and experiences with the challenge. At the time I had moved away from the franchise so it was the perfect hook to lure me back in.
After some research into the topic I settled on playing Pokemon Leaf Green as many suggested that this was the easiest to start out with. I was met with a familiar glow of the screen where Professor Oak, the game’s resident expert of the world, awaited me. Once I blasted through the tutorial I was met with an all too famous decision: which starter Pokemon was I going to choose? Of course, Bulbasaur and Squirtle would have been the safer options but I yearned for a challenge. After all, how hard could this really be? Without a second thought I pressed down on the A button and chose Charmander, the fire lizard Pokemon who I named Phoenix.
From there on the game was fairly standard. I would catch the first Pokemon of every route, give it a suitable nickname and then carry on to be the very best like no one ever was. While I had my fair share of close calls, the run itself began rather uneventfully. As I left Pallet Town fresh faced and ready for anything, I had no doubt that I would succeed. After catching the standard fair of Rattatas and Pidgeys, I soon found myself face to face with Brock, the rock type gym leader of Pewter City. By now you may realise that I was at a severe disadvantage with a fire type. But after some perseverance, I eventually prevailed. This caused me to feel proud, dare I say a little invincible. If I kept this up then the run would be as good as finished.
During my travels through the Kanto region I caught a number of team members along the way, most noticeably an Abra called Jasper and a Dratini called Arcturus. Others came and went but for the most part, the journey was successful. The more I progressed through the game, the more I became attached to my Pokemon. It sounds silly to say looking back on it but these were the companions I had made along the way who stuck with me through thick and thin. Thanks to their efforts, there was nothing I couldn’t face in this challenge. And while I did indeed lose several teammates along the way, I knew that it would only be a matter of time before I would be finished. After collecting all eight badges , I made my way to the final setting of the game: the Indigo Plateau.
While it seemed like nothing more than a mash of pixels on the screen, to me it was the finishing line to what felt like a long and arduous journey. While the battles themselves were fun, I often got bored at having to slowly level up my Pokemon and in the end settled for a team that was relatively on par with everyone else. As I took my first steps towards the Indigo Plateau, I was once again confronted by my rival. Throughout the game my rival had been nothing more than a minor inconvenience, often popping up to hurl insults and then vanish until the plot needed him. With that in mind I just thought of it as a small bump in the road. Of course I sent out Phoenix who had now grown into a Charizard, annihilating his team with ease until I came face to face with his starter. Without thinking about the implications of going toe to toe with a water type, I mashed the A button, striking him directly as I watched the health bar drain. Then suddenly...it stopped. The previously green health bar still stood strong at a weak but very much alive red. And that’s when it happened. In the blink of an eye, Phoenix was struck down.
After the battle was over I kept thinking to myself about what I could have done. Should I turn off the console and pretend it never happened? Or should I have switched out instead? Either way, without my starter by my side, things slowly began to crumble. From Rookie the Hitmonchan to Alba the Lapras, each Pokemon fell as I did my best to pick up the pieces of an already broken team. By the end of it, I was left with Jasper the Kadabra and Arcturus the Dragonite. But even then that wouldn’t be enough to take down the Elite Four. I must admit, I considered turning the game off there and then as the thought of levelling up Pokemon I had caught at the beginning didn’t exactly inspire me with confidence.
As I continued training Jasper and Arcturus in the caves of Victory Road, I came across what could only be described as a miracle. You see, while the core rules of a Nuzlocke run still applied, there were a number of optional ones which many have decided to incorporate into their runs. One such was the Shiny Clause which, if you happened to come across a shiny pokemon, then you were allowed to catch it regardless of the “first route” rule. Without hesitation I hurled my master ball towards the shiny Primape I found and called it “Sparks”. After prepping my team with an assortment of TMs and items, I took my steps into the Indigo Plateau. It was now or never.
The battles were tough, that much I can’t deny. But eventually we scaled the ranks of the prestigious Elite Four, finally reaching our rival on the final floor. With a cocky grin and one last insult, he made his final challenge. I don’t think I had ever felt so nervous about a Pokemon battle since I was a child. Not only was the outcome of the challenge on the line but also the fate of my trio of Pokemon. Thankfully I managed to whittle him down to his last Pokemon, an ironic twist of fate as he sent out his Blastoise. Sparks stood against the tortoise titan proudly, hurling a thunderbolt that only brought his health to a worrying shade of amber. In retaliation the water Pokemon sent a hydro pump attack towards the Primape, its body crashing into the wall as the health meter drained into nothing. Sparks had fallen. With one last push, an injured Jasper leapt into action, firing one last psybeam into his enemy. And with that...the battle was over.
I remember sighing with relief as I collapsed into my chair, placing the Gameboy down gently. While it was still a game at the end of the day, I was taken aback at how such a simple challenge changed the way I viewed Pokemon completely. It felt like once again I was 8 years old playing Pokemon Yellow on my old Gameboy Colour, trying to become the greatest trainer there ever was. And yes, in case you were wondering I did indeed complete the post game. I even challenged Mewtwo against Jasper. Turns out the spoon is mightier than the cave cat.
Since then I have tried my hand at other Nuzlocke runs, some more successful than others. In my latest run of Pokemon White I completed the game in its entirety which resulted in a similar situation where only my starter and a Gyarados remained the victors. Another run saw me succeed, albeit by luck, in the world of Pokemon Green Version. I doubt it’ll be my last run, and who knows, maybe I will return to talk more about my Nuzlocke shenanigans.
For all those Pokemon fans who have yet to try the run, I’d say go for it. While it’s not exactly a life changing experience, it is definitely one that will make you see the game in a different light. In the words of the challenge’s motto:
NEVER GIVE UP. NEVER FORGET. GRIND LIKE HELL
If you’ve attempted your own Nuzlocke run then let me know, I would love to hear about it. As always stay safe stay awesome and most importantly stay hydrated.