The first episode of PokeMONday Night Combat is a ton of fun to watch, but as soon as it popped up it got me thinking about a GB Nuzlocke run. For those unfamiliar, Nuzlocke runs are type of self-imposed playthrough in Pokemon games intended to make them difficult and exciting, originating from the Pokemon: Hard Mode web comic by Nick Franco. Back in 2010 he detailed his playthrough of Pokemon Ruby with a comic in real-time, playing with these two restrictions:
- If a Pokemon faints, it must be released [to non-Pokemon players: deleted].
- This adds risk and consequence to a series that, traditionally, has none.
- The player may only catch the first Pokémon encountered in each area, and none else [if you defeat it or it flees, that's it - no do-overs].
- This makes every Pokemon count, as otherwise you could simply keep catching more to refill your roster as needed. It also randomizes your available Pokemon so that you can't cherry-pick or min/max your team.
A whole scene has sprung up around the Nuzlocke concept in the near-decade since Franco's original run. There are tons of other written stories, comics, and the like describing peoples' uplifting, heartbreaking, and hilarious attempts to get through these games with the above restrictions. A number of additional and widely-accepted, but "unofficial," rules adopted over the years can be found here and if you look further down the rabbit hole there are tons and tons of other variations, some of which are absolutely cruel.
For me, Nuzlocke runs make for deeply personal, dramatic, and unpredictable stories. I was born in '91 and was the perfect age when Pokemon took over the world; it's probably the single most nostalgic piece of media from my childhood. I want to play all of these games still simply because I love the world of Pokemon, but nowadays they're so easy that I haven't even bothered picking up the last several games. Last year, however, I started going back to the older games with the Nuzlocke ruleset and have had an absolute blast. Nuzlocke runs make Pokemon interesting as an actual game that you play and there are simply no other experience in games quite like this. Anyone who enjoyed the chaotic majesty of Twitch Plays Pokemon can capture some of that same magic themselves with a Nuzlocke run [For the record, Twitch Plays Pokemon is probably my favorite product of the internet / social experiment, period].
For an example, see below the first episode of Griffin McElroy's Nuzlocke run through Pokemon Y for Polygon from a few years back. I highly recommend the series and I think it would make a great series here on Giantbomb if Jan were to throw his hat into the Nuzlocke ring, ideally dragging someone into the room with him. With the right personalities behind it, this style of playthrough can be tremendously entertaining and nailbiting to watch. Hell, maybe it will even cast a new light for everyone out there who just never got Pokemon.