I have been playing… a LOT of video games lately.
I go through phases. In the earlier run of Covid-19, I was on a movie tear, pounding through about 40 films in the first two months of the disease. But that fell away pretty much just as quickly as it started, and I have barely watched any movies in weeks. I set up a big playlist on my friend’s Plex server in mid-May, and since then I have watched… none of it.
But I’ve been spending a LOT of time on my PS4 and my Switch! I’m at just about 200 hours even on my current Pokemon Shield save file. Breeding and Max Raiding and Battle Towering and Multi-Battling online. I really never STOP enjoying Pokemon; the game just gives you new objectives. Even in a generation that doesn’t include Triple Battles, I’m keeping myself amused.
PS4 sales and free games have also been a boon, with my having bought or downloaded Friday the 13th, Call of Duty WWII, Erica, and NBA 2k20. I’ll be honest… I’ve only really played Call of Duty so far. I’m saving Erica for a mythical day when I have “free time”, Friday the 13th was more boring than I thought it would be, and I have never played a basketball game before!
Call of Duty is the most rewarding of them all because I am actively watching myself get better! I have historically been the DIRT FRICKIN’ WORST at First Person Shooters against real people. But just like with anything, I am getting better at Call of Duty the more work I put into it! My Kill/Death rate stands at a not-particularly-good 0.58, but that feels downright Herculean compared to where I used to be!
I still (intentionally or not) basically come to a complete stop to aim and shoot at people because moving about while aiming and firing might as well be breathing underwater for me, but… I’m getting there.
Anyway, I wanted something else to throw into the mix. Realizing how abjectly hand-holdy Pokemon has become, I wanted to live the old challenge days. I wanted to try a Nuzlocke Challenge.
For the uninitiated, a Nuzlocke Challenge is a Pokemon playthrough with additional rules to make the game more difficult. They vary slightly depending on what you are going for, but the basic ones I am following are:
- You can only attempt to catch one Pokemon per “location” (route, building, cave, city, etc). It has to be the FIRST Pokemon you encounter there. If you fail to catch it, that’s it. You missed out. No do-overs!
- You have to name all your Pokemon to help you care more about them.
- And here’s the big one: if your Pokemon faints, it is considered DEAD. You can never use it again. Keep your beloved pokeys from falling in battle WHATEVER THE COST.
Additionally, I added in a wrinkle I have always wanted but never used before: A Randomizer! So now the Pokemon I encounter will be randomly generated by the game rather than sticking me with the same pokeys route after route. It adds variety, which I have been told, makes life spicier.
With everything in place, I loaded up good ol’ Pokemon SoulSilver. Let’s see how I do!
Upon receiving direction from my PokeMom, I headed to Professor Elm’s laboratory. Usually the good Elm will offer you your choice of a Chikorita, a Cyndaquil, or a Totodile. But in this crazy random world that Stew the rookie Pokemon Trainer finds himself in, the choices are a bit different.
Different… but ludicrously easy. Both Magby and Pichu require items to evolve that I may or may not ever get my hands on. But Piplup? That’s a solid Sinnoh region Water type starter that will evolve easily and on schedule! Also, he will evolve into a Steel type with solid defenses, hopefully allowing him to survive this harsh Nuzlocke world!
Piplup was christened Marc-Andre because he is a penguin and OF COURSE HE WAS. And look at that: a bold nature! I may not have any idea what his IVs are, but at least he’s got a beneficial nature to boost his defense and only lower his physical attack (Empoleon prefers Special Attacking). What a good start!
Professor Elm sends me on an errand to pick up an egg from his associate, Mr. Pokemon. Which is a weird name in this world. It’d be like being named Mr. Animal or Mr. Groceries in the real world.
At Mr. Pokemon’s house, Professor Oak realizes I’m the best, like no one ever was, and gives me a Pokedex. No sooner do I leave than Elm calls me in a panicked state.
As I make my way back to the lab, I am accosted by a red-headed jerk!
I make short work of his Totodile and find out his name is Lil Gio. Huh. I WONDER WHY.
When I make it back to the lab, the police are there, and they want to arrest me! It turns out that the aforementioned Totodile was STOLEN from Professor Elm, but I don’t buy it because last I saw, he only had a Magby and a Pichu. Weird.
Anyway, my neighbor barges in and provides an alibi! Whew, I’m free to go.
My brush with the law in the rearview, Professor Elm is suddenly completely chill with everything and tells me I should go become a Pokemon champion, as long as my mom says it’s cool. I talk with her, and she decides to keep a cut of my battle winnings so I don’t blow all my money on, like, Yugioh cards or Charleston Chews or something. Probably for the best!
Lyra teaches me how to catch Pokemon and then reaches over with my balls in her hand. Finally, I can catch Pokemon! Let the Nuzkocke TRULY begin. I step into the tall grass of Route 29, and…
All the Pokemon across four generations to choose from and my first discovery is a dumb fish? Okay, fine. It is what it is. I’m well on my way to being the best ever with two Water types. This isn’t a Mono-type challenge, game!
I have to be honest about two things from here: one, I’ve never even touched Carissa yet. She’s just chilling out on the team for now. No reason to box her yet in case I need an emergency switch, but… she has HM slave written all over her. Can that horn of hers cut bushes?
My second batch of honesty comes in the fact that I forgot to get a screen grab of my Route 30 catch, but don’t worry… it’s just a Skiploom. I caught it pretty easily and dubbed him KrisKros because if I let him evolve into a Jumpluff, he will make you… well, you get it.
Goldeen and Skiploom, though. I am already hoping my Piplup can shoulder a heavy load.
Things start looking up as I near Violet City, though. Route 31 gifts me Harmony, the Marowak. He’s not ideal for Violet City (a tower full of grass types and then a flying type gym), but there’s promise for the future.
That did bring up a concern. As strong as Marc-Andre was getting, it was a dangerous game to head into Sprout Tower overconfident. If I backtracked a bit, I could access Dark Cave and an off-shoot of Route 46, so maybe I better do that.
I stepped into the shadows of Dark Cave, uncertain of my footing, but hanging out near the entrance. An encounter!
A Manaphy! Wow! I needed another Water Type like I needed a hole in my shoe, but a LEGENDARY Water type? I’m in.
Manaphy broke out of my first two attempts to catch it despite Marc-Andre having taken it down to red health. Surely, it just needed to be weakened a bit more…
Nope. Even with as weak as Bubble is and Manaphy’s natural resistance to it, it knocked the legendary out. Oh well. My first empty-handed attempt. Off to route 46…
The Manaphy was too much for me, but Estrada the Armaldo was a cinch! A final evolution Rock/Insect type! I trained Estrada up a bit before checking out his moveset for SoulSilver.
It’s… not good. He learns Rock Blast at… level 55? X-Scissor at 73?! And literally nothing else of value without wasting a TM (oh god I forgot TMs weren’t reusable in generation four). Maybe THIS is my HM Slave after all.
Hang in there, Marowak! I’ll get to you after the upcoming gym!
During all the training and catching, Marc-Andre learned Peck and evolved into a Prinplup! So you know what? Bring on those Bellsprouts after all.
And yep, Marc-Andre and Estrada danced through Sprout Tower. We defeated the elder there and got his Flash TM (yay?). After that battle, as we left, we had an encounter… and I totally forgot there were Pokemon in Sprout Tower!
A homely Purugly stared us in the face. She might have made a fine addition to the team, but… nope. Marc-Andre wasn’t having it and finished her off with a critical hit. My second failure.
Before I could reach the door, Sprout Tower had another battle for me…
Oh man! Too bad about that Purugly, even though I’m sure I don’t have a ball I could catch a Mewtwo in. I don’t really know why this bad boy is hanging out with these Bellsprout trainers, but at level 3, it hardly mattered. Marc-Andre put him down for the XP.
Now it was time for the gym battle! Could Estrada and Marc-Andre handle a nest full of low-powered Pidgeys?!
Yes. Yes, they could. Marc-Andre upgraded his Bubble to a BubbleBEAM, and this gym was for the birds. I was the cock of the walk. I killed two birds with one stone. I turned Falkner into an ugly ducking. Duck duck goose. I don’t know.
Before I could all it a day, Professor Elm rang me up. He wants me to watch over that egg from earlier. Sounds like a plan, so I take it from his assistant at the Pokemon Center. After that… it’s time to rest and get ready for the journey to Azaela Town…
To be continued…
Marc-Andre, the Prinplup – level 19
Estrada, the Armaldo – level 7
Harmony, the Marowak – level 6
KrisKros, the Skiploom – level 3
Carissa, the Goldeen – level 2
Egg, the egg – still an egg