Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Ghost's Arcade: Is Nuzlocke Really Worth It?

Just giving you a heads up... today's entry is going to be a little different.

Ghost here, thanks for joining me.

When it comes to video games, the quality of the playing experience is the most important factor.  However, there is something that is almost as important... replay value.  I realize some of you may be saying "well, if it's good the first time it should be good the second time."  That's not always the case.  There are some games that are engaging and enjoyable on a first playthrough but due to either the nature of the game, a disappointing ending, the game being stale, or some other factor, a game may not actually play well a second time.  One such franchise that has always had a bit of a problem with replay value is the Pokemon series.

When it comes to actual gameplay, the Pokemon series has always been a top notch contender at least in terms of the main entries in the series.  However, the games are more designed for non-stop play as opposed to re-starting the game and have always made things difficult for you if you wanted to re-start your file.  The ability to delete your save file is neither explicitly stated nor intuitive, re-starting means that any legends, shinies, or rare pokemon you may have will disappear unless you trade them to another cartridge or placed them in the paid pokemon bank, and all wifi DLC for these games are time sensitive meaning that you won't be able to obtain a certain key item or pokemon via download ever again.  Even if you didn't care about any of the things mentioned above, the pokemon gameplay gets rather stale because we all have our favorite creatures and know where to find them.  This becomes a problem because so often we end up just using the same pokemon to do the same stuff making the game be the exact same experience over and over.  It just gets boring.

That's where the Nuzlocke Challenge comes in... or so I'm told.  I'd heard of the Nuzlocke Challenge many times over my stint of being on the internet and would constantly tell myself that it sounded ridiculous.  However, I found myself wanting to play my Pokemon Y game again but didn't want to have just the same old thing.  After my friend Brandon talked in depth about his Nuzlocke on Heart Gold I decided I would give it a try.  I boxed up my pokemon, re-set my game and started off on a new kind of journey.

Is the Nuzlocke Challenge worth it?   Well, let's find out.

What is the Nuzlocke Challenge?

For those of you who don't know, the Nuzlocke Challenge is a special way to play a pokemon game to increase the difficulty, shake things up a bit, and draw a closer "bond" with the pokemon in your team.  The idea was originally created by an online comic trying out something funny and attempting to make a run of Pokemon Ruby more difficult.  The object is to set certain self-enforced rules in addition to how the game is normally played.  This can include things such as permanent death, limiting the pokemon you can capture, limiting items, stopping ways to make the game easy etc.  There's only a couple of rules that are considered standard.  Everything else is up to the player; you can make the challenge as easy or as difficult as you want.

My Rules

Since every Nuzlocke Challenge has rules, these are the ones that I have decided to go with for my first run.
  1. Any pokemon that faints is considered dead and must be boxed permanently
  2. I may only catch the very first wild encounter pokemon I find in any route/cave/etc.  If the wild pokemon faints or flees there is no second chance.
  3. I must nickname every pokemon I receive
  4. A white out (all pokemon in party faint) means Game Over
  5. No running from wild pokemon encounters.
  6. No Voluntary Resetting.  If things go sour you just have to let them happen as they happen.
  7. I may keep my starter
  8. Any shiny pokemon that appear may be captured and used.
  9. Gift pokemon or forced encounters are acceptable to use.  I may also capture the first wild encounter of the area.  I then must choose between the gift/forced one and the wild encounter.  The other must be permanently boxed.
  10. If I need the use of an HM and I don't have a pokemon that can handle that, I may capture one which can but it must never be used for battle.
  11. No use of Pokemon Amie or Super Training
  12. Bullcrap Clause - Occasionally the numbers game is ridiculous and allows for things to happen which pretty much never happen during normal gameplay.  I may invoke the bullcrap clause for things that are above and beyond ridiculous.
With my rules set, I decided to boot up my Pokemon Y game and begin this strange journey.   Next will be my day-by-day log of important events as I play through the Nuzlocke Challenge Pokemon Y.

My Nuzlocke Log

Day 1: Slightly Rough Beginning
  • Chose Finnekin (Harry Pawter) as my starting pokemon
  • Instantly regretted playing this as Harry Pawter performed a crit hit on Route 2's Pidgey wild encounter making that whole route useless to me now
  • Obtained Level 2 Caterpie (Margarine) in Santalune Forest (OH JOY... merrrrrr)
  • Obtained Level 5 Fletchling (Greyson) on Route 3
  • DEADPOOL: None yet
Day 2: Mostly Looking Up
  • Obtained Level 6 Azurill (Blue) on Route 22
  • Evolved Margarine into Metapod then Butterfree
  • Took on the Santalune City Gym - I had forgotten all about Surskit and he came within a couple Hit Points of killing my Harry Pawter.  Fortunately he defeated Surskit, leveled up, and learned Flame Charge which secured my victory!
  • Obtained Level 8 Skitty (Grumpy Cat) on Route 4
  • Invoked Bullcrap Clause on Wild Ledyba - This stupid thing decided to spam supersonic every single turn.  It hit every single turn and confused all five of my pokemon who hurt themselves every single turn till they were all almost dead.  Ran from battle
  • Obtained Level 10 Bulbasaur (Bulba Fett) in Lumiose City
  • Obtained Level 10 Bunnelby (Thugs Bunny) on Route 5
  • Evolved Harry Pawter to Braixen and Bulba Fett to Ivysaur
  • DEADPOOL: None

 Day 3: It All Goes South - EXTREME Salt Edition
  • Obtained Level 12 Nincada (Suki) on Route 6
  •  Evolved Blue into Marill and then to Azumarill
  • Fought a Furfrou double battle on Route 6.  Lost both Harry Pawter and Bulba Fett to them.  Furfrou freaking suck!!
  • Greyson grew two levels during the Furfrou battle and then evolved so he did not learn ember upon becoming a Fletchinder.  I decided to transfer him to my Alpha Sapphire because I desperately needed that fire move now that I'm without my starter.  However my Pokemon Bank has a communications error and got locked.  Had to wait about thirty minutes to retrieve my bird.
  • Obtained Level 15 Snorlax (Hodor) on Route 7 - Forced interaction.
  • Double Battles were invented by someone deeply sadistic.  Got into a double battle with Serena against Trevor and Tierno.  Serena didn't pull her weight AT ALL.  I had to defeat all three of their pokemon.  As such I lost Suki, Thugs Bunny, and Grumpy Cat in the process.  SCREW ALL THREE OF YOU TRAINERS!
  •  Was hoping my first wild encounter on route 7 would be a croagunk as it had a 35% chance of showing up.  This way I could have him instead of snorlax.  First encounter was a Volbeat so I didn't even bother
  • Went into Connecting Cave hoping for ANYTHING but Whismur.  I could have really used Zubat, Medidite or Axew.  Obtained Level 13 Whismur (Thu'umBurst)
  • DEADPOOL - Braixen, Ivysaur, Nincada, Bunnely, Skitty

Day 4: Many Small Victories and One Giant Loss
  • Obtained Level 14 Grumpig (Gerudo King) on Route 8
  • Obtained Level 16 Hippopotas (Triple H) on Route 9
  • Obtained Level 16 Machop (DoUEvenLift) AND Level 15 Shiny Cubone (Crossbones) in Glittering Cave
  • Obtained Level 20 Tyrunt (Sharptooth) in Ambrage Town
  • Was trying to level up DoUEvenLift and ran into a wild Solrock.  I sent in Blue because his water/fairy type would be a piece of cake.  Lost Blue to Fire Spin plus a critical hit from confusion.
  • Ran back to Parfume Palace with old rod to catch a Magikarp since I now had need for a water type again.  Obtained Level 15 Magikarp (Leviathan)
  • Got to Cyllage City and attempted the gym.  First trainer with a Relicanth almost killed everything in my party.  Decided to stop and level grind tomorrow.
  • DEADPOOL - Braixen, Ivysaur, Nincada, Bunnelby, Skitty, Azumarill

Day 5 - Cue the 80's Training Montage/Death of a Dinosaur
  • Obtained Level 20 Electrike (Thunda-bolt) on Route 10
  • Invoked Bullcrap Clause again when Thunda-bolt was KO'd by 3 consecutive crit hits from a hawlucha.  I've also decided that Hawlucha was created by Satan himself as encountering him in the wild always leaves 2-3 of my pokemon on death's door thanks to crit hits.
  • Evolved DoUEvenLift to Machoke then to Machamp thanks to a friend
  • With DoUEvenLift at Machamp levels, I was able to 1-shot everything in the second gym!
  • Obtained Level 21 Dedenne (Not Pikachu) on route 11
  • Yet another Double Battle and Yet another Death.  I'm to the point now that if I see a double battle coming I might as well just throw away my favorite pokemon.  Lost Sharptooth to a Machoke Mr. Mime combo that only attacked him.
  • Going to take a few days break from this Nuzlocke Challenge because I just don't have the heart to continue.  All of my best guys keep dying.
  • DEADPOOL - Braixen, Ivysaur, Nincada, Bunnelby, Skitty, Azumarill, Tyrunt

Day 6: The Reckoning
  • I have come back to my Nuzlocke after a few days determined to not lose another pokemon.  I am pissed and decide to take several hours to train my main team up to level 35.
  • Went into reflection cave hoping to find something unique that I could use like Carbink or Sableye - Obtained Level 21 Chingling (Ring A Ding)  FFFFF
  • Evolved Crossbones, Thunda-bolt, and Thu'umBurst.
  • With Greyson in hand, I obliterated the Shalour City Gym with relative ease.
  • Obtained Level 32 Lucario (Aura) at Tower of Mastery
  • Obtained Level 30 Lapras (Nessie) on Route 12
  • Was hoping for a wild Heracross encounter on Route 12 so that I could pick him.  First encounter was a slowpoke so I stuck with Lapras
  • DEADPOOL - Braixen, Ivysaur, Nincada, Bunnelby, Skitty, Azumarill, Tyrunt

Day 7: Making Good Progress
  • Ran back to Cyllage City with Good Rod in hand hoping to get a Skrelp for the eventual Fairy gym.  Obtained Level 25 Skrelp (Malfoy) THANK GOD
  • Evolved Greyson to Talonflame
  • Arrived in Coumarine City and obliterated the gym with Greyson and his dual type advantage.  Ramos' Jumpluff was a bit of an annoyance though.
  • Obtained Level 26 Gible (Toph Beifong) on Route 13
  • Continued to Lumiose City Gym where Crossbones cleaned house easily with only some minor trouble out of a Magneton
  • Arrived on Route 14 hoping for something like Haunter, Goomy, or Stunfisk.  Obtained Level 30 Quagsire (Derpington)
  • Was a little under-leveled for Laverre City Gym so I trained up to Level 43 on my whole team.
  • Although I had to run back to the Pokemon Center after every battle, Greyson and Malfoy were able to secure my victory over the Laverre City Gym.
  • Obtained Level 35 Foongas (Big Willy) on Route 15
  • DEADPOOL - Braixen, Ivysaur, Nincada, Bunnelby, Skitty, Azumarill, Tyrunt

It was at this point I stopped making a daily log.  By now I had large enough type coverage and was keeping my pokemon at a high enough level without being overpowered to handle almost anything.  Ran across a couple double battles and didn't really have to bat an eye at them.  I finally had enough power and enough of a variety in pokemon that the game wasn't throwing me any massive curves anymore.  So enough about my log, let's get to my analysis.

Is Nuzlocke Really Worth It?
That's honestly hard to say.  In my experience, the Nuzlocke run has a few really great parts to it but one gigantic negative.  Let's look at both a little bit closer.

Doing this Nuzlocke run was certainly very interesting and changed up the monotony quite a bit.  As I mentioned at the start, when re-starting a pokemon game people tend to just re-capture their favorite pokemon and run through with the same things over and over making the game incredibly boring and stale.  I'm probably the world's worst at doing this.  I re-start a game, pick the same pokemon and get to maybe the fifth gym before being bored out of my mind.  Not being able to just capture anything I wanted made finding pokemon far more exciting.  Since you have to capture the first thing you run across it's almost like playing with random pokemon.  Sure, something you want may show up 30% of the time in that patch of grass but the game may toss you something with only a 5% chance of showing up to either your delight (Dedenne) or annoyance (Whismur).  It made each and every route become a new adventure full of hope for something excellent to finish rounding out your team.  It pushed  me to keep going on with the game, since I had a team of often-times never used pokemon.  I'd never actually utilized a grumpig as my main psychic pokemon before this run...and he was a lot better than I ever thought he'd be.

It feels kind of weird to say this but a Nuzlocke run really does give you a closer "bond" with your pokemon.  Since you can only have a small amount (1 per route/town) that gives you precious few pokemon to utilize.  Each and every move has to be calculated with the objective of not only defeating the enemies but making sure your guys never faint.  This level of dedication to avoid pokemon death makes you really care about your pokemon and makes you love when they do particularly well even more.  I've never been so happy with a Snorlax, Machamp, or Talonflame in my entire life.  Playing the game regularly with revives and not caring made these creatures seem more like tools to achieve the end goal of beating the game.  Having to ensure their safety made them seem like we were a true team; they were "living creatures" and not just tools.  It was refreshing to feel that way about pokemon for the first time since I was far younger.

Anything negative can be summed up in one brutally honest sentence.  The Nuzlocke Run only becomes interesting when you start having bad luck/a bad time playing the game, thus removing much of the fun with the game.  I mean, think about it.  The only day of my daily log that was REALLY interesting to read was Day 3 when I was stuck by a plague of bad luck.  When I was talking to my friend Brandon about his Nuzlocke run of Heart Gold, it was only an interesting story because his luck had been atrocious and ended up only having like a Scyther and an Unown on his entire team.  Yes, it made things more difficult, more interesting, and it made me care for my pokemon more but that came with a price.  Restricting the type of pokemon made MVP creatures become incredibly beloved and then when something unforeseen happens, you just get depressed.  You've lost someone amazing and are left with the box fodder.  There's a difference in making a game difficult and making a game cruel.  Cruel sucks the fun out of the gaming experience and several times throughout this game I was having an interesting challenging and different experience but I wasn't having fun.  I didn't start having actual fun till I was able to get enough varied pokemon to balance out my team post 5th Gym when the thing started to get a little boring and I stopped my daily logs.  At that point, I was able to just rip through practically everything in my path.

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So it's kind of up to you if you think a Nuzlocke run is worth it or not.  On paper, there are more positives than negatives but it's the weight of the negative that somewhat kills it for me.  I'm not someone who is overjoyed by something being a potentially bad experience.  To me, when a game isn't fun, it's not worth playing... however a Nuzlocke run is only truly effective when you sacrifice fun.  Without running into bad luck and having a bad time, you sacrifice a fair amount of the point of a Nuzlocke run and it just turns into a regular run of the pokemon title just with pokemon you don't normally use.  So it's adding some different kinds of fun while sucking away another major portion of fun and....
Ghost is confused.
It hurt itself in it's confusion.


Doing the Nuzlocke Challenge was definitely an eye opening experience.  It showed me a new way to play something that I enjoy and gave me insight into the world that some people truly enjoy.  If you are the kind of person who enjoys a different kind of challenge, if you enjoy say... Classic Mode Fire Emblem or things with a "git gud" mentality then this may very well be right up your alley.  For my money it wasn't a total waste of time.  I'm certainly glad that I played this game through with the added challenge.  Will I do it again?  Probably not.  Fun is the key factor to video games with me; it's why only multiplayer on Minecraft holds my attention longer than 3 minutes.  Having fun is the biggest and most important part of gaming to me and far too many times I just simply wasn't having fun.  This kind of thing is not for me but I understand if you have a differing opinion.  Honestly, I suggest everyone take on the Nuzlocke Challenge at least once.  It'll show you something different and make you "one with your team" in a way you probably haven't been for awhile.  Just be prepared for what you're stepping into.

This is Ghost, fading into the darkness.
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If you want to see my other Video Game discussions and reviews, click here!

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