A.K.A. Pokémon: hard mode.
At some time between September 2004 and March 29th 20101, some guy somewhere was bored with studying for exams, so he decided to play Pokémon instead. He had played through one Pokémon game or another enough times that he decided to make things a little more interesting this time by giving himself some rules:
- Catch the first Pokémon that is encountered in any new area, and only that Pokémon. If it is not caught for any reason, continue on without catching any other Pokémon in that area.
- If a Pokémon faints, it is dead. Release it.
He played through Ruby version with these rules, made a short four-page comic of his adventure (starring Ruby!) and posted it on a video game image board. Readers seemed to like it so much that he started making more of them, and Nuzlocke comics were born. The comic is into its second "season" (although it updates quite rarely), and its website is here. Some readers have also created fan comics, chronicling their own experiences with the challenge, with varying degrees of quality (but most with better drawings than the original). Both the original and the fan comics are all quite short, but they're mostly funny. A small online charity event came from the comic as well, where players streamed their play-throughs live and took donations for charity.
So, why the weird name? Well, for whatever reason he decided to give all of his Pokémon nicknames. Adhering to rule #1, the first Pokémon he caught was a Seedot, and since the comic artist is a fan of the TV show Lost, in the comic he gave it the face of the show's character John Locke and named it Seedlocke. When it reaches level 14, Seedot evolves into Nuzleaf; Seedlocke would become Nuzlocke, and so the comic was named. A couple of other Lost characters make small appearances in the later episodes of the comic, but Seedlocke is the most prevalent, since he often appears as a ghost, to give advice and encouragement to Ruby from beyond his tiny grave.
A few different versions of the rules appear on forums and whatnot, all of them with more than just the original two rules. Here follows a list of all the rules I've seen, and each formulation of the challenge uses some selection of them, but they all include the first two rules.
- Every time you reach a new route, cave, etc., you must catch the very first Pokémon you see. If you fail to catch the first Pokémon you see, either via it fleeing, knocking it out, or having no Pokéballs, you may not catch another. Tough shit.
- If a Pokémon in your party faints, it is dead, you must release it.
- If a town you go to contains a body of water or a gift Pokémon, that may be considered a Pokemon of a new area, and rule one applies to it.
- You must nickname your Pokémon so there is some sort of attachment. Each Pokémon is a best friend to you, to see them die is heartbreaking.
- If your entire party faints, they all must be thrown away. If you have a Pokémon left in a box somewhere, you may continue, otherwise you must start your game over.
- You are, under no circumstances, allowed to use items outside of battle. If you were poisoned on your last turn of the battle, you'd better hope there's a Pokémon Centre nearby.
- You may not switch your Pokémon before the enemy trainer sends in a new Pokémon.
- You are not allowed to use legendaries in battle, which means legendaries are to be defeated in battle and not caught.
- If your Pokémon is 4 levels higher then the Pokémon you are fighting then you are not allowed to attack with that Pokémon. (Wild Pokémon only, legendary Pokémon acts like a trainer fight.)
- You can only be in possession of 6 Pokémon, none of which can be in a box. If you have 6 Pokémon, you ignore Rule one and do not catch any more.
The comic is very funny if you have played Pokémon, which you probably have done if you are under the age of 25 or so. The comic makes it look like so much fun that I decided to give it a try. I hadn't played any Pokémon game for at least five years, so I figured that at the least I'd get some nostalgia out of it. Unfortunately for me, the only Pokémon game I could find was Emerald version, and all the new second-generation Pokémon were unfamiliar and confusing to me. I wanted Dr. Oak back, I wanted Charmander, I wanted to be eight years old again, but it was not to be. Also, in the intervening five years I had forgotten how much I hated actually playing Pokémon. After five hours and thirty-one minutes of play, I had seen four of my (nicknamed!) Pokémon die, and I only had one Pokémon above level 12, my beloved Dennis. One focus punch later Dennis was dead too. I shouted, "this is some stupid bullshit!", and turned my Gameboy off. That was my Nuzlocke Challenge experience.
1 - Lost was first aired in September 2004 and the earliest reference to the comic that I can find on the internet is from March 29th 2010 (my birthday!), so it must have been made between those dates. I haven't been able to find anything else to indicate when the comic was made, sorry.