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The 9th Generation of the Pokémon video game franchise, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet has been out for just over 3 months now, with two pieces of DLC announced for Spring and Winter. One of the biggest criticisms of the Pokémon games is the difficulty. There’s a common perception that because this is a children’s game, it has to remain easy but both of those assumptions aren’t entirely true. There is tons of depth and strategy to be found in the Pokémon games and the Nuzlocke ruleset is the perfect way to challenge yourself.

Isn’t Pokémon For Children?

Junichi Masuda, one of the original developers of the Pokémon games, famously said in a Wired interview,

“When we developed [Pokemon] Red and Blue we weren't explicitly targeting children. If you look at the animation, for instance, that was meant to appeal to kids with cute designs and so on. But if you look at the game and that design, even from Red and Blue it was intended to be a game that adults could also enjoy. In that regard, there's not been any change in how we design the games.”

The Pokémon games have gotten a bit easier over time and it’s important that younger fans be able to find a Pokémon they really love and just play through the game using that without much thought to strategy. But between the 18 types, 324 typing combinations, 1000+ Pokémon and over 900 moves, there is a very deep and complex battle system to master if you want to be competitive outside of the single-player game.

What’s the Nuzlocke Challenge?

But not all challenges need to be in the realm of competition, web comic creator Nick Franco created the Nuzlocke challenge in his comic as a way to make his playthrough of the game more interesting. Doing a Nuzlocke run consists of imposing some self-regulated rules that make the game much more difficult. Since creating it, it’s become a staple for Pokémon streamers and content creators, such as ProJared.

The Rules

The rules for the Nuzlocke challenge have changed a bit over the last few generations as the games themselves have changed with updates to technology and game mechanics. Here are the generally accepted rules for the Nuzlocke Challenge in Pokémon Scarlet and Violet.

#1. Catching & Fainting

The Nuzlocke Challenge, regardless of generation, comes down to two basic unchanging rules. There are two rules that have remained unchanged since the inception of the challenge:

  • The first Pokémon you encounter in an area is the only one you can catch. No exceptions. 
  • If a Pokémon is knocked out and faints, it’s gone forever. There are no second chances.

This immediately puts stakes into the games. There’s no more healing your team and trying again, you have to make sure you have a real strategy for fights and even random encounters can go sideways and put you in a tough spot. Depending on your luck, Nuzlocke challenges can and have often ended in a game over and required players to start all over again. To that end, there are no reloading saves if you mess up or make a mistake. If you lose, you lose. Start over.

#2. Name Your Pokémon

This rule was created to help gamers form a bond with their Pokémon, making moments of loss sting even more. When you’re lucky enough for one of the few Pokémon you catch to actually be a powerhouse, you become attached to them the way New England Patriots fans did to Tom Brady. So when they eventually fall and have to go to Tampa Bay…they no longer exist as far as you are concerned. So just forget about them.

#3. No Over-Leveling

Nuzlocke challenges in Pokémon Scarlet and Violet require a bit more prep than other games have. Since the newest installment of the video games is open-world you can easily find yourself in an area way stronger than you are. So, plan your route accordingly and make sure you’re not at a higher level than your opponent. If you were able to grind your levels up super high and roll the gyms, where would the challenge be?

Optional Rules

Since Nuzlocke Challenges are self-imposed, there are quite a few other rules creators have added to put more and more spice in their runs. Some of those include things such as only using the same number of Pokémon as your opponent, or not being able to use the starter Pokémon (sorry Sprigatito!). Some have gone so far as to exclude the use of battle items such as Potions, or status curing items. The hardcore players even limit themselves to only using base forms, which means no evolutions.

Regardless of the game, there are gamers out there who want a challenge and you don’t always have to seek out FromSoftware games in order to find it. If you’re a Pokémon fan who is looking to test your knowledge and strategy in the Pokémon games, try your hand at a Nuzlocke challenge to see just how daunting they can be.