Welcome to the world of Pokemon! My name is Ian, and I’m a game blogger and Pokemon enthusiast who loves to play these games in a way not for the faint of heart. That way is known as the Nuzlocke challenge, a concept originally invented by a college student who wanted to add some spice to his Pokemon experience. Known as Pokemon Hard Mode, the Nuzlocke challenge began with two rules:
- You may only capture the first Pokemon you encounter in each distinct area
- If a Pokemon is knocked out, it is considered dead and cannot be used for the rest of the challenge
The Nuzlocke erupted online and its popularity spread all over the YouTube, artist, and fanfiction communities. While the Nuzlocke run can be done by anybody, it is encouraged to document your experience in some form for other people to enjoy the experience alongside you. Some make comics, some record Let’s Plays, some stream. Me? My Nuzlocke challenges serve as a guide of sorts, where I’ll share my missteps so you can avoid making them along with my suggestions of the best way to proceed through the challenges I’m currently facing. If you’re interested in trying your own Nuzlocke challenge for the first time, my playthrough can guide you along that path.
A few notes before we jump in here: Pokemon Let’s Go has an unusual structure compared to other titles in the series when it comes to the way that catching works. Since you don’t battle wild Pokemon, typical Nuzlocke rules don’t fit quite as nicely as one may like. Additionally, different gyms have capture requirements to open them, so you are compelled into capturing a certain number of Pokemon in order to progress the game. I’m also going to be adding a couple of rules to the usual Nuzlocke shenanigans. Here are the rules I’ll be using for my run:
- Your first encounter in each unique area must be marked as a favorite and given a nickname. No other Pokemon captured in that area may be favorited. For the purposes of this run, “encounter” refers to seeing the Pokemon spawn in the overworld.
- Only Pokemon who are favorited may be used in combat.
- “Species Clause” – if you already have a Pokemon from within an evolutionary line, you may skip that encounter for the next Pokemon to appear.
- Gift Pokemon may not be used and legendary Pokemon may not be used. If the first encounter on a route is a forced encounter (e.g. a sleeping Snorlax), it may be skipped.
- Your stater Pokemon may not be used.
- The battle style must be SET.
- Trades are not allowed except for the sole purpose of evolving trade evolutions.
- Mega Evolution may not be used.
- If a Pokemon is knocked out, it is considered dead and cannot be used for the rest of the game.
Now if this is your first Nuzlocke, you may not want to use the same rules as me. You may noticed I put some of the rules in bold – those are the ones I recommend you keep if this is your first time. Nuzlockes are challenging enough at the base rules so feel free to use gift Pokemon, Alolan forms, and the default battle style to give you an edge. With all those details out of the way, let’s get this Nuzlocke started!
You begin the game in Pallet Town, a “town” with maybe three houses and a small laboratory. Your rival (who I named Tackle because I guess a block and tackle is some kind of fishing thing?) visits you and informs you that today is the day you’ll get your first Pokemon. This is obviously very exciting, so it’s kind of a bummer when it turns out the professor is not even in his lab! Luckily Pallet Town is small enough that you can see one edge of town from the other, so you’ll very quickly find that Professor Oak is harassing some harmless Pidgey on route one.
If there’s one thing Let’s Go does right that I hope they keep in every other Pokemon game from this point forward, it’s that the capture tutorial takes a grand total of ten seconds. After your starter appears (Eevee for me) you chuck a Pokeball at it and BAM the game keeps moving. Compare this to something like Ruby or Sapphire where you have to get to a different town, talk to someone, walk back out of town with some bozo following you around, encounter the Pokemon, watch the bozo battle it, watch them slowly navigate the menu to find a Pokeball – seriously GameFreak, the game is for children, not mice.
Anyway, now you have your starter, a Pokemon who brings a lot of firepower to your team – if you’re using it. In my case, I don’t want that firepower to make me overpowered for half of the game, so my newly encountered Eevee – cute as it may be – will just sit on top of my hat for the full length of the game and never see the battlefield. This is a good time to go ahead and set the battle style to SET. For those who don’t know, SET battle style makes it so that you don’t get to switch Pokemon after defeating an opponent’s Pokemon – it means you don’t get to choose the optimal monster for whatever your opposition is planning to use. This is how battles against human players work and it adds some challenge to the game, potentially putting you in a situation where the Pokemon you are using is ill-suited for the next matchup.
Now once you get to this point, the Nuzlocke begins good and proper. You have the ability to capture Pokemon, which means all of the rules are now in effect. On route one there are three possibilities for your team: Pidgey, Rattata, and Bellsprout. Ideally you’re going to want Bellsprout in this situation. You need a grass or water type to get into the first gym and to have type advantage against Brock’s team – Bellsprout allows you to accomplish that goal without having to use any of the Pokemon wasting away in your box that you just captured for EXP. Bellsprout also resists Electric-type attacks, which means it makes a good counter to your rival’s starter Pokemon, Pikachu. Pidgey is the worst thing you can probably catch on this route because it is the opposite of Bellsprout in that regard – weak to both Electric and Rock, Pidgey will not do you any favors during the early game challenges of Pokemon Let’s Go.
I totally lucked out and my first encounter was a Bellsprout, just like I wanted. I captured the little fella and named him Thorn. A quick check of his stats revealed that he was relaxed nature, which increases defense in exchange for a speed decrease. This buffs Bellsprout’s weakest stat in exchange for lowering a stat it isn’t great at either, so it could have been a better nature for sure. Still, a little extra durability never hurt anybody, and I need Thorn for his typing more than for any competitive viability. He starts out with Vine Whip, so right away I have some hitting power for Brock’s gym. I couldn’t have done better for my first catch, so I leave route one feeling pretty optimistic.
I made my way up to Viridian City and fooled around there to see if there were any interesting NPCs who might have something to offer (there weren’t). At this location you receive a Parcel from the guy who runs the Pokemart to take back to Professor Oak, and you’re given the opportunity to instantly head back to the laboratory instead of walking back to Pallet on your own. A word of caution: if you didn’t train up your first capture and you’re not using the starter Pokemon, DO NOT accept the opportunity to teleport back. Your first rival battle happens at Professor Oak’s lab, and the last thing you want to do is get jumped with nothing but your level two Rattata. That’s a real quick way to lose your Nuzlocke. Instead, after you get the Parcel head west out of town to route twenty-two in order to get your second capture. Just make sure that you don’t break away from the first patch of grass and start heading west – no reason to go over there yet.
There are some interesting options on this route. Both genders of Nidoran live here as well as the flying Pokemon Spearow, plus ones you’ve already met like Pidgey and Rattata. Nidoran is a great catch if you can manage it – fully-evolved they gain the Ground type which grants immunity to electricity as well as being one of the best offensive types in the game. The Pidgey vs Spearow debate depends on whether or not you are using the same rules as me – in a world with Mega Evolution as one of your combat options, Pidgey is the obvious choice, but without Megas involved I prefer Spearow, who fully evolved is only a tiny bit slower and has better attack power.
As it turned out I caught none of those things. Instead, I stumbled upon a Rattata. Now Rattata may seem basic as hell, and it is, but there are some redeeming qualities to Rattata. Early-game it has access to some hard-hitting Normal type attacks, and it’s actually a decent ghost-killer due to its immunity to Shadow Ball and its access to moves like Crunch and Sucker Punch. Normal is a nice neutral type to have around when you don’t have a Pokemon with type advantage, so I considered this to be a decent second catch. I named the Rattata Cheesethief after googling some rat names from the Redwell novels I used to read as a kid.
By the time I caught one of every Pokemon I could find on routes one and twenty-two, I had Thorn on a high enough level that I felt ready to head south to Pallet Town and deal with my rival Tackle. After giving the Parcel to Professor Oak, he hands each young trainer a Pokedex and encourages you to set out to fill up the digital encyclopedia. Of course, your rival won’t allow things to stop there – he wants a fight, and this will be the first time you battle Tackle and his pesky Pikachu.
Now the good news is that unlike your totally broken starter, your rival has a normal Pikachu that just happens to have an Electric type attack. This means that if you had the worst possible luck and got Spearow and Pidgey to start out, all you really have to do to be safe during this fight is overlevel a little bit. Pikachu will be level 6 so you’ll want to be something like 8-10 in order to offset your type disadvantage (this is based on the best possible Pikachu against the worst possible Pidgey/Spearow). In my case I had Thorn at level 7 against Tackle’s level 6 Pikachu, and well:
Now originally I intended for this post to make it all the way to the first gym, but we’ve been going for awhile now and I think this is a good place to wrap up. We spent some time talking rules today so next time we’ll have more space to focus exclusively in making progress in the game. For those who want to follow along, I’ll be posting these playthrough/guide combos every week on Wednesday morning at 9 AM. If in the meantime you’re hungry for more Nuzlocke antics, you can check out my Omega Ruby Restartlocke series from last year. The Restartlocke is a grueling challenge and that run encountered all kinds of shenanigans that you might have fun reading about. For now, I’ll see you next week for the next chapter of Operation Fuzzblock!