I’ve been a Pokémon fan since I got Red for my Gameboy Pocket a long time ago. I’ve played at least one game in every generation that’s released since then (8 for those curious), and while my love for the games has diminished over time, they still hold a fond place in my heart.
One of the reasons that I don’t enjoy the games as much as I used to is that they’re made for children and, well, I need a little more difficulty to keep things engaging. To solve this exact problem, members of the gaming community came up with Nuzlockes: a self-imposed Pokémon challenge run that comes in many variations but which generally share three rules.
- You can only catch the first Pokémon you find in each route.
- You have to name every Pokémon you catch.
- If a Pokémon faints, it’s “dead” and can no longer be used for the rest of the attempt.
I’ve never tried a Nuzlocke before, in part because doing so would require deleting the save from one of my existing games. However, for Christmas this year, I received a copy of Pokémon White 2, a sequel game from the 5th generation, that I’ve NEVER played. Naturally, my first thought was “I should do my first ever challenge run in a blind playthrough! What could go wrong?”
A lot, dear reader. A LOT.
So much, in fact, that my wife (who gifted me the game) requested I document my hardships and triumphs for you. And those hardships start with Waddles.
In every Pokémon game, you have to pick a starter. I generally lean Fire type in this choice, and I lean even more strongly that way in the 5th Generation because I’m not a big fan of the Water or Grass starters. Thus, I chose the Fire-type pig, Tepig. And since Nuzlocke rules demand I name him, my Tepid became known as Waddles.
I was very proud of Waddles. We got off to a good start by beating our rival trainer (the weirdly intense Nigel) twice. We met other Pokémon like a Patrat I named Timom (was supposed to be Timon, but I mistyped) and a little caterpillar I named Nibbles. To be clear, I had no intention of using Timom or Nibbles. I was hoping to catch the Dark-type cat, Purrloin. Or even a Lillipup, since they’re cute and evolve into a solid attacker.
But no. I got a misnamed gopher and a caterpillar wearing a leaf hat.
At least I still had Waddles.
The first gym comes at you fast in White 2. Waddles was level 13. Nibbles was level 8. Timom was level 6. There weren’t any other trainers to battle. Grinding for more experience would be a SLOG since the only mons around were very low level.
So I took a stab at the Aspertia City Gym, battling its leader, another kid named Cheren who really liked normal type Pokémon.
“No problem!” I thought to myself, like an undeservedly confident fool. “This will go fine!”
It did not go fine.
Cheren led with his own Patrat (it did not have a name), which Waddles successfully overcame with some mighty Tackles. The leader then dug deep into his collection of 2 Pokémon and threw out his mightiest…a Lillipup. That’s right, a tiny little puppy named as a reference to the diminutive people in Gulliver’s Travels.
This little puppy hit HARD. It exclusively used the move Bite. Since I needed to heal Waddles from the gopher battle in the first round, I used a Fresh Water, which brought my pig back to full strength: 41 hp.
In comes the first Bite for…19 Damage?!?!
I didn’t expect anywhere near that damage out of the puppy. Waddles had fine defenses. I assumed he could take 4 or 5 hits before getting low. Nope. Not even close.
I used a Potion to heal him back to full.
Another Bite for…18 Damage.
“Okay,” I thought, “It does a little less than 20 damage per Bite, so I can get in an attack before I heal again. Great.”
No, Christopher. Not great. MISTAKE.
I ordered Waddles to launch his most devastating assault, and he surged forward like the champion he was surely destined to be, leaving the Lillipup inches from fainting.
Then came the expected Bite. But it didn’t do 18 damage. Or 19. It did 22.
For anyone doing the math, Waddles had 22 hp at that point. And in one terrible CHOMP, Waddles was no more. See, I knew that almost every damaging move in Pokémon has a range for the specific amount of damage it can deal. I did not know the range could be as high as 4 points so early in the game. This wasn’t a crit. No extra luck or stat changes involved.
Just a slightly bigger bite that ruined my dreams.
I looked at the rest of my team and saw a misnamed gopher and a caterpillar named Nibbles who wore a leaf on his head.
With nothing else to lose, I tossed Nibbles out…
AND NIBBLES WON!
HE NIBBLED THAT PUP UNTIL IT GAVE UP AND I TASTED SWEET VICTORY!
Except that I lost my best Pokémon in the process. In the first gym of eight. Barely an hour into the game.
Meaning my only hope for success remained a Disney knock-off gopher.
And this fierce guy:
Find out what happens next in Nuzlocke Part 2: Leaning on a Caterpillar Is Not a Good Plan, coming to this blog soon!