Eve’s Hardcore Pokémon Challenge: Part One

I’m probably going to get lynched for this somewhere along the line or some person in the corner is going to start sniggering but I really like the Pokémon games. It’s probably just because they were some of the first games I ever played when I was younger and, to be honest, I find them pretty relaxing. It’s the game I turn to when I’m really ill thanks to its gentle, non-stressful gameplay and its ease of use.

Unless, of course, you’re doing a Hardcore Nuzlocke Challenge. I have, perhaps foolishly, decided to embark on my first first Hardore Nuzlocke challenge with Pokémon X, one of the most recent additions to the franchise.

If you’re not particularly familiar with a Pokemon Hardcore Nuzlocke challenge, here are the rules:

  • Only one Pokemon can be caught per area, and you can only catch the first Pokemon you encounter in that area. If you KO the Pokemon accidentally or it flees, you cannot catch any more Pokemon in that area.
  • You cannot catch a duplicate of any Pokemon.
  • If a Pokemon faints in battle it is classified as DEAD and must be released back into the wild.
  • You can’t use healing items in battle.
  • You can’t use the EXP Share (which is seriously broken in X and Y anyway).
  • The battle mode is turned to SET and not SWITCH – this prevents you from switching Pokemon in-between your opponent choosing their Pokemon.

This is not a game for babies. Or casual gamers. Wish me luck.

Starting the adventure, being woken up by my mother’s Fletchling, it suddenly occurred to me how utterly bizarre and downright silly Pokemon X’s plot actually is. In most other Pokemon games that I’ve played, you have spent at least some time in your hometown, getting to know people. Venturing outside of the house in Pokemon X, you realise that you’ve been in Kalos all of… five minutes. And your mother doesn’t seem to mind that an odd professor from a relatively far flung city has asked you to travel the vast, French-inspired land in search of mythical beings and gym badges. None of this is unusual to anyone?

But, I digress. The first job of any fledgling trainer is to pick their starter Pokemon; in X and Y, this means a choice between Chespin (grass type), Fennikin (fire type) and Froakie (water type). Most hardcore Pokemon players will tell you that Froakie is the mutt’s nuts. It evolves into Greninja, a rather terrifying abomination of nature with a tongue so long it wears it as a scarf and a seriously powerful set of moves. But this is a hardcore Nuzlocke challenge, so I’m not technically allowed to pick my starter. Instead I roll a dice to see which of the critters would become my first partner; 1-2 would mean Chespin, 3-4 means Fennikin and 5-6 would be Froakie. I rolled 4.

X and Y starter Pokémon...
X and Y starter Pokémon…

Fennikin, the firefox pokemon with possibly the most adorably cuddly model Pokemon has produced in years, became my partner and I beat Shauna and her Chespin with no difficulties; its Ember ability makes light work of its leafy body.

After a quick diversion back home, it was time to encounter my first wild Pokemon of the Nuzlocke challenge – the question is, would it be a long-term partner or a short-term stop gap solution? Wandering into the tall grass just outside of Aquacorde Town, the screen flashes and I encounter the shadow of… a Pidgey.

Now, Pidgey gets a lot of flack. Pidgey is a creature that’s been around since the days of Red and Blue in the nineties and even then it was often chastised for being the ‘weakest’ of the bird Pokemon. Its little feathery body, beady eyes and black eyebrows don’t give it the exact look of a sturdy fighter and, in most of the series, it takes a long time to learn any particularly worthwhile moves. Unfortunately, I’m a sucker for Pidgey. Pidgey was the first Pokemon I ever caught myself at the age of seven while wandering around the fields outside of Pewter Town in Pokemon Blue. Pidgey is my lifelong partner and I love its little birdbrains. As a result, I’m extremely careful not to kill it (thus no firing blazing balls in its face). With Pidgey caught, I already had a surprisingly strong team to take on the first gym… even if it would take a while for my feathered friend to learn anything that would even partially damage the leader’s critters.

I love you Pidgey, even if no one else does
I love you Pidgey, even if no one else does

Wandering into the murky depths of Santalune Forest, it struck me that this is the first time I’ve ever just pressed on with a game of Pokemon rather than meticulously hanging around areas grinding levels until the cows come home. This seemed a little unusual. Now, more than ever, I would need extra power to take down other trainers comfortably without risk of my Pokemon dying. Instead, I was whipping through the storyline as if I couldn’t wait to finish. I know this will undoubtedly cause problems later on, but no one wants to read about a challenge where I spend all week running in circles around the same patch of grass waiting for my team to get stronger. This decision to get on with it rather than take things slow may be the death of me, but it’s how I’m choosing to play this challenge. Besides, it adds another level of difficulty into the mix.

Santalune Forest gives me another opportunity to add to my team, but I’m dismayed to encounter the lethargic face of a bequiffed Pansear. I catch it anyway, just in case. Two more disappointments came my way; on the next route I encountered Bidoof, the beaver with possibly the worst battle reputation on the planet, while just off near the entrance to the Pokemon League I’m dismayed to find a Dunsparce. A Dunsparce. The yellow and blue worm that packs about as much punch as a damp sponge to the face. Considering it’s entirely possible to catch a Riolu here, I wondered if things were already about to take a turn for the worse.

After a bit of preparing, I decided to take a punt at the Santalune City gym, where Viola rules with her bug type creatures. Admittedly, in the past her glorious Vivillion and its array of annoying attacks has always given me trouble. Plus, as all good trainers know, her Surskit is a deadly trap for anyone thinking they can just blast away using Fennikin; Surskit’s dark secret is that it has watery veins, making it impossible to set on fire, but it’s easy for it to dampen its foes’ spirits. Knowing this, my fine Pidgey – now armed with the might of gust (sarcasm) – took on the skittering spider and won relatively easy (though a critical hit to my feathery friend’s tiny body didn’t exactly fill me with confidence). With Surskit defeated, Fennikin was able deal with the winged terror of Vivillion. Despite this, the horrors of its swarm attack, which encases its foe in a tomb of deadly flies, reminded me of why I always hated fighting Viola.

Still, with some persistence – and only a little sweat shed – Viola was quickly dispatched, meaning I was already well on my way to becoming the best trainer in the land.

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