For the past twenty years the Pokemon franchise has been ongoing, and if one thing about the franchise has remained consistent it is the gameplay system. The reason this has remained is due to the easy to approach nature, and the point that this now somewhat dated system is still enjoyable for many fans old and new. The sheer simplicity and low risk nature of the gameplay makes Pokemon one of the more approachable Role Playing Games in its genre, and while we can respect the system some have found ways to alter the experience and offer a different journey.
We can admit it, Pokemon has been growing easier over the past few installments and that is not a bad thing, though it does isolate a piece of the fan base. To cover these people we have what is known as fan rules which allow players to approach the game in a new way and create a new challenge that turns the adventure upside down. Most Pokemon fans would be familiar with the most popular form of challenge, the Nuzlock, this has been a big thing on websites like Youtube for some time now and people are obsessed with the increased challenge.
Although there are multiple forms of fan rules for the Pokemon games, these really set you apart from the standard fan base as you attempt a run that can provide a whole lot of stress, and out of curiosity I stepped into the world of Pokemon to attempt some of the challenges. For a while I have been interested in the fan challenges, it was interesting how players could give themselves self-imposed rules to follow and how it really changed the experience. However seeing these from the outside through a video is different to actually completing the challenge yourself, and this was fun to explore.
From a simple viewer perspective you can never fully grasp just how affecting these runs can be, many of us see them as simple fun and find commentators responses hilarious and overdramatic. For this reason you need to jump in for yourself and almost immediately you can see just how tough these challenges are and how they evolve the experience.
To get an understanding of these challenges I chose to jump into two of the biggest, the Monotype challenge in which you are not allowed to use more than a single Pokemon type, and the Nuzlocke which is the toughest Pokemon challenge you will ever face, and from my experience I can say how fun but agonizing these are.
The Monotype challenge is the easier of the two, in this run you get the chance to build a team of a single type but dual typing is allowed which helps to find ways out of tough situations. What makes this interesting is that it forces you to adapt and find a way to get past foes who have a type advantage, there is little casualty to this but the Monotype challenge offers an experience that will force you to find ways to win that you would otherwise overlook.
However, it is the Nuzlocke challenge where things get interesting. In this challenge you essentially run on a single life, if a Pokemon faints it is considered dead and you are no longer able to use it, furthermore you are only able to catch the first Pokemon you find in each area (duplicate clauses are available). These rules are harsh but offer a diverse and ultimately rewarding experience, although you will find yourself heartbroken constantly like I did.
The Nuzlocke is the definitive Pokemon challenge, this one really forces you to learn the game and pay close attention to types, moves, and even general statistics as a lot of weight is put on your shoulders. More importantly, this rule forces you to change your own battle style and deal with all challenges that come your way as you are forced to make tough calls and find ways to survive.
Yet, for all you know you can never come fully prepared for this challenge, the rule that only allows you to catch the first Pokemon you see means that you have to build your team from a mismatch of Pokemon. You cannot actually know what you are going to get and put simply you are forced to adapt around what you are able to get creating an interesting balance of occasional security, and also uncertainty, furthermore it is also the death rule that throws you off.
Where a Pokemon fainting usually holds little consequence the Nuzlocke challenge forces you to consider the fragile nature of life and reconsider every move you need to make. It may only be a game but with every turn you can feel the weight of your actions and acknowledge the difficulties of choice, do you choose to take a gamble on a single attack which will put that Pokemon at risk, or do you switch knowing that Pokemon might die. When you are stressing over something that you would do so naturally in a regular run it really shows just how over the top but evolving this rule is.
All of this goes without the addition of self-imposed rules such as no healing items in battle which again adds a lot to the experience, you get backed into a corner and are forced to make the tough call that really becomes emotionally affecting. Sometimes a Pokemon has to be sacrificed to win and you have to make the call on who to sacrifice with full knowledge of your hard work and the bond you have grown. You rely on everyone in your team and it stings when you lose or when you put yourself into a bad spot because of a rash move, and when you have nightmares over your actions you know that the rules have gotten to you.
Fans created these challenges to offer themselves a more unique way of playing the games and offering themselves a challenge mode, and now these rules that were created are more widespread than ever. After trying them out for myself I finally understand why people use this unique style of play, and can honestly say that this was the most fun I have had playing Pokemon in a long time. The challenges add a lot to the experience and it makes me wonder why Game Freak has never actually created a mode that emulates these rules to allow players more in-game diversity.
The Pokemon challenge is going to drive me insane but they change the experience so much and offer those wanting more a chance to enjoy something different. For those starting out the Monotype challenge is great, but the Nuzlocke is where the games shine, this challenge really pushes you into tough situations and makes every random Pokemon count. Now as we move towards Sun and Moon it makes me wonder how fans will enhance the challenge in these new games, but one things certain the challenge is going to be there if you want to accept it.