Nuzlockes Expose The Worst Part Of Pokemon: Grinding

Nuzlockes are a great way for older Pokemon fans to inject some much needed difficulty and variety into the games – they are, after all, designed for kids. Nuzlockes add three main rules: if a Pokemon faints, it’s dead; you can only catch the first Pokemon you encounter on each route; and you must nickname all your Pokemon to form an attachment to them.

If you’re like me and you like to play hardcore runs where you can’t use healing items in battle and you can’t overlevel the next gym leader or boss fight, then you quickly realise you can’t rely on just one strong Pokemon and you have to grind a whole team, which is the absolute worst.

When I played Pokemon Gold as a child, it was my first time ever experiencing an RPG. I ended the game with a level 67 Feraligatr that knew Slash, Surf, Cut, and Hydro Pump. I think I had a Sentret, too. Terrible, I know. Now, there’s no need to grind if you simply level one or two strong Pokemon and use healing items whenever they get in trouble, but if you ban item use and adhere to a level cap and you want to ensure you win your Nuzlocke, you need to grind a whole team. What do you do if your ace gets Paralyzed? Or goes up against a Pokemon it’s severely weak against? When you do a Nuzlocke with any additional rules you need to plan much more, build the most diverse team you can and give them a wide range of offensive and support moves.

The problem with most Pokemon games is that wild Pokemon are weak and normally offer very little XP and not every game has a VS. Seeker that allows you to easily rematch trainers, making grinding an arduous chore. This is especially true in the early game when you can’t quickly one-shot weaker creatures. Seriously, the highest level wild Pokemon in Johto are like, not even level 30. If you lose one of your team right before a gym, or even worse, right before the elite four, you have a tough choice ahead: do you spend ages leveling up a new ‘Mon, or do you go in one member down and risk losing it all? If you’re streaming and want to provide entertainment, you may be tempted to just go for it. If you’re strapped for time and want to move on to a new game you may also skip the extra teammate and just pray for success. This can often end up to you being right back at the beginning of the game though.

The beginning of any Pokemon game is slow, it’s arguably the worst part – the Pokemon are samey between generations, consisting of a dog, a rodent, a bird, and a bug, there are loads of story cutscenes to get through, and your move pool is pretty limited. If you want to avoid having to redo the beginning couple hours of these games, you have to grind to ensure your team is strong enough to stop you whiting out and losing the Nuzlocke.

The XP share introduced in generation six really helped, as you could still lead with one Pokemon while simultaneously training your whole team. Anything that cuts down mindless grinding time is a plus, to me. And before people call me a filthy noob casual, I do not have much free time, I don’t want to spend hours getting a pixelated monster buffed up, I just want to see it batter other little monsters.

Sword and Shield’s XP candies are, to me, the pinnacle of easy team building. These make swapping new team members in and out of the game nearly effortless. If one of your team dies, just grab a new ‘Mon from your PC and pump them full of sweets to get them up to the current level in no time. There’s still some risk with getting them, as you have to partake in raids, sending one Pokemon up against a Dynamaxed one, with no idea if you’ll get useful A.I. buddies or absolute spanners who wouldn’t know a super effective move if it hit them in the face.

Obviously, I could just use items in battle and not really have to grind, but items are so powerful that the game then becomes trivial, rendering the Nuzlocke pointless. I welcome more challenge in Pokemon, but that shouldn’t come as a time sink, it should come from better trainer A.I., or battles that force you to think differently, like the Whitney fight in Johto. Grinding is an unnecessary evil in old Pokemon games that has fortunately been excised from the newer generations, but it’s still a pain for those of us that love the older generations due to nostalgia or just better game knowledge. If only the games had a speed-up button.

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Issy is an avid film lover, writer, and game-player based in the UK. He combines his love of film and games in his writing, trying to find as many connections between the two mediums as possible. When he’s not writing, playing, or watching, Issy loves to DJ and look after his growing collection of houseplants, as they make him feel more adult.

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