The Nuzlocke Challenge is a set of rules intended to create a higher level of difficulty while playing the Pokémon games. Many challengers feel that the rules also serve the purpose of encouraging the use of Pokémon the player would not normally choose, and promoting closer bonds with the player's Pokémon. The rules are not an in-game function, but are self-imposed on the part of the player, and thus subject to variation.
The most basic Nuzlocke rules, as they were first introduced, are as follows:
- Any Pokémon that faints is considered dead, and must be released.
- The player may only catch the first Pokémon encountered in each area, and none else. If the first Pokémon encountered faints or flees, there are no second chances. If the first encounter in the area is a Double Battle in dark grass, the player may choose which of the two Pokémon they would like to catch.
- While not exactly a definite rule, the general consensus is that players must also nickname all of their Pokémon, for the sake of forming stronger emotional bonds.
- Also not a definite rule, but the general consensus is that a black out/white out is considered to be "game over", even if there are Pokémon left in the PC.
Though the above rules tend to stay consistent with all challengers, many optional variations and amendments to the rules also exist to further adjust difficulty. These include, but are not limited to:
- Starter Pokémon is based off your Trainer ID number. If the last number is 1-3 the player starts with a Grass type, 4-6 is Fire type, 7-9 is Water type, 0 is the player's choice.
- Adjusting the first encounter rule to ban duplicate captures.
- Not officially enforcing the rules until the player has Poké Balls and can catch Pokémon. For example, the PoochyenaRS/ZigzagoonE that the player has to save Professor Birch from is not counted as the first encounter on the route, and not counting any other encounters as such until they can catch. Likewise, in the games where the rival battle is immediately after getting the starter Pokémon, the "any that faint must be released" rule is not enforced at that time.
- Use the same amount of Pokémon as the opponent during a Gym battle or rival battle.
- Going to options and making the battle style "set", leaving the player unable to switch out.
- After the first wild Pokémon was caught, the starter Pokémon must be released.
- Banning the use of Potions and healing items, relying only on Pokémon Centers for healing.
- Banning the use of Pokémon Centers, relying only on Potions and healing items for healing.
- Limiting Pokémon Center visits to a certain number per town.
- Banning the use of held items.
- Limiting the number of Poké Balls to purchase per Poké Mart.
- Banning the use of Master Balls.
- Rather than releasing the Pokémon, it can be permanently boxed, migrated, or transferred with Poké Transfer should it happen to faint.
- The player may not evolve captured Pokémon, but evolved Pokémon may be caught.
- Turning the difficulty on to Challenge Mode if playing Black 2 or White 2, which increases the levels of opposing trainers.
- No catching/using legendary Pokémon.
- As a mercy rule, allowing 1-3 "second chances" or revives of fallen team members.
- As another mercy rule, if the player runs into a Shiny Pokémon on the incredibly rare chance, the player may still catch it, regardless of whether or not it is the first encounter in the area. It also does not need to be released if it faints.
- If the player has no Pokémon that can use a certain field move that is required to continue through any given point of the game, they may catch another Pokémon that can learn said field move. However, it cannot be used in battle for any reason, and must be released, permanently boxed, or migrated as soon as the player gets another Pokémon that can use said field move.
- Modifying the "first encounter only" rule for the Safari Zone, sometimes allowing one encounter for each area, or until they catch one Pokémon in the entire area, and vice versa.
Many other rules exist; challengers adjust their personal rules according to their own preferences. In order to be considered a true Nuzlocke Challenge, however, the two core rules must be in place.
- So far in the original Nuzlocke Series one starter of each type has been used: Treecko in Hoenn, Charmander in Kanto, and Oshawott in the ongoing Unova challenge.
- The original Nuzlocke run through Hoenn is interesting as it can be considered a failure because of the wipeout of the entire team and the loss during the Champion battle.
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