If you haven't been able to join us for the past few weeks on our Twitch stream, we've been playing through the classic Gameboy remake Pokémon FireRed. But not just any playthrough, we've been participating in a Nuzlocke run. What this means is that we apply a certain set of rules on the game to make it more challenging.
First rule: permadeath. In normal gameplay, whenever a 'mon is taken to zero hit points, it simply faints and can be revived at the nearest Pokémon Center. In a Nuzlocke, that mess is permanent. Second rule: limited yield. You can only catch the first Pokémon that you encounter in an area of the game. Third rule: you have to name every Pokémon that you catch in the game.
These three rules work in tandem to produce some bizarre side effects besides increased difficulty. Most notably, the effect of limiting your available Pokémon and making them more personal by naming them makes any deaths surprisingly... emotional. So far, we've lost three Pokémon: Caterfree (Butterfree), H20 (Wartortle), and Aladdin (Magikarp).
Each of these deaths has hit like a brick. I wasn't actually expecting to have any response to these unfortunate deaths. I thought it might be laughable or irritating, at most. But... it's visceral. The loss of a named ally is so much more biting than just another one of many. The permanent loss of a Pokémon that can only be found once like Wartortle... it's brutal. I know it seems silly, but there is something real to the relationship and loss experienced in this gameplay. Despite all the loss, one theme remains from our real-life coping mechanisms: we must and do press forward. Tomorrow does come and we honor the dead with more living.