I play old Pokémon games a lot. They’re usually my go-to choice of handheld game when I’m just chilling or on the car ride home from work. They’re fun, usually solid games to play through and they’re almost always different each time. To add some extra depth and difficulty to the game, I run what’s called a Nuzlocke. Thanks to repeated runs of these games, I’ve gotten pretty good at doing them. I’ve shared some tips for running a Nuzlocke of Pokémon Platinum before, but now it’s time to share some secrets concerning this Gen II remake.

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What is a Nuzlocke? I’m glad you asked. It’s a self-imposed challenge that players take to make the usually easy Pokémon games more difficult. They offer a wide variety of additional challenges to tweak the game more to your liking, but they all follow the same base rules:

  1. If a Pokémon is KO’d, it is considered dead and must be released or stored in a “Grave” box in the PC.
  2. You may only capture one Pokémon per route.
  3. Your one capture per route must be your first encountered Pokémon.
  4. You must nickname your Pokémon.

Like all of my runs, I add in two clauses. The Shiny Clause states that should a rare shiny Pokémon appear, whether I caught a pokémon on the current route or not, I may catch it. It’s a 1/8192 chance to find a Shiny in Gen IV and I’ll be damned if I let one get away. The second clause is the No Dupes Clause, meaning if I’ve caught a pokémon on a route, it (and it’s entire evolutionary line) doesn’t count for first encounter on other routes.

Picking Your Starter

This is the most important decision you will make in any Pokémon game. Your starter is your first best friend, usually a powerhouse in their own right, and will determine how difficult your journey through any given region will be. Choose wisely.

Watch out when he farts.

Cyndaquil, the Fire-Mouse pokémon, is your fire starter in Heart Gold/Soul Silver, in case you couldn’t tell from that blast of flame coming out of his back. He sports low Defense and HP, but more than makes up for it with high Special Attack and Speed. Because most fire attacks in the game are Special Attack based he gets to take full advantage of his stats. He’ll have an easier time going through the first few routes and the first “dungeon” area, the Bellsprout Tower, since the bug and grass pokémon you encounter early on are weak to his flames.

Look out! She’s aaaangry!

Crikey! This l’il fella’s Totodile, and the Johto region’s water starter. Built to be more of a physical attacker, he falls short when it comes to the water type’s more common dependence on the Special Attack stat. That’s not to say he isn’t strong in his own right. Thanks to coverage moves like Ice Fang and Crunch and later on, the HM Waterfall, Totodile’s evolved forms can pack quite the punch. Unfortunately, he has no real benefit over any of the early or mid-game for that matter. He’s a solid pick for brute-force, but won’t be dealing Super Effective damage in many gyms.

Warning: Do not smoke.

Chikorita is Johto’s grass starter. She’s built much differently than the other starters, taking more of a defensive position than the brute force or glass cannon tactics of her peers. She learns less damaging moves and instead specializes in status effects like Poison/Sleep Powder and Reflect/Light Screen. She’s also weak to the first two gym leaders and to many of the common bug and flying types you’ll be seeing in the early game. The abundance of Grass type pokémon early (Bellsprout and Oddish) also makes her typing redundant. Choosing Chikorita will make the game rather difficult.

Strong Pokémon Early

The Johto region is home to a lot of powerful Pokémon like... Alright, lets face it. While the Pokédex has expanded by one hundred monsters since moving to Johto from Kanto, the diversity is still primarily Kanto Pokémon. Right out of the gate you’re going to be running into the same Pidgey and Rattata you did in Kanto just as much as you’ll run into Hoothoot or Sentret. And this is an issue that is pervasive throughout the entirety of the game. There are no strong Pokémon early like there were in Platinum. The stronger monsters will be hard to obtain, whether because they’re just plain late in the game or because of their rarity.

Strong Pokémon Early Eventually

Your first chance at getting a really strong Pokémon that will last you the game, so long as you’re careful, is after reaching the Ilex Forest and obtaining Cut. You’ll encounter a man in the forest, bashing his head against trees. He explains to you that sometimes Pokémon fall out of the trees and he offers to teach one of your monsters Headbutt. Headbutt is a respectable move, 70 Base Power and the chance to flinch, but it also allows you to encounter your first real powerhouse in the game.

Heracross! Strongest bug... in the world.

Heracross is a beast of a Pokémon. He’s Bug/Fighting typed and sports massive attack as well as respectable defenses and speed. He may be quadruple weak to Flying type, but he’ll pack a punch against Whitney’s Miltank. You’ll have several chances to capture Heracross by back-tracking to Azalea Town and Route 33 where he has a 30% appearance rate from Headbutting trees. If you don’t catch him here, that’s alright, because there’s several more routes you can get him at.

Moomoo Milk is a good source of Vitamin D.

Speaking of Miltank, she’s also another good Pokémon. She’s on the bulky side, sporting a large amount of Defense and HP, and she comes in two different flavors. No, they’re not Chocolate and Strawberry. Miltank has either the abilities Scrappy or Thick Fat. Scrappy allows Miltank to hit Ghost Pokémon, a great advantage because they won’t be able to hit her still. Thick Fat reduces damage from Fire and Ice type attacks by half, giving her more defensive capabilities. She shows up on Routes 38 and 39, easily accessible before taking on Morty and his ghosts. But, good luck, she’s a 5% encounter rate.

He’ll never be able to hug you in return.

Scyther is also available, should you get lucky. Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday there is a Bug-Catching contest in the park north of Goldenrod City. He’s a fast and strong attacker, if a little frail, and has the possibility of coming with one of the best abilities in the game, Technician. Technician boosts the power of all moves of 60 Base Power or less by 50%. This means that Scyther’s Wing Attack, 60 BP, is actually equivalent of a 90 BP attack. He is also capable of evolving into Scizor, trading speed for more attack power, should you be able to obtain a Metal Coat and have the ability to trade with another Gen IV game (Heart Gold, Soul Silver, Diamond, Pearl, or Platinum). Unfortunately, Scyther is a 5% appearance rate and you’ll have to catch him with the Bug-Catching Contest “Sports Ball”. The odds for this one are stacked against you. Also, of note, is that Pinsir (another strong pokémon) is also available during the contest.

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Much like many of the games, a free Eevee is available after reaching Ecruteak City. You’ll meet Bill in the Pokémon Center, and after speaking to him you can meet him again at his parents’ house in Goldenrod City. There he’ll give you a free level 5 Eevee.

Tips & Tricks

Sponsored by Poké-Cola.

Aside from Johto’s Bug-Catching Contest, it is also home to the Pokéathlon, a competition of athletic capabilities. These little mini-games mostly take advantage of the lower touch screen and they’ll have you tapping and swiping like a mad-man as you compete. All of your pokémon have five additional stats used in these games, and there is a competition for each. Speed, Power, Skill, Stamina, and Jump. Certain pokémon have different aptitude in these stats. Flying pokémon often have maximum Jumping ability. Fighting types usually have excellent Power. You’ll probably spend a good amount of time playing these mini-games if you have a need for evolutionary stones. You earn points for completion, and bonus points for winning, that can be spent for various items. Each day’s prizes are different, so plan accordingly. You’ll need 2500 points for evolutionary stones (perfect for your Eevee or maybe even a Nidorino/a), and 1000 for Heart Scales should you need them.

Hazardous to your health.

As of Heart Gold/Soul Silver, the gambling houses of old are gone, so I hope you’re good at math. Voltorb Flip replaces the easy slot machines and it’s a doozy of a game. You’re given a five by five grid and told that there are numbers underneath the tiles. Unfortunately, there’s also Voltorbs that self-destruct under some of those tiles. Your goal is to find all the 2's and 3's and not hit any Voltorbs or it’s game over. With the knowledge of how many points or Voltorbs hidden in each row/column, you deduce your way through this game to rack up points to be spent on items, TMs, or Pokémon. If you’re no good with math, it’s OK to cheat and use a solver, seeing as how there’s still a good chance you’ll lose. You’ll need to rack up 10,000 points for TMs such as Flamethrower, Ice beam, and Thunderbolt. They’re the best moves in the games usually, and well worth the time investment. Alternatively, Dratini is available for 2,100 points, should you not want the free Eevee.

Heart Gold and Soul Silver in Review

In my previous installment for Platinum I gave a quick capture run-down for each route to help players obtain rare and strong pokémon easier. Unfortunately, I can’t really do that for HGSS, and there’s a reason why. The distribution of monsters in this game is just bad. It was terrible in Platinum, but it’s nearly just as bad in this set for different reasons.

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Like I said earlier, there’s 100 “new” monsters in this game compared to the Kanto dex, but you’re going to be seeing more Kanto pokémon than you are Johto ones. Hoothoot and Sentret are rather common in the early routes, and depending upon the time of day you may even encounter Ledyba or Spinarak depending upon the version you’re playing. But, here’s the issue. The encounter rate of the Johto pokémon, even in Johto, is abysmal. Heracross’ 30% encounter rate is a rarity. Instead, you’re going to be dealing with encounter rates between 5 and 10% for most of the Johto pokémon. Skarmory has a 5% encounter rate, a shame for such a good and unique pokémon. Phanpy (HG) and Teddiursa (SS) have a 10% appearance rate. Gligar, who I praised in my Platinum mini-guide, has a 20% appearance rate, but only appears in Heart Gold. What is he replaced by in Soul Silver? An increased Graveller encounter (55% compared to HG’s 40%) and that 5% Skarmory. This is just one route.

Fishing is terrible too. Even with the Good Rod (Super Rod unavailable until Kanto), your odds of fishing up Chinchou are 7% on the three routes he appears. Magikarp rests comfortably at 60% encounter rate, Tentacool at 30%, and Shellder at 3%. Yes. Good Rod nets you a 60% encounter rate on Magikarp after you’ve finally upgraded from the 100% encounter rate of the Old Rod. That is some real shit right there.

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Now, this is a non-issue if you are fine using Kanto pokémon. But it doesn’t excuse the fact that some Johto monsters are only available in Kanto. That’s right. Hope you had no plans to use Murkrow or Houndor, because you won’t be able to catch them until you’re over halfway through the game. Just pretend you didn’t see that Rocket Admin using Murkrow in battle.

And this problem doesn’t seem to extend to just you, the player. It’s a prevalent issue throughout all of Johto itself. Just look at the Johto League.

These are pretty much just given away in Johto.

Falkner: His team is Pidgey and Pidgeotto. Both are Kanto pokémon. He could have had Hoothoot and Noctowl and it would have been no different of a fight.

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Bugsy: Scyther, Metapod, Kakuna. His Scyther is a freaking powerhouse and it’s insane to fight. However, there are three new bug pokémon from Johto that are completely ignored. His team could have been Ledyba, Ariados, and Heracross and this gym battle would have been a little more even in difficulty.

Whitney: Clefairy and Miltank. She is the first gym leader to use an actual Johto pokémon. Even then, her Clefairy could have been replaced by Aipom.

Morty: Gastly, Haunter, and Gengar. Misdreavus is native to Johto, but you wouldn’t know it by her 5% encounter rate in one single route prior to end-game.

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Chuck: Primeape and Poliwrath. He doesn’t even have Hitmontop which was introduced in Johto.

Jasmine: Two Magnemite and Steelix. Would it have been too much for her to have Scizor? Possibly, but she’s the second gym leader at this point to actually use a Johto pokémon.

Pryce: Seel, Dewgong, and Piloswine. Our third gym leader to actually use a Johto pokémon. He has no Sneasel, probably because the Rival gets one. He doesn’t even have Delibird, which would be hilarious.

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Clair: Gyarados, Dragonair x2, Kingdra. I don’t care how many Dragon type moves Gyarados learns, it’s still not a dragon. Kingdra is a Johto pokémon and an actual threat. That Water/Dragon typing is insane because of the resistances it offers. Not a lot you could do with the Dragon type in this gen though, since Kingdra was the only new Dragon.

These pair of games get praised pretty highly for being solid remakes of the original Gold/Silver/Crystal, but I feel they stayed a little too close to the original. Those new pokémon were rare because they were new. You could trade your entire collection of monsters from Gen 1 to Gen 2 given the hardware and patience, they had to make collecting the next batch difficult in some way, and they did that by making the new ones hard to obtain. In theory it’s a good idea, especially when the roster is 251. Fast-forward ten years and here are these remakes in Gen 4. The pokédex has been expanded to 493, nearly double what it was in Gen 2. But they did nothing to the encounter rates. The game still plays under the assumption that there’s only 251, at least until you beat the Elite 4 for the first time, then you can run into Gen 3 and 4 monsters on Wednesdays and Thursdays respectively. You’re still severely limited to those original 151 and the “100" Gen 2 pokémon.

In the end, even this isn’t a massive problem for the casual gamer. In a Nuzlocke, however, it’s a bit of an issue. The Nuzlocke was created as a challenge. It forces you to use pokémon you may have passed up before, monsters you never felt like using. But because of these terrible encounter rates you end up using the same ones time after time, run after run, aside from those rare occurrences where you actually hit that 5% jackpot.

Bonus Round: Pokéwalker

You’ll never get a date with this on your hip.

You guys like Pokémon Go? This thing was that before it existed. And you know what? It worked a hell of a lot better. It actually tracked your steps, not just guess-work with faulty global positioning systems. It synced up with Heart Gold/Soul Silver and would let you transfer one pokémon into it. The monster you sent in would gain experience for every step you took, and for every twenty steps you’d gain one point of currency called “Watts”. By spending Watts you’ll be able to unlock more areas you can send your pokémon to on a walk, and encounter different pokémon. With this, you can capture a lot of monsters that aren’t even available to you during normal game play. That Murkrow or Houndor you can’t get until Kanto? Pokéwalker. That 5% Misdreavus in one area before end-game? Pokéwalker. 7% Chinchou? Pokéwalker. It’s ridiculous how many rare and unique Pokémon in the game itself are common in this peripheral. I understand what they were trying to do here, they wanted everyone up off their arses and you have the incentive of getting some rare pokémon. It’s good in practice, but the core game suffers because of it. If you still have this thing floating around somewhere, it may be worth messing with it to see what rarities you can find.