Having failed a Nuzlocke run on Pokemon Platinum nearly half a dozen times now, I’ve decided it’s time to take a more methodical approach. I have lamented that the Sinnoh region suffers from a severe lack of variety of Pokémon in the early game, but only during my latest attempt have I truly realized what it means in terms of team building.

Firstly, we’ll lay the ground rules. What is a Nuzlocke? It’s a rule set for a self-imposed challenge to make Pokémon games more difficult and prove you truly are the very best. There are a large range of rules to customize a Nuzlocke run, making them easier or harder to suit your preference, but there are a couple rules that seem to be the most common.

  1. If a Pokemon 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 Pokemon per route.
  3. Your one capture per route must be your first encountered Pokemon.
  4. You must nickname your Pokemon.

These four rules seem to make up the core of all Nuzlocke challenges I’ve seen, and I adhere to them as well during mine. There are, however, two exceptions I add to my runs and they both fall under the third rule I’ve listed. First, Shiny Pokémon are fair game no matter what due to their rarity. If I’ve already encountered and captured a pokémon on a route but a shiny appears, I’m catching it. The second, and more important for taking advantage of Platinum, the first encountered Pokemon must be unique. This means once a pokémon is captured, it and its entire evolutionary line are off limits. This addendum rule was originally meant to prevent a team full of Bidoofs and Starly, but its through the power of this addendum that I shall claim victory.

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Picking a Starter

Your starter pokémon is meant to be your best companion through your adventure. You may normally pick your starter based on whether you think they look cute or cool, but in the Sinnoh region you can’t let vanity guide your decision. This is a choice that will determine how difficult your journey is about to become.

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Turtwig is a slow Grass type turtle that has high HP, Strength, and Defense. Eventually evolving into Torterra and gaining the secondary typing of Ground, Turtwig is a good choice if you want to play it safe. Capable of learning Curse to increase its defense and attack at the cost of its already low speed means Turtwig can literally turtle down and lay out the hurt while taking a beating. The disadvantage to Turtwig is that Budew and Roselia appear early in game and Budew will be an early and necessary capture to guarentee better pokemon as that first unique encounter in later routes. Choosing Turtwig also invalidates the option of Leafeon, the quickest and easiest Eevee evolution to obtain in a game where evolutionary stones are hard to obtain.

Chimchar is a fast acting and heavy hitting monkey with a firey butt, and the second Fire starter in a row to obtain the secondary typing of Fighting upon evolving. Because he’s a fast attacker his downsides are his defenses. However, Chimchar and his evolutionary line are super effective against the most Gym Leaders and Elite 4 members. The greatest advantage to choosing Chimchar is his Fire typing. Sinnoh’s poor variety means that there’s only three fire types available in the entire game prior to post-game content. Ponyta (and its evolved form Rapidash), Houndor (and its evolved form Houndoom), and Magmar. It would be lying to say that Flareon is not an option, but that involves getting lucky in the Underground obtaining a Fire Stone.

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Piplup, a cute penguin of the Water typing, is similar to Turtwig. Where the turtle specializes in physical, Piplup specializes in Special. High Special Attack and Defense make Piplup a bulky attacker, and upon gaining the Steel type later on only improves his defensive abilities. However, Piplup’s typing makes him the worst against the Gym Leaders in Sinnoh and you’ll rely more on your entire team when taking on the Pokemon League. Selecting Piplup in the beginning means it won’t be necessary to capture Buizel or Shellos in early game and you’ll already have a strong pokemon that can Surf.

In the end, the starter pokemon is still up to you as there are ways to make each one work. Much like any Nuzlocke run, a good portion of it is luck.

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Strong Pokemon Early

The Sinnoh region has a lot of nooks and crannies that are easily missed and it’s in these places that there are some hidden gems. The first of which is Gible, the tiny Dragon/Ground pokémon that eventually evolves into the game breaking Garchomp. This pokémon can be captured as soon as you obtain the ability to use Cut and the bike after the second badge!

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Route 206 is the bike path leading from Eterna City to Oreburgh and it has a whole section of walkable route underneath it only accessible by using Cut. It’s underneath the bike path that you can find the Wayward Cave. As tempting as it may be to enter the obvious entrance, you’ll need to find the hidden entrance to reach the basement where Gible is a 20% encounter rate. That’s still a low encounter rate, so why leave it up to luck when we can ensure Gible is our first unique encounter?

The list of pokemon that appear in the Wayward Cave’s basement are: Zubat, Geodude, Onix, Bronzor, and Gible. To ensure that Gible is the only unique encounter remaining you’ll have to capture Zubat in the Ravaged Path, Geodude in the Oreburgh Gate, Onix in the Oreburgh Mine, and Bronzor in either Mount Coronet or Route 211. Bronzor will be the hardest one to encounter due to its low encounter rate everywhere but the Wayward Path where it too has a 20% encounter rate. If you don’t eliminate the other four pokemon and get unlucky, your next, and last, chance at obtaining Garchomp is not until Victory Road’s 5% Gabite encounter rate.

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Also available as soon as you obtain the bike and cut is Gligar. Gligar is a Ground/Flying type flying scorpion-esque pokemon that is rather mediocre. That is, until you evolve it into Gliscor by making it hold the Razor Fang found on Route 214 and leveling it up at night. Gliscor is strong, fast, and physically defensive. Weak to only water and ice and strong against several common types in Sinnoh Gliscor is a force to be wreckoned with. Unfortunately, his movepool is lacking early on and you’ll be required to journey on ahead obtaining TMs to make him stronger. Luckily you’ll have picked up the TM for Earthquake while attempting you Gible capture. Tricking Gliscor out with Feint Attack and Aerial Ace means you can ignore carrying a pokemon around just to Defog the Lost Tower and Route 210. Just watch out for the double trainer battle on Route 210 with the Gyarados! To ensure Gligar is your first unique encounter, you’ll need to capture a Machop, Geodude, and Ponyta before traveling along Route 206. Also only hunt for Gligar during the day (20% encounter rate) or you’ll run the risk of encountering Kricketune who shares a 10% encounter rate at night with Gligar.

Also available immediately upon reaching Hearthome City is Eevee. This is your Ace-in-the-Hole. Being able to become about anything you need it to be, Eevee is your friend. Cherish it. The easiest to obtain Eeveelution is Leafeon, just requiring a quick backtrack to the Eterna Forest and leveling Eevee up once in front of the Mossy Rock. By this point you should also have the TM’s for Bullet Seed and Grass Knot. If you’ve chosen Turtwig at the start, Leafeon’s grass typing is redundant and you’ll need to evolve it into something else. This is when it becomes a problem. The Underground is a gamebreaking resource of money items, Revives you can sell for money because they’re useless in a Nuzlocke, Heart Scales, and even evolutionary stones. If you’re lucky, at least. The Underground can be quite unforgiving at times. Espeon and Umbreon are also out of the question due to the sheer time it would take to increase Eeevee’s happiness this early in the game with no means aside from the Soothe Bell. Hope you’re lucky in the Underground or you didn’t choose Turtwig.

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Available just outside of Hearthome is the Psychic type Ralts. This is practically a giveaway due to the pokemon that appear on that route, Budew (and Roselia) and Bidoof (and Bibarel). Odds are extremely high you’ve captured a Budew and Bidoof already, meaning their evolved forms no longer count as unique encounters. Ralts is difficult to level up at first, but if you stick with it and manage to get her to level 30 she’ll become Gardevoir and learn Psychic by level 35. Gardevoir is a strong special attacker capable of learning several strong moves like Thunderbolt and Shadow Ball. Her downside is she can be quite frail, so you’ll need to take extra care not to put her into a situation she can’t defeat swiftly.

Tips & Tricks

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There’s a couple things I’ve picked up on that should make anyone’s journey through Sinnoh a little easier. Upon reaching Hearthome, it would be a good idea to pop into Amity Square and grab that Amulet Coin. You’ll need a pokémon that can walk behind you to enter, but luckily your starter and all of its evolutionary forms can do so. It may be a hassle, but it would be a great advantage to make sure the Amulet Coin is on a pokémon you’re using in battle so you get the extra money. Being a Nuzlocke run you’ll be spending most of your money on extra potions and status healing items so you don’t run the risk of losing a pokémon. However, the added bonus is that you’ll also work toward saving money to purchase Game Corner coins with. Platinum is the last pokémon entry to have a Game Corner with a slot machine, and rather than waste time on slots you can just straight up buy coins for TMs. I would highly suggest Ice Beam.

As I’ve said before, the Underground can be a good resource for extra money as well. There’s a large amount of Revives and vendor trash to be found, but there’s also a large number of hold items. These range from the Plates to weather stones. You may get lucky and find a plate matching a type you’re using for that extra oomph in battle. Evolutionary stones are an “uncommon” find in the Underground, but should you find one early you open up options for your Eevee. There’s also the Shield Fossil which can be used to obtain Shieldon which eventually evolves into the slow and heavily defensive Bastiodon. Ultimately, however much time you spend in the Underground is to your discretion. Whether it’s fortuitous or not is all up to luck.

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Quick Capture Rundown

And finally, here’s a quick overview of what your capture list should look like for the first portion of the game.

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Starter: Your pick

Route 201: Starly or Bidoof

Verity Lakefront: Starly or Bidoof (Catch whichever you didn’t on 201)

Route 202: Shinx (Kricketot appears at night, but you’re more likely to encounter Shinx long before that)

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Route 219: Magikarp (Get Old Rod from the fisherman in the gatehouse to Route 218, then backtrack and capture Magikarp on route 219 south of Sandgem town to eliminate Magikarp and Gyarados from any future fishing attempts)

Route 203: Abra or Kricketot or Zubat (Odds are you’ll encounter Abra first if here during the day, good luck catching it though. Zubat is night only)

Route 204: Budew (don’t hit this route in the morning or you can encounter Wurmple, and Budew needs captured)

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Ravaged Path: Zubat or Geodude (if you encounter Psyduck here first, say goodbye to your Gible odds later)

Oreburgh Gate: Zubat or Geodude again (whichever you didn’t get in Ravaged Path)

Oreburgh Mine: Onix (Hopefully you caught Zubat and Geodude by now)

Route 207: Ponyta or Machop (capturing Machop here increases odds of getting Bronzor on Route 211, which makes getting Gible easier. Machop captured also makes getting Gligar easier)

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Route 205: Shellos or Buizel (may not matter if you started with Piplup)

Eterna Forest: Whatever you like, lots of bug pokemon here that you won’t encounter anywhere else

Old Chataeu: Gastly (You could get Rotom here, but won’t have access to his other forms so get Gastly)

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Route 211: Bronzor (You may encounter Chingling first, but getting Bronzor here ensures Gible)

Route 206: Gligar

Wayward Cave: Gible

Route 208: Ralts

Hearthome City: Eevee

Route 209: Chansey (5% encounter rate, but your only encounter if you got Gastly earlier and get...)

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Lost Tower: Duskull (this guy here because you caught Gastly in Old Chataeu)

Route 210: Ponyta (If you want to ensure being able to get Gligar) or Swablu (only available on northern end of Route after moving the Psyduck)

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If luck has been with you up to this point, then alongside your starter Pokemon you’ve also got Gible, Gligar (who you can evolve immediately by popping ahead to route 214 and getting the Razor Fang), an Eveelution of your choice, Ralts, and a half a dozen other pokémon to choose from.

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Hopefully you future Pokémon Masters find this guide helpful should you take on the challenge that is a Nuzlocke run of Platinum. And with the research I’ve done, hopefully I’ll finally get out of the Sinnoh region.