Ruby As Ruby: A Manga-Inspired Hardcore Nuzlocke

Hey I'm back! Remember last year when I said I was going to play a bunch of JRPG's in 2022? That it was going to be "My year of the JRPG"? Well, techically that wasn't false...if Pokemon counts.

Instead of me playing my scheduled games for each month, 2022 instead saw me get back to my old familiar ways of Pokemon. Maybe it was the release of Legends: Arceus (which I love), or the continued sharing of this hobby with my daughter (which, if anything, has only gotten stronger), but either way it's undeniable that this year has actually been My Year of Pokemon--specifically, My Year of Pokemon Hardcore Nuzlockes.

You might be familiar with Nuzlocke challenges: (1) you can only catch the first Pokemon you see on each route, and (2) if a Pokemon faints, it's gone forever. But over the past few years, the Pokemon community has upped the ante with the Hardcore variant. In addition to the basic Nuzlocke rules, you also are (3) disallowed from using items from your bag during battle, (4) you must play in Set mode, and (5) you cannot overlevel past the upcoming gym leader's team.

I've been watching Pokemon streamers get into this challenge for over a year now, but this spring I finally took the plunge myself. Since March I've completed runs of Emerald, White 2, SoulSilver, and Platinum, as well as ROMhack called the Emerald Trashlocke. I was getting the hang of it. I felt the need to up the ante a bit further.

Welcome to Pokemon Ruby As Ruby, the Hardcore Nuzlocke of Ruby in which I'm only allowed to use the Pokemon that the character Ruby catches in the Pokemon Adventures Manga.

Conveniently, this manga cover basically gives my potential encounters: Swampert, Mightyena, Gardevoir, Delcatty, Plusle, Milotic, and Castform. There is one little snag with this team: Castform and Milotic are both exclusive to Route 119 in Hoenn, so I have to pick only one per Nuzlocke encounter rules. And you know darn well that I ain't pickin' Castform. (To make it more challenging, I probably should pick Castform, but, you know, whatever.)


I start out with my trusty Mudkip, Mumu, who is by far the best Hoenn starter for Nuzlockes. I figured that my first themed run shouldn't be over-the-top difficult, so picking a team with Swampert is going to give me a nice learning curve here. Right away I find Nana the Poochyena on Route 103, along with...

Rara the Ralts on 102 and Kiki the Skitty on 116. The prevalence of early-game encounters is the reason I chose "Ruby as Ruby" instead of "Sapphire as Sapphire"--if I were to play as Sapphire's manga team, I would have to solo Roxanne with a Torchic. But with a Mudkip, Roxanne was completely trivial. In fact, I didn't even capture any pictures of the fight because Mudkip just blew through it.

Brawly, while fairly simple with a Confusion-spamming Ralts, isn't totally free. While Ralts has the distinct advantage in type, it's also about as frail as tissue paper. Ralts can't quite one-shot either Machop or Makuhita without a crit, so I have to hope that one (or both) of them wastes time going for Bulk Up. Both of them are prone to do it, but not all the time. Even though it's a little risky, this is still early enough in the game that getting punished for it won't be too painful. I'd rather do it this way than have to switch Ralts into any attack, which is probably riskier.

But Rara was able to pull it off just fine. Machop tried Bulking Up, and Makuhita opted for the super-effective Knock Off even though it only has base 20 power in this game. Easy first two badges.

After Granite Cave, I went to Slateport and then Route 110 for my 5th encounter, Plusle. You could probably argue on story reasons whether Plusle actually counts for this challeng, but based on the Bulbapedia page for Ruby's team and the manga volume cover posted above, I think it does. After drowning in a sea of Minun, I finally found the 2% Plusle and added it to the team.

While leveling up to the Wattson level cap of 23, I got two of the most important moves in the game. They won't be too useful right now, but these are both Elite Four-caliber moves. You'll be seeing both of them.

Normally, the rival battles in RSE are barely worth mentioning. However, my team is not exactly equipped to handle her Grovyle. Wailmer and Numel are easy enough, but in order to take out her Grovyle I have to hope Mightyena can switch into an attack and then go 1v1. Thankfully, it would take multiple crits to actually lose, but it's certainly possible.

Now it's time for Wattson. With Marshtomp, this won't be a problem at a---

Aw, crap.

I just kind of assumed that Marshtomp would outspeed and one-shot both Magnet mons, and I wasn't scared of Voltorb at all. But this Marshtomp was sloooooooow, and I got extremely unlucky with a Mud Shot miss and confusion self-hits. I didn't prepare for this battle at all because I figured it was a Marshtomp freebie, but...nope.

So I almost did pull this off, believe it or not. By some miracle, Skitty pulled Mud Shot from Marshtomp with Assist to chunk the Magneton. But even with a 4x weakness to Ground, Magneton withstood Skitty's pitiful non-STAB attack, and I got swept. Oh well.


Honestly, there's really not much worth mentioning for the early game again. Everything goes basically the same, but better. After training speed EV's on wild Magikarp in Dewford Town, Marshtomp was fully capable of outspeeding and one-shotting both of Wattson's heavy hitters. Three badges, moving on.

Quick note--when I hit the turbo button on my emulator, it speeds up to like 3000%. I wish I could slow it down, but I can't. So, no, I was not spending 9 hours to get to Wattson here, don't worry.

But while we're paused here, let's not forget something important. This is Ruby as Ruby, and if we're really going to be embodying the spirit of the manga protagonist, we need to remember what's actually important in the world of Pokemon.

Showing off how cute, tough, smart, beautiful, and cool we are.

I do eventually decide that I can't focus on both battling and contests at the same time. To really be effective in contests, I need to have move sets that are basically un-usable in battle. After suffering through the RNG of a few attempts at the Normal Rank contests in Verdanturf town, I decide to table the contest pursuits until after the run itself is done.

That means it's on to Flannery and her dreaded Torkoal. Once again, I'm not worried about her first few Pokemon, but her ace Torkoal is frightening. Even Marshtomp's advantageous type matchup will only get him so far here, especially if it gets paralyzed, infatuated, or, as what ends up happening to me...


It started off well, but eventually the combination of Attract and Body Slam caused my Marshtomp to get totally outplayed. I tried switching out to preserve the run, but that just ended up in multiple casualties. And by "multiple" I mean "everyone."


This time, I decide to do some soft resetting on my starter. Not for IV's or Nature, mind you, but to make sure that I get a female. Starters actually only have a 12.5% chance of being female in most Pokemon games, so it does take some patience and soft-resets. But at this point, I'm fairly certain that Flannery is my last true challenge of the run. I'm willing to take the time up front to eliminate Attract from her arsenal. With a female Marshtomp and a Cheri Berry, Flannery shouldn't be a problem anymore.

Aw, come on.

Remember when I said that Brawly isn't free? That was foreshadowing! See what I did there?

Instead of going for Bulk Up, Machop actually went for Leer. Then, as a complete surprise to me, it was actually speed tied with my Ralts, and won the tie on Turn 2 for a Karate Chop one-shot. I told you, Ralts is pitifully frail. Oh well. I'm sad to lose my Adamant Marshtomp, but we're headed back to Littleroot.


Once again the first few gyms are't worth mentioning more than I have. We make it back to Flannery, and the female Marshtomp strategy works out perfectly. Even after getting paralyzed by Body Slam...

...the Cheri Berry activates and I'm in the clear.

Well, I THOUGHT I was in the clear. Either the Torkoal was a little over half health, or my second Mud Shot was a low roll. Either way, Torkoal survived on what looked like 1 HP and hit me with, of all things, a Flail. At the lowest possible HP, Flail is doing the highest possible damage.

Thankfully, it doesn't crit. Marshtomp barely holds on. Furthermore, after Flannery heals, the next two Mud Shots connect and bring the big, lusty turtle down. At the time, I figured this was probably the final true challenge of the run. We'll see if that ended up being true or not.

It's on to Norman and, in Ruby, his TWO Slakings in Ruby. Slaking is a pretty terrifying Pokemon on paper, but if you know how Truant works, you can take total advantage of it. Norman's first Slaking likes to go for Yawn on its first turn, so a Chesto Berry is a must. That gave my Nana a turn to build up its Attack stat with Howl. After that, it's time to abuse the Hidey Hole. By spamming the two-turn move Dig in alternation with Slaking's loafing turns, you can guarantee that you'll be underground when it attacks and then attacking when it's loafing. Nana's a good girl and handles it perfectly.

Then Norman sends out his second Slaking, because it wants to use Focus Punch as a super-effective hit on Mightyena. But that's perfect for me. Since Norman sees a kill with Focus Punch, that's the only move it's going to use. So as long as I hit it with a 100%-accurate move and don't let Focus Punch run out of PP, I can't lose. I Bite and Rock Smash my way through Slaking's focus, and the monsters are down.

Vigoroth still takes some effort to bring down, but it would take a phenomenal amout of hacks for it to take out my committee of 5. Especially after a Mightyena intimidate or two. Five badges down.

Now it's time for my final encounter on Route 119. This is where I have to choose between Feebas or Castform. Feebas is the obvious choice here, but the problem with Feebas is that it's extremely difficult to find. It's only available on six specific water tiles of Route 119, and it's not even a guarantee on each of those tiles. If I want it, I'm going to have to fish for quite a while. Not only that, but the only way to evolve Feebas in Gen 3 is to max its Beauty stat, which you can only do by feeding it Blue Pokeblocks. On top of that, they have to be high-quality Pokeblocks, because Pokemon will eat so many blocks before they refuse. After spending the time to catch the Feebas in the first place, I have to spend the time crafting the highest-quality Blue Pokeblocks and pray that they're good enough to get it to evolve.

Or...I hack the Milotic into the game.

You can disagree with my method here, but, hey. I only have so much time in the day. The only thing keeping me from a Milotic is the barrier of time. Feebas is a guaranteed encounter on this route. Either I waste spend hours hunting the inevitable, or I can spend a couple minutes flipping a few bits. I chose to flip bits.

To make it fair, however, I did randomize its Nature and IV's. I caught the first Pokemon on Route 119 (a Linoone) and copied its exact stats over onto my hacked Milotic, just to keep the spirit of Nuzlocking alive and well. I'm satisfied with what I did here. If you think it's unfair or cheating, that's cool. You're free to do it your own way!

Milotic pays off instantly by taking Winona to town. I lead with Plusle so that Altaria comes out and goes for Earthquake instead of Dragon Dance. Even though Milotic absolutely dumpsters Altaria, I'm still scared of Altaria getting set up, so I want to make sure that doesn't happen.

I do some switching to make sure I avoid confusion hacks. Delcatty is equipped with a Persim Berry and takes out Pelipper with Thunderbolt, then Plusle comes in with Shock Wave to negate Skarmory's sand attacks.

You've probably noticed that I've skipped all the Team Magma stuff so far. I didn't take any screenshots, but rest assured: Swampert absolutely invalidates everything they have to offer. Especially after I add Milotic to the team, their boss battles are simply not worth our time.

Speaking of trivial, Tate and Liza are next. While this double battle can be a little sweaty in Emerald, their Ruby/Sapphire versions are no problem at all. Nana and Mumu are the perfect anti-Tate and Liza duo. Mightyena is completely immune to Lunatone's entirely-Psychic-type moveset, and Swampert baits a two-turn Solarbeam from Solrock. I spent some time trying to figure out how to have Swampert use Surf safely without killing Mightyena...but then I remembered that in Gen 3, Surf doesn't actually hit your teammate. Easy peasy.

After some more Team Magma stuff trivialized by my Water types, it's time to pay a visit to the Cave of Origin and calm Groudon down. Groudon's Ground typing would make him easy fodder for my monstrous Water types, except for the fact that his Drought ability will weaken my water moves. I don't want Groudon hanging around any longer than is absolute necessary, so I decide that water moves aren't the play. Instead I go for Non-STAB Ice Beams from Milotic, which will be slightly more powerful than Surf in these conditions.

Land deity down!

Next up is Wallace. After realizing that Delcatty can learn Calm Mind by TM with Tate and Liza, I decided it was her time to shine. Her moveset is the classic BoltBeam combo with Calm Mind and Hypnosis. I equip her with a Persim berry to avoid Sweet Kiss confusion, then I put Luvdisc to sleep and set up.

Unfortunately, even after some Calm Minds, Whiscash was able to survive Delcatty's Ice Beam and set up the Rain. With Swift Swim and rain-boosted attacks, her Seaking actually became too threatening for my Delcatty to stay in, so I had to switch out. Thankfully, my Milotic was able to take out her Seaking and take out Wallace's own Milotic 1v1 with lots of Recovery and weak Surfs.

I head to Victory Road, where the real rival fight happens: Wally!

I enjoyed the Wally Fight because his variety of Pokemon types gave each member of my team a chance to shine. Even more than the Elite Four, this fight got to showcase the power of my full team, and I was very proud of them!

Time for the Elite Four and Champion Steven. My last two Gen 3 Nuzlockes have been in Emerald, so I've gotten used to the way that their version of the E4 behaves. I'm also more familiar with Champion Wallace than I am with Champion Steven. While Ruby/Sapphire are far easier games than Emerald in the main, Steven is the true champion of Hoenn and the much more difficult final boss. After making sure my EV's are maxed, items are equipped, and move sets are set, it's time for my all-female squad to take on the final battle challenge of Hoenn.

I actually recorded the Elite Four fight, which you can see here! A few things to note as you watch:

  1. I actually misplay on Sidney. I didn't mean to stay in with Delcatty against Sharpedo, because I knew that was risking a crit. But I was in a bit of a rush trying to finish the run before bed, so I Thunderbolted. Thankfully, Sharpedo didn't crit, so I wasn't punished.

  2. Hopefully this is a showcase of how busted Encore can be. Plusle is the MVP. (I won't lie, this is one of the reasons I really wanted to count Plusle as a viable encounter in this challenge.)

  3. I expected Calm Mind Gardevoir to be clutch in the Elite Four, but I actually ended up opting for Calm Mind Delcatty with BoltBeam. Gardevoir actually rides the pine for the entire final section, and ends up being much less useful in general than I thought she would be. As it turns out, Psychic types aren't that great in Hoenn (especially compared to Kanto and Johto where they're absolutely busted.)

  4. I don't actually know if the EXP Share on Milotic was necessary, but I wanted to make sure she was as bulky as possible to deal with Steven's Metagross.

And there we have it!

But that's not all, of course. I am Ruby, after all. With some Pokeblock grinding and changing of Movesets from Battle-focus to Contest-focus, we're ready to become the TRUE champions.


This was my first themed Hardcore Nuzlocke, and I'm really glad I went with this idea. It was a fun challenge without being over-the-top difficult. Swampert and Milotic basically invalidate most of Hoenn, but I still had to take time and effort to put them in the right positions to do so. This helped me improve my planning and preparation, which are everything in Nuzlockes. Most of all, though, it was just fun. I've been reading Pokemon Adventures with my daughter so embodying Ruby's team in a challenge was thoroughly enjoyable.

Got any ideas for another challenge run for me? I was thinking of doing a monotype challenge or something like that. I dunno, let me know if you've got an idea! But I hope you enjoyed following me on this little journey.

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