For the past two weeks, every time I hop onto Twitch, I’ve found myself browsing through Pokémon FireRed LeafGreenI stream streams so that I can see people playing classic games in the most difficult way possible.
If you’ve played through a mainline Pokémon title before, you’ve probably been able to get through the game without too much trouble. I’m pretty sure all of my friends growing up experienced some variation of just letting their starter carry them to becoming the Pokémon champion. But there’s a community of players making the games dramatically more challenging by applying some form of what the community calls “IronMon” rulesets.
The gist of IronMon is that it’s a really hard randomizer. The pokémon you encounter, their moves, and the items you pick up are randomized, while the pokémon you fight in the wild or those owned by trainers have increased levels. Yes, this means that your starter pokémon will be random, too, so you won’t just pick between Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle. According to the rules, you even can’t peek at which pokémon are available to make your choice; you just have to walk up to a pokéball and accept what you get. (Though streamers often check the other pokéballs after they’ve already decided which one they’ll pick to see what they might be missing out on.)
IronMon challenges can be compared to Nuzlocke runs, but are much more difficult. The standard IronMon rules, to me, sound like an already mind-boggling level of difficulty — what if my starter is a weak Metapod? But the challenge doesn’t stop there. If your pokémon faints, you must release it or put it back in storage, meaning you can never use it again. On Twitch, I find myself drifting to a harder version, called Kaizo IronMon. Here, players must battle with a single pokémon. If that pokémon faints, the run starts all the way over.
If you’re interested in reading all the rules, you can check them out here (and learn about an even harderIronMon ruleset (survival), but I highly recommend simply popping on Twitch to check out some streams.
Many streamers will likely be stuck in Professor Oak’s lab or tromping around the initial parts of the game. It’s quite difficult for a pokémon to be good enough to survive the early areas. Though it might sound boring, I find the early game entertaining — the chat typically helps vote on which starter to pick, for example, and it’s hilarious when the chat picks wrong and the streamer immediately loses. Sometimes, streamers will also “pivot” to a new main pokémon, and they’ll will usually debate the merits of picking one pokémon versus another with their chat.
When a run gets going, it’s thrilling. Every opposing pokémon poses a potential danger, even when the streamer’s pokémon is dozens of levels ahead. An opponent can defeat even the most powerful pokémon with a well-timed countermove or by whittling down health through a status effect, ruining an hours-long run. And players always nickname their pokémon, so I’ll get invested in the fates of creatures with silly names like “STEELEDUP” (a Steelix) and “SMILE” (a Blissey).
But more than anything else, I keep watching out of the hope that I’ll see a run go all the way — and to be there when things almost inevitably fall apart. I was watching Iateyourpie streamer (who is also credited with creating IronMon) completely destroy a run with a powerful Blissey. In the morning, I checked Iateyourpie’s Twitter feed to see how things ended up. I’ll let you watch what happened for yourself in the final battle of the game:
Heartbreaking. But I’m still tuning in to more streams to try and catch the next great run — or even those that are stuck in Oak’s lab.
Screenshots by Jay Peters/TheVerge
Source: The Verge