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Pokémon GO is Implementing Legendary Pokémon Badly

by Dylan Siegler


As I’m sure many of you are aware, Pokémon GO has recently added legendary Pokémon into the game for the first time. Following the disaster that was Pokémon GO Fest Chicago, Lugia and Articuno were the first legendaries available in the game. These legendaries, and it is implied that all legendaries going forward, could only be captured via the relatively new Raid Battle mechanic. A couple of days ago, Articuno became unavailable again and was replaced by Moltres. Next week, Moltres will leave and Zapdos will be available for a limited time. Personally, I think this way of implementing legendary Pokémon is the wrong way to do it.

It favors certain types of players

Due to the very nature of Raid Battles, let alone Raid Battles with Pokémon as strong as the legendaries, certain kinds of Pokémon GO players will have a much greater advantage in catching a legendary. For example, to fight a legendary, you need a large number of really strong Pokémon. This is a no-brainer, but the kind of people who are most likely to have teams of Pokémon like this in Pokémon GO, as opposed to the main series games, are people who likely spend a significant amount of time every day playing the game. Look at someone like me; I started playing the game a little over a week after it first came out and I have played it for at least a little bit almost every day since (except for a month-long break from the game last year when I got too frustrated with it). In all that time, I have only grown to level 28. If you’ll remember from one of the first Raid Battle announcements (back when only players level 35 and over could participate in them), even Niantic’s own account is only level 29 (or was at the time). The fact is, most people simply don’t have the time to get to level 40 and raise a ton of super strong Pokémon; most of us have school, jobs, extra-curriculars, personal lives, etc. If you’re someone with all those things and can still manage to get your character in Pokémon GO to level 40, then God bless you, but I think most of us can’t do that.

Another way to achieve a higher level, and thus making it easier to catch stronger Pokémon, in Pokémon GO is by spending a lot in in-app purchases. If you’re willing to spend a ton of real money for the sake of buying things like Egg Incubators, increasing how many eggs you hatch and the XP and stardust associated with those egg hatches, Lucky Eggs, increasing the amount of XP you get, or Lures and Modules, increasing the amount of Pokémon you run into and therefore can potentially catch, you are much more likely to do well in the game than someone who doesn’t partake of in-app purchases. Not to mention the recently added Premium Raid Pass, which is only available via in-app purchase and allows players the only way to participate in more than one Raid Battle a day. All this leads to a strange gentrification in the game as players who are richer can essentially buy their way to success while poorer players have to struggle to accomplish what they can on their own. Therefore, people with less money to spend on in-app purchases are more likely to be lower level, have less Pokémon and have those Pokémon be weaker. All these factors make it much more difficult to catch strong and rare Pokémon such as the legendaries.

Also, this system favors people who live in certain areas. If you live in a highly populated city, chances are you can’t go two feet without running into a new Gym, which is intrinsically connected to how often you will encounter Raid Battles. Additionally, if you live in an area with a lot of people, you are more likely to happen to run into a large group of people at Gyms who are waiting to take on the same Raid Boss that attracted you to the Gym. Meanwhile, if you’re someone who lives in a small, rural area, you are at a disadvantage. There probably aren’t many Gyms close to where you live, which also greatly decreases the number of Raid Battles you will be able to attend, let alone Raid Battles with a legendary Pokémon. Then, on the rare chance that the one Gym near you actually does have a legendary Raid Battle, good luck finding many other Pokémon GO players in your small town to help you take it down.

Basically, the whole Raid Battle system is kind of rigged to favor those who have more free time, those who have more money and those who happen to live in areas with higher population densities. So making legendary Pokémon exclusive to Raid Battles kind of sucks for the people who don’t fit into those favored categories.

Catching legendaries in Pokémon GO is so different from what we’re used to in the main series games

I can understand why this point may seem kind of lame to a lot of people because Pokémon GO in its entirety is pretty different from what transpires in the main series Pokémon games, but hear me out.

In the main series games, I feel that there is much more strategy involved in catching a legendary Pokémon. You have to have Pokémon strong enough to take on the legendary, but it doesn’t end at just the fighting. You might want a Pokémon in your team that can inflict a status condition, making the legendary easier to catch. But then which status condition? Sleep is a good one because it prevents the legendary from taking out all your Pokémon while you’re trying to catch it, but it’ll wake up eventually and then you have to waste a turn putting it to sleep again. Maybe you want to paralyze it instead, making sure the status effect sticks, even if the legendary can still attack you most turns. Maybe you want a Pokémon with False Swipe to make sure the legendary has the lowest amount of HP possible before you start chucking Ultra Balls. Or do you even want to use Ultra Balls? Maybe the legendary lives in a cave, so you’d rather go with the less expensive Dusk Ball. Maybe you want to stock up on Timer Balls, seeing as battles with legendaries usually take a while. Or maybe you don’t want to be bothered with any of that nonsense and just use your Master Ball. There’s a million different ways to go about your legendary battles in the main series games. I, for one, have only heard one real strategy for battling legendaries in Pokémon GO: use Golem. It seems like all strategy is thrown out the window in favor of just brute force, which, again, favors certain kinds of players. Then, if you manage to beat the legendary, you can only catch it with a very limited number of Premier Balls. Once again, there’s not much strategy. Feed the legendary a Golden Razz Berry, then try to get a Great or Excellent Curve Ball Throw. This isn’t really a strategy as much as it is just something you have to do if you want any chance at catching the legendary.

But let’s talk about those Premier Balls for a second again. You are given a certain number of Premier Balls after a Raid Battle based on a number of factors, such as how much damage you inflicted on the Raid Boss, how much your team contributed to the Raid Battle and which team owns the Gym the Raid Battle took place in. More often than not, many of these factors will be determined by straight luck. Raid Battles happen randomly at random Gyms; it’s not like any players have any control over this, so rewarding players for happening to be on the same team as the Gym that the Raid Boss happened to appear at is kind of ridiculous. Also, you often don’t have much control over who you participate in a Raid Battle with. Sure you can bring some friends from the same team as you along, but how many people do you think are bringing together a group of 20 friends regularly to go Raid Boss hunting? Most likely, you and maybe a friend or two are going to stumble across a Raid Battle with a large group of people already there, also waiting to take on the Raid Battle. You have no idea which teams these people are on, nor do you have any control over it. If you are unfortunate enough to have chosen Team Instinct when you reached level 5 a year ago, then chances are you probably aren’t going to be participating in many Raid Battles with a whole lot of other Team Instinct members. Even if you’re level 40 and have the strongest Pokémon, if you happen to be the only person from your team participating in the Raid Battle, you probably aren’t going to get many Premier Balls. But here’s the real kicker: no matter how well you or your team does in a Raid Battle, you’re not going to get that many Premier Balls. I believe the lowest amount you can get is five. I’m not completely sure what the most you can get is. Maybe twenty? So even if luck is completely on your side, you will only have a MAXIMUM of twenty shots to catch that legendary before you have to go Raid Boss hunting all over again (and even have to wait the next day to do so if you didn’t buy a Premier Raid Pass). It doesn’t matter if you have over a hundred Ultra Balls in the game, like I do; when trying to catch a legendary, you’re limited to five-to-twenty Premier Balls. Remember in the main series games when you could go into a battle with a legendary with as many, and as many different kinds, of balls as you wanted?

In the main series games, you can also catch a legendary by yourself. In fact, you have to. But in Pokémon GO, you don’t have that option. You better hope that you either have a ton of friends who also still play the game and are strong enough to participate in Raid Battles or you better happen to run into a large group of people already waiting by the Gym to start the Raid Battle. And you better hope that this large group of people hasn’t already started the Raid Battle by the time you get there. If you’re someone like me who doesn’t have any friends who play Pokémon GO, then you’re kind of screwed. I have to just wander around from Raid Battle to Raid Battle, hoping that there’s enough people already there to take on the Raid Boss and hope that they haven’t started the battle without me. I’ve been carrying around this same Raid Pass for days.

Legendaries are only available for a limited time

This is the biggest problem for me. In fact, I don’t think I would even have a problem with the way legendaries have been implemented in Pokémon GO at all if it wasn’t for this last point. And this is a point specific to legendaries, whereas many of my previous points have been more problems with Raid Battles than specifically with legendaries. The fact that many of the legendaries available in the game are only available for a short amount of time SUCKS.

I absolutely adore the Pokémon franchise. Pokémon: Crystal Version was one of the first video games I’ve ever played and I’ve loved every generation since. I do, however, have a couple of problems with the franchise. My biggest problem by far is this whole notion of event-only Pokémon. It doesn’t matter how much of a fan of Pokémon you are or how good of a trainer you are in the game; if you can’t make it to these events for some reason or another, you’re never getting those Pokémon. Back in the day, these events were actual events that you had to physically go to. If your parents couldn’t take you to an event for whatever reason, chances are you will never legitimately get a Mew or Celebi. Nowadays, events are mostly online or through popular retailers such as GameStop or Toys”R”Us. But even with this more convenient way of doing things, you still might miss your chance. I’m not the most wealthy of individuals, so I’ll usually wait a few years after a console comes out before buying it. I only bought a 3DS-family console for the first time earlier this year (look, when the original 3DS first came out it was $250, but I spent $80 on a 2DS this year, so it paid off to wait). It may have been worth it monetarily to wait this long, but it also means that I missed all of the Pokémon X and Y events. Chances are I will never get a Diancie. I will never be able to complete my Pokédex because I wasn’t rich enough to buy a 3DS and the game as soon as they came out. That sucks.

And that’s what these legendaries in Pokémon GO are reminding me of now. Articuno’s gone; if you couldn’t catch one by now, you missed your chance. Now Moltres only has a few more days left and then Zapdos has a week. By the time Moltres leaves the game, it will have been available for a week and Articuno was available for a little over a week. That means, if you don’t have a Premium Raid Pass, you only have seven chances to catch these legendaries before they’re gone. With a base catch rate of about 3%, your chances aren’t very good. If you’re not strong enough or rich enough or lucky enough to catch these legendaries within a week, then that’s it. It’s possible that Niantic will re-introduce these legendaries back into the game at some point and make them available for a week sometime down the road, but as of right now, we don’t know if that will happen. As far as we know, Articuno is out of the game for good and if you didn’t catch it, you may never be able to have it. Moltres and Zapdos will be gone soon too. Luckily, it looks like Lugia is going to stick around for a while, but who knows when Niantic will decide to pull that plug as well?

Look, I have a job and several other things in my life to take care of; I don’t have enough time or money to dedicate to a video game to ensure that I will be able to catch a legendary before it’s gone for good. If Niantic made these legendaries permanently available in the game, just really rare, that would at least somewhat solve the problem. Then, sometime down the road when people like me have more time to spend looking for Moltres, we can do so at our own pace when we are able to. Instead, you have to be strong, rich or lucky enough to get these legendaries within a week or else you just won’t be able to get them at all. And that sucks.

- This article was updated on:March 8th, 2018

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