Legendary Pokémon are enticing catches near the end of each game, but they aren’t worth replacing the player’s endgame party with. While they can be tempting choices due to their design and immense power, there’s something a player’s own trained Pokémon offers that they won’t get from a freshly caught Legendary. Not only that, but it makes the playoffs more rewarding.
Legendary Pokémon are, in almost every case, the absolute strongest that the games have to offer. They have better stats than the other Pokémon that the player can catch, with only a few rare specimens even coming close. They also often have close ties to the region’s history, further establishing themselves as the ultimate power in their respective games. The climax of each game’s story usually offers a chance for the player to capture the resident box Legendary, with other Legendaries available. Even legendary Pokémon that are ultimately disappointing can be tempting to players, especially newer ones.
The power of legendary Pokémon almost feels like a cheat code
The sheer power of Legendary Pokémon is one of the main things that attracts players to them. Competitive players love having a Pokémon that will give their team a big boost, while non-competitive players can appreciate a Pokémon that will make Pokémon League easier. But catching a high-level Legendary near the end of the story and putting it directly into the team doesn’t have the same effect as bringing a team of Pokémon that the player trained from scratch.
A legendary Pokémon doesn’t have the power to beat the Elite Four and champion on its own, at least not without a level boost. Even so, even immediately after being captured, Legendaries are so powerful that they can help the player win through battles that might otherwise be tough. Pokémon‘s Elite Four is a tough challenge in every game, and players would probably appreciate a power boost from a legendary in these matches. On the other hand, while the player’s other Pokémon had to be properly trained and adapted to reach that point, Legendaries have endgame-level strength right out of the gate. Training Pokémon to reach that level is one of the most satisfying aspects of the game.
When the player drops a high-level legendary on their team right before going to the Pokémon League, it’s almost like they’re taking a spot away from one of the player’s core members. Unless the one being replaced was only there to act as one of Pokémon‘s infamous HM Mule, it looks like an athlete who trains all year for an event, only to be benched at the last minute. Trading in a legendary is a tougher decision when viewed through that lens.
The player has more time to appreciate their non-legendary Pokémon
One of the signature themes of Pokémon is the bond between Pokémon and their trainers. While the anime does a good job of showing this through the relationships that Ash and other characters form with their Pokémon, the games also do their part to show this. The main way such a relationship is explored is through the friendship and love mechanics, which reward the player for having a good relationship with their Pokémon. However, the player does not need a mechanic to become attached to their Pokémon.
The player will naturally form a connection with a Pokémon that they train for a long time, probably as a similar speed to Pokémon‘s friendship statistics travel. They will feel proud of themselves when their Pokémon go from their weak original forms to their powerful evolved states. Catching a Pokémon early in the game and taking them through the story is satisfying, especially if they start the game very weak, like an Orbeetle that started out as a tiny Blipbug. When it comes to legendary Pokémon, they skip the evolution process entirely. Since they are so powerful and come so close to the end of the game, the player doesn’t get the same experience raising them and taking them through the story.
The main exceptions to this argument are Koraidon and Miraidon from Pokemon Scarlet and Violet. Unlike other legendaries, Koraidon and Miraidon first appear at the start of the game and accompany the player throughout the story, helping them establish themselves as Pokémon‘s most lovable legendaries. Although they can’t actually fight until the end of the game, they are with the player the whole time and give them plenty of reason to care about them. It’s a level of investment that other legendaries haven’t been able to match.
Legendary Pokémon feel more like prizes than part of the party
Catching a Legendary Pokémon is supposed to be one of the biggest steps in a player’s journey in the games. After all, outside of the Kanto games, there is a legendary on the cover of every title that practically challenges the player to go out and capture it. Their position near the end of nearly every game only furthers this reputation, treating them almost like a final test.
The side effect of this promotion and placement of Legendaries is that their role becomes pretty much like a trophy at the end of the game. Even the earliest legendary Pokémon does not appear until the player has played through most of the game. While the rest of the Pokémon trained by the player have been loyal companions and played vital strategic roles, the legendaries are essentially a sign that the player has become strong enough to catch them. Whether thrown straight into the main team for a power boost or kept in the PC as a reminder of their victory, Legendary Pokémon can feel more like status symbols than team members.
While Legendaries have a lot of advantages, being the most statistically powerful Pokémon available, they feel very much like collectibles. While all Pokémon could technically be viewed the same way, only the legendaries are treated as a big deal in that sense. While it feels good to meet the champion with the legendary Pokémon from the game’s box, it doesn’t represent the player’s journey as well as their other Pokémon.
It is entirely up to the player whether they want to use a Legendary Pokémon after catching it. After all, everyone has their own endgame plans, and they might have a specific niche in their party that it can fill. But if a player wants to put a Legendary on their team just for the sake of it, then it’s worth wondering if it’s worth replacing one of their others Pokémon after training them for so long.
More: Pokémon Scarlet & Violet’s Paldea vs. Legends: Arceus’ Card