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Niantic will start with the Legendary birds…

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Written by Kamil Arli

Game Columnist Paul Tassi published an article on the Pokemon Go. 

The stage is set for Legendary Pokémon to come to Pokémon GO soon, with Niantic promising they will be here by the end of the year, and the Gen 2 already released, which was the other major content update everyone was asking for.

MY GUESS IS THAT NIANTIC WILL START WITH THE LEGENDARY BIRDS

My guess is that Niantic will start with the Legendary birds, Zapdos, Moltres and Articuno, and though I’ve debated whether or not they’ll arrive with some sort of massive live event, or rather with an individualized quest for players, I don’t want to get into that again at this moment.

Rather, I want to talk about what needs to happen in order for Legendaries to even be a viable addition to the game at this point. Which right now, would not be the case.

THE THING ABOUT LEGENDARY POKEMON IN THE ORIGINAL GAME

The thing about Legendary Pokémon in the original game is that players were able to use them to take down NPCs, which wasn’t a problem, or to fight their friends, who also had them. While Pokémon tournaments existed, some would ban certain Pokémon that were just too good, forcing players to be creative. I once participated in a Pokémon Red/Blue tournament when I was about ten, and I managed to get to the finals with my level 100 Charizard, Venusaur and Blastoise. I fought a professional dude from Nintendo who played Jolteon, Venusaur and Alakazam. No legendaries allowed. I lost. First prize was an Ash Ketchum hat. I was devastated.

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Anyway, you can probably see my point here. The problem with introducing Legendaries into Pokémon GO is the already stale gym system which relies on the same “heavy hitters” showing up over and over. The problem is that when there’s already pretty limited diversity in gyms, what happens when Legendary Pokémon are introduced that will undoubtedly be some of the most powerful fighters in the game? The current ecosystem flat-out does not support that concept at this point.

Mewtwo in the original Pokemon GO trailer

Niantic

Mewtwo in the original Pokemon GO trailer

There are a number of solutions for how to fix this, but I’m not sure any of them are great. This is why I think Legendaries are such a long time coming to Pokémon GO and we hit Gen 2 without any of them arriving. It’s not just a matter of how they’re distributed (though that is also challenging), but about what happens to the game when they do arrive.

HERE ARE THE OPTIONS AS I SEE THEM, NONE OF THEM GREAT

1) Ban Legendaries from holding gyms. Given that Legendaries are almost certainly going to be made available to most, if not all players, this would avoid all gyms being made up of say, three legendary birds (or whichever happens to be the strongest of them) altogether. You could use them as attackers, just not defenders.

2) Ban Legendaries from gym battles period. It’s a weird system to have something being able to attack not defend, as it’s sort of a hamfisted fix. But if you ban Legendaries from gyms altogether, what’s the point in even having them them at all? They’re essentially ornaments that only you can see.

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3) Make Legendaries less powerful. Bring their stats in line with “normal” Pokémon rather than granting them powers above and beyond like in the handheld games. You might see them in less gyms naturally this way, but it would be odd to nerf Legendaries into well, not being Legendary.

Gen 2's Legendary Beasts

Nintendo

Gen 2’s Legendary Beasts

4) Make Legendaries spawn at something like 500 CP. So, they retain their innate stats, but essentially the only way you can build them up enough to be worthy of putting in gyms is to make them your buddy and walk them for a zillion miles to get enough candy to power them up to a respectable level. This would keep them from flooding gyms and reward the game’s most dedicated players. However, there are enough dedicated players out there, and also loads and loads of spoofers, that I would imagine we’d see them hugely powerful and in gyms soon enough anyway.

5) Ban Legendaries from gyms but introduce NPCs. This is my fantasy dream land scenario where Pokémon GO actually gets a PvE activity at last. I have been asking for NPCs for players to fight, either random spawns or specific bad guys like Team Rocket or the Elite Four, for ages now, and this would help fix the Legendary issue. No, you couldn’t use them in gym battles, but there would be an entirely different activity they’d be useful for. This is a great solution except for the fact that it requires way, way, more work on Niantic’s part than any of these others.

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6) Do nothing and let super powerful Legendaries own gyms. At least it would make everyone want to get one to compete, even if it killed gym diversity to a never-before-seen degree.

7) Restructure the entire gym system so it simply does not operate the way it does now. Only allow one type of Pokémon per gym, or knock down the whole concept and start over from scratch.

As you can see, there are not many great options in this list. My personal favorites are obviously #5, because it’s something I’ve suggested for ages anyway, #4, other than the fact that spoofers would probably ruin it, or maybe #1, as awkward as that fix may be. If Legendaries can attack gyms, but not defend, technically they’re still good for something in the current state of the game. I don’t think stat nerfing or banning them entirely is the way to go.

The point is that Niantic needs to figure all this out before they release Legendaries in the wild. Yes, it’s tough to plan the mechanism for release, but this is equally as important. If Legendaries totally destroy the ecosystem of the game, they may do more harm than good, even if they spark a burst in increased play as people try to catch them.

There’s work to be done, and I look forward to seeing how Niantic solves this problem.

About the author

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Kamil Arli

Editor of DigitalReview.co. Digital Media Consultant

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