Moltres Is Pokemon’s Most Boring Legendary

If you're a regular reader of TheGamer, you'll know that I've been replaying Pokemon Blue most of this year, writing about a different town, trainer, or cave each week. If not, here's a handy catch up. In any case, this is not my weekly column on the topic, though it is inspired by it. Across my journey, I have found some places just as I remembered them, some places better, and a few worse. Unfortunately, Victory Road falls into this third camp. Though it's meant to be the final hurdle before the glory of the Indigo Plateau and the Elite Four, it's stuffed with dull Pokemon and buffoons for trainers. Most bizarrely, there's a Moltres just sitting there. It gets protected by its Gen 1 armour, but it's time we admitted Moltres is a terrible Legendary.

Even with the Gen 1 sheen, it's nobody's favourite. The bird is outshone by its brethren Zapdos and Articuno in terms of its aesthetic and popularity, finishing a distant third by practically every quantifiable metric. While Zapdos is an edgy, spiky, electrical storm of terror, and Articuno is a silky smooth, majestic ice queen, Moltres is a rubber chicken someone set on fire. I don't want to get too into the design itself here though, but the act of discovery – Pokemon's greatest joy. It's here where Moltres is the most disappointing.

Articuno was the first Legendary I came across on this recent replay, and it was the most the entire journey had ever reminded me of the joy of being a kid again. Playing Pokemon under the covers after bedtime, straining to see the Game Boy screen in the dark. Articuno is tucked away at the edge of the Seafoam Island cave, only reachable after completing a devious and frustrating puzzle. The glorious reward is worth it, and fully sells you on the idea that Articuno is tucked away in an icy palace, surveying a kingdom of frozen fractals from its shimmering throne.

I immediately deviated from my route through Kanto after Articuno to head to the Power Plant and Zapdos, but despite the presence of a giant electrical bird, lightning didn't strike twice. The abandoned plant doesn't quite look abandoned enough with the Game Boy's limited graphical presentation, but strain your imagination a little, and you see what they were going for. Zapdos in a sparking and menacing nest of wires of machinery in the the rubble of electricity, aglow with the crackle of its own extreme power doesn't quite carry in 8-bit, but the idea exists. It just needs us to get it there.

Moltres, however, is just there. No amount of imagination will help it do anything other than just be there. It's just in Victory Road, sitting there waiting for you. Why would a bird live on the second layer deep of an underground cave with seemingly no way out aside from ladders? Your guess is as good as mine. Articuno also lives in a cave, and while you could argue the raging waterfall shows a clear exit path for Articuno, it would be fair to say 'haha it's in a cave' is a pretty weak argument. Luckily I have more to say. Or at least, to type.

With Articuno, there's a puzzle to solve and you need to make a serious effort to get there. With Motres, not so. While it is off the shortest path through Victory Road, there are so many ladders that you can stumble upon it by accident. Given how many trainers go through Victory Road, not to mention the fact there's already a trainer standing right near to Moltres when you climb the right ladder, it doesn't feel like Moltres is hidden away where only the bravest and most accomplished trainer can catch it. It's not a fitting or worthy nest for a Legendary, it doesn't have to be earned, and most players find it through simple luck. Even before the whole rubber chicken thing, Moltres is way below the standard Zapdos and Articuno have set.

Of course, this may be the point. When I played the first time as a kid, I did indeed stumble across Moltres randomly, having checked out of Seafoam before catching Articuno and never even knowing there was a Power Plant with Zapdos in the game. Having Moltres so attainable, yet so late, gives you a nudge towards finding the other two in the post-game.

For first time players, maybe it's useful, but it doesn't hold up when Pokemon feels so replayable and one of the three rarest creatures in the game is essentially given to anyone who takes a wrong turn on the final challenge. Moltres is the first Legendary Pokemon so many of us caught. Thankfully, it got better from there.

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