Much like every Pokémon fan I know, I’ve been putting my every spare hour into Pokémon Unite since its release on Wednesday. Having never played a MOBA before, I’m learning the ropes of the genre accompanied by my favourite monsters.
As a long-time cheerleader of all Electric-types, I am well-served by the Unite roster – and trust me, I am eating. Two of the very best Pokémon in Pokémon Unite, Pikachu and Zeraora, are Electric-type, and Rotom and Zapdos are hugely important NPCs that can turn the tide of a battle. All Electric-types. Just saying.
We all already know that Zeraora is incredibly broken, but it’s Zapdos that I want to talk about today. The legendary Kantonian bird arrives in the centre of Remoat Stadium in the dying embers of a match, tempting teams to come and have a go if they think they’re hard enough. It’s a mighty task, one that can be disastrous if your team isn’t impeccably in sync or if an opponent nips in to steal the kill in the final moment.
Zapdos can change the entire game, allowing the team that lands the final blow to score slam dunks without that vulnerable charge-up time. It also drops plentiful Aeos Energy from its lightning wings, which means that the team that beats it has a high chance of scoring hatfuls of points in the final double-scoring minutes. The Zapdos Effect is real, and it is game-changingly powerful.
To be completely honest, I was preparing to write a scathing take-down of how Zapdos is more broken than Zeraora after playing ranked match after ranked match where whichever team took out Zapdos won the match. But I played one more match at lunchtime and the inevitable happened – the opposing team took out Zapdos yet my team still won.
That’s when I realised that taking out Zapdos isn’t just a free win, it’s the most accurate portrayal of legendary Pokémon in any game yet. In the anime, the Pokédex, and the words of countless Pokémon Professors over the last 25 years, legendary Pokémon are described as living for hundreds of millions of years, manipulating the fabric of worlds, and shaping the entire universe.
It’s been a long-time gripe of some Pokémon fans that practically every main series game sees you, an 11-year-old child, simply capture one or more of these gods and bend them to your will, whether that be saving the world, becoming the very best, or just showing off to your friends. But in Unite, it’s a little different.
For starters, you play as a Pokémon, not a child. But more importantly, you cannot capture the legendary bird at the centre of Remoat Stadium (or the hulking Regigigas in Auroma Park for that matter). If you attempt to take Zapdos on alone, you’re done for. It’s too powerful for any single Pokémon to beat. It’s probably too powerful for two, and maybe even three. Your whole team must work together to defeat this great Pokémon, and if you beat it, it rewards your enormously.
Zapdos is as powerful in defeat as it is in life. Its Sword and Shield Pokédex entry says it can create thunderstorms by rubbing its feathers together, and in Unite it can leave up to five Goal Zones defenceless in its final breath. It can change the tides of battle, and it is truly a legendary Pokémon in every sense of the word.
Zapdos will punish you if you have the arrogance to take it on alone. Zapdos is one giant, electric-charged reason not to forfeit your match, no matter how far behind you believe you are. Zapdos descends from the heavens to disrupt the flow of every game whether you like it or not, and you are powerless in the face of its awesome might. Thanks to Pokémon Unite Zapdos is, finally, a truly Legendary Pokémon.