Pokémon Sword and Shield’s latest DLC, The Crown Tundra, rains an army of legendary Pokémon on you. You stand a chance of encountering your first within minutes, and much of the main plot involves tracking down iconic legendary Pokémon from generations past. Longtime fans will be happy to hear that remixed versions of Moltres, Zapdos, and Articuno show up. It rules. The only issue? Finding those three birds is a total pain.
The Crown Tundra is, in many ways, a nod to some aspects of previous games, bringing back and remixing features from versions as old as Yellow. But some of the resurrected features aren’t so nice. Remember how, back in Gold and Silver, catching the legendary beasts—Raiku, Entei, and Suicune—meant wandering the map until you stumbled upon them through happenstance? That’s back for The Crown Tundra’s legendary birds, and yes, it still sucks.
You come across Moltres and company relatively early in The Crown Tundra’s main plot. Peony, who basically serves as the M to your 007 for the DLC, briefs you on three myths related to the titular Crown Tundra. The third one, the one about birds, is the one you’re concerned with. You’ll eventually get sent down to Dyna Tree Hill, where you’ll trigger a cutscene introducing the three legendary birds, after which they’ll fly off into the sunset. (I haven’t checked whether or not visiting Dyna Tree Hill before the narrative tells you to do so will activate this event. If you’re truly itching to capture an Articuno, it’s worth biking down and checking things out. You might come up empty-handed, but hey, you’ll have to go there anyway, and you’ll get a fast-travel spot out of it.)
In Galar, the legendary birds aren’t the same three you might have committed to memory over the past two-and-a-half decades. They’re all still part-flying-type, but each have new secondary types, with Moltres trading fire for dark, Zapdos swapping lightning for fighting, and Articuno shedding ice for psychic. Once they fly away, the uphill stroll begins.
If you played Gold or Silver, you know somewhat what to expect. Put simply, you’ll have to walk around—a lot—until you run into these beasts. But there are a few improvements that make this quest less tedious than that infamously tedious one from a late ’90s Game Boy Color game. For one thing, Crown Tundra straight-up tells you where each bird is. The locations are written up in classic Pokémon-riddle parlance, which should be extremely easy to crack, but, to spell it out in plain English:
- Articuno is somewhere in the Crown Tundra.
- Moltres is on the Isle of Armor.
- Zapdos is roaming the Wild Area of Galar proper.
It’s not quite geolocation, but at least it’s a bit more specific than “I don’t know, have you tried looking, um, everywhere?”
For another, since Sword and Shield are fully three-dimensional games and allow for Pokémon to roam free in the overworld, you can actually see the birds from afar. Case in point:
Once you catch up to the bird of your eye, you’ll have to literally chase it down. (If you haven’t buffed your bike, make sure to do so by talking to one of the Watt traders in the Wild Area.) Eventually, the bird will stop, at which point you can wait for it to attack you or, if you want, ring your bike’s bell by pushing in the left thumbstick. If another wild Pokémon interrupts your chase, don’t worry. Both you and the legendary bird will pick up after in the same spots you were in before.
It sounds simple, but there are a few quirks to keep in mind for each. Zapdos runs along the ground, ostrich-style. Moltres will fly over both water and land. And Articuno, using its snazzy new psychic powers, creates two clones of itself. I found some trouble with Articuno; sometimes, I’d stroll into one of the birds, and all three would mysteriously disappear, forcing me to start the whole process from scratch. My luck only turned, eventually, when I practiced patience and stood absolutely still. On your hunt, avoid the trouble and try the same on your first attempt.
Whatever the case, when you do catch up to your favorite bird (Articuno or bust) there’s one thing you should absolutely do. Since these Pokémon are among the most annoying to capture in the game, don’t feel any guilt about using one of your precious master balls. You’ll get a bonus one early on in Crown Tundra’s story anyway.