Let me harken back to your childhood.
Think back to your first Pokémon game. Doesn’t matter which one it is. You’ve spent a long time on your journey. You’ve got a full team of six, you’ve overcome countless trainers, gotten all eight of your gym badges, and defeated an evil group of gangsters and maybe even a god! Armed with all your experience, you’re confident as you go in to challenge the Elite Four and become the Champion.
Let me ask you this: what did you feel when you first saw your first Champion? Surprise that the Elite Four weren’t the final obstacle? Excited to test your mettle against the best of the best? Sad that this pleasant journey would soon be coming to an end?
Do you know what I felt? Fear. Because my first Pokémon champion was this woman.
Generation 4 of Pokémon tends to be one of the more divisive of the bunch. Personally, I have a ton of nostalgia for them. Sure, I see the problems with it now. Having to utilize eight different HMs, watch health bars rise and fall super slowly, and most, if not all, of the minigames aren’t all that enjoyable, at least not for long. Gen 4 is far from perfect.
But I’ll fight you if you don’t think Cynthia is the best Champion in this entire franchise.
She’s got it all! Her design is incredible! Her music is menacing! Her team is terrifying! This boss is the peak of Pokémon!
Let’s start with her design. It’s a very simple look. All black clothes with long blonde hair. This is a strong case of less-is-more. It’s simple, memorable, and oddly intimidating! She has an air of menace about her! Even if you don’t realize it yet, this woman is dressed for your funeral!
And she looking like fire doing it. They didn’t need to make her super hot, but they did. Not only will she beat your ass into the dirt, she’ll look better than you doing it.
Then there’s her music, which is just downright iconic for Pokémon tunes. The unnamed track that plays just before her fight, which many call ‘The Piano Before Cynthia’, is straight-up the most frightening thing a child could ever hear. Not only is it catchy as hell, but it’s also got an air of quiet calm to it. Like the person playing this song knows that they can walk every step of the walk. Can you imagine how scary it is, walking into a room and hearing this?!
And then there’s her actual boss music! This track is in complete contrast with her piano theme. Whereas that one is calm yet threatening, this one is fast-paced and energetic! It does a great job of getting your blood pumping! Yet, at the same time, it still has that ominous air hidden beneath the surface which tells you that you’re fighting someone who can destroy you any time they want. It’s a total banger!
And I still haven’t even talked about the actual boss fight. A significant chunk into this article and I’m finally gonna talk about the actual video game.
Cynthia’s team is absolutely stacked for murdering yours! For god’s sake, her first Pokémon is a god damn Spiritomb!! You know! The ghost-dark type Pokémon! The one that’s basically a Legendary! Which, in Gen 4, had NO WEAKNESSES!! You can’t one-hit kill this boy with a super effective move! You’ve just got to hope that someone on your team is strong enough to destroy it before it destroys you!
Then there’s her Lucario. This guy isn’t nearly as scary, especially considering that you’ll have fought one before. Still, this dude is durable and strong enough to cause some damage if you aren’t careful.
Her Milotic isn’t especially dangerous. But it is a huge pain to deal with! It has a huge pool of HP and specializes in keeping itself alive. Thankfully, they removed its Aqua Ring move in Platinum, so it isn’t as annoying. But they do give it Mirror Coat, which is almost as frustrating to deal with.
Interestingly, her team changed dramatically between Diamond/Pearl and Platinum. In the original duology, she had a Gastrodon, which wasn’t hard to kill if you had a grass type on your team (if you didn’t, then it’ll be quite the pain in your ass). Naturally, they decided to make it a bit more challenging for Platinum.
So they gave her a fucking Togekiss. Which has Air Slash, Aura Sphere, Water Pulse, and Shock Wave. This thing is her god-damn wild card! She could bust it out at any point in the fight and it would be just as devastating! Thing’s a beast! One with plenty of HP to boot!
Then there’s her weak-link: Roserade. Even if you don’t have a fire or flying type, you can kill this one pretty easily. Honestly, I don’t even know if it’s ever managed to hit any of my Pokémon! This one is your free kill. Though they do try to make it tougher in Platinum by giving it Toxic.
But forget all of those! None of them matter! They’re all weak and easy to kill! They aren’t why Cynthia’s team is so damn scary! That’s all because of this bastard!
Garchomp is one of, if not the, most powerful non-legendary Pokémon in Gen 4. This dude is fast, he hits like a truck, and his ground-dragon combination is much deadlier than you might think. This shark-on-land is one of the most sought after additions to any team. And not just because he looks awesome.
In fact, it’s probably because of Cynthia herself.
Cynthia’s Garchomp is one of the most deadly boss Pokémon in this entire series. All three of the box-art Gen 4 legendary Pokémon fear this monster! This thing is a walking run-killer! With all its speed and power, this thing can, and most likely will, take out at least one or two of your Pokémon before you last long enough to do actual damage. May God save you if it kills your ice-type before it gets the chance to fight back.
But it isn’t just this monsters stats that make it iconic. It’s just how perfectly it matches with Cynthia herself. The two are like peanut butter and chocolate. You look at Cynthia and you’d think “Yeah, she’d be the type to have a Garchomp.” Seriously, a good fifty percent of Cynthia fanart has this dude standing right next to her!
The other half is basically porn, so be careful when you search for it.
Every champion needs to have their iconic partner. Lance has his Dragonite. Steven has his Metagross. But let me ask you this: do you even remember the champions that came after Cynthia?
Which leads to my next point: Cynthia set a new standard. Before she showed up, Lance was the go-to Pokémon champion. But even he didn’t have the same reputation that this character has now. Whenever anyone thinks about Gen 4, they’ll often go straight to Cynthia and her demon of a Garchomp! Not to Team Galactic or the legendary Pokémon (save maybe Giratina). Cynthia.
No other champion to come after her has come even close! No one thinks “Man, the final boss of Black and White was a tough bastard! It took me so many tries to beat him! I don’t want to fight him again anytime soon!” It’d be a miracle if they even remembered he existed!
Hell, they even knew he couldn’t live up to the standard Cynthia set, so they just put her into the game as a post-game boss fight!
It wouldn’t be the last time, either! Cynthia would go on to be an extra boss fight in both Black 2 and White 2, as well as all of the Sun and Moon games! She’s become just as much of a franchise main-stay as Red!
Although his secret boss battle is still the hardest in the whole series.
Cynthia’s infamy in the Pokémon fanbase is huge. The only other two bosses who come even close to her reputation are Flannery and her damned Miltank and the aforementioned Red! Out of all the hundreds of bosses in this franchise, she stands at the peak of them all with the most notorious!
This is especially true in the Nuzlocke community. Gen 4 games are already hard enough to Nuzlocke as they are. If you aren’t even more careful than a Nuzlocke demands, you could very easily be annihilated by these games. And standing at the very end of it all is the ultimate run killer. I doubt there’s a single person who ran a Gen 4 Nuzlocke that didn’t dread having to fight Cynthia at the end of it.
The mark of a great final boss is fear. If the player still wishes they could be the boss themselves, even after becoming as powerful as they are at the end of the game, you’ve got a great final boss. And I can think of no other Pokémon boss that embodies that philosophy better than Cynthia. Every single aspect of her character works in tandem to make her the most intimidating and memorable final boss in Pokémon history.
Well, there is one other. But he doesn’t count, because you literally were him in the first game.
Bulbapedia Cynthia Stats (For nerds)