Continuing in the order that’s been set by the new Sun and Moon trailer that was released to the public this morning, it’s time to discuss the new Island Challenges system that will be introduced now that we’ve discussed the additional new Pokémon we’ll be seeing in Alola.
While this section of the discussion might be shorter than the others, it’s still one of the most intriguing things that this trailer introduced – or at the very least, it brings up some of the most intriguing questions.
For the most current, relevant and detailed information, you should look at the official Pokémon website’s description of The Island Challenges. I’ll be summing it up here of course, but I’m mostly going to be using this post in particular for some of the speculations and questions this new addition brings to mind.
So, to sum up, The Island Challenges will be a set of requirements necessary to move from one island in Alola to another. Each island’s challenges will follow the same general course, but the specifics within each step will differ.
First, each trainer going through the challenge has to complete various trials throughout the island, given to them by Trial Captains. At the moment only four Trial Captains have been revealed, but given the status of the four of them, I’m going to assume that there will be 18 different Trial Captains: One corresponding to each type.
Images Courtesy of Serebii.net
In order, Captain Lana is a Water-type trainer who’s well known for her dedication to her family, especially her younger siblings; Captain Mallow is a Grass-type trainer who cooks with a very peculiar taste that comes out in her meals; Captain Sophocles is an Electric-type trainer who’s known as a good inventor; and Captain Kiawe is a Fire-type trainer who studies the dances of the Alola region.
While each Captain sends you off to do a different task, the nature of the task changes depending on who is assigning it. Some may be battles, but others could be searching for items or looking at the differences in certain things.
Once each trial is complete, you’ll have to battle a Totem Pokémon, which is essentially a larger and more powerful version of a regular Pokémon you might come across in Alola, signified by a (sort of) unique battle style and a stat buff aura. For example, we know so far that Gumshoos is a Totem Pokémon, as well as Lurantis for the challenge in the Lush Jungle on Akala Island (A challenge corresponding with Mallow’s trial grounds as the Grass Trial Captain).
The battle with each Totem Pokémon is special because they all have the ability to call in other Pokémon to help them fight. Gumshoos can call in other Yungoos to help it fight for example, making it a 2-vs-1 battle not in your favor. While this is generally a feature of Totem battles, the Pokémon website does hint that Pokémon other than those corresponding to Trials will be able to call in for assistance.
Finally, once all the Trial Challenges and Totem Pokémon battles have been completed on each Island, then you will have to battle the Island Kahuna, who happens to be Hala – the leader of the Tapu Koku Festival and strongest trainer on Melemele Island.
Once that Grand Trial battle is complete, you’ll have the ability to travel to the next Island in the chain, whichever order it may fall into.
Now, like I said, this new Island Challenge system has brought up a lot of questions, both for me personally and for the wider Pokémon community from what I’ve seen.
Primarily, the Challenges bring the existence of Pokémon Gyms in Alola into question. If there’s already a fairly complex new system of achieving power and status in each Island, will there also be room for the traditional 8 Gym Leader Pokémon League challenge?
Personally, I’m going to have to say no on this one. For one thing, there are already clearly groups of trainers who symbolize a mono-typed team of Pokémon, a role that Gym Leaders traditionally fulfill. While it is specified that not all of the Captains will have a battling-specific challenge for you to complete, I’d think it would be odd for all of them to correspond with a typing if you don’t fight them in one way or another. Why would Lana be a Water-type trainer if she doesn’t battle you, it would make the Water-type distinction almost irrelevant.
I say almost because there is the possibility of the Totem Pokémon acting like a gym battle in this instance. If it does, than it would make perfect sense for the Totem Pokémon you fight to correspond with the Trial Captain whose challenge led you to that Totem battle in the first place.
Another piece of evidence I’d submit to the Trial Captains > Gym Leaders theory is the four-leaf clover charm that each of the Captains has on their person in their official art. Lana and Mallow have blue and green gems in the charm on their waists, Sophocles has a yellow gem in the charm on his belt, and Kiawe has a red gem in the charm hung around his neck. Each color specific to their typing on a charm that looks somewhat like a gym badge might in any other Generation.
On the one hand, I’m very excited about the prospect of a new progression system in Sun and Moon. Not that there’s anything wrong with the 8 Gym system, but shaking things up would certainly be a refreshing idea – especially in a game where just about everything seems to be getting shaken up as is.
On the other hand, it does bring into further question just how the end game goal of an Elite Four and Champion would translate into the Trial Challenge system. The Kahuna could theoretically be considered Elite Four trainers if the Trial Captains are Gym Leaders, but then would that mean there’s no serious build-up to a champion since you’ve beaten the four of them by the time you arrive at the end of the game? Will there be a champion at all if the closest thing to an Elite Four is so disjointed across the region?
While I wouldn’t say an easy solution would be to have Gym Leaders and Trial Captains in the same game, I certainly wouldn’t be against that possibility either. As someone who loves characters and character building, the more the merrier in my mind.
Another thing I wanted to bring up while on the subject of Trial Captains relates specifically to Kiawe. In his official description, it brings up the fact that he trains with a Marowak as his primary partner. Normally this would be confusing considering he’s a Fire-type trainer, but not unprecedented. In Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire’s Delta Episode, Zinnia was pretty commonly associated with Whismur, a Normal-type, despite being a Dragon-type trainer. However, considering the nature of Alolan Forms that were unveiled in the same video as these trainers, I’d say there’s a strong chance that we’ll be getting a Fire-type Marowak variant sometime in the near future (Holding a torch instead of a bone perhaps? That’s my prediction at least).
Finally, there’s one more speculative idea that’s been associated with these new Trial Captains that I wanted to bring up, because it does seem to have some validity all things considered. Some time ago, there was an information leak showcasing possible final starter evolutions that gained some traction due to the art style, one that looked very reminiscent of actual Pokémon concept art.
Alola’s Starter Pokémon, images courtesy of Serebii.net
These possible starters were played off as just another fan-made speculation however, due to there being a lot of similar things going around at the time and due to the final evolution of Litten seeming to jump the shark just a little bit too wildly, despite the other two receiving very positive acclaim.
However, this new trailer changed a lot of minds regarding the validity of the leak.
Yes, it seems as though Mallow appeared relatively early in our conscious perception, even if we didn’t realize it. A girl in the sketches for Litten’s final evolution (ironically enough) seems to fit her physical form pretty well: A flower in the hair, bangs that curl up in the front and two ponytails of sorts coming out the back. If it was just a fan-made leak, why would an actual character show up well before her reveal?
If these are the true evolutions, I honestly wouldn’t be all that upset. Rowlet’s final evolution looks super rad, and considering I was going to choose him anyway that would only cement the decision. Popplio’s final evolution also looks gorgeous, and very greatly makes up for how goofy the little seal looks in my mind. Litten’s final evolution… Is a bit of a turn-off, I agree, especially since it looks like it would be a Fire/Fighting-type once again. However, it’s certainly not a bad design by any stretch of the imagination.
That’s that on The Island Challenge system, at least as far as things I could find to pull out of it. Let me know what you think about this new system and the questions that it brings up, because obviously speculation drives a lot of the interest leading up to Sun and Moon – not that interest needs to be driven up that much, the hype is already crazy, even among my friends who are more fair weather Pokémon fans.
Who’s your favorite Trial Captain so far? I’ll have to go with Lana personally, she fits a sort of character archetype I just so happen to enjoy. What do you think of the possible final evolutions? Of Alolan Marowak and other possible Alolan Forms we could see? I’m genuinely curious to know!