Recently, Pokemon Fans were granted their long-awaited wish: official confirmation of a sparkly new generation of lovable little critters to catch and train in Pokemon Sun and Moon.

However, this doesn’t come without its share of woes, namely, a far-off release date; announced, Pokemon Sun and Moon are teetering on the horizon, and we have a long way to go before we get our hands on the Pokemon Sun and Moon.

Pokemon Sun and Moon cover art

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A lot of time has fallen into trainers laps. A lot of time to think about our battle strategies. A lot of time to play Pokken Tournament and other Pokemon games while we wait, and maybe even some time to finish up that pesky Nuzlocke run we never got to. But also a lot of time to ponder as to just how developer Game Freak could turn this new generation of Pokemon Sun and Moon on its head.

Pokemon Sun and Moon are about as core and vital to the Pokemon experience as any, so gym battles seem as good a place to kick the theorizing into gear. These are five of the potential ways that Sun and Moon could revolutionize that trusty formula, and make something bright and new of the battle concept. 

  1. Online Functionality

Pokemon Omega Ruby battle system

When a chapter is closed on the meta-game, the nefarious plot of the villainous organization soundly thwarted, the Elite Four bested, our rival put squarely in their place and the Champion dethroned, many trainers turn their eye to what is considered the true test of a trainer’s mettle: Online Play.

Say what you will about the rise and dips in difficulty that each generation may or may not have seen, but nothing an A.I. can throw at us will surmount to a real life person. Humans can think unpredictably, contrive strategies on the fly, and delve into much trickier tactics than a program ever could. In short, they’re a nuisance. A nuisance that just may just have a place in a gym.

Now, this isn’t for everyone – and that’s meant literally, as not everyone can actually access online play. This would have to be something opted into at the player’s individual discretion. However, throw a thought towards the wild experience that could come about were the gym lined not with trainers, but a queue of players, ready to be matched up against someone progressing through their single-player experience.

Online play would have to be heavily doctored. We couldn’t simply allow end-game players with their buffed up team of level 100’s to be running rough-shot on novices approaching their third gym. Maybe dividing the online players into groups or providing a level boost would be the way to go.

However it was tackled, doing so expertly would provide a crazy new variation on the usual gym gauntlet. Each battle would trump expectation, and do away with the usual step-by-step of exploiting types to barrel through the opposition.

  1. Type-Restrictions

Pokemon Type Restrictions

The idiosyncratic gym gimmick is that each institute adheres to some particular type.

Through the myriad puzzles, degrees of difficulty and thematic levels of importance, this is the one universal trait that every leader in any region strictly abides by. As far back as Brock and his sturdy Rock Types, Whitney and her cutesy Normal Types – curse you, Miltank – all the way to the most recent, Wulfric’s Ice Types.

What if this rule were shunted onto us, instead? What if we were barred entry into competition with a gym until we aligned our teams with some demanding type restriction?

An interesting notion, maybe, but not an easy one to implement. There would have to be an ample number of readily available Pokemon of said type, and at a reasonable level so that training them up to par wouldn’t be an off-putting chore. If these requirements were met, though, it could imbue a great deal of diversity into the experience, by hitting us Pokemon Trainers where we felt it the most: our very own Team of Six. and forcing us to restructure them entirely.

Of course, this may be an annoyance for many who swear by their favourites, and for those who wouldn’t wish to change them out for the world, so the idea isn’t bereft of its own pitfalls.

Though, enforcing the rules and regulations onto us, as the leader is allowed free reign to pick-and-choose – or even use a team specifically crafted to counter our new type – may just be one of the more sadistic and intriguing ways to spice up the tried-and-true formula.

  1. Scaling Gyms

Scaling Gym battles in Pokemon Sun and Moon

One of the more consistent, and arguably substantiated criticisms brought down upon the Pokemon franchise is the gradual decline of difficulty.

Whilst this is no enormous issue, as the games have obviously never been massively taxing on their player-base and the gruelling experience is to be found online, against real-life opposition – there’s still no denying that the overall challenge has somewhat dropped.

Want proof? Do a quick check of the levels of the Elite Four throughout the Series’ progression. Now couple that with a series of EXP-enhancing minigames, such as Pokemon Amie, and even EV Training being made much more accessible. The games have certainly been molded into something more accessible, and some players would rather be put through a little more rigor on their journey to becoming a Pokemon Master.

A simple solution to this would be scaling gyms. Scaling, of any concept, would probably find the least difficulty into slotting right into the Pokemon World. Just a quick toggle on/off in the options menu and those gyms would once again become daunting bulwarks to your in-game progress as they were when you were a burgeoning rookie. No longer would they be able to be coasted through with one over-leveled monster of a Pokemon. Each and every opponent found within would be dragged up to a competitive standing with your own team.

This is even a concept that could be put into practice outside of gyms.

  1. Survival / Hardcore Mode

Survival or Hardcore mode in Pokemon Sun and Moon

We’ve seen games incorporate optional Hardcore twists many times in the past – Fallout New Vegas is a wonderful, semi-recent example of a game performing this with particular panache.

In fact, one could even say that this more immersed play-style has already become a token characteristic of the Pokemon Experience. The fan-made ‘Nuzlocke’ challenge run, wherein a player ruthlessly ditches a beloved Pokemon when they faint is similar to a Hardcore Mode.

But a real, official Survival or Hardcore Mode selected at the beginning of each playthrough could serve to up the ante, and escalate the tension to a new level – especially when it comes to the Pokemon gyms.

We’re all so used to having the convenience of a Pokemon Center to fall back on; with our team nearing defeat, we scurry off to Nurse Joy, request a hasty pick-me-up, and dive right back in where we left off. But what if that wasn’t an option?

What if this “Survival Mode” forced us to endure each gym challenge in its entirety before we were allowed reprieve? From the first trainer, all the way through to the leader themselves. This proposed voluntary layer of difficulty to be piled atop the already intimidating Pokemon gyms interspersed throughout the region could be an excellent way to keep trainers attentive.

  1. Optional Gyms

Optional Gyms in Pokemon Sun and Moon

Likely the most controversial idea to breathe a little new life into gyms is to, well, suck the life right out of them!

Make gyms – at least, particular ones – optional.

Immediately you may be thinking that this is ludicrous! That this throws a spanner into the works of the fundamental tale woven by every Pokemon game: travel the region, assemble a team, win the badges, defeat the Champ and trounce the baddies whilst you’re at it.

When it comes to Pokemon, though, it has been proven time and again that we rest in capable hands. The amount of intrigue they’ve squeezed out of this elementary formula is commendable, and because of that, are we not safe in saying they could wrap and stretch it into something new? Something that could discard components of itself – i.e, a gym – and still retain its overall merit?

This would hinge heavily on how that generation’s personal story panned out, and we clearly couldn’t go skipping vast lumps of the game.

Would it be so contentious, though, to instead of battling a gym leader directly, opt to undertake some chore for them? Perhaps, at their request, thwart a sadistic plot as a rite of passage, earning their trust and badge THAT way? And then, at the end of it all, still have the gym available to us as a challenge to undertake, once again, at our own choosing?

The virtue of this idea isn’t the idea purely by itself. It’s the doors it could open. Divergent story pathways, levels of optional content, in a setting dominated by linearity. And if nothing else, bypassing a Dragon-Type Gym. Because nobody wants to screw with a Dragonite.

The aim of this article is to evoke some thought, to get you budding and eager trainers whirled into a frenzy of speculation. Not necessarily purely about the gyms in question, but overall, how do YOU think the team behind the pairing could potentially upturn Sun and Moon, and separate them from the bulk of a legendary lineage?

Through IGCritic’s Twitter, Facebook, or just the comments right below, you’re encouraged to share all of your thoughts on how they could make the upcoming tandem a couple of standouts in a series of iconic titles.

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