Pokémon Sun and Moon really broke away from the traditional formula by removing Gyms Leaders. While they have been with the series since Pokémon Red and Blue, the seventh generation seems to tried to mix things up. However, the developers have claimed this was an incredibly difficult thing to do. In an interview with Famitsu, director Shigeru Ohmori and series producer Junichi Masuda discussed the new Trial system and the end of Gym Leaders. You can read the full interview here.
Moving on, what aspects of Sun and Moon did you two find to be challenging to implement?
Ohmori – For me it was the Trials. In typical Pokemon games there are a series of Gyms that you have to defeat, but we decided to try changing the formula completely for Sun and Moon. We redid the internal systems many, many times, working diligently to finalize them up until the very end of development. The Gym battles in previous games focused on the ‘trainer vs. trainer’ aspect, but this time we wanted the Pokemon themselves to take a more active role. We started with that simple thought in mind, but in the end they turned out to be much more difficult to implement than we ever imagined.(laughs)
The Gym battle format from previous games had been perfected, after all.
Ohmori – That’s right. If we changed one thing even slightly, it would have a drastic effect on many different levels. Those kinds of adjustments couldn’t be made lightly. But despite the doubts we had about whether or not we should make those changes, we were determined to take the plunge. This might sound a little boastful, but our previous games were very well designed, and it took a lot of courage for us to take a break apart a working formula. So, even we had our own Trials to overcome (laughs).
Masuda – Gym battles were kind of like checkpoints within the games. Once you were powerful enough, you would go and fight the gym leader, and win their badge. It was like getting a certificate showing you had made progress. We had a lot of discussions about the Trials, as we were worried they would feel too much like wild Pokemon battles if they didn’t have that same sense of progression. The team must have worked tirelessly to find a system that fit that requirement.