Remember this guy?
If you have been following the release and reveals of Pokemon Sun and Moon, you should remember him. That man goes by the name of Hala and he is the grandfather of your rival Hau. However, this is not why he is significant, as he is also the Kahuna of Melemele Island. Kahunas are, in essence, the top dogs of a given island, as they are the protectors and governors of their established area.
Significance of a Kahuna: Rethinking gym badges
Well, so far there have been revealed to be four Kahunas in the Alola region, one for each island. Melemele, the island you start off on, is home to Hala. They are instrumental in the Trials that you will undertake in the Island Challenge as they are the final hurdle to overcome, as evidenced by the phrasing of Hala in the above photo. However, what if they are a substitute for another aspect the Pokemon games have tried and tested many times? The Kahuna could in fact be an alternative way for the Pokemon League to be introduced. Instead of having a specific building where trainers will go to face the toughest trainer challenge in the region, players will have to wander around the islands of the Alola region and defeat the Kahunas, of which I believe Hala will be the first. This could be an attempt to revitalise a franchise whose major MO has not changed drastically since the conception of Pokemon Red and Green.
Gym leaders and gyms in the traditional Pokemon sense could be altered as well. Within the wording of the above picture, Hala refers to their impending battle as the “grand trial”. But as we know, (if not because you have been following Pokemon, then because I mentioned it earlier), you will have to undertake Trials for specific Trial Captains (scroll to Island Challenge), wherein you will be tested in a specific way that will allow the Pokemon experts to determine whether you are worthy of continuing with the challenge. On top of this, you will have to face a strong Totem Pokemon at the end of each particular Trial.
So, we have specific conditions that have to be met and a unique challenge to overcome, followed by a Pokemon battle against a formidable opponent. It is starting to sound like it’s a change from the standard gym battle that we have seen in previous Pokemon Games. Yet it still keeps its core elements, puzzle/challenge and battle. It is fair to reason that the badges will be of a more natural element and not the standard metal badges we have collected previously. This is all complete theory, but we may collect a trophy from the Totem Pokemon that we have to return to the Trial Captain, who will then gift us with our ‘badge’.
Back to the Kahunas. Since they are the leaders of each Island, and a battle with them is considered to be the grand trial, I believe that they could be the re-imagined version of the Pokemon League. After you complete all of the Trials on each of the islands, you must return to each of them bearing the symbols of your triumph. As you beat each Kahuna, you progress to the next island and the following, until you defeat them all, and face whatever mystery opponent is at the end of the Grand Trial.
For those not formally introduced, this is Tapu-Koko, the Guardian Pokemon of Melemele Island. It is not a Pokemon that comes to the aid of people or other Pokemon easily, and will only appear if it develops a strong curiosity for a trainer or Pokemon.
In Pokemon Sun and Moon, each of the islands, including Melemele, participate in a festival, presumably each year, where they take part in a Pokemon battle and other assorted festivities. It could be that during these special festivals, of which you and the Kahuna (being the leader) have a starring role, the Guardian Pokemon will appear for you to battle or to capture. Based on previous Pokemon games, the Guardian Pokemon and the unique festivals to acquire them will only become available after you have defeated the Alola Pokemon League, aka the Grand Trials (Hopefully). This pattern has been seen all throughout the games history with certain Pokemon becoming available after certain conditions are met (Poke League) or even respawning if you KO’d them.
It seems that since their are four islands, there will be at least four Guardian Pokemon to capture or to persuade to join your party. We also know of Solgaleo, Lunala and Megearna, so that makes a possible 7 legendary Pokemon to be joining our teams.