Andrew Barker
Editorial: Hidden Machines, or How Tauros Learned to Surf
What do you do with HM and TM discs anyway? Insert them somewhere...?
01.18.15 - 4:51 PM

Pokémon has been around for a long time now — Blue and Green were released all the way back in 1996 in Japan! Across six generations of new games and remakes, the series developed plenty of gameplay staples: some we love, and others we loathe. One of the far less-loved mechanics are HMs, or Hidden Machines: devices that teach specific moves to Pokémon for use outside of battle, such as Surf, Fly, or Strength.

I'm not here to debate the merits (well, lack thereof) of HMs, or that they should be done away with and trainers should be given hedge clippers, flippers and torches... *ahem.* Instead, let's take a look at some of the hilarity associated with these moves or, rather, the unlikely Pokémon that can learn them.

HM01 — Cut
Appears in: Generation I - VI

Cut has been around since the beginning, and always used for the same purpose: chopping down small trees or bushes. Some Pokémon use their claws while others, presumably, use their teeth. There are a few odd exclusions from the list, such as Zangoose (who can't learn Cut despite seeming like a logical choice), but there's far more hilarity to be found in a few who can.

For instance, Diglett can learn cut. Yes, Diglett. Let me show you a picture of Diglett and its evolution Dugtrio:

Nope, I don't know either. Maybe it digs it out from underneath? But then, that's not really cutting is it? It seems like Shelgon would have similar issues. Maybe it death stares plants until they fall over.

HM02 — Fly
Appears in: Generation I - VI

Another long-time favourite, teaching Fly to a Pokémon allows it to carry you to any town (or even route in Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire) that you've visited before. It's not even exclusive to Flying-type Pokémon! Other winged creatures such as Flygon (Ground/Dragon) and Volcarona (Bug/Fire) can learn it too.

Seems pretty straight forward: if it has wings, then it can fly! Well, unless its name is Golurk:

Delibird, who has no wings or other obvious method for flight, can also learn the HM. But then, it's also Santa Claus, so maybe it carries a method of flight around in its present sack. And, of course, let's not forget Doduo! One of its Pokédex entries reads: "Its short wings make flying difficult. Instead, this Pokémon runs at high speed on developed legs." Also, it has no wings/robot jet boosters.

HM03 — Surf
Appears in: Generation I - VI

But perhaps best of all is Surf. If we're generous, then it's fair to say that any Pokémon capable of reliably propelling itself through water should be capable of the move. Even if it's small, it could pull its trainer behind it. That can't explain why Nidoking or Nidoqueen can surf though, or Lickitung for that matter! Rampardos seems like a strange choice, as a pure Rock-type, and so does Kangashkan — I've never heard of a swimming kangaroo, and I'm from Australia!

We're not done yet though; the weirdness is only just beginning! Gogoat can surf, Furfrou can surf, and even massively heavy Steel/Rock-type Aggron can surf! Unbelievably, Dragon-type 5'11" tall axe-faced Haxorus can surf!

But only Tauros can surf in style:

HM04 — Strength
Appears in: Generation I - VI

Strength allows Pokémon to push around massive boulders and, as you might expect, the choices aren't quite as crazy. There are still some head-scratchers like Pikachu, Clefairy, Jigglypuff, and Pineco, though.

The only real oddity is Gengar, a Ghost-type. Strength is a Normal-type move, and Ghost-types are immune to them (and vice versa). How does it even push?

HM — Flash
Appears in: Generation I - III

The exact nature of Flash is difficult to define to begin with, though its use in caves suggests it has something to do with emitting light. Most Pokémon that aren't Electric-type or Fire-type make this move questionable, but others with glowing eyes or psychic powers could pass... maybe. Considering how little sense most of the Pokémon who can learn this move make, I will instead defer to the most sensible one: the appliance Pokémon, Rotom. If it can be a lawn mower, oven, fan, washing machine or refrigerator, then I absolutely believe it can "flash" and light up a cave.

HM — Whirlpool
Appears in: Generation II, IV

Most of the surfing Pokémon can also learn Whirlpool, which makes sense. A few non-Water-types though, such as Gogoat, get snubbed. Tauros fans: no need to panic, it can use Whirlpool too. Some of the Pokémon who can also surf actually make more sense here. Snorlax, for example, I can't picture using Surf, but I can definitely see it creating a vortex of water.

HM — Defog
Appears in: Generation IV

Famous only for making the least number of appearances of all HMs, Defog allowed players to, well, remove fog. Exciting stuff. Please don't bring this one back, Game Freak. Its list of users is dominated almost exclusively by Pokémon with wings, though I shudder to think how long it would take for tiny little Piplup to defog an entire route with his flippers.

HM — Waterfall
Appears in: Generation II - VI

Once again, this Water-type move is commonly used by Pokémon who can also Surf or Whirlpool. When you think about it though, this is a pretty epic feat: Pokémon swim up a waterfall. How Clamperl pulls that off... who knows.

This looks like it's about to be unpleasant…

HM — Rock Smash
Appears in: Generation III - IV, VI

Rock Smash is all about breaking things. Well, okay, mostly just rocks.

I'm not sure how Rattata can pull it off, or Dunsparce for that matter. And I can only imagine the horrors Togepi could inflict in its attempt to break down a boulder. But there aren't many other surprises here.

HM — Dive
Appears in: Generation III, V - VI

Putting the lung capacity of a trainer aside, Dive allows you to stay underwater as long as you want. Since we don't know for sure, let's assume most Water-types can breathe underwater for extended periods. Not any real surprises here either, though I can't imagine Dragonite or Rayquaza taking an extended dip.

At the end of the day, we all know it doesn't really matter if they make sense or not. It's Pokémon and a video game. Maybe each move miraculously allows such a feat to happen; Rock Smash somehow provides the power needed for Rattata to pull it off. Though I'm still not sure that even Surf could allow Aggron to attempt this: