Anyone who has played any of the earlier Pokémon games knows that a lot of your progression through the game is often times hindered by obstacles, such as an extremely heavy boulder or simply a pesky tree blocking your path. To remedy this, HMs, or “Hidden Machine,” were always given to the player at various points, hence granting access areas that were otherwise unreachable.
In addition to aiding your exploration in the world, HMs were also viable in battle. I know I never passed up the chance to teach my favorite Water-type Pokémon the HM Surf, which was decently powerful in its own right. And there never was quite the same sensation of freedom you got when you finally received the HM for Fly and could revisit any location you wanted without having to spend an unholy amount of time walking there by foot.
However, with the release of Pokémon Sun & Moon, one of the things that struck me very quickly was the obvious absence of HMs, which have been a staple in every Pokémon game thus far. In the place of HMs is the new Poké Ride feature, which gives you access to special Pokémon trained to perform certain tasks. You first gain the ability to this feature after your first Kahuna battle against Hala. Upon defeat, Hala bestows to you the Poké Ride Pager and your first Poké Ride Pokémon which happens to be Tauros.
Tauros’s Poké Ride ability has two facets. Firstly, it is able to charge extremely fast, helping to get you to your destination at lightning-quick speed. Tauros also has the ability to break large rocks, hearkening back to the HM Rock Smash, which grants you access to areas and items blocked off by large deposits of rocks that were otherwise inaccessible. Tauros’s rock-smashing skills become immediately handy, and its speed becomes sort of a replacement for other modes of transportation such as the Running Shoes, Roller Skates, and Bicycle from earlier Pokémon games.
The second Poké Ride companion you can come across is Stoutland and, while not as fast as Tauros, it still has a decent level of speed. However, that is not where the large dog Pokémon’s abilities lie. Stoutland’s primary function is to sniff out hidden items on the ground, effectively acting as Sun & Moon’s answer to previous titles’ Itemfinder feature.
The ability to fly via a Charizard is acquired fairly early on in the game, and the locations you are able to fly to are not limited to only Poké Centers, which makes getting around to a certain area just that much easier. Of course, Surf gets its own replacement in Sun & Moon in the form of not one but two Pokémon who have the ability to ferry you across the water: Lapras and Sharpedo. While riding Lapras, you can dash around on the surface of the water as well as fish at fishing spots. Sharpedo is the second aquatic Pokémon, and its signature ability lets you ram and break rocks in the water, opening up new areas to explore.
Poké Ride is a great feature and the absence of HMs means you won’t get stuck at certain blockades just because you didn’t bring along the one Pokémon you perhaps had taught Strength, Rock Smash, Waterfall, or Cut. I certainly wouldn’t mind if Poké Ride was carried on to future games from this point on, it’s wonderfully convenient.
Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon are available for the Nintendo 3DS.