Pokemon Let's Go Eevee and Let's Go Pikachu was the first mainline game that did away with random encounters in favor of putting Pokemon directly on the map. It went a long way to making the Pokemon universe feel like a real, living place. Pokemon Sword and Shield likewise lets its Pokemon run free, and a new quirk suggests the little beasties really are our friends and not simply tools.
It's been debated since pretty much forever over whether humans in the Pokemon universe have a right to nick Pokemon right out of the tall grass. It was even the major plot thread for Black and White on the Nintendo DS, where Pokemon liberation was N's raison d'etre. Black and White concludes that Pokemon are our friends—truly!—and they are happy to be caught by trainers who they feel are worthy. But in Sword and Shield, it's common to come across Pokemon who wander out of tall grass to investigate you. Sometimes they even follow you for a bit and make friendly gestures when you watch them. These Pokemon won't charge you and engage in a fight, and if you leave them alone for a while, they'll slip back into the tall grass. But if you touch them, they'll challenge you to a battle.
Maybe I'm looking into this a bit too hard, but I feel like this little bit of interaction helps make the case that Pokemon are happy to let themselves get caught by trainers who prove themselves worthy of their friendship. These Pokemon are clearly curious about you, and their little routines remind me of kids saying, "Pick me! Pick me!" If you turn your back, they'll follow you for a bit. If you keep walking, they'll slowly disappear back into the grass. Maybe they're a bit disappointed.
Earlier this week, I said Pokemon Sword and Shield is a great Pokemon game, even if it's not a next-gen Pokemon game. That doesn't mean the game is devoid of touches that make the Pokemon universe seem livelier and more real than ever before. This chance to cement a friendship with your Pokemon before even catching them is one example.
Look for my full review next week. In the meantime, take a look at our Pokemon Sword and Shield guides, including how to get all the new Galar region evolutions and how to evolve Sirfetch'd into Farfetch'd.