In the weeks leading up to the release of Pokémon Let's Go for the Nintendo Switch, I joked about how the game's Pokémon ride-on feature would let me achieve my one true dream: Getting to ride on the back of an Arcanine as it sprints through the green fields of Kanto.
I say "joked" as if I didn't body-check a Rattata when I sprinted across the screen to grab the first Growlithe I spotted. I hand-raised the fiery pup, acquired a Fire Stone as quickly as possible, and evolved my Growlithe into a perfect, deadly mount. If you look at the screenshots in my Pokémon Let's Go review, you'll see a snapshot of my healthy boy. Running through Kanto on the back of an Arcanine is a joy, honestly. I am happy with Pokémon Let's Go's ride-on option.
I'm also happy with the direction the Pokémon franchise is generally taking as of late. Game Freak, Niantic, and The Pokémon Company clearly have a vision to meld our world with the world of Pokémon. Digitally, mind you—not physically (YET). Pokémon Let's Go's decision to do away with random wild Pokémon encounters is a good one, not just because it makes Kanto less of a hassle to explore, but because the sight of untamed Pokémon running free in the grass brings the franchise one step closer to what it touted itself to be in 1996. Professor Oak introduces you to Pokémon Red and Blue by explaining how humans share the world with Pokémon, right? It's good we're finally getting an idea of what that shared world is really like.
Game Freak gets credit for taking steps to make the Pokémon franchise a little livelier with 2016's Pokémon Sun and Moon for the Nintendo 3DS. Though random encounters still exist in Alola, nearly every human NPC is accompanied by a tame Pokémon friend. Pokémon are even used to explore themes of PTSD and the trauma of aging to great effect, if you can believe it.
2019 will bring Gen VIII of Pokémon with it, and I hope the living worlds of Pokémon Sun and Moon and Pokémon Let's Go are a taste of Game Freak's plans to continue making us genuinely feel like part of Pokémon's world. Pokémon Let's Go's roaming wild Pokémon are a big step in the right direction, but there's still more Game Freak can do to make me believe Pokémon are truly interwoven into the franchise's ecosystem. Dragon Quest XI and Monster Hunter World let their monsters interact with each other, which really makes both games feel like they're living worlds. Pokémon Let's Go's wild Pokémon aren't on that level, but I hope we'll see murders of Psyducks frolic with one another (while still clinging to their heads as a cheery reminder they're in pain all day, every day) in Gen VIII.
I also believe the world presented in the premiere Detective Pikachu movie trailer is a sign The Pokémon Company and Game Freak understand a "living" Pokémon world is an irresistible world. Social media lit up with praise about the Detective Pikachu trailer in large part because people love seeing Pokémon waddle, run, and fly alongside their human companions. Did you know there's a split-second shot of a Charmander assisting a street cook with its tail-flame? I didn't, but the Internet noticed, and it's thrilled to bits over the development. If you don't think too hard about potential health hazards, what's not to love about a world where fantastic monsters jazz up the mundanity of our day-to-day lives?
Again, love the details in the background of the Detective Pikachu trailer. Charmander is helping to cook! pic.twitter.com/VPE8StMb8i— Derrick Bitner (@BitnerdGX) November 12, 2018
We still joke (well, half-joke) about Pokémon being slaves who live miserable lives stuffed in a tiny ball when they're not fighting each other for our amusement. Those digs at the Pokémon series gradually make less of an impact the more work Game Freak et al put into making Pokémon seem more like friends than tools. I, for one, look forward to every step we take towards living in a Pokémon World. It's going to be great.
Sidenote: To my knowledge, there is no official documentation chronicling how one ought to refer to a group of Psyducks. I considered the common terminologies used to describe groups of birds, including "a flock of Psyducks," "A skein of Psyducks," "a gaggle of Psyducks," and "a parliament of Psyducks." I finally settled on "a murder of Psyducks," though I considered Kat's suggested "a baffle of Psyducks."