Pokémon has had an oddly cruel tradition that’s cropped up over the course of the series, and Pokémon Scarlet and Violet has a chance to finally reverse it. In recent games, Rotoms have been framed less like Pokémon and more like creatures that live inside Pokédexes and phones. No other Pokémon gets this kind of treatment, so it seems odd to have Rotoms essentially turned into an accessory.
Rotom is a Pokémon that was introduced in Diamond and Pearl. It’s a rather unusual Pokémon, fairly unimpressive in its base form, but capable of merging with technology to become stronger. As a result, Rotom has many alternate forms, including a microwave, a refrigerator, a washing machine, a fan, and a lawnmower. In a series with a lot of scary Ghost-type Pokémon, Rotom is easily one of the quirkier ones, especially since its Fan form makes its Levitate ability functionally useless. However, it seems that with each passing game, Rotom’s role as a combatant gets less and less important.
In Pokémon Sun and Moon, the player gets a Rotom Dex, a special Pokédex possessed by a Rotom. It fulfills the same role that the regular Pokédexes from the rest of the series do, as well as having a built-in camera that the player can use in certain spots. In Sword and Shield, the player instead receives a Rotom Phone, which as the name implies, is a phone possessed by a Rotom. The Rotom Phone is basically just the player’s menu, and unlike the Rotom Dex, it doesn’t even talk. Legends: Arceus doesn’t use a Rotom Phone, but that can easily be explained by it taking place in an earlier time. Both examples are common parts of the game that just happen to have Rotoms inside of them.
The biggest issue with the Rotom Dex and Phone is that there is no reason for them to have Rotoms inside of them. The Rotoms don’t do anything aside from change their appearance. The Pokédex doesn’t do anything special, and the Phone is just the game’s menu. They don’t unlock any new functions, and even their newer features wouldn’t require a Rotom inside the phone itself. The only difference is that the Rotom Dex and Rotom Phone have living creatures inside of them, which is a largely pointless (and kind of cruel) distinction. At least players can still catch Rotom in Sword and Shield, but that doesn’t make the Rotom Phone less of a questionable decision.
Scarlet and Violet are introducing a lot of new ideas, but the Rotom Dexes and Phones may be an idea best left in the past. There has been no point to the prior examples, and it just seems cruel to reduce Rotoms to mostly pointless accessories that could seemingly function fine without them. The best way forward would probably just be to stop putting Rotoms in these objects entirely, but if it must be so, at least the Rotoms could play more of an interesting role. Perhaps a Rotom Dex could have new functions, such as tracking specific Pokémon, or even be an active character in the storyline. Without anything special about it, there’s no real point to the Rotom Dex. If Scarlet and Violet avoids Pokémon‘s weak starting areas, then it can also avoid one of its weakest recent traditions.
Pokémon has been getting more use out of Rotom as a prop rather than a Pokémon as of late, which seems a bit sad. Although it was never the strongest Pokémon, it deserves better to be treated like a mere trinket. Hopefully, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet will give Rotom the respect that it has lacked in recent games.