In Defense of 'Pokémon' Genwunners
Musings on the 'Pokémon' Series
As described by Know Your Meme, "Genwunner is a pejorative term used within the Pokémon fandom to describe those who only appreciate the first-generation of video games for GameBoy, namely Red, Green, Blue, and Yellow, and tend to bash the sequel titles and monsters in the franchise." Under this definition, I wouldn't be considered a genwunner because even though I consider the first-generation of Pokémon to be the best, I still have an appreciation for the other games. However, even though I haven't drawn the ire of the Pokémon fandom I disagree with the notion that it is unreasonable to prefer the first-generation of Pokémon over the others.
Mystery and Surprise
By nature of being the original games, everything in the first-generation Pokémon games is new and surprising. Except for Pokémon Black & White, every game following the first-generation included Pokémon from the previous generation which made exploration less surprising because the Pokémon you find won't always be new. The internet of today also plays a huge role in the lack of surprises in modern Pokémon games because information about new Pokémon is readily available before the game even releases. Growing up I remember hearing rumors about how to catch Mew and even a hoax created by Expert Gamer Magazine that convinced many players that they could obtain Yoshi. This kind of fun misinformation added to the mystery of the first-generation Pokémon games and could only exist naturally without the internet of today. At first, pre-release information was spread by fan websites like Serebii but currently Game Freak and The Pokémon Company themselves are responsible for spoiling the surprises of modern Pokémon games. One of the reasons I believe the recent leak of the Space World '97 Pokémon Gold & Silver demo garnered so much attention from the Pokémon fandom was because it revealed many Pokémon that were previously only thought of as rumors.
As far as Japanese role-playing games go the first-generation of Pokémon is nowhere near the most difficult but it did a good job of treating its players like intelligent individuals. The main way the first-generation of Pokémon doesn't patronize its players is by not directly guiding them towards progress. For example, in the original Pokémon games, you can defeat the Gym Leaders Lt. Surge, Erika, Koga, and Sabrina in any order. Of course, there are natural barriers like the strength of the Pokémon Trainers in each area but, apart from a few required sequences of events the player can explore the world in whatever way they want. Another way the original Pokémon games don't patronize the player is how the solutions to puzzles weren't obvious. For instance, when your path into many towns is blocked by thirsty guards the game trusts the player to figure out that giving them a drink from the vending machine at the Celadon City Department Store is the solution to the puzzle. This puzzle is well-designed because the drinks aren't key items but instead healing items you need to apply in a new context. Additionally, the solution to the puzzle is subtlety suggested to the player by a thirsty girl in the Celadon City Department Store that exchanges fresh water, soda pop, and lemonade for TMs (technical machines).
A Harder Edge
While there's no doubt that the Pokémon series has always catered to a younger audience the first-generation didn't pull its punches. This isn't just limited to flavor text in the Pokédex either but darker themes that are pervasive throughout the entire game. For instance, in the first-generation trainer classes were often depicted wielding whips the implication being that they're being used to tame their Pokémon. Another example is Lt. Surge's dialogue before the battle "Hey, kid! What do you think you're doing here? You won't live long in combat! That's for sure! I tell you kid, electric Pokémon saved me during the war! They zapped my enemies into paralysis! The same as I'll do to you!" This dialogue alludes to the idea that wars involving Pokémon were fought in the past. However, nothing exemplifies the first-generation's harder edge more than the Pokémon Tower. The Pokémon Tower is a seven-story burial ground for Pokémon located in Lavender Town. Within the Pokémon Tower, some channelers are being forced to battle by ghost Pokémon that are possessing them. This is accompanied by appropriately grim dialogue such as "Give... me... your... soul..." The player is also forced to fight the ghost of a Marowak that was killed by Team Rocket while it was protecting its Cubone offspring.