Back at the end of October I did a review for Undertale. I wrote this review just after beating the game for the first time, and being that it was also around Halloween, I was focusing a bit more on the scarier aspects of the game than on the game as a whole. So here, I want to talk a little bit more in depth about the game and just why I love it so much. Be warned, as there will most likely be spoilers for the game in this post.
For those uninitiated, Undertale is a puzzle RPG in the vein of games such as Earthbound. It subverts a lot of common RPG tropes and has a lot of humor in it, but also a lot of feelings. It’s a game that actively encourages you to not fight anyone, but rather find a peaceful route to solve all random encounters, such as talking to them, saying nice things to them, things like that.
That description really doesn’t make it sound all that special, but where it truly shines is its story and most importantly, its characters. The characterization in this game is great and I don’t think I’ve ever cared about characters so much from a video game as much as I love all of these characters. Even minor characters such as enemies you’ll only encounter once have more development than you’d expect. They just put so much thought into all these characters and just this entire world.
Now, back to the main point of the story. As I mentioned before, the game actively encourages you to not kill anyone and instead find a peaceful solution to everything. No running away, no fighting, even when there are ruthless people trying to kill you. Well, there’s one ruthless person trying to kill you, everyone else is just ignorant as to the fact that the things they’re doing is hurting you, but they aren’t attempting to hurt you.
I like it when things preach the message of peace, of not fighting. Another good example of this is the anime Trigun, where Vash the Stampede, the legendary gunman, refuses to kill anyone, even in a world it truly is “Kill or be killed” (as Flowey would say). Now, I will fully admit, this game makes it really easy to want to go the peaceful route, what with the cute enemies that clearly do not intend to hurt you (other than a certain fish lady and entertainment robot). In that regard, I suppose you could say it doesn’t make the moral choice all that difficult, whereas with Trigun it would be way more difficult because there are tons of psychopaths trying to kill people all the time in that world.
If anything, in Undertale, the biggest moral decision comes at the end when you get to chose to either spare or kill the main villain (who was in fact trying to kill you and becoming nightmare fuel to do it). Then, of course, if you do spare him, there’s more of the game after that, and you find out even darker secrets about this world, only to have to face him again in his true form.
The interesting thing is, this game’s true villain isn’t one that you can truly fight or defeat. You don’t even find out who it is unless you do a genocide run. But it is a character who is already dead, who just subtly influences people somehow. They say they’re a demon. Their true power comes from… well… you.
You’re the true enemy of the world. You, the player. Because you have the choice to either save or destroy everything. You’re not the demon, though. You’re simply being influenced by it. You were curious, that’s why you killed everyone. But now that you’ve done it, it cannot be undone. If you do a genocide run all the way through, you cannot reset. Well, not without selling your soul and corrupting your game forever, anyway.
I think the fact that this game breaks the fourth wall in the way it does makes its message more powerful. This isn’t just a game, this is something that you are directly influencing through your choices. Video games are unique in the way they can implement their fourth wall breakage. Considering it’s an interactive media, as opposed to a movie or TV show where it’s just watching a story and you aren’t supposed to be participating with it. Games are the one true media that can and should take advantage of the fourth wall breaking idea. It’s difficult to do well without it coming off as a gimmick, but I honestly believe the way Undertale handled it was great and brilliant.
Undertale has become a creative outlet for many people since its release. I know it’s inspired me quite a bit. From the story and the characters to the save/load mechanic being an integral part of the game itself. You can reset timelines, you can corrupt your game. People have made many AU’s where the idea of them is that the timeline has been corrupted from so many resets, and it’s great because it’s something that could conceivably happen in this world. There are just so many possibilities that have come out of this game just because of a few little mechanics like the game remembering everything you’ve done, even after a reset.
But, I think the most important thing about Undertale is that it’s fun. It’s cute, it’s happy. It makes you feel like a kid again, just wandering through an amazing world filled with all sorts of strange characters. In the end, whether or not you like the outcome of the game, the most important thing is that happy, warm feeling it brings you from playing or watching it.
Undertale makes me happy. It’s made me happier than anything has in a long, long time. So what could be better than that?