(I may eventually write a second article with spoilers, since there’s so much to discuss there, but this one is safe.)
When I started Undertale, I had no idea what to expect. None. This is the main reason I got the “neutral” ending my first time through, and you know what? I’m glad I did.
On that first playthrough, Undertale captured my heart with its charming characters and humor. I didn’t know it was a funny game. In fact, from the way people talked about it, I expected it to not be a funny game.
The wacky cast of characters was a pleasant surprise. From a spaghetti-obsessed skeleton who thinks he’s a lot cooler than he is, to a killer robot with a hilarious Final Fantasy VI shout-out, I loved them all.
(And yes, even Alphys, who seems to be one of the most-hated characters in the game. How could I hate a mad scientist?!)
The characters were, at times, so ridiculous I laughed out loud. Optional conversations made it even better, such as an absurd debate between two characters about whether the elevators at opposite sides of the area were labeled “R” and “L” for “Red” and “Light Green.”
For a long time, I didn’t have much to say about the story. It had a simple concept, and the characters were what really made Undertale great. After my second playthrough, however, my opinion changed. Undertale’s story is simpler than what you’ll find in a big JRPG, for example, but…
- All the pieces of the story work together really well.
- It could only be told through a video game.
I noticed things during my second playthrough. Pieces of foreshadowing that really helped demonstrate how well the story works. Undertale’s story is made up of several different pieces, which all fit together in just the right ways.
And it had to be a game. Undertale told as a book or movie wouldn’t work. The same basic story would be there, but then it would become just that: basic. The player’s agency, the breaking of the fourth wall, and other aspects I can’t mention because of spoilers all transform it into something more impressive than its core plot.
The characters are fantastic, the humor is great, and the story is perfect for its format. What about the gameplay?
Undertale’s gameplay is odd. I don’t know exactly how to describe it. It’s sort of a turn-based RPG (what? combat handled through menus?? no modern gamer will enjoy– oh wait…) but not quite.
Attacks are timing-based, and defending involves evading attacks in a format best compared to a very mild bullet hell. You can Act during battle instead of attacking, which lets you pick from a variety of non-combat actions. With the right actions, you will be able to Spare an enemy.
Finding the right actions to spare enemies added a puzzle element to battles, which I enjoyed. There are also a few puzzles on the field, though most of it is structured like an RPG. And as you progress, you find plenty of shortcuts, so backtracking isn’t an issue.
The music is also glorious.
After my first playthrough, I bought the soundtrack, because there are so many great songs I can’t stop listening to!
Undertale is filled with references and little brilliant moments. It even referenced Ace Attorney! (Compare Turnabout Sisters to Dating Start. If you think it’s a coincidence, you eventually have to find a specific piece of “evidence,” and the character in question has a breakdown.)
After the neutral ending, I already recommended Undertale to everyone I talked to. Then my second playthrough showed me it was even better than I thought it was.
For some reason, Undertale is often compared to EarthBound. They… aren’t alike. They have similar graphics and worlds I might describe as “quirky,” and some of the battle text could be compared, but that’s where the similarities end.
Undertale is really a special game. I loved it, and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes RPGs and humor.
If you’ve played Undertale, what was your favorite thing about it? And if you haven’t, does my review make you more inclined to?
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