As one of my friends told me, “UNDERTALE is less of a game, and more of an experience”.
Trying to sum up my thoughts and feelings about this game in a cohesive manner is very difficult because it excels in every single place.
Despite the graphics obviously not being 100% realistic mind-bending levels of realism, the way that it has its own art-style inspired by the MOTHER games while still being distinctively associated as UNDERTALE is a nice homage to the RPG games that inspired it. It’s style of pixel art is so colorful and full of joy that even in the darker, more gloomy parts of the game, it still manages to bring out a certain happiness from me. This isn’t just with the overworld graphics either, the enemy encounter art is just as good – the over-the-top fluid animations bring to life the characters in the game perfectly, even the minor ones who you don’t see often – they all have their own stand-out personalities. Every place in the game looks so different yet so warm and comfortable; Hotland, Waterfall, the Ruins, they all exert that type of energy because the game is so beautifully made that its pixelated, simplistic art style works wonders and proves that not every game needs to have the best graphics in the world to be impactful or memorable.
The characters are really what make the game as special as it is. Papyrus; Undyne, Sans, Alphys, Asgore – all of those main characters are incredibly well written for an indie game. You relate to them, you feel their emotions, you actually care about these people in the game. For a game like this to have such a huge impact on someone after they’ve finished the game (and it’s alternative routes) is an incredible feat. If you’ve been living behind a rock, you probably wouldn’t know that Sans is a massive meme – but his status of being so well known across the Internet just goes to show the appeal that these characters have on everyone. The way that all the characters have a connection to each other regardless – Sans and Papyrus, Alphys and Undyne, Asgore and Toriel – they feel like actual characters with feelings and beliefs and not just a piece of artwork on the screen. Even the smaller interactions where they just stand still in parts of the world, they still mean something too and add even more to the characters.
There is a lot that I could say about the soundtrack and music of this game. But I think there’s one word that sums it up the best: perfect. It may be one of the best videogame soundtracks ever made. It flawlessly radiates the same energy as the character’s personality and the mood of everything that’s going on. Fallen Down, Bonetrousle, Megalovania, ASGORE. Toby Fox is an incredible composer; he used songs that he had made before UNDERTALE and put them in, made entirely new songs then slowed them down and remixed them and sped them up to make even more new songs. He’s not just good at makng music, he’s good at making the music count and being creative with the freedom that can be done with it.
It’s not just the music, graphics or characters that make the game so good either. UNDERTALE puts a lot of stuff into its hours. Humour is a big thing throughout the game, even if it does end to stop after a certain point so that the endings have more of an emotional impact, but what it does with its humour is very funny and clever. I don’t think it’s appropriate to use the phrase “outside of the box” here, however, the simplicity of the jokes throughout the game are what make it great. It’s not over the top, it’s not annoying and it’s most certainly funny.
I’ve spent so much time talking about everything except the actual gameplay. The overworld plays exactly like you’d expect: Walk around, interact with objects and people, find items, save points – the usual things. But what makes the game so unique is the battle system. You get the choice to either kill or save the monsters that you encounter. You don’t have to kill them, you can ACT and choose options that’ll lead to you being able to spare them. I know this isn’t a relatively new concept at all, but the way that UNDERTALE does it is so powerful and effective that it might as well be the first time it’s been done. You’re basically God with the choice of life or death, and it’s really haunting when you think about it.
Not only that, but the battle system also has multiple different variations. I won’t spoil them but they are so cool and definitely one of my favourite parts of the game itself. The main one is a red heart that you can control with the arrow keys (or joystick) to avoid attacks and prevent taking damage – something completely different to most JRPG games where you would just press a button and attack – it’s more interactive and I think that’s wicked.
So many different JRPGs have come before it and after it, but nothing has matched the feelings and mood of this game. It hits different to any other game available and proves its worth as being not just a straightfoward “kill enemies and finish the game” but a thought-provoking journey that makes you question and consider the things that you’ve done in the past. It’s like if Telltale games choices actually mattered.
UNDERTALE is absolutely perfect in almost every way that you could think of. Story, music, gameplay, humour, emotional connection. It’s what every other JRPG was leading up to, a flawless execution of every part of its core to make an unmissable experience that people need to try. I’ve replayed the game about five times in total and every time it’s hit just as hard as it did the first time I played – that’s the sign of a fantastic game.