Should I…? My heart!… What on earth??? OH NO!!! This. game. Thiss. game. Thiiisss. GAME. These were just some of my remarks on Undertale. If we went back and watched my playthrough we could probably tally how many times I said, “This game!” in the triple digits.
Undertale is the reason we love video games. What else can be said about it that has not already been said? It is IGN’s PC Game of the Year with a perfect 10/10. It is one of the most watched “Let’s Play” and “Walkthrough” videos on YouTube. And it just so happens to not only be one of my favorite RPGs of all time, but one of my favorite video games of all time. You should be asking, “Why, Zach?! What makes this game so amazing?!” Well, that is the issue. I cannot tell you. Well…sort of.
Undertale is like when Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released. Almost everyone had seen it within its first two weeks of release and they loved it, but then there were naysayers. We all had those friends saying, “I’m just not that into Star Wars…The original three were better, you can’t beat them!…JJ Abrams will just ruin it.” This is the same situation with Undertale. “Ugh, retro style graphics?…It’s just an Earthbound clone…How can a game like this be loved by so many?” But then you finally sit down to play it and it clicks. This game truly is amazing. Before you know it you are playing it through for the third time, just like your three viewings of The Force Awakens. But what makes it so good? Let’s explore!
Undertale starts by dropping you, literally, through a hole inside a mountain and into the underground world of monsters. From there you wake up and, well, that is it. After a short and important tutorial I cannot say anymore. Remember me saying I could not explain why the game is amazing? That reason lies in this fact: the story is told as you make decisions and progress through the game. I will expand upon this more in the gameplay section. For now, think of this similarly to The Force Awakens. You really want to discuss and explain everything that happens in the movie to the person who has not seen it, but you can’t spoil it for them! Have you ever wondered why great stories are like that? I believe it is this: humans are infatuated with stories that express and address our human experiences. In a broken world we long for involvement, resolution, and restoration. Undertale explores these concepts through its story in a way that many video games have never been able to accomplish. As a result, the gaming community has fallen in love with Undertale, and we want others to experience a story that has touched our hearts. It’s a story that makes you want to tell someone about it. Maybe this is a reason why Undertale is so popular? Time will tell all things; and I believe it will tell us in the years to come that Undertale is one of gaming’s greatest stories ever told.
The story of Undertale is told through the gameplay. As the player decides certain things the game’s dialogue with the player changes. And the “combat” system? It is more than just intuitive; it is a system that is a reimagining and an enhancement of classic video games we love. It evolves as you continue through the story and adds different elements to the game that the player will not expect. Heck, at one point your heart turns into…ugh, I can’t tell you! Regardless, know that Undertale engages the player by making them choose something vital to the rest of the game. I am being honest, every single engagement matters in this game. This leads me to our last section, Presentation.
Toby Fox, the designer of Undertale, made this game a personal and solo project. That means every sprite, sound, and effect was programmed and made by him. Respect, Toby. Even greater respect is due to him when you realize just how jaw-droppingly good the soundtrack and art style fit the ethos of the game. Have you ever had a game make you feel something through its art style and/or music? When I say “Star Wars”, does your mind begin to hum the theme song? After playing Undertale you will hear some of the game’s most memorable tunes within your head after someone says, “Undertale”. In fact, as I write this review I’m listening through the whole soundtrack again! As I listen I am reminded of each instance of the game. Toby’s composing creates an emotional involvement and attachment with each track; regardless of the emotion felt. Prepare to cry, laugh, and think about your life existentially because of this game’s presentation.
I think of myself as a “feeler”. Just ask my personality test: ENFP. When I committed myself to a playthrough of Undertale I chose to become emotionally invested. I said to the game, “Alright, do your worst!” And boy…did it. Undertale was an emotional rollercoaster for me. It made me cry, laugh, and ask questions about mercy, love, and forgiveness. In the end, Undertale made me feel something for every decision I made during my playthrough; and my ending changed because of them. Honestly, there has not been a game within the past ten years that made me feel what Undertale has made me feel. It does what a book, play, and movie cannot do in their presentation of the human experience. Undertale is the reason we love video games.
Note: please, for your sake and others, do not spoil this game in the comment section and do not go to YouTube to watch a playthrough, etc. This game was made to be experienced. Please let others experience it the way it was intended.