An Ode to Undertale

WHAT UP INTERNET?!

I spent many nights of my formative years huddled in a comforter, wrapped up with only my face exposed to my surroundings, staring at the television situated only a few feet before me. While many of my peers would spend their days outside enjoying the natural elements, I was sick more often than not. This led to an erratic sleep schedule, and as a result meant I spent many nights wide awake. It was during these sleepless night I plowed through the likes of-and developed an affinity for-classic titles such as A Link to the Past, Dragon Quest, Earthbound and my personal vote for greatest game of all time, Super Mario RPG.

When Undertale was first released, I shrugged and dismissed the title. It struck me as attempting to evoke the aesthetic-and benefit from-and nostalgia of titles such as the aforementioned, and as such I paid it no mind. After nearly two years of my Bros hounding me to play the title, I finally relented and opted to complete my first playthrough this past week entirely on stream (beam.pro/trubros and twitch.tv/trubros). After NoScope and I completed the title, I felt a tinge of regret-I couldn’t believe I did not experience this tremendous title sooner. On my personal TruBros list of greatest games of all time, Undertale is a close second.

Undertale pays homage to titles which paved the way for it without blatantly copying the mechanics of such legendary games-many of these mechanics (inventory management, backtracking, etc) essentially created genre tropes. It draws inspiration from a bygone era while feeling wholly unique and truly original. The title foregoes devices which interrupt the flow of the narrative or prevent exploration from progressing organically while still feeling as if it’s a treasured relic from the annals of the SNES library. The game forces players to piece together the history of the world they’ve been thrust into throughout the course of the story. The game provides just enough hints to keep you interested, but never do you feel as if you’ve a complete grasp of everything that’s occurring in its world, or has transpired prior to the game’s beginning. The title bestows the power of choice in your hands in a manner-with a gravity gravity-few titles do. While the protagonist’s adventure unravels, the player feels as if they’re merely a role-player in the larger narrative. That is a tremendous feeling, and one more RPGs should leverage.

The soundtrack to the title is the absolute best I’ve heard in any video game, hands down-and yes, I was one of those Bros getting misty-eyed while attending a Symphony of the Goddesses performance. While characters and locales are distinct, they are undeniably simplistic and nostalgic. The player builds a relationship with each encounter, and how these are forged-whether they be through fire or friendship-are left entirely to the discretion of the player. This decidedly modern gameplay mechanic feels right at home in this old-school inspired game, and breathes new life into a genre I thought was merely a fond memory.

If you’re not a fan of RPGs-whether they be “traditional” or not-odds are you will not be fond of Undertale. If you’re averse to humor heavily influenced by the internet and care more about framerates than kitschy design, you most likely will not be enamored with this title. But if you’re a fan of choice in the video games you choose to play, love classic aesthetics and crave an intriguing story which builds with each action you take, there are few titles better than Undertale. It’s a damn shame I waited this long to experience this title, and if you’ve approximately 6 hours to spare, I’d recommend you learn from my mistakes and check this title out. Go in with no prior knowledge, and give the game your undivided attention. Until next time, Bros.

 

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