Developer: Toby Fox
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: September 15, 2018 (JP) / September 18, 2018 (EU & NA)
Undertale: The perfect blend of serious and fun and a game that everyone should experience for themselves.
Undertale is a game I had previously heard a lot about since its release back in 2015, and although I never had the intent to go ahead and play it, the Switch release finally convinced me to jump in and see what the hype was about.
It was after my first blind playthrough of this light-hearted RPG that I began to understand what makes Undertale such a revolutionary, unique and clever gaming experience. It’s witty, satirical writing mixed its compelling deep-yet-simplistic RPG elements creates an “once-in-a-lifetime” game that will keep you resetting your saves again and again.
Undertale’s story is extremely deep, yet simplistic. You play as a human who has fallen underground into a world full of monsters; waking up, you realise you must find your way back to the surface, or face staying trapped forever.
At times, it feels like a basic fairy-tale, but the more you progress, the more details you start to find out about the underworld and the more invested you become in finding its many interesting endings. It’s this incredibly intriguing plot line, along with the incredibly written main and side-characters that makes you fall in love with the world of Undertale and the reason I found myself coming back for more.
Undertale’s gameplay can seem simple at a glance, but once delving into the game’s mechanics, you start to uncover some really cool things you can do. Basic movement around the underworld is simple using the directional buttons or analogue stick.
Around the Underworld, you’ll find different areas to explore, whether it is on the sometimes linear path or not, there’s always something new to explore or experience in every room. Sometimes you’ll come across a puzzle or two, something that Undertale likes to make a deal about, but in reality, most of the puzzles are quite easy and only two ever really stumped me for a little bit. The battles are where the game shines, however.
While randomly traversing the underworld, there’ll be random encounters with monsters in the same vein of games like Earthbound and Pokémon. Each monster you fight are unique, not only in looks and moves, but also personality. Each monster will interact with you or each other differently and the dialogue is extremely well designed to the point where you don’t really want to defeat them. That’s where Undertale’s unique take on the genre comes in – you never have to fight anything. You can befriend the monsters and characters you meet.
This mechanic is extremely fleshed out and it is genuinely fun to try and befriend everything you meet… or kill them if desired, but that would make you a bad person now, wouldn’t it? Along with the Fight menu during battles, there is an Act menu, Item menu and Mercy menu. Every monster has its own act menu, where you can interact with it differently to gain its trust. Once a monster trusts you enough or its health is low enough, you can Spare it in the Mercy menu.
After every turn in Undertale’s combat, you’ll take control of a heart and will have to avoid obstacles. This feature is very reminiscent of retro top-down shooters and is a treat to control and experience. Even though this gameplay mechanic seems very out of place in a turn-based RPG, it fits extremely well in Undertale’s premise and is executed perfectly – it’s a surprise more RPGs haven’t adopted a similar mechanic.
During the boss fights of Undertale (which by the way are some of the most memorable fights in any video-game I have ever played), the heart mechanics will be changed drastically adding a new challenge. From being turned to a blue heart which is affected by gravity to being turned into yellow heart that is able to shoot bullets, every boss fight felt new, original and fresh and along with the incredible character design, the game captivated me and encouraged me to keep playing to see what new mechanic was going to be introduced next.
The design of Undertale is something to behold, each character, each monster, each location is expertly crafted to feel like its own thing and it really made me feel connected to the world I was playing in. Any humour in the dialogue and world really made me laugh and the serious monologues or sad twists really made me concerned and upset.
Undertale knows how to invite emotion and a lot of the time, the game feels like it’s playing off the user and is really cleverly designed. The game can sometimes run a joke a bit too far, but I never found myself annoyed or bored in the world of Undertale. It’s a game I found myself wanting to forget about and play for the first time again after finishing, and it’s something I definitely recommend a blind playthrough of.
I’m a massive fan of video game soundtracks. I listen to them daily and I think that they can be wonderful if paired with the right gameplay. After playing the entirety of Undertale, I can firmly state that Undertale has one of the best soundtracks in any video game ever. The music is just fantastic, and if you don’t want to play the game, then I recommend listening to the OST. Each song gives you nostalgia, even if you have never played the game.
The chiptune can be calm and vibrant if it needs to be or intense and fast. This wide variety of tracks accompany the battles and cut-scenes so well. The songs themselves, even after playing the game through fully, evoke so much emotion that I found myself listening to them afterwards to remind me of the game I spent so much fun with.
The visuals of Undertale however, really shine through. The landscapes and sprites on the underworld can be very minimalistic at times, but each place you visit and character you meet have their own charm and very intriguing and different designs.
There are tons of easter eggs and references I found throughout my playthrough, and each time I restarted and played through the game again, I always found something new and exciting. The battles usually take place on a solid black background and the sprites during battles are very well created and change expression constantly. Undertale may not be the best example of a pixel-art game in terms of pure ‘hand-craftedness beauty’, but it can definitely hold its own in terms of originality and charm.
I don’t believe any game can truly reach the status of masterpiece, but Undertale comes awfully close. It’s a game that really revolutionises how RPGs can work and hits the nail on the head in terms of execution. Along with its intriguing battle system, fun exploration and incredible soundtrack, the story and characters of Undertale are something I found myself wanting to be invested in more, and left me hoping for a possible continuation on them someday.
Having played it myself, I would recommend Undertale to anyone, even someone like me who isn’t that interested in turn-based RPGs; it really is a defining game and one of the best I’ve ever played. I genuinely feel like playing Undertale makes you a more understanding and friendly person. And hey, if you’ve played Undertale, the Switch version has a little bit of extra content which I found myself enjoying quite thoroughly – so if you buy the game again, not only will you have Undertale on-the-go, but you’ll be able to experience some really cool new content.
THE VERDICT: 10/10
*Review Key Provided by 8-4
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This post was written by Ruairi O'Brien (Lucariocios)