If you're a gamer, or even if you've just been around certain parts of the Internet over the past several months, you may have heard something about a game called Undertale. Having picked it up over the Christmas holiday (it's only like 10 bucks), I can easily say it has earned its reputation as one of the best games of 2015, if not all time.
Now, Undertale is not the most visually impressive game: at most times, it looks like a 16-bit SNES game, and during battles like almost freaking Pong. Its soundtrack is very well put together, but that's not where this game shines. Undertale holds you accountable for your choices in the game, even when you wouldn't expect it.
The very first character you meet in Undertale is this little yellow flower:
Isn't he so cute?
In the combat tutorial, he emphatically tells you that:
NOT CUTE, DEFINITELY NOT CUTE.
You are rescued from this duplicitous weed by Toriel, a friendly-looking goat woman.
Isn't she nice?
She helpfully guides you through the first part of the Ruins, the first zone of the game, scaring away enemy encounters and metaphorically and literally holding your hand and walking you through the puzzles.
After a point, she tells you to "stay in this room" and wait for her to come back. Anyone who's played a more traditional RPG knows this is the time you actually begin your adventure and start playing the game. Undertale's combat mechanics are very unique, and deserve to be mentioned.
When the enemy monsters attack you, they launch bullets which you have to dodge using your soul (that little red heart):
It's harder than it looks, honestly.
You can end encounters in two general ways: Either use the FIGHT option to attack and kill monsters and collect EXP to increase your LV like usual in these sorts of games:
Land your hit in the green part for bonus damage.
Or, you can use the MERCY option to spare your enemies, after which they drop gold but give you no EXP. This can be challenging, as sometimes you have to use certain options in the ACT menu to make that happen. Or you can just lower their HP first. Your choice.
You can turn off the yellow highlighting if you want an extra challenge.
After continuing through the Ruins, solving puzzles, encountering many monsters, and cheering up a gloomy ghost, you reach the end, where Toriel is waiting for you.
It's hard not to be when everything is shooting bullets at you.
She welcomes you into her home, having cooked a delicious pie and prepared a room for you.
Aww. How sweet.
She even leaves out a slice for you. How kind.
You find her sitting in a comfy chair, reading.
I will admit, while the graphics might not be top-caliber, the spritework for this game is very high-quality.
Of course, like all RPGs, you must advance the plot eventually.
After several more rounds of dodging the question, Toriel heads into the basement, where she plans to destroy the door to the rest of the Underground. When you try to stop her, this happens:
And then you enter a fight. The first thing I tried was talking; it had worked on pretty much every other enemy, so why wouldn't it work on her?
Well, you tried.
After just sparing her seems to do nothing, I decide I have to fight back. They did expect me to do that, right? I hit her, then tried sparing her. Nothing. Hit her again, spared her again. Still nothing. I tried this multiple times, until-
You literally broke her heart.
I walked in shock past the door, eventually reaching a chamber where that flower was waiting.
Stop mocking me.
I felt horrible for killing Toriel despite trying every other method to save her. But then the flower actually said something helpful.
But I could. This was a video game. I hadn't encountered another sparkly save point after killing Toriel. Therefore, if I reset, she wouldn't be dead and I could find a way to actually spare her.
And so I did. I quit the game, and when I loaded it, I was outside Toriel's front door. Perfect. I sped through the sequence before the boss fight once more, but when I actually got to the door...well...
Once the battle started, I tried talking to Toriel. Maybe if I did that enough...
Anyway, eventually I got this message:
I remembered one of the NPCs earlier in the Ruins saying that I might have to spare someone whose name wasn't in indicator yellow. So I hit MERCY, and spared Toriel. Every turn. Eventually, she stopped attacking.
But the plot demands I must, ma'am.
And soon after that, the battle was over. With a final hug, Toriel heads back to the Ruins, and I head through the door leading to the rest of the game.
Goodbye, Goatmom. Bake lots of pies.
While I will admit some of that battle was strange, I had done it. I had spared Toriel. It took me some effort, but I figured out how to do it. And now that I had done it, I could continue the game like I had never-
And that is why Undertale is such an amazing game. It remembers the decisions, choices, and mistakes you make throughout the game, and is not afraid to make you see and feel the consequences of your actions. It is worth the praise it receives, and I can't wait to finish it.
I hope I never see you again for the rest of the game.