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September 30: Underale

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1 September 30: Underale on Sun Oct 02, 2016 5:12 am

Making this thread, so I don't forget my thoughts later...

Even though a 2-hour video was made discussing the game, it's hard to convey just how brilliant the game is. It has to be the best scripted game ever made. It takes into account just about every scenario the player can think about and do.

I killed Toriel my first time through, felt terrible about it, and felt even worse when I found out you could spare her. Note how Toriel is presented rather ambiguously, at first, like she might be trying to deceive you with malicious intent.

Many of the Let's Plays I've seen of Undertale began with a pacifist run because they knew that was a thing beforehand. I, for one, am glad I finished my first run neutrally. I've never been challenged to beat a game a 2nd time... by, literally, the game itself. I can't explain how pumped I was when Flowey appeared and challenged ME to beat the game without killing anyone; prove to him that its even possible because he doesn't believe it. Not to mention how... moving it felt to continually refuse to kill Flowey beforehand, despite all the terrible things he said and did.

While watching the rumination I came to the realization that all the items you acquire might be from all the other previous humans. Sure enough, it was mentioned in the video immediately after the thought came to mind. Just thought that was a funny occurrence, and wanted to share.




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2 Re: September 30: Underale on Sun Oct 02, 2016 10:01 am

Dunno if you saw my stream of it, I wasn't really aware that fully pacifist was a thing on my playthrough (though people in chat clued me in) but I was asked to play myself so...

Also, I was suspicious of Toriel until the end. She's up to something!


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3 Re: September 30: Underale on Sun Oct 02, 2016 10:11 am

I also have a problem with Toriel, though not the joking kind.  She despises Asgore for not taking action and just meekly waiting like some kinda sheep for things to get better, but she was hiding in the Ruins and could have stepped in at any time.  So...yeah, my sympathy for her is kinda stymied by that fact.

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4 Re: September 30: Underale on Sun Oct 02, 2016 5:38 pm

If ever a rumination will engender a fervent discussion on this forum, surely it will be this one. So come on guys! Let's share theories and stuff!

Maz wrote:It has to be the best scripted game ever made. It takes into account just about every scenario the player can think about and do.
Believe it or not, I was surprised to hear that Arch still thought Undertale's branching logic must look labyrinthine. It certainly gives that impression your first time through, but if you actually look at all of the different effects your decisions can have, most of the branches are pretty shallow. I'd say 90% of them result in 1 line of dialogue being different. Stuff like the Snowman, buying from the bake sale and how much you pay, whether you date Papyrus or just hang out with him, what you're wearing when he calls you on your way into Waterfall and whether or not you lie about it - almost everything has a one-time effect and nothing further. The only one that really goes deep is the game's central focus: who you've killed. That one looks something like this. What really makes Undertale stand out is just how many of those little branches there are (as you said, it's very good at predicting what the player is thinking and gives them relevant options with consequences). They help make the world feel alive and give rise to a feeling of self-consciousness in the player, prompting them to reflect more seriously on their actions.

Crensler wrote:I also have a problem with Toriel, though not the joking kind. She despises Asgore for not taking action and just meekly waiting like some kinda sheep for things to get better, but she was hiding in the Ruins and could have stepped in at any time.
I don't think it's inaction that she's chastising. She didn't actually want him to use that first soul to leave the underground and do basically the same thing that Chara intended to do. I think it's that he pretended that he was planning to break the barrier and start this war should some humans ever come along when in fact he was actually just trying to give everyone some glimmer of hope to cling to, under the assumption that no humans would ever fall into the mountain again (maybe assuming Toriel would keep them from leaving) or that his science department would come up with an alternate solution before one did. His irresponsible bluff ended up getting his citizens to murder 6 humans. I think that's what she's really angry about.

Maz wrote:While watching the rumination I came to the realization that all the items you acquire might be from all the other previous humans.
I'd heard that the items belonged to the other humans before, but I don't think it really hit me that they died right there. Nice use of implied horror. It's also a bit horrifying that the story literally tells you that it ends whenever you decide to stop playing, whether that's a pacifist ending or Muffet processing Frisk into a glass of spider cider. I know it's something a lot of people think about in other games, but this game actually incorporates all of that stuff into canon (do those timelines where you die continue on? Quite possibly!).

Arch wrote:Chara is playing Undertale like it's a game.
I don't think Chara has that kind of control until the very end, when you auto-swing to kill Sans. Prior to that you can stop the genocide whenever you want; Chara is just whispering in your ear, gradually gaining further influence the more you conform to his will. Flowey is the one who's been busy gaming with his world for who knows how long.

I have a theory about Chara. I don't know how unique it is because I've only discussed Undertale with a few friends, but here goes. I don't think Chara's actually human. I think it's a parasitic entity that can possess humans souls, but not monster souls, who heard about the legend of the monsters sealed in the mountain that had the power to absorb human souls and achieve god-like power and went searching for them with the intention of having one absorb the human soul he was currently possessing (the fallen human we all think of a Chara), thereby possessing that monster, intending to return to the surface to absorb more human souls, and then either breaking the barrier and restarting the human-monster war for kicks or just immediately destroying the universe like he did in the genocide ending. His plan failed because, since he only possessed half of Asriel's total soul count, he only had half control. Toriel buries Chara's body under the perpetually-dead tree outside her house (I can't think of any other logical explanation for that tree other than that the entity that's stuck in Chara's corpse is feeding off of it or killing it with wave upon wave of undying hate). When Frisk passes by normally nothing happens, but if you've killed everyone then that bloodlust/power breaths life back into it and gives it enough energy to jump into Frisk's soul and begin messing with it - the red messages begin right after that. My support:

  • Several characters during the genocide run imply that Frisk isn't human. This can be written off as referring to the inhumanity of his actions, but when Flowey does it there's more to it. "Hehehe. You're not human, are you. No. You're empty inside. Just like me? In fact...you're Chara, right?" This very strongly implies that Asriel didn't think Chara had a soul, at least not by nature.
  • In the same conversation he says "Listen. I have a plan to become all powerful. Even more powerful than you and your stolen soul." So Chara steals souls. Some think the soul in question is Frisk's. It's not possible that he actually sees Chara and recognizes that he's possessing a soul for several reasons*, but he might be mistakenly assuming that based simply on the fact that he thinks the person in front of him is Chara and it has a human soul. But I don't think that's it. I think Chara confided his non-human nature to Asriel at some point, or Asriel realized it after they'd fused, and that he'd stolen the soul that Asriel ended up absorbing as part of a plan to gain power.
  • A human's consciousness appears to remain with their soul, not their body. The other 6 humans acted consciously during the Omega Flowey fight, but their bodies were in their coffins. So if Chara was human, how could his consciousness tag along with Frisk? Even if his soul was buried with him, humans can't absorb human souls so Frisk didn't accidentally steal Chara's soul or anything like that.
  • Chara is the only character who seems to know about the existence of other universes (other games, as opposed to other timelines in the same game), and knows how to travel between them.
  • It describes itself as a feeling. "Every time a number increases, that feeling...that's me. Chara." As if it's saying it's the manifestation of your megalomania, a tempter, a demon, by its very nature. I mean, after it's destroyed the "pointless world," the only thing it still wants is your soul. It also appears to express frustration if you abort the genocide run early on (a neat easter egg if you haven't seen it), after which it shuts up for the rest of the game. If not for these two facts I might be inclined to say that it takes its disposition from the one it's possessing (the whole "Chara is the narrator" theory), but it really seems to be intrinsically evil


But here's a question that's always bothered me, regardless of whether or not my theory is correct. What happened to Chara's soul, the one that Asriel absorbed? It seems unlikely that it would get buried with him. I see two possible answers. One is that it was used in research. Note that the button to restart the CORE has a heart icon on it. Is the CORE powered by a human soul? But what I think actually happened is that Chara transferred it to the heart locket it gave to Asriel in the hopes of being able to recover it later (if you look at the heart locket during the genocide run it says "You can feel it beating". I can't think of any other way to explain that), his consciousness being transferred to Chara's dead body since no other vessel was available. It's also possible that the locket contained a second stolen soul. Either way, it's what prompts Chara to say "Right where it belongs." when you pick it up. It's not the jewellery he cares about; it's the soul.

*:

1) you can stop the genocide run at any time, so Frisk is still in control, 2) Chara asks you to give him Frisk's soul at the very end, so he doesn't already have it, and 3) Flowey can't see Chara. Throughout the entire pacifist run he mistakes Frisk for Chara purely because of how much they look alike ("fashion decisions") and psychological reasons ("maybe I was projecting a little").

---------
The grayscale beta-mob characters can actually be accessed without hacking, and so can the Gaster room in Waterfall. You just have to get your fun stat to certain values, which often involves resetting, so in-lore I think it's that they happen to be manifesting on certain timelines, having been dissolved across all of spacetime. One of them says he's holding a piece of Gaster, so they may all just be fragments of him manifesting in the form of people he remembers or something like that. The fact that Sans's font turns to Aster when he's asleep as led me to ponder...could it be that Sans's teleport abilities come not from a machine, but from a piece of Gaster that he keeps with him (in his right pocket)? Does their unusual existential situation give them the power to bend space and time? Is he so insanely powerful that his relics infuse people with a portion of his abilities like some kind of Eldritch abomination? Probably not. But it's a neat idea.

Why does Sans have a secret time traveler password? Why is he looking for time travelers, and why would he give one a key to his room when he finally found one? Like almost everyone, I assumed the machine in his basement was a time machine. The human soul research almost certainly led into the time manipulation research in some way since human souls have the power to create alternate timelines, or at least some do. It may be possible, having discovered this time manipulation power, that Gaster saw it as an alternate solution to their problem. Instead of breaking the barrier, go back and change history so that it never exists. But it's broken and Sans can't fix it, so I think he's hoping that a time traveler might be able to help him, or to provide him with another means of time travel. Note that he tests you first. He only give you the key on the pacifist run because obviously he isn't going to trust a murdered, but he also fakes you out. I think it was set up to make sure this time traveler can take a joke and that they're clever enough to see past the joke and find their way into the basement.

One of the grays says "They say he created the CORE. However, his life...was cut short. One day, he fell into his creation, and..." I assumed this meant he fell into the CORE, but Toby once responded on twitter, "You've all seen the happiest outcome. Neither of them could fix the machine, no matter how hard they tried. No one can." 'Them' is presumably Sans and Alphys, and fixing the machine was obviously something to bring Gaster back (it's the only part of the pacifist ending that wasn't happy, besides Asriel not being revived), and is almost certainly the machine is Sans's basement, so either that's what he fell into or he had previously built a machine that had some chance of restoring him and it broke. I still think Sans's "look, I gave up trying to go back a long time ago" pretty clearly indicates that he was pursuing time travel, though, and saving Gaster seems like the most likely motive.

BTW, if anyone's missed it, one of my favorite easter eggs is that if you take the file for Gaster's theme (that plays in the room with Lab entry 17), open it in Audacity, and look at a spectrogram of it, you'll see his face.
http://i.imgur.com/hEs3ohp.png
https://i.imgur.com/1eG93L2.png


I also want to talk about the game's theme, but that'll have to wait until later.


P.S. Arch, would you still object to an Undertale Lorerun if somebody else did the playing? :)

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5 Re: September 30: Underale on Sun Oct 02, 2016 10:09 pm

Some random thoughts as I go through the rumination.

About nonsequitors and universe cohesiveness: someone explain Tsunderplane. Everything in this universe makes sense, except Tsunderplane.

About the children dying where you find their equipment and them being killed by monsters: we got clarification from Toby that Asgore killed them personally (this tweet about this line.) In light of that it's unlikely they died where you find their stuff because at least one item is in the Ruins.

About Chara: we completely disagree about this I'm afraid. A large chunk of the fandom interprets him as evil or demonic, but to me he's basically a "determinant" character, a Shepard if you will. "The fallen human" is the player character you actually name: it's who you're controlling. Essentially the relationship between Frisk and Chara is the same as the one between the player and the main character (there's the meta again.) In other words, every action you can do in game is chosen by Chara in lore, and that includes the True Pacifist ending.

All we know of Chara's motives is that he hated humanity. Anything past that is up to interpretation. Was he a psychopath who tricked Asriel for power or did he actually want to save the monsters? You could argue it both ways, but I look at it like so: imagine you played as Chara when he was alive. You fall into the underground and befriend all these lovable characters who are suffering and starving for being trapped by your enemies. So you reach the end and your choices basically are: Do you do nothing and let the situation continue to stagnate, or do you sacrifice yourself to give your brother a chance to free everyone? Which one is the kind option?

About Chara beating Flowey to death: So I remember reading about a little detail that is hard to notice because we're weenies because we didn't actually play Genocide... during the final cutscene there's no player choice to kill Asgore, he's killed automatically as you close the last of his lines. Flowey's lines however all advance automatically until the last one ("please don't kill me") and the screen stays there until you press z to continue. This means that Chara killed Asgore himself, yet to kill Asriel he needed your "guidance" as he put it, which is telling imo.

About Asgore: I see that the Pacifist path to the fight may be hard to find... but at the same time, the point is that you're both in a position where you have to kill someone against your will, and there is no other option that you can tell. This is what causes tension in the scene and sets it apart from every other fight. A total pacifist solution would've taken away from it :/

About the Photoshop Flowey fight not being meta: I feel we have different definitions for this word. Flowey literally saving over files is like the definition of meta ._.

About Papyrus, Alphys and self-esteem: it's interesting that Undyne paired them up, isn't it? They both have the same problem of playing characters to make others like them. What do we even know about Papyrus? He wanted to be a royal guard, but only to become popular. He makes spaghetti because everyone likes it. He likes Mettaton because he's popular, he likes stereotypical cool things, etc. At least Alphys is genuine about the things she likes.

About Flowey waking up: that interpretation is pure fringe horror. If Flowey was self aware *before* he was given determination, then that means he had been stuck that way ever since he turned to dust in the garden. He was "reborn" as a flower because his dust fell on the yellow flower seeds. Every monster has their dust spread on their favorite thing on their funerals, ergo...

About Gaster: At release pretty much everything dealing with Gaster was only in the game files, this was later fixed with a patch. At the moment I believe only the lab entry is actually hidden, plus his song theme and stats.

About Sans the Batman: Sans deductions seem a bit too specific to be based on observation alone. He's hinted to be a scientist, and he get reports about the spacetime continuum. And what's the continuum when you're inside a game? The game flags. Sans' not Batman, he's Neo!

btw at one point you brought up whether DT was unique to the underground but then it didn't come up again? I don't think I missed it... scratch

Frieza2000 wrote:Toriel buries Chara's body under the perpetually-dead tree outside her house (I can't think of any other logical explanation for that tree other than that the entity that's stuck in Chara's corpse is feeding off of it or killing it with wave upon wave of undying hate).

There's a very simple explanation for that: Toriel sucks at gardening. Notice how there are bunches of dead leaves in the ruins, the dead tree, and her house mostly has ugly, low maintenance plants like the water sausages. Asgore on the other hand has a beautiful garden, but he sucks at cooking.

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6 Re: September 30: Underale on Mon Oct 03, 2016 11:21 pm

Luslanz wrote:There's a very simple explanation for that: Toriel sucks at gardening. Notice how there are bunches of dead leaves in the ruins, the dead tree, and her house mostly has ugly, low maintenance plants like the water sausages. Asgore on the other hand has a beautiful garden, but he sucks at cooking.
That doesn't do it for me. The tree is a unique graphical asset, prominently placed, and with a suspicious description. If Toriel's lack of gardening ability were all Toby wanted it to convey then the house plants would make it redundant, and given the attention to detail in the game I doubt that's the case. It's not actually dead, either. It's still growing leaves, but they fall off right away, as if something's constantly choking it.

Luslanz wrote:Essentially the relationship between Frisk and Chara is the same as the one between the player and the main character (there's the meta again.) In other words, every action you can do in game is chosen by Chara in lore, and that includes the True Pacifist ending.
So what's your explanation of a post-genocide pacifist run? In every ending you can get besides genocide, even a genocide run aborted 1 button press away from killing Flowey, you can reset without consequences. If the player's actions are shaping Chara's morality, this suggests that Chara gets a clean slate every time you reset. But if you finish a genocide run and reset, he's still evil at the end no matter what you do. How does giving Chara your soul after genocide change the mechanics of this? Or, if Chara never gets reset, why does his taking your soul prevent any further development?

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7 Re: September 30: Underale on Tue Oct 04, 2016 2:17 am

Frieza2000 wrote:
Luslanz wrote:There's a very simple explanation for that: Toriel sucks at gardening. Notice how there are bunches of dead leaves in the ruins, the dead tree, and her house mostly has ugly, low maintenance plants like the water sausages. Asgore on the other hand has a beautiful garden, but he sucks at cooking.
That doesn't do it for me. The tree is a unique graphical asset, prominently placed, and with a suspicious description. If Toriel's lack of gardening ability were all Toby wanted it to convey then the house plants would make it redundant, and given the attention to detail in the game I doubt that's the case. It's not actually dead, either. It's still growing leaves, but they fall off right away, as if something's constantly choking it.

I think it was done mostly for the bait and switch (who didn't backtrack to save once they saw the ominous tree? Razz) and well, to paint a stark contrast between Asgore's garden and Toriel's "garden." You can also take it as a metaphor: the tree grow leaves but they fall off right away. What happens to Toriel's children? "Every human that falls down here meets the same fate. | I have seen it again and again. | They come. | They leave. | They die."

Frieza2000 wrote:
Luslanz wrote:Essentially the relationship between Frisk and Chara is the same as the one between the player and the main character (there's the meta again.) In other words, every action you can do in game is chosen by Chara in lore, and that includes the True Pacifist ending.
So what's your explanation of a post-genocide pacifist run? In every ending you can get besides genocide, even a genocide run aborted 1 button press away from killing Flowey, you can reset without consequences. If the player's actions are shaping Chara's morality, this suggests that Chara gets a clean slate every time you reset. But if you finish a genocide run and reset, he's still evil at the end no matter what you do. How does giving Chara your soul after genocide change the mechanics of this? Or, if Chara never gets reset, why does his taking your soul prevent any further development?

There are two ways to finish Chara's character arc: either you guide him to believe monster lives matter, or that they are meaningless. One you achieve one  by completing True Pacifist and never reseting again, and the other by finishing Genocide. Anything between those two points means a conclusion hasn't been reached.

In a post-genocide pacifist run he's already dead-set in the "meaningless" camp, so any action you take is seen as you playing around with the world. There's no chance of redemption at this point.

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8 Re: September 30: Underale on Wed Oct 05, 2016 12:17 pm

Luslanz wrote:You can also take it as a metaphor: the tree grow leaves but they fall off right away. What happens to Toriel's children? "Every human that falls down here meets the same fate. | I have seen it again and again. | They come. | They leave. | They die."
Ok, I still think there's more to it, but that's really cool.

On the subject of bait-and-switch, is there a confirmed instance where it isn't done to subvert a trope or stereotype? I can't think of a time it uses misdirection that isn't founded on some preconceived expectation the player brings to the game.

Luslanz wrote:In a post-genocide pacifist run he's already dead-set in the "meaningless" camp, so any action you take is seen as you playing around with the world. There's no chance of redemption at this point.
I assumed that was his motive, but I'm talking about the actual mechanics of his corruption. You can do an aborted genocide 1000 times in a row and then switch to pacifist with no effect - the red text goes away immediately and the UI's dialogue is the same as if you'd never killed anyone. What is it about taking Frisk's soul that would cement Chara in his evil state? If I were to venture an explanation, I would say that by the end of the genocide run he's gained control over the timeline (as shown by the fact that you can't reset anymore). Either he absorbed the other 6 human souls or he's just gained enough control over Frisk that he can prevent him from using his determination now. Then when he gets Frisk to willingly give over his soul, that seals it. Before he had no determination of his own (he outright said he was leeching off of Frisk's), but now that he does his memories don't get reset. That would mean that ownership of souls transcends resets because going back to before you give him Frisk's soul doesn't give him his soul back.

The "Chara is the narrator" theory certainly isn't without some merit. There are lines that are difficult to explain any other way ("You. With your guidance. I realized the purpose of my reincarnation." and Flowey's "Well. There is one thing. One last threat. One being with the power to erase EVERYTHING. ... I'm talking about YOU. ... See you later...Chara."), but I haven't heard a version of it yet that explains everything else.

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9 Re: September 30: Underale on Wed Oct 05, 2016 7:34 pm

Frieza2000 wrote:I assumed that was his motive, but I'm talking about the actual mechanics of his corruption. You can do an aborted genocide 1000 times in a row and then switch to pacifist with no effect - the red text goes away immediately and the UI's dialogue is the same as if you'd never killed anyone. What is it about taking Frisk's soul that would cement Chara in his evil state?

Chara can remember normal resets but not True Resets, just like Flowey. A reset's like saying "Let's try another way." And Chara's following your lead, so you return to LV 1 and he changes his attitude back to neutral. Chara will always go along with it unless you kill Asriel in the Genocide Run, because that is what cements him as evil, not taking the soul. The soul only allows him to remember True Resets, which is why the bad Pacifist ending happens.

I don't believe he got the souls or some special power. He's a character you controlled and now refuses to listen anymore, so you're left with no recourse unless you give in to his demands. Without his cooperation you can't do anything.

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10 Re: September 30: Underale on Thu Oct 06, 2016 5:07 am

I was watching the Undyne fight for the genocide run, and just wanted to comment. When she jumps in to save the kid, she essentially takes a HARD crit hit in the process. She pretty much fights on sheer willpower alone during this fight. I love the whole sequence because she has the weight of the world on her back since everyone views her as the best shot to beat you behind Asgore (they don't know about Sans).

There a plenty of reasons to back out of genocide before this, but this always got me for some reason. Oh yeah, almost forgot... the epic music during that fight is playing for her, not you. That might have a little to do with it. The music shows just how much the fight means to her. For you, it's just another fight.

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11 Re: September 30: Underale on Sat Oct 08, 2016 4:51 pm

Luslanz wrote:Chara will always go along with it unless you kill Asriel in the Genocide Run, because that is what cements him as evil, not taking the soul. The soul only allows him to remember True Resets
Killing his adoptive parents 1000 times has no permanent effect, but crushing the twisted and empty shell of what's left of his BFF pushes him over the edge? Eh. I think resetting him would be more believable.


So theme!

I think the fact that you have to attack Asgore to win is part of a theme. Asriel's statement at the end, "There are a lot of Floweys out there. And not everything can be resolved by just being nice. Frisk...don't kill, and don't be killed, alright? That's the best you can strive for," feels like a very "I'm talking now" moment from Toby. I think he wanted to clarify that he isn't advocating strict pacifism (which is what a lot of people have taken away from the game even with that disclaimer). Simply put, in rare situations (>1% of all encounters, like Asgore and Omega Flowey), violence is the only way to avoid a much worse ending such as a monster destroying all of humanity. You're probably not allowed to save Asriel or Gaster for similar reasons. Like Flowey said, "If you really did everything the right way...why did things still end up like this? Why...? Is life really that unfair?" Yes, we all know that it is. It's a bit of realism to flavor the game's otherwise idealistic tone.

To some degree, I think that Undertale is a game about gaming. Flowey represents a typical gamer. He's what it would be like if a person in a real-life setting behaved the way normal players do in an RPG setting. He says it himself in both endings: "Don't you get it? This is all just a GAME. ... If you 'win,' you won't want to 'play' with me anymore. And what would I do then? ... JUST LET ME WIN!!!" and "What would this person say if I gave them this? What would they do if I said this to them? Once you know the answer, that's it. That's all they are. ... I've done everything this world has to offer. Sets of numbers...Lines of dialogue...I've seen them all." Many RPG tropes are pointed out or subverted throughout the game, both because it's funny to do so and, more importantly, because it makes the player self-conscious. Chara is a great example of this. A typical RPG player would probably name Chara some name that they frequently use for their RPG heroes, which would make the impact of the final monologue all the more powerful and its intent clearer. "Every time a number increases, that feeling...That's me. 'Frieza'" This is probably why Toby got rid of the default name from the demo. You're supposed to see it as the character that you've played as in other games for years, where you most likely committed similar atrocities, and with whom you will probably go on to commit more after you 'move on' from the current game world it just finished consuming. Obviously that's not the case in-lore, but you're supposed to think that at first when you see the genocide ending.

The "endless murder-fest" trope, which we can see from an early interview was Toby's foundational concept, takes center stage. It's focused on in many ways: several NPCs talking about the absence of people you killed, lots of environmental changes being based on how high your kill count is (and the very fact that there's a variable called murderlevel), the big judgement scene, the fact that the neutral endings are based almost entirely on who you killed, the fact that half of the gameplay content is you trying to figure out how to avoid killing in every encounter - the villain's name is an anagram for Serial Murderer for crying out loud. All of this is just doing, at length and rather effectively, what was done in that old interview. I think that whole aspect of the game is basically Toby holding a mirror up to the player and saying, "Think about it." That mirror is decidedly tinted with his own opinion, but it's still intrinsically reflective of you by the very fact that you're freely choosing to do everything.

I think there's a little more to this theme, though. There are a number of times when the game more or less asks whether or not you have something better to do (Sans when you're being evil, Asriel when you keep talking to him looking for more dialogue, the battle UI (Chara) when you're fighting Sans and wasting time reading the flavor text, Flowey in a neutral ending, probably at least one more). Several times, as early as the candy dish that lets you take too much and the dialogue tree that lets you creep out Toriel by choosing every option, you're subtly presented with the idea that you don't have to do everything in a game just because it lets you, until it's finally pointed out explicitly at the end of the genocide route by Flowey, Sans, and Chara. Chara calls the world 'pointless' now that you've beaten it, which you're naturally supposed to disagree with because Chara's evil and surely an entire world means more than a checkbox on a list of worlds you've killed (even though it's a virtual world...). Flowey asks you not to replay the game after you get the pacifist ending. There are a bunch of things like that. It seems to be saying that you shouldn't treat a game world like it's not real. Why not? Maybe just because of the psychological effect it has on you. Or maybe it cheapens the world the artist worked so hard to create. Or maybe Toby thinks virtual people have intrinsic value and should be respected or something weird like that. I don't know, and I don't think I totally agree with whatever it is, but expressing it through a game that incorporates a giant window in the fourth wall is the perfect way of doing it. Brilliant stuff.


The big thing I couldn't understand was the determination theme, until Arch's grand finale solved it for me. I didn't see how it could stand as a coherent theme by itself because, while determination is mentioned frequently, it's never used to effect, never demonstrated in any meaningful way. Its only expression, other than name dropping to build up to its big reveal as a story mechanic, is the player's perseverance toward whatever goal they're pursuing, good or evil. The only characters with determination (as opposed to DETERMINATION) are Undyne, who immediately fails, and Frisk, whose determination is your determination - that is, a product of the fact that you're still playing the game. That's ingenious as a way of incorporating all the UI mechanics of the game into lore while also explaining how a child could accomplish so much, but continuing to play the game as an expression of determination...what does that say? It's otherwise completely absent from the narrative except for one big place: the final battle. Your options being Hope and Dream, the fact that you can't die, the way your health goes into decimal places - the whole thing is celebrating the power of perseverance. It's a huge feel-good moment and I thought it was pretty masterfully done in that sense, but it felt like it had nothing substantial to build on from the rest of the game. It felt a little out of left field if it was meant to be the climax of a theme.

But the way Arch put it makes sense of it for me. Toby's not just saying something saccharine like "never give up and you'll succeed." Your determination in continuing to play the game DOES express something - the experience of sticking with an ideal and living with the consequences. It's hard to by merciful, and your kindness will leave you exposed to the confused, angry, frightened thrashing of other people (emotional or literal) as they deal with their own issues. As one commenter put it, you can end up embittered after a long succession of betrayals and deceptions and it just seems to get harder and harder to do the further you go. You may even have to put everything you love at risk in order to show love to someone who may not seem to deserve it, and it may not always turn out the way you hope. The world's not fair; some days you'll be Frisk and make friends with everyone, others you'll be those 6 humans who lost everything. It may seem easier at first to go through life with a completely selfish mindset, as if nobody else's life mattered, but even that principal of "kill or be killed" is hard to carry to its furthest extreme (unless you're psychotic). The journey is stark, bleak, depressing, you get no support, the only enjoyment to be had is what you get from hurting others, and look at where it ends: alone in the void with the demon you've become.

Flowey wasn't wrong: it does hurt to care about people, to have friends, to do the right thing. But it's worth it. That's what the final battle is about. No matter how much you get hurt, no matter how many times you screw up, even when you can't so much as move and it looks completely hopeless...as long as you stay determined to love...you can't lose.

(Did you time the background to fade from day to night during that whole speech, or did that just happen? It'll definitely go down as one of the channel's most epic moments.)

Undertale expresses itself through gameplay elements more masterfully than any game I can think of. Not just the way it expresses the feelings of the characters through the battle system, but thematically too. Narrative alone could not have conveyed these themes so well. The shock of killing these people as if they were just RPG enemies and later discovering that they're all people, the feelings of friendship and triumph as you lovebomb Asriel after having managed against all adversity to make it there without hurting anybody, the feelings of horror and revulsion as you slog through a genocide run with the game holding up a mirror to condemn you every step of the way - NONE of it would've evoked so much emotion and profound introspection if you weren't the one in control. The experience has changed more than a few lives.

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12 Re: September 30: Underale on Sun Oct 09, 2016 1:31 am

Frieza2000 wrote:Killing his adoptive parents 1000 times has no permanent effect, but crushing the twisted and empty shell of what's left of his BFF pushes him over the edge?

Of course. For Chara this is about coming to terms with Asriel's betrayal. Chara died to save the monsters and then died again trying to save his brother from the humans. Choosing to go on a monster killing rampage and then killing Asriel is what cements it for sure.

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13 Re: September 30: Underale on Tue Jul 11, 2017 7:50 pm

So we never heard how this fits into the Imperium. Is Chara one of the echoes?

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