|Pardon the dust!
This page includes some jargon that hasn't been added to the site's glossary yet. I'll be around to fix this later, but sorry for the inconvenience in the meantime.
At a Glance
|ESRB Rating:||NR - Not Rated|
|My Rating:||Ages 13 and up|
|Genre:||JRPG / Bullet Hell|
|Review Published On:||March 1st, 2016|
In order to save* your game, you need to interact with save points* placed throughout the Underground. There's usually one within easy walking distance, so just keep an eye out for them as you progress.
The player's actions govern the way the game progresses more than usual. Thus, you are given the choice of whether or not to harm others, and if you do, the results are permanent.
Even from a gameplay perspective, Undertale doesn't follow the usual rules. It's designed like a traditional turn based RPG, right down to stats, equipment, grid based environment, and random encounters. But that's also where the similarities end. The battles are handled using bullet hell* style sequences, and there are special events that only occur under very specific conditions. Different playthroughs will be slightly different experiences, and it's some of the extreme cases that bring in the biggest mysteries.
Unfortunately, this game also touches on some issues that Christian parents may find troubling. For example, while there are several couples in the game, monsterkind doesn't seem to feel that gender is all that important -- or in other words, homosexuality is treated as perfectly normal among the monsters. There are also a number of scenes, rumors, and images that reportedly make parents very uncomfortable. Fan art from the game often doesn't help matters, either.
For the most part, Undertale is considered "family friendly", and I'd agree. However, I'm still placing it in the 13+ age bracket, as there's enough questionable material to warrant a little caution. This is especially true when the player chooses to be malicious, as the game loses its humor and becomes quite dark. Note that just because you can do something evil doesn't mean you should: the only way to get the best possible ending* is to be incredibly kind and forgiving.
Personally, I would still recommend playing this game despite the possible issues. Since it's up to the player to determine how violent and grim the game becomes, Undertale can be a fun, lighthearted journey with a satisfying conclusion.
Lastly, I'm going to keep spoilers to a minimum during this review. This is a game that is best experienced when you don't know what's coming next or how to deal with it. Since there will need to be some spoilers to summarize concerns and issues with the game's content*, I've included a bright red spoiler warning before anything major is discussed.
Blaming the war on humans and grieving over their fallen, the monsters developed a plan to break the barrier and return to the surface. To break the barrier, they would collect seven souls from humans that wandered underground. Once they had the souls they needed, the king of monsters, Asgore, would fuse with them, becoming godlike in power. He would then shatter the barrier and overthrow mankind.
Flash forward to the present day, where a child is playing alone on a remote mountain. By accident, they fell through a cave opening into a strange clearing filled with golden flowers. Now trapped with the monsters, they learn an unsettling fact: the monsters have managed to collect six souls so far. Thus, your soul determines the fate of their world.
From here, the story branches into three main paths, depending on how you play.
The Neutral Route
Points of Interest
Note that some actions will forever scar your game, meaning the only way to undo these actions is to rummage through the file system* and manually delete the save files.
Being evil robs the game of its humor very, very quickly however, and even introduces some horror elements.
At the same time, since this unintentionally leaves most parents out of the loop, they'll have to judge the game's content without knowing its context. This can lead to problems if they mistake a joke for something malicious, and there are a number of memes* from this game that certainly appear evil (or even satanic) to those unfamiliar with their source.
Concerns and Issues
On the flip side, doing harm to others is rigged to make you feel guilty about what you've done. There are also some characters that have encountered serious tragedies, and learning about these events will likely make you feel sad for them.
There is one specific mistake that new players can make early on that will really leave you feeling absolutely terrible, and various characters in the game aren't going to let you just forget about it, even after you reset.
In fact, this one mistake is so easily made and so upsetting, that one of the most common ways people have found this review is by asking Google how not to make that mistake! (hint: listen carefully to the froggits near Toriel's home; one of them tells you the answer)
There is another situation where you can date a monster, but that's actually a miscommunication and gets quickly resolved.
One of the more popular characters even appears to bleed if you strike a fatal blow. Common opinion on this is that this is actually ketchup rather than blood (and this really does make sense in context), but you've still murdered someone.
The first, and more prolific, rumor claims that a hidden character is a fountain of fetish and sexual material. This rumor does have some truth to it, but not quite in the way the rumormongers would like. Long story short, several of the characters in Undertale were created through the game's fundraising campaign. For a price, someone could design a character for the game. One of the characters added through this campaign was an adaption of a character often seen in adult artwork. Both the game's designer and the owner of the character took pains to disassociate the Undertale version from its origins, so there's nothing explicit or even suggestive about the character as they appear in the game.
The second rumor is the result of a real life prank. Chances are, you've heard of the 700 Club. What you may not know is that you can send them topics to discuss, including questions for them to answer. One person decided it would be fun to get them worked up about Undertale, and sent them a carefully worded question. Posing as a concerned parent, they claimed to have found images of a skeleton wearing a blue hoodie on their daughter's phone. When they confronted their daughter about the "demonic" images, their daughter told them there was "nothing wrong with it" because it "came from a video game". This was answered on air (by Pat Robertson, no less), and naturally enough, this caused a lot of concern. It's quite possibly one of the main reasons people are worried about Undertale being satanic or demonic. It's important to remember that this was a set up to make fun of Robertson's religious beliefs, not an actual condemnation of the content seen in Undertale.
There is also a "hidden" character that can be seen and learned about if random chance favors your playthrough (or if you edit your save file in just the right way). Like the other examples of body horror, this character appears to be the victim of an accident and is generally seen as a sympathetic character rather than a boogeyman.
You only fight Sans near the end of a Genocide Run, and thus you'll only see his Gaster Blasters when you've been on a murdering spree. These laser guns are shaped like the skull of a dragon or dragon/goat hybrid, so they definitely look unsettling.
The other boss* is clearly intended to resemble some ultimate evil, and it's pretty common for ultimate evils to not only look the part but also transform into a hideous monster at the climax of the game. More on that below.
Completing a Genocide Run results in the player encountering another human child, named "Chara". This person, if you can call them that, is an extremely malevolent entity that rejoices in murder. You're given the option of selling your soul to them, and if you refuse, they'll just destroy you where you stand. Either choice permanently scars your game, ensuring that you'll never get a happy ending* again. The only way to undo this damage is to manually delete the game's files from your computer (uninstalling does not work).
However, it seems that the creator of Undertale chose the name as a deliberate reference. The name "Asirel" sounds an awful lot like "Azrael", which is the name of the Angel of Death in folklore based on the Abrahamic religions. Note that I said this is a folklore character; most Christian denominations do not consider him to be part of their Biblical canon, and both Judaism and Islam are reported to be divided over his status. Regardless, when he does appear, Azrael basically functions as a religious version of the Grim Reaper, taking souls from the dying to God. While Azrael isn't considered evil (he is considered to be an Archangel after all), it's a rather dark reference.
Also, while the names are pronounced the same, the spelling difference is likely for another, more obvious reason: an anagram of Asriel Dreemurr is serial murderer, which fits the context of the final battle.
As for explaining his name within the story itself, Asriel's father, King Asgore, is really bad at coming up with names. Probably the biggest examples of this are the two places he's lived, known as "Home" and "New Home". Likewise, "Asriel" is just the names of his parents (Asgore and Toriel) mashed together.
As I've mentioned elsewhere on this page, there are three different stories that can play out. Which one you get is determined largely by how you play the game. Despite this, artwork featuring Sans often show him as he appears in the Genocide route (or more specifically, as he appears when he's about to execute you). This means that he's frequently shown to be scary, evil, or otherwise very violent. By contrast, his normal attitude in the game is that of the main comic relief character, as he's constantly coming up with puns or otherwise being rather silly. His serious side only shows up when he's confronting you about how many monsters you've deliberately murdered.
The other thing to watch out for is that the amalgamates -- the monsters suffering from an extremely tragic form of body horror -- are usually made to look much, much more disturbing in fan art. This might be the result of people trying to create detailed artwork with limited information to base it on, but it also seems like many people are trying to make things as grotesque as possible. One image that comes to mind depicts the remains of the player character's shirt dangling from the maw of a zombie-like abomination, which is FAR different than the monster appears in the game itself.
Ultimately, there's a lot of very disturbing fan art for Undertale out there. Please don't judge the game on whatever nightmares some of the fans have come up with.