Undertale is an RPG released in late 2015 by and developed independently by indie game developer, Toby Fox, along with additional art by Temmie Chang. The game was met with overwhelmingly positive reviews despite seeming like a traditional RPG at face-level that utilise fighting mechanics inspired by bullet-hell games. For most of us fans of the game, what was perhaps the most attractive part of the experience was the extremely innovative story. Unlike a normal RPG, the game was not about grinding up EXP, gaining LVLs, defeating bosses, etc. In fact, it takes a very satirical approach to these aspects. Every ‘enemy’ and every character has their distinct personalities, allowing the player to feel bonded with these characters.
There is the ‘Pacifist’ and ‘Genocide’ routes. To do the first route, the player must consistently maintain a pacifist attitude towards everyone and every situation – never kill, even if the ‘enemy’ has an intent to kill. The ending is extremely rewarding despite being rather difficult to reach. The second route requires the player to go out of their way to kill every single character in their way. Many bosses not found in the Pacifist route appear to deter the player, but if you persist, any playthrough you do after will be affected. What this game teaches, above all, is that your decisions matter, even if it is a game, and you must live with your decisions – if you killed a character in one playthrough, they might remember it in the other and change their decisions as such.
Waterfall is one of the most beautiful video game locations. It is incredibly atmospheric, serene and enchanting. The colour palette of this region in the game is mainly purple and blue with occasional black abysses. There are flowers scattered around the place and gems embedded in the walls that glow a cyan-electric blue (at least on my screen). The waterfalls and rivers in the region are also illuminated in a similar hue, either because they produce light or because they reflect their surroundings.
There is a section in Waterfall, where you’re just walking across bridges and bridges, in what would otherwise be a very tedious part of a normal RPG. Yet, Undertale does a great job of bringing out this tranquil atmosphere that can only be accomplished through the artistic design as well as the music.
The first 14 seconds or so of the soundtrack are composed of just the chimes. High-pitched and comprising of sets of arpeggios (sets of 4 notes in a pattern in a key e.g. CEG in C major). I believe that most of them are in the minor key, which generates this mysterious, sometimes slightly eerie tone. Given that the area has flowers and mushrooms that are bright-freaking-blue, that first few seconds certainly reflects my emotions when I first entered the area – awe mixed with a little fright (Undyne fight was coming up after all).
Past those first seconds, a deep and somewhat ominous hum joins in, then slowly accompanied by low piano melody. As the OST continues, the piano melody becomes louder and sinister, building up into a strong and powerful tune, complete with even deeper echoes. This reflects the purpose of the Waterfall region – the Undyne fight. All before this moment, the characters you have met were building up to this amazing general and commander of King Asgore’s army – Undyne. She is said to be incredibly powerful and inspirational, a truly mighty ‘enemy’ that you have to defeat. As you walk through the region, the fight draws ever closer and the music builds up to reflect this. In fact, if you skipped right to the last few seconds from the first few, it would be hard to see them as part of the same soundtrack – if not for the repeating chimes.
Those repeating chimes are crucial too – as you head towards the fight, do not neglect the beauty of the monster world that this enemy you are seeking is striving to protect.