I wasn’t really sure what to write about for this month’s Band of Bloggers since, out of the four games I’ve played so far in January, I feel like any of them could fall into the theme of looking back. Super Smash Bros Ultimate feels like an enhanced port of Super Smash Bros Four which itself feels very much like any of the other previous Smash Bros games. Even if I were to talk about Smash, I never really played those games while they were new with the exception of Ultimate and the two releases of Four. Spider-Man is another game I played late but it would feel strange to me to look back on a game that just launched a couple months ago; on a year that just concluded weeks ago. If I played using the Sam Reimi suit or any of the Marvel Cinematic Universe suits for longer than a couple of hours than it might feel more appropriate to use Spider-Man as a nostalgia catalyst...if I was willing to write a blog about the movies. Fire Emblem Echoes is a game I started this month but I’m going through it at a glacial pace so I haven’t got very much to actually say about it yet. The final game I started and finished this month however is one that I probably should have played years ago: Undertale.
Some years ago, Toby Fox judged each and every one of us after giving us the option to spare an anthropomorphic goat mom without telling us we could do so. It seemed like as soon as this game launched, the whole of youtube and the gaming community turned its attention away from screaming, animatronic mascots and instead to a game that featured a unique moral choice system. Over the next few weeks and months it became difficult to avoid things like plot analyses, fan art and, fan remakes of Undertale’s soundtrack (Johnny Atma’s cover of Megalomania is still my favorite). Undertale was one of those games where I definitely felt pressured to try it, not only because of its sudden popularity but also because I don’t remember any other game that launched that year...at all. After first playing it, I came to the conclusion that I loved everything about the game except for the gameplay itself. During my first playthrough, I almost stopped playing when I got stuck fighting the mannequin boss only to give up completely during the fight against Undyne.
(I did love how this bastard got a dramatic music sting)
Time passed and I still enjoyed Undertale in a sort of third-person kind of way: I watched a few more plot analysis videos, I enjoyed more fan remakes of the soundtrack but I didn’t go so far as to watch a let’s play of the game. In 2018, Undertale launched on the Switch and when I bought my copy, it was mainly to take advantage of a sale rather than because I was desperate to get back into the game. Then during the last days of 2018 someone decided that they liked me and I liked them and in such a mental state, it was easy for them to get me to play Undertale again.
I hadn’t thought too much about Undertale for a while, maybe a couple of years, so I was surprised as I replayed Undertale by just how influential it had been. The main thing that stuck out in my mind is how ‘doggo’ is an enemy you can encounter in Undertale. In today’s modern vernacular, just about anything can be a ‘doggo’, even dogs. I can’t remember that term being used before 2015 but I feel like there were other turns of phrase that could be traced back to Undertale and its script.
The main thing I kept in mind, where Undertale was concerned, is how much I disliked the gameplay. What stopped me from completing the game originally was how much trouble I had dodging projectiles while going for a pacifist run and even on the Switch, playing a pacifist run felt somewhat slow and frustrating at times. It reminds me of playing a bullet-Hell shooter but without the ability to directly fight back and your icon moves incredibly slowly. I did like how this would get changed up in boss fights though: Fighting Papyrus for example, feels more like playing a side-scrolling platformer and there’s a fight against a robot where you can shoot at it with your icon. Overall though, I didn’t like the combat engine but what I didn’t realize before (or what I was unable to see before) is that after a while random encounters stop happening. There are a few side objectives that I was aware of that I really wanted to do but which I wasn’t anticipating going back to if it meant getting into more of the fights that I already disliked.
It only took me a couple of days but this past month, I did beat Undertale...kind of. I didn’t get the ultra-pacifist ending and I missed out on some character interaction. I don’t see myself replaying this game again for a while either. I like the aggressive combat more than the passive ‘combat’ but I have no desire to go through with a genocide run. I’ve already found ways to enjoy Megalomania without dealing with the potential frustration that comes with fighting Sans, or fighting in general. The more games I play, the more I realize that it’s difficult for me to go back to games unless they had a profound impact on me. Undertale isn’t like that for me but going back to it in the current year has opened my eyes to just how influential it was in a general sense.