I enjoy stories. As someone who grew up on edutainment games, I came to love CD-ROMs that had full stories attached to them. It felt fitting, then, that after the disappointment after a game franchise like Five Nights at Freddy’s that a game with a better story and answers to his mysteries would catch me attention. This game happened to be Undertale, which popped up on my social media account.
Undertale is a role-playing game where you are a child that has fallen into a hole on a mountain, to enter a role of monsters. You can choose to fight monsters and kill them, spare them on a Pacifist route, or find a plan of action in between. The farther you progress, the more morally ambiguous the story becomes. The game remembers choices you make on various playthroughs, from your choice of butterscotch or cinnamon to deciding to kill even one monster, and the endings change based on your body count. Also, your greatest enemy in the beginning is a tiny yellow flower.
If you do not know about the context of Undertale, do know that spoilers are enclosed below. Do stop reading, maybe watch a gamer like Jacksepticeye play through the game, and then continue.
I finished playing Undertale last week, aiming for a clean Pacifist run where I could save all of the monsters. Although I did not make everyone golden, I saved them, and swore a lot while on the ultimate rescue mission, much to the amusement of my friends who watched. Having known the game mechanics, I still tried to comment on the fact that you cannot save the single most important character, Asriel, and the fact that I wouldn’t reset the happy ending to see the other routes.
Undertale as a game inspires plenty of questions, some of which the game answers, and some of which they don’t. The big question is, “Why can’t we save Asriel?” but many other questions abound: “Who is Dr. W.D. Gaster and what happened to him?”; “Was the Fallen Child really evil as they are portrayed?”; “Is it really bad to fight back and kill monsters when you’re defending yourself?”; “How much does Sans know about the fourth wall and resets?”
All of these questions, plus the memorable characters and intricate world, lead to fans creating and contributing to what Toby Fox has provided. There are fan-made Undertale, videos depicting boss battles that won’t show up in the game proper, and comics. In fact, there are many comics depicting Undertale canon as well as potential alternative universes.
“Undertale is… in my opinion, one of the best games I’ve ever had the chance to play, it’s so fresh and inspiring!” one such cartoonist says. Kaitogirl draws a fan-comic Underfell, which is a darker tale on Undertale where Flowey the flower is friendly and the other monsters are trying to kill the player character. In this world being a Pacifist is the wrong way to go, because it gets the player character killed more easily. She’s gained a large amount of followers in a short period of time, and made many readers worry when ending pages on cliffhangers.
Other AUs are just as dark or sweet; Underswap has personalities switched around, so that the lazy skeleton Sans becomes a hardcore warrior and his sweet brother Papyrus becomes an indolent, morose clown, while sweet author avatar Temmie, a fluffy puppy with a human face, becomes one of the scariest creatures in the game. Dremurr-Reborn shows a world where you can save Asriel, but at a great and terrible price, as well as the obstacles that Asriel overcomes after his rescue. Flowerfell, possibly the saddest AU out there, features a player character that sprouts flowers every time they die and come back to life, to the point that the flowers cover their eyes and blind them.
The fan art that accompanies these different AUs reflect the humor, tragedy and pain, as well as the love for the original game. One comic that I cannot find despite having searched for it for an hour was Alphys and Undyne singing “You’re the Greatest” from Wander over Yonder to each other, because of the silliness and sweetness. Others have Skeleton brothers Sans and Papyrus building snowmen, and talking about the saves and resets where they live and die. Fans answer the questions they set out, like what Papyrus remembers and what Sans doesn’t. All of this art, born out of love for the characters and the story, makes thousands of people happy.
These comics show a need to tell multiple stories that the game by itself cannot provide, especially when it begs the player to not undo any happy endings that come from the Pacifist Run. When the thought of resetting and undoing a happy ending makes our stomachs churn, we can turn to reading about it instead, to see possibilities that programming would not allow. The artists face a creative challenge by adapting the save and reset points, and to view canon loosely, so as to draft new tales. Toby Fox has created quite an inspiring game, which allows for more new worlds to be built, destroyed, and rendered in six panels.