Musing: Undertale, a Special Holiday Post, Part 4 I win?

I wrote this post on New Year’s Eve and while I don’t usually put spoilers in my posts I’m warning you right now.  Do not read this post if you intend to play the game ‘Undertale’.  What is Undertale?  A roleplaying game that takes about 10-20 hours to complete to its full capacity.  I’ll mention Star Wars a few times in it, but you’re safe with that.  Nothing I say will be any more revealing than the trailers, so your mileage may vary.

Now with the obligatory warning, let me go on with my tale.

I’d lost enough to forget how it feels to win.

I would have forgotten how many tries it took, but sans reminded me every single time.  Every level, every stat I worked so hard to increase did nothing for me now.   I never expected a skeleton in a hoodie could cause so much trouble.

He even offered me mercy once, I thought it was a part of the fight (after all if it didn’t work I was only a reload away).  It didn’t work out.  It just pissed me off more.  Especially his taunt ‘If you were ever a real friend, you wouldn’t come back.’

It should also be noted what extremes sans goes to beat me.  I already mentioned the brutal start of the fight.  Nothing but sheer memorization will spare you (he doesn’t give you a polite warning before his attack.  Worse, all of his attacks do one damage in rapid succession and stacks a poison on you that ticks your health down even between combat rounds.  He even makes the screen flicker reminiscent of loading the state of an emulated game.  (For those not savvy, think of saving something at an exact moment and being thrown into it without warning.  Yes, it’s hard.)

If that’s not bad enough, far enough into the fight he doesn’t care that you’re going through the menu to do things like heal.  He still hits you.   And yes, you can die there too.

Your fight commands are useless.  As sans puts it: “I’m not gonna just stand there and let you hit me.”

In short sans cheats.

It took 26 tries but I finally beat him.  Even then it wasn’t obvious the fight was over.   He tried to force me into a stalemate, saying if he can’t beat me, he’ll just make sure I never get another turn.

Any attempts to go to the fight command snapped me back to the center of the field.  San’s trolling only made me want to win more and I eventually just stopped and watched… starting a staring match.  Instead of getting angry, I  waited calmly absolutely sure I would get my chance.

Sure enough, he started to slip away from exhaustion.  When he fell stone asleep, I dragged the ‘action field’ over to the fight button.   Yes, I cheated as much as he did and it felt great.   I practically licked my lips with anticipation, knowing he was prone and helpless.

I made my swing, he dodged a final time but the Protagonist did what he had done only a few times before, did exactly what I wanted more tahn anything.   It swung a second time cleaving through Sans with a satisfying crunch.

Like any other game accomplishment, I cheered, confident my victory was assured and sans clutched his wound and staggered off with a casual:  “Welp, I tried.  I’m going to Grilby’s.”  Part of me was mad, I wanted him to turn to dust like so many before him but once off the screen he said:

“Papyrus, you want anything?”

The words struck me with a mixture of emotions, and the gravity of what I had done hit me.  There was small solace that I’d reunited him with his brother at least.

I dragged my feet down the rest of the hallway, just eager to get this over with, wondering if the king of the monsters would be more powerful than sans.  The idea both scared and excited me honestly.

But instead, I found a kindly looking King, a goat man like Toriel.  He greeted me with a cautious smile and small talk.   HE didn’t get much out before he was killed from behind.

Flowey.

The thing is, I wasn’t really upset because Flowey killed him.  I was upset because I didn’t get to do it.   I hardly recognized his desperate pleas, insisting he can still be useful in some way.

I didn’t get a choice, but I didn’t need one.   What was a flower after everything I’d done.  I watched with dull apathy as Flowey was slashed to bits.  I walked through the final door and I’d won.

So, this was Undertale?   I won, beat the hardest boss I’d fought in a long while and for what?

My apathy didn’t last long.  I was confronted by a human child wearing a striped shirt, much like the PRotaganist.  The crucial difference was the child’s face.  He / she was smiling with eyes open and bright.

chara

They congratulated me for ‘winning’ lauding my high stats and confirming what I always knew.  You kill to get exp and levels.   You win the game and move on.

But it felt so empty.

They then told me to erase this world so we could move on to the next.  But I didn’t see the point.  I told him ‘no’.

“Since when were you in control?”

Then he killed me.  In one clean strike,  just as I killed Toriel.  Just as I killed Papyrus.   Just as I killed sans.   He struck me down when my guard was dropped, like the monster I was.  Like the monster he made me out to be.

The game even kicked me out to the Desktop, leaving me stunned.

I tried starting the game up again, and all I got was a black screen with a howling wind.  No title screen, no menus, no save files.  I’d won.  But I felt like I lost.

What had I done?

I say and waited until a simple dialogue box chided me, saying I must think myself above consequences.  It gave me another chance, a means to bring back the world, for the low low price of my Soul.

This snapped me out of it.   I mean, it’s game.   A game can’t actually still your soul, right?   Right?

undertale openingSo I agreed and the game closed out.   When I started it again, I got the same happy opening music I’ve always come to know and appreciate.   Spinning a tale of monsters and humans.

This time, I told myself, I’m gonna play this right.

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