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Undertale & Deltarune
Lemme preface, I liked a LOT about this game. I liked the witty writing and personalities, the meta stuff, the easter eggs, the little details, very especially the music! Love the music! The unique battle system is awesome, and you gotta appreciate anything that pays homage to the Mother series!
Buuut there's no way, none, nada, zilch, NO WAY this game was "indie". It was definitely funded. Some of the themes injected in, weren't merely pandering to the SJW Tumblr crowd for the sake of upvotes.
How to tell? Look at these character designs.
Why doesn't Goatmom have hips? Why is Goatdad chubby? Why doesn't Fishlady have hips? Why is Bad Joke Skellington so short? Why is Yaoi Ghostbot a straight up woman? Same about Rulescard in the next game, that's just a woman. That's what women look like.
Game begins with you, the AFGNCAAP (yeah I had to look that up), waking up in Foreshadowing Flower Patch, then you meet Foreshadowy Plot Twist Demonflower, and then Goatmom gives you a handholdy tutorial, then you either kill or don't kill Goatmom, then you go to Tundra Town and there are funny skellingtons and furries.
Then you go to Wetlands or Puppyville, and there's lots of Tumblr stuff. Not necessarily meaning that in a "bad" way, just throwin it out there.
Fishdyke monologues at you because story. Oh yeah, you read some plaques about guilt trip Humans are the REAL Monsters story, about miscommunication. Because no one thought to make sure Goatkid had blood in his mouth or fingernails, or if it just printed off on him. Easily averted misunderstanding. So then you rescue Fishydyke, or don't, and you go to Lethal Lava Land.
Then you go to Egoland, because Weeb Lizard made a robot thing that a ghost possessed, and then [scene missing] RoboGhost (who is a pretty funny character, NGL) somehow took over the world. I think the government is using RoboGhost as a puppet. Hmm.
There's some pretty fun characters, like Stoner Bear (well I think he looks like a bear more than a cat) and Alley Thots.
And then you go to the badass Core and that's cool. Also everyone keeps talking about how King Furrybuns "Tykes on Pikes" Dreemurryiffskritch is such a righteous dude. So you know what's coming up. When a piece of media gives such lavish attention to some random dude, and paints him as such a good guy, you KNOW he's gonna be dead.
Yeah, the story is really contrived and hamfisted in ways... Not sure how I'd rewrite it, if I were to slap together some fix-fic, and I got no experience in screenwriting.
Sooo, it was overall a mixture of really really cool stuff, and some "eeuurrrghh" stuff. More hits than misses, in my substandard opinion. I was intially mildly dismayed that it was such a very short game. I had played some longer NES games and a few SNES games, and because this game visually resembles them so much, I was just kind of... Expecting an "indie" (in that it's a small team making it, and not a major studio) game made in 2014-15, to be on par with titles for the NES and SNES.
And that brings up a curiosity. Isn't it strange how artforms just die off? And then people of those skillsets become extremely rare? Back in the golden age of animation, there were plenty of perfectly sufficient and experienced animators. Today, even the more respected animators can't even come close to a forgotten name in the credits of TerryToons shorts. The most popular animators on video platforms, very commonly have jitterier drawings and more inconsistencies, than animators who produced lower-budget films in the 60s and 70s. It's plain and simply, a lost art.
And much in the same way, animation and video games both had their golden eras, which have come to their respective ends. That's life cycles. Video games were once a huge deal back when people had children, and technology was massively increasing in its role in our everyday lives. Productions had a team of designers, programmers, writers, and composers. Today, there's still people who do these jobs, but something's just... lost. Not sure how to put it, but something's just missing these days.
Not that I've played many titles to know much about that, but you know what I'm getting at.
Overt themes. It's a 3rd person viewpoint game, and you're an AFGNCAAP, but plot twist, there's meta narration clever stuff. There are some pretty fun gags in these places. But you see the "gut punches" coming from ten miles away, the foreshadowing is so forced. The more hamfistedly "good good good!!!" a character is written as, the more horrible things will happen to them. And Gaster, yeah you know the "plant in loose-end clues for a mystery that doesn't exist" ARG trick.
A very good thing to note about the Photoshop Flowey battle, is how it uses contrast. Up until that point, all the art is 8bit, and interestingly there's a very noticeable disparity in quality between some sprites and arts. Some arts are very refined, others are basically scanned napkin doodles. Like placeholders made it into the "retail" version.
The Secret Lab is easily the best part of the game, hands down. I love how there are so many environmental storytelling details, that's really a great way to make a casual RPG style game. Just include thoughtful little details to flesh out different angles of the story. I like how it has a character pretending to be "totally fine" up front, but harboring a deep, dark secret.
Back on themes. The monarchs of the Hollow Earth Underworld are goats. Sex-inverted goats, no less. All of the characters are that way. It has the usual pacifist saturday morning Captain Planet morals. No pushing any boundaries here. Gotta get those Tumblrite shekels. Not knocking that it's better to talk out conflict, but there's an awful lot of extremely unethical people out there, and talking it out with them, just isn't gonna work.
The Chara twist, you can't really critique that, or at least I can't. It's hinted at in brilliant little ways, but the loss of input control is pretty clumsy biased narration.