10 Echo Fighters That Could Have Been On The Eve Of Smash Ultimate’s Release

uper Smash Bros. Ultimate revived the kind of hype and speculation that I went crazy for back when Smash Dojo was raging for Brawl. From the initial “Everyone Is Here” announcement to the baffling addition of Piranha Plant to the roster to How The Grinch Stole Smash Bros., we’ve about seen all we can see prior to the game’s release tomorrow. With the announcement that none of the DLC characters would be Echo Fighters, I thought it would be cool to think of the clones that could have been!

MS. PAC MAN for PAC MAN

I know what you’re thinking: “Mitch, you dingnut, Ms. Pac should just be a costume!” But we’re not here for that kind of dismissal, my friends. Of all the characters that didn’t get to be an Echo Fighter, I’m surprised that Ms. Pac didn’t receive much speculation or consideration from anyone. I think she would’ve been a fun and easy way to showcase more Namco properties and, just like her game, she could have been faster than her male counterpart.

ZACK FAIR for CLOUD

This is a case where I’m actually surprised an Echo Fighter wasn’t made right off the bat. I would think Zack Fair would’ve been an easy Echo of Cloud given their similar appearances and use of the Buster Sword. I’d imagine Zack would have some reflavored Limit Breaks and perhaps trade some speed for power.

PROTO MAN for MEGA MAN

If he weren’t included in Mega Man’s Final Smash, I would say a retro style Proto Man would have made a great addition to the roster. Increased power on Proto’s buster shots, an extended slide, or a lighter weight could have been ways to relate him back to the Mega Man series and differentiate him from the Blue Bomber. It would also have been interesting to see how the developers could have played with Proto Man’s shield as an Echo Fighter.

LINKLE for SHEIK

“Really, Mitch? Not for Link?” Here me out, friends! In Hyrule Warriors, Linkle’s primary weapons were her boots and her crossbow. With Sheik’s focus on quick, acrobatic kicks and melee attacks, Linkle would be much more suited to be her Echo Fighter. Couple that with reflavoring the needles and explosions as crossbow attacks, and you would have had one awesome new melee combatant from the Zelda universe.

BLACK SHADOW for CAPTAIN FALCON

It’s a little sad that we haven’t seen much love for F-Zero from Nintendo for the past few years. Now that Ganondorf has been further separated from his initial spot as Captain Falcon’s clone, it would have been really cool to see Black Shadow join the fight as another F-Zero representative and villain. Plus, how awesome would it have been to Falcon Punch Black Shadow into oblivion like in the anime?

NINTEN for NESS

This is where I’m going to start getting into true dream territory with this list. Ninten, the protagonist of MOTHER/Earthbound Beginnings, would have been an awesome surprise Echo Fighter given the title’s release on the E-Shop a few years back. PK Flash could become PK Brainshock, the bat could be aluminum or plastic, and PK Starstorm could become PK Beam, with Ana and Lloyd joining in for the attack. But hey, maybe all this is my Starmen.net days talking.

CELICA for ROBIN

Even if I agree that Smash has maybe one too many Fire Emblem characters in it, the fanboy in me REALLY wanted Celica as a character or Echo Fighter for Robin. Swapping Nosferatu for Seraphim or Recover and Elwind for Excalibur would have made for great nods to the series’ past. Throw in Alm in Chrom’s place for her Final Smash and you would have a true set of “Echoes” in Smash Ultimate.

DAN HIBIKI for RYU

Hear me out. Please. I know we got Ken, and that was more than expected for Ryu’s Echo Fighter. But, can you imagine the uproar and confusion Nintendo would have caused if Ryu’s Echo Fighter had been Dan? What if he had a Pichu effect where all his punches caused damage to himself? What if his Final Smash was garbage? You’d give him a shot and you know it.

DOC LOUIS for LITTLE MAC

This would’ve been another great opportunity for a troll character choice. Imagine Doc Louis joining the battle with his old school gloves, leopard print zip up, and a chocolate bar fueled “Giga Doc” Final Smash. Maybe he wouldn’t be as fast or powerful as Little Mac, but all of the boxer’s moves had to come from Doc’s training, so that Echo would sort of make sense.

HOENN TRAINER for POKÉMON TRAINER

Finally, I just wanted to include this idea for the fun of it. Of all the Trainers that could have served as Echo Fighters for the Kanto’s Pokemon Trainer, I think Hoenn’s would have worked the best. Somehow, I could see Treeko standing in for Ivysaur, Marshtomp for Squirtle, and Blaziken for Charizard with the least amount of moveset alteration compared to other starter lineups in the series. Ah well, it’s not like Pokémon doesn’t have enough representation already!

We are too excited for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s release tomorrow! Let us know if there’s anyone you wish would have made the roster and keep an eye out for more Smash Bros. coverage from Massiv soon! ♦

uper Smash Bros. Ultimate revived the kind of hype and speculation that I went crazy for back when Smash Dojo was raging for Brawl. From the initial “Everyone Is Here” announcement to the baffling addition of Piranha Plant to the roster to How The Grinch Stole Smash Bros., we’ve about seen all we can see prior to the game’s release tomorrow. With the announcement that none of the DLC characters would be Echo Fighters, I thought it would be cool to think of the clones that could have been!

 

MS. PAC MAN
for PAC MAN

I know what you’re thinking: “Mitch, you dingnut, Ms. Pac should just be a costume!” But we’re not here for that kind of dismissal, my friends. Of all the characters that didn’t get to be an Echo Fighter, I’m surprised that Ms. Pac didn’t receive much speculation or consideration from anyone. I think she would’ve been a fun and easy way to showcase more Namco properties and, just like her game, she could have been faster than her male counterpart.

ZACK FAIR
for CLOUD

This is a case where I’m actually surprised an Echo Fighter wasn’t made right off the bat. I would think Zack Fair would’ve been an easy Echo of Cloud given their similar appearances and use of the Buster Sword. I’d imagine Zack would have some reflavored Limit Breaks and perhaps trade some speed for power.

PROTO MAN for
MEGA MAN

If he weren’t included in Mega Man’s Final Smash, I would say a retro style Proto Man would have made a great addition to the roster. Increased power on Proto’s buster shots, an extended slide, or a lighter weight could have been ways to relate him back to the Mega Man series and differentiate him from the Blue Bomber. It would also have been interesting to see how the developers could have played with Proto Man’s shield as an Echo Fighter.

LINKLE for
SHEIK

“Really, Mitch? Not for Link?” Here me out, friends! In Hyrule Warriors, Linkle’s primary weapons were her boots and her crossbow. With Sheik’s focus on quick, acrobatic kicks and melee attacks, Linkle would be much more suited to be her Echo Fighter. Couple that with reflavoring the needles and explosions as crossbow attacks, and you would have had one awesome new melee combatant from the Zelda universe.

BLACK SHADOW for
CAPTAIN FALCON

It’s a little sad that we haven’t seen much love for F-Zero from Nintendo for the past few years. Now that Ganondorf has been further separated from his initial spot as Captain Falcon’s clone, it would have been really cool to see Black Shadow join the fight as another F-Zero representative and villain. Plus, how awesome would it have been to Falcon Punch Black Shadow into oblivion like in the anime?

NINTEN
for NESS

This is where I’m going to start getting into true dream territory with this list. Ninten, the protagonist of MOTHER/Earthbound Beginnings, would have been an awesome surprise Echo Fighter given the title’s release on the E-Shop a few years back. PK Flash could become PK Brainshock, the bat could be aluminum or plastic, and PK Starstorm could become PK Beam, with Ana and Lloyd joining in for the attack. But hey, maybe all this is my Starmen.net days talking.

CELICA
for ROBIN

Even if I agree that Smash has maybe one too many Fire Emblem characters in it, the fanboy in me REALLY wanted Celica as a character or Echo Fighter for Robin. Swapping Nosferatu for Seraphim or Recover and Elwind for Excalibur would have made for great nods to the series’ past. Throw in Alm in Chrom’s place for her Final Smash and you would have a true set of “Echoes” in Smash Ultimate.

DAN HIBIKI
for RYU

Hear me out. Please. I know we got Ken, and that was more than expected for Ryu’s Echo Fighter. But, can you imagine the uproar and confusion Nintendo would have caused if Ryu’s Echo Fighter had been Dan? What if he had a Pichu effect where all his punches caused damage to himself? What if his Final Smash was garbage? You’d give him a shot and you know it.

DOC LOUIS for
LITTLE MAC

This would’ve been another great opportunity for a troll character choice. Imagine Doc Louis joining the battle with his old school gloves, leopard print zip up, and a chocolate bar fueled “Giga Doc” Final Smash. Maybe he wouldn’t be as fast or powerful as Little Mac, but all of the boxer’s moves had to come from Doc’s training, so that Echo would sort of make sense.

HOENN TRAINER for POKÉMON TRAINER

Finally, I just wanted to include this idea for the fun of it. Of all the Trainers that could have served as Echo Fighters for the Kanto’s Pokemon Trainer, I think Hoenn’s would have worked the best. Somehow, I could see Treeko standing in for Ivysaur, Marshtomp for Squirtle, and Blaziken for Charizard with the least amount of moveset alteration compared to other starter lineups in the series. Ah well, it’s not like Pokémon doesn’t have enough representation already!

We are too excited for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s release tomorrow! Let us know if there’s anyone you wish would have made the roster and keep an eye out for more Smash Bros. coverage from Massiv soon! ♦

 

What Your Super Mario Party Character Says About You

ario Party: Whether you love it or hate it, you’ve definitely been pulled into a game at some point. I finally had the chance to sit down with Cam to play some Super Mario Party and it got me thinking about all the different friends and people that have stolen my Stars and beat me at mini-games over the years. Here’s what I can definitively say about your personality based on who you play in Super Mario Party!

 

MARIO
You’re probably nine years old or younger. If you aren’t, you definitely play Mario Party single-player because your friends make fun of you. Your favorite book is probably something you read in high school English because you don’t like reading.

LUIGI
You win Mario Party three times out of four. You are the youngest sibling in your family. You enjoy laughing at people that lose. You will steal coins and Stars from your friend in a two-player game. Low key argues on GameFAQs.

PEACH
You’re a man…or a mom.

 

 

DAISY
Someone beat you to playing Peach.

 

 

WARIO
You stream on Twitch to 10 people. You are most likely to order pizza for yourself and share with no one. Despite this, you probably care the least about winning at Mario Party, but probably still won the Coin Star.

WALUIGI
You think you’re really funny because you enjoy “meme culture”. There is a 100% chance that you will share this article or leave a comment saying “accurate”. You are still bitter that Waluigi is not in Smash but almost exclusively for the attention. You ask for breadsticks when a Wario player orders pizza.

YOSHI
You are a bitter 20-something man who thinks video games have artistic merit. You are probably someone who either speedruns or 100% games. You have to play Mario Party at a friend’s house because you haven’t owned a Nintendo console since the GameCube. If you are none of these things, you are someone’s girlfriend.

DONKEY KONG
You’ve given up on taking anything seriously. You almost never get Stars, but will win because you won every bonus star. You are the person most likely to scream in excitement or agony at the game. You consume cake and/or alcohol as a meal.

ROSALINA
Everyone is glad that you were able to make it to hang out, for once. You enjoy wearing nice clothes just because. You have a job where you can buy other game consoles, but you buy exclusively Nintendo products. You probably live alone.

BOWSER
You’re 11 years old, you’re at a birthday party, and you wanted to play as the bad guy. You like to go on 9Gag. You spend your allowance on plastic. You probably hit people when you lose.

BOWSER JR.
You also play as Bowser Jr. in Smash. You keep expecting people to be surprised that you picked Bowser Jr., but nobody cares. Your dream is going to Nintendo World. You’ve never taken an amiibo out of its box and you’ve never beaten Super Mario Sunshine.

GOOMBA
You’re a super quirky cool cat kid who wants to live on the wild side tonight!!!

 

BOO
You like Apple products. You let people talk over you. You have the worst laugh, but one of the better personalities of your friends. You haven’t played a Mario game since you were 13 but your friends really wanted to play.

KOOPA
I don’t know. You’re probably a 4-year old sibling of the person who owns the Switch. You’ll give up in 20 minutes.

 

HAMMER BRO
You enjoy going out for coffee for the aesthetic, but you also like Frappes. When something new pops up in the game, you have to comment on it. Nobody knows how you’re getting good grades and it’s insufferable. Your favorite food is Mac and Cheese (or some comparable pasta).

SHY GUY
You make up words because you don’t know how to communicate feelings to others. You think it’s cool to like Rick and Morty. Did you really bring a granola bar in case you got hungry?

POM POM
You’re a computer  player.

MONTY MOLE
This is your fifth round of Mario Party in a row and you’ve run out of characters to choose. You own stuffed animals. You don’t understand math or taxes, because you’re either too young or never really got good at either. You want it to snow all year then want sun when it’s here for more than two weeks.

DRY BONES
Congratulations on being a special guest on the Wario player’s Twitch stream! You use your hobbies as substitute for personality, but are still the most likable player. You have trouble saying no to people. If you’re young, you are the target of the Bowser player’s punches.

DIDDY KONG
You’re in this game?!

 

 

 

Now that I’ve correctly guessed your personality, you should check out Cam’s review of Super Mario Party! Or, if you’re looking for a lengthier read, take a look at my essay Name Everyone. ♦

ario Party: Whether you love it or hate it, you’ve definitely been pulled into a game at some point. I finally had the chance to sit down with Cam to play some Super Mario Party and it got me thinking about all the different friends and people that have stolen my Stars and beat me at mini-games over the years. Here’s what I can definitively say about your personality based on who you play in Super Mario Party!


MARIO

You’re probably nine years old or younger. If you aren’t, you definitely play Mario Party single-player because your friends make fun of you. Your favorite book is probably something you read in high school English because you don’t like reading.


LUIGI

You win Mario Party three times out of four. You are the youngest sibling in your family. You enjoy laughing at people that lose. You will steal coins and Stars from your friend in a two-player game. Low key argues on GameFAQs.


PEACH

You’re a man…or a mom.


DAISY

Someone beat you to playing Peach.


WARIO

You stream on Twitch to 10 people. You are most likely to order pizza for yourself and share with no one. Despite this, you probably care the least about winning at Mario Party, but probably still won the Coin Star.


WALUIGI

You think you’re really funny because you enjoy “meme culture”. There is a 100% chance that you will share this article or leave a comment saying “accurate”. You are still bitter that Waluigi is not in Smash but almost exclusively for the attention. You ask for breadsticks when a Wario player orders pizza.


YOSHI

You are a bitter 20-something man who thinks video games have artistic merit. You are probably someone who either speedruns or 100% games. You have to play Mario Party at a friend’s house because you haven’t owned a Nintendo console since the GameCube. If you are none of these things, you are someone’s girlfriend.

DONKEY KONG

You’ve given up on taking anything seriously. You almost never get Stars, but will win because you won every bonus star. You are the person most likely to scream in excitement or agony at the game. You consume cake and/or alcohol as a meal.

ROSALINA

Everyone is glad that you were able to make it to hang out, for once. You enjoy wearing nice clothes just because. You have a job where you can buy other game consoles, but you buy exclusively Nintendo products. You probably live alone.

BOWSER

You’re 11 years old, you’re at a birthday party, and you wanted to play as the bad guy. You like to go on 9Gag. You spend your allowance on plastic. You probably hit people when you lose.

BOWSER JR.

You also play as Bowser Jr. in Smash. You keep expecting people to be surprised that you picked Bowser Jr., but nobody cares. Your dream is going to Nintendo World. You’ve never taken an amiibo out of its box and you’ve never beaten Super Mario Sunshine.

GOOMBA

You’re a super quirky cool cat kid who wants to live on the wild side tonight!!!

BOO

You like Apple products. You let people talk over you. You have the worst laugh, but one of the better personalities of your friends. You haven’t played a Mario game since you were 13 but your friends really wanted to play.

KOOPA

I don’t know. You’re probably a 4-year old sibling of the person who owns the Switch. You’ll give up in 20 minutes.


HAMMER BRO

You enjoy going out for coffee for the aesthetic, but you also like Frappes. When something new pops up in the game, you have to comment on it. Nobody knows how you’re getting good grades and it’s insufferable. Your favorite food is Mac and Cheese (or some comparable pasta).

SHY GUY

You make up words because you don’t know how to communicate feelings to others. You think it’s cool to like Rick and Morty. Did you really bring a granola bar in case you got hungry?

POM POM

You’re a computer  player.

MONTY MOLE

This is your fifth round of Mario Party in a row and you’ve run out of characters to choose. You own stuffed animals. You don’t understand math or taxes, because you’re either too young or never really got good at either. You want it to snow all year then want sun when it’s here for more than two weeks.

DRY BONES

Congratulations on being a special guest on the Wario player’s Twitch stream! You use your hobbies as substitute for personality, but are still the most likable player. You have trouble saying no to people. If you’re young, you are the target of the Bowser player’s punches.

DIDDY KONG

You’re in this game?!

Now that I’ve correctly guessed your personality, you should check out Cam’s review of Super Mario Party! Or, if you’re looking for a lengthier read, take a look at my essay Name Everyone. ♦

 

Early Pontifications on deltarune and UNDERTALE

was just finishing up listening through all of Dan Olsen’s old Christmas playthrough of UNDERTALE for Folding Ideas on my night shift at work when I heard about deltarune. At first, I was kind of confused. I never expected Toby Fox to follow up UNDERTALE directly, so seeing that this next big project recycles assets and ideas from that game caught me off guard (I know about his comments, I’ll get to those next). Since I just finished my first playthrough of the game last night, I haven’t had much of a chance to deliberate on what I think of all that it is. Still, given the already sizable number of think pieces and fan theories out on this first chapter, I thought I’d throw my own two cents in.

 

For the sake of (relative) brevity, I’m going to refrain from making too many predictions on what the next chapters of deltarune may become to focus solely on what this chapter has to offer in terms of content. I am also not looking to forge any connections to UNDERTALE outside of what we know from Toby and see in the game; in other words, I’m not here to tell you that W.D. Gaster or Chara is behind this story or that this is some secret prequel or sequel. What interests me about this game is how it is a direct commentary on a game that is itself a commentary on games (wrap your head around that one!). While UNDERTALE is a game about video games, deltarune is a game about UNDERTALE.

There are two essential pieces of UNDERTALE’s mechanical and narrative structure that allows its themes to resonate so strongly with players: it successfully blurs the lines between in-game and real life experiences and inverts staples of RPGs to connect with the player on an emotional level. Dan Olsen analyzed the game’s use of teleport fantasy and extrinsic rewards better than I ever could, but I want to emphasize his point that UNDERTALE treats its world as one that the player enters and becomes a part of, allowing its Fight and Mercy mechanics to genuinely play off of their moral compass; choice is so important to this game because every choice is based in the player’s desire to do good or harm, and those choices are treated as real and lasting in-game. Also of note is UNDERTALE’s acknowledgment of the possibility of its own fandom: the game’s use of fourth wall breaks and plays on internet meme culture invite players to develop a fondness for its world while still judging those who feel the need to engage it obsessively to the point of a Genocide run (see hbomberguy’s analysis for an awesome dissection of this idea).

deltarune, in contrast, seems to do everything in
its power to remind the player that it is a game and constantly uses mechanics and assets from UNDERTALE and RPGs in general to keep them at arm’s length. Many have already addressed just how far this game goes on an aesthetic level to set itself in opposition to its counterpart: the title is a lowercase anagram of UNDERTALE, the install screen and license ask players to “accept everything that will happen,” and the title bar of the program constantly changes its name, as if to draw attention to the fact that it’s just another window running on the player’s computer. The use of assets, names, and characters from UNDERTALE seem less like an attempt to reconnect with players than elements that draw attention to themselves as recycled ideas. Toriel, Asgore, Alphys, Undyne, and Sans are no longer new friends to protect; they’re just characters from that other game we liked, only different. This is not a world where the player holds the power to make choices; this isn’t even a world. deltarune is a program, an RPG, a game “intended for those who have completed UNDERTALE”—and it never allows you to be unaware of this.

deltarune truly begins its dissection of UNDERTALE with the character creation screen, which works in complete opposition to the latter’s “Name the fallen human” screen. UNDERTALE’s naming screen initially appears to be in line with what’s expected from RPGs only to invert player expectations later on with the reveal that their chosen name is that of the game’s villain (often referred to as Chara), a human that spurs Asriel’s actions in a Pacifist run and the player’s destructive avatar and partner in a Genocide run. The simplicity of the naming screen is an essential part of the name’s impact later on in the game adds depth to what is otherwise a typical aesthetic choice in RPGs. With this in mind, it is initially surprising that deltarune appears to give players the ability to customize their character’s appearance, likes, and dislikes. Just when the player is invested in the character they’ve created, the game throws the entire intro out the window, with none of their choices affecting the game that follows. This is a clear reversal of expectations that preys on the player’s previous experience with UNDERTALE. Players familiar with UNDERTALE expect choices to have consequences and for mysterious set ups that lead to game-changing payoffs aimed straight for their heart, which deltarune denies from the very beginning. It’s unnerving, to say the least.

As deltarune progresses, it becomes apparent how hard the game clings to RPG and fantasy tropes without question or commentary. Waking up in Toriel’s house feels reminiscent of Pokemon, Chrono Trigger, and EarthBound, the Light and Dark prophecy feels like something out of any Square Enix title, and the party makeup of a silent swordsman, a hot-blooded fighter, and an empathetic spellcaster feels all too familiar. Most importantly, this game utilizes the Fight and Mercy mechanics from UNDERTALE, but with the added mechanics and third person battle screen, it feels remarkably less personal to make these choices. Should you fight? Should you have mercy on these creatures? Is there a difference anymore?

These questions and seemingly deliberate opposing narrative choices come to a head when you realize that this first chapter doesn’t seem to care all that much about Kris, the player avatar. Kris lacks both the vacancy of blank slate silent protagonists for players to insert themselves into their role, like Frisk, Ness, or a Pokemon trainer, as well as the agency of other named RPG protagonists, like Crono or Cloud Strife. Instead, they are a social outcast (even to the player, as there is likely some wariness to the fact that they resemble Chara) whose only clear goal is to act as the key to get them and Susie back home. You could replace Kris with a key or stone to the Light World and the plot would remain relatively the same. This is not Kris’ story, or the players story. It’s Susie’s.

Unlike Kris and the player, Susie has agency in spades, driving the action forward and flipping sides all the way until the end of the adventure. Susie has so much agency in this plot that she can’t even be controlled for most of the game. She is the one who forges a connection to the Dark World, both through opposition with Ralsei and friendship with Lancer, and eventually grows to be a kinder monster through her actions. Everything that happens to Kris and the player is the result of Susie, essentially making her the protagonist. And, as the program warned you from the beginning, you just have to accept it.

I could digress on deltarune’s details for much longer, but I want to get to this question: Why does this all matter in relation to UNDERTALE? To address this, I want to reference a quote from Sans in UNDERTALE that encompasses much of what that game is about. If the player kills Papyrus in their run, Sans ends his judgement before Asgore by asking them an important question: “If you have some sort of special power… Isn’t it your responsibility to do the right thing?” The special power, of course, refers to the player’s “determination” to finish the game and their ability to save and replay events, which is hugely important in a game where the choice to kill or have mercy on monsters can alter events entirely. And because this is treated as diegetic and the player is treated as a force and not a spectator, the act of killing anyone is actually destructive to the game world and, in turn, the player.

Ultimately, deltarune asks a contradictory but relevant question: If your actions have no impact on the game world and if neither you or Kris has agency in the story, are you still responsible to do the “right thing”? Is there even a “right thing” when the game imposes no penalty or change for doing the “wrong thing”? This reflects deeply back on UNDERTALE, as the saving feature in deltarune now emphasizes “power” over determination, something that Chara explicitly discusses in the Genocide ending: Is there power in being able to kill or have mercy without consequence? Is that power good, evil, or dependent on the player? This in turn continues the commentary on RPGs and video games as a whole, where we as players have undoubtedly slayed countless monsters mindlessly and have still come out as heroes in the end or, alternatively, decided to do a Mercy run on deltarune solely because it’s what we learned from UNDERTALE. deltarune is a game about UNDERTALE insofar as it asks us to reflect on the latter’s themes and what we’ve been taught about video games and choice from it.

 

This, to me, is what this chapter is about, and it would be interesting to see this theme develop further in later chapters. I can’t say for sure what will come in the future of deltarune, but judging by the ending of this chapter, it seems that we have no way to control the path that Kris is being led down other than playing the game how we believe we should. ♦

was just finishing up listening through all of Dan Olsen’s old Christmas playthrough of UNDERTALE for Folding Ideas on my night shift at work when I heard about deltarune. At first, I was kind of confused. I never expected Toby Fox to follow up UNDERTALE directly, so seeing that this next big project recycles assets and ideas from that game caught me off guard (I know about his comments, I’ll get to those next). Since I just finished my first playthrough of the game last night, I haven’t had much of a chance to deliberate on what I think of all that it is. Still, given the already sizable number of think pieces and fan theories out on this first chapter, I thought I’d throw my own two cents in.

For the sake of (relative) brevity, I’m going to refrain from making too many predictions on what the next chapters of deltarune may become to focus solely on what this chapter has to offer in terms of content. I am also not looking to forge any connections to UNDERTALE outside of what we know from Toby and see in the game; in other words, I’m not here to tell you that W.D. Gaster or Chara is behind this story or that this is some secret prequel or sequel. What interests me about this game is how it is a direct commentary on a game that is itself a commentary on games (wrap your head around that one!). While UNDERTALE is a game about video games, deltarune is a game about UNDERTALE.

There are two essential pieces of UNDERTALE’s mechanical and narrative structure that allows its themes to resonate so strongly with players: it successfully blurs the lines between in-game and real life experiences and inverts staples of RPGs to connect with the player on an emotional level. Dan Olsen analyzed the game’s use of teleport fantasy and extrinsic rewards better than I ever could, but I want to emphasize his point that UNDERTALE treats its world as one that the player enters and becomes a part of, allowing its Fight and Mercy mechanics to genuinely play off of their moral compass; choice is so important to this game because every choice is based in the player’s desire to do good or harm, and those choices are treated as real and lasting in-game. Also of note is UNDERTALE’s acknowledgment of the possibility of its own fandom: the game’s use of fourth wall breaks and plays on internet meme culture invite players to develop a fondness for its world while still judging those who feel the need to engage it obsessively to the point of a Genocide run (see hbomberguy’s analysis for an awesome dissection of this idea).

deltarune, in contrast, seems to do everything in its power to remind the player that it is a game and constantly uses mechanics and assets from UNDERTALE and RPGs in general to keep them at arm’s length. Many have already addressed just how far this game goes on an aesthetic level to set itself in opposition to its counterpart: the title is a lowercase anagram of UNDERTALE, the install screen and license ask players to “accept everything that will happen,” and the title bar of the program constantly changes its name, as if to draw attention to the fact that it’s just another window running on the player’s computer. The use of assets, names, and characters from UNDERTALE seem less like an attempt to reconnect with players than elements that draw attention to themselves as recycled ideas. Toriel, Asgore, Alphys, Undyne, and Sans are no longer new friends to protect; they’re just characters from that other game we liked, only different. This is not a world where the player holds the power to make choices; this isn’t even a world. deltarune is a program, an RPG, a game “intended for those who have completed UNDERTALE”—and it never allows you to be unaware of this.

deltarune truly begins its dissection of UNDERTALE with the character creation screen, which works in complete opposition to the latter’s “Name the fallen human” screen. UNDERTALE’s naming screen initially appears to be in line with what’s expected from RPGs only to invert player expectations later on with the reveal that their chosen name is that of the game’s villain (often referred to as Chara), a human that spurs Asriel’s actions in a Pacifist run and the player’s destructive avatar and partner in a Genocide run. The simplicity of the naming screen is an essential part of the name’s impact later on in the game adds depth to what is otherwise a typical aesthetic choice in RPGs. With this in mind, it is initially surprising that deltarune appears to give players the ability to customize their character’s appearance, likes, and dislikes. Just when the player is invested in the character they’ve created, the game throws the entire intro out the window, with none of their choices affecting the game that follows. This is a clear reversal of expectations that preys on the player’s previous experience with UNDERTALE. Players familiar with UNDERTALE expect choices to have consequences and for mysterious set ups that lead to game-changing payoffs aimed straight for their heart, which deltarune denies from the very beginning. It’s unnerving, to say the least.

As deltarune progresses, it becomes apparent how hard the game clings to RPG and fantasy tropes without question or commentary. Waking up in Toriel’s house feels reminiscent of Pokemon, Chrono Trigger, and EarthBound, the Light and Dark prophecy feels like something out of any Square Enix title, and the party makeup of a silent swordsman, a hot-blooded fighter, and an empathetic spellcaster feels all too familiar. Most importantly, this game utilizes the Fight and Mercy mechanics from UNDERTALE, but with the added mechanics and third person battle screen, it feels remarkably less personal to make these choices. Should you fight? Should you have mercy on these creatures? Is there a difference anymore?

These questions and seemingly deliberate opposing narrative choices come to a head when you realize that this first chapter doesn’t seem to care all that much about Kris, the player avatar. Kris lacks both the vacancy of blank slate silent protagonists for players to insert themselves into their role, like Frisk, Ness, or a Pokemon trainer, as well as the agency of other named RPG protagonists, like Crono or Cloud Strife. Instead, they are a social outcast (even to the player, as there is likely some wariness to the fact that they resemble Chara) whose only clear goal is to act as the key to get them and Susie back home. You could replace Kris with a key or stone to the Light World and the plot would remain relatively the same. This is not Kris’ story, or the players story. It’s Susie’s.

Unlike Kris and the player, Susie has agency in spades, driving the action forward and flipping sides all the way until the end of the adventure. Susie has so much agency in this plot that she can’t even be controlled for most of the game. She is the one who forges a connection to the Dark World, both through opposition with Ralsei and friendship with Lancer, and eventually grows to be a kinder monster through her actions. Everything that happens to Kris and the player is the result of Susie, essentially making her the protagonist. And, as the program warned you from the beginning, you just have to accept it.

I could digress on deltarune’s details for much longer, but I want to get to this question: Why does this all matter in relation to UNDERTALE? To address this, I want to reference a quote from Sans in UNDERTALE that encompasses much of what that game is about. If the player kills Papyrus in their run, Sans ends his judgement before Asgore by asking them an important question: “If you have some sort of special power… Isn’t it your responsibility to do the right thing?” The special power, of course, refers to the player’s “determination” to finish the game and their ability to save and replay events, which is hugely important in a game where the choice to kill or have mercy on monsters can alter events entirely. And because this is treated as diegetic and the player is treated as a force and not a spectator, the act of killing anyone is actually destructive to the game world and, in turn, the player.

Ultimately, deltarune asks a contradictory but relevant question: If your actions have no impact on the game world and if neither you or Kris has agency in the story, are you still responsible to do the “right thing”? Is there even a “right thing” when the game imposes no penalty or change for doing the “wrong thing”? This reflects deeply back on UNDERTALE, as the saving feature in deltarune now emphasizes “power” over determination, something that Chara explicitly discusses in the Genocide ending: Is there power in being able to kill or have mercy without consequence? Is that power good, evil, or dependent on the player? This in turn continues the commentary on RPGs and video games as a whole, where we as players have undoubtedly slayed countless monsters mindlessly and have still come out as heroes in the end or, alternatively, decided to do a Mercy run on deltarune solely because it’s what we learned from UNDERTALE. deltarune is a game about UNDERTALE insofar as it asks us to reflect on the latter’s themes and what we’ve been taught about video games and choice from it.

This, to me, is what this chapter is about, and it would be interesting to see this theme develop further in later chapters. I can’t say for sure what will come in the future of deltarune, but judging by the ending of this chapter, it seems that we have no way to control the path that Kris is being led down other than playing the game how we believe we should. ♦

 

Name Everyone: A Reflection on People and Games

hat phrase may be my most common piece of advice when approaching games. It’s probably a weird thing to say, but I don’t mean to be forceful or that it’s the correct way to go about any game. Still, oftentimes I find myself back at those words when I’m recommending my favorite experiences in this medium.

“Name everyone.”

Naming a cast of characters in a video game is probably trivial to a lot of people, but for every person I’ve met who doesn’t care about the naming screen, I think I’ve met an equal amount of folks who have spent upwards of an hour on it. This essay isn’t really meant to be a dissection of the mechanical or aesthetic properties of the naming screen, though. I’m writing this as more of a personal exercise and to reflect on and share my own gaming experiences, with one central question to act as my guide: Why “name everyone”?

I hope you’ll join me in reflection as you read or, at the very least, relax and enjoy the ramblings of a guy who loves games. Some spoilers ahead.

8e86271b-55b4-485e-828b-7ec0db89c585

EarthBound: Age 13

My parents were divorced before I started middle school. Going to stay with my dad in the city was enjoyable, but it did mean having a lot of free time alone; all my friends were in the suburbs and going out in the city alone wasn’t a smart idea. We lived in a loft that doubled as my dad’s house and office, though, which meant I had plenty of time to spend on open workspace computers goofing off on Newgrounds, Google Video, and, eventually, emulation sites (oops). I can’t recall exactly how I came upon it, but given my time trying my best to main Ness in Smash as a kid, I eventually found and downloaded EarthBound to play for the first time.

What surprised me most when I booted up the game for the first time was that Ness wasn’t any set character; beyond the bumping, low-fi beat and Mint flavored color palette I had chosen was a box that read “Please name him.” It’s not like I hadn’t named a character in a video game before, but I didn’t realize that this would be one of those kinds of games. I remember scrolling through all the character screens once before naming them, just to get a sense of who was who.

In my first playthrough, I felt as if I had casted the game with people I knew. The small town boy with the striped shirt and hat became a good friend of mine; the girl in the dress became my middle school crush; I gave my name to the kid with the glasses; another friend I knew from class became the foreign martial artist. The dog was my dog, my favorite food was wings (a pre-vegan favorite), and, of all things, my favorite thing was “Fight’n”—something I perhaps wished I was good at, given my scrawny body and goofy demeanor.

All of this is to say that, because of my outlook on the characters and game world, EarthBound became very personal to me. I took the ROM file back and forth between houses so I could play it at my mom’s whenever I could; despite the game’s admittedly primitive combat, frustratingly long segments and somewhat slow pacing, I couldn’t put it down. To me, EarthBound was, and still is, a game about a boy living with his mother and sibling, with their dad only reachable by phone, who grows up and discovers what makes him and his world special with the help of a small group of friends on a cross-country adventure to save the world (my apologies for the run-on). So much of this game was both what I lived, but also what I needed at that age. That made it mine.

Every time I’ve gone back to play the game, it has been hard to separate it from the way I initially imagined it, with the people I initially cast in the roles of each character along the way. EarthBound allowed me to be part of the adventure I had dreamed of with those I cared about and also helped me see the world more positively; in a weird post-divorce time, this game was a reminder that people are often more humorous, loving, and connective than they may appear to be, and that even a couple of kids can make a difference with enough support and kindness. That’s a lesson I need to keep in mind to this day.

One last note: Partway through the game, you break from your party in Threed to guide the boy with glasses to meet his father, Dr. Andonuts, for the first time in 10 years. When he gets there, the conversation is odd at first, but by the end of the game, the party will have gotten to interact with Dr. Andonuts enough to realize his brilliance and how he cares for his son. Playing this out with the boy in glasses being named “Mitch” on the weekends where I was getting to really know my own dad for the first time is up there with one of my most treasured moments in gaming.

In EarthBound, name everyone.

Nuzlocke: Age 18

This challenge is the closest I’ve came to the way Pokemon felt to play when I was six years old.

That probably sounds weird, given that the whole idea of a Nuzlocke revolves around your Pokemon essentially dying when they’re KO’d, making them unusable for the rest of the playthrough. Let me elaborate.

Pokemon Gold Version is what I consider to be the first game I ever “beat” as a kid (granted, I had a lot of help, but I digress). As a little kid coming off the first season of the anime, diving into Gold Version broke so many expectations for me; I quickly realized that Johto was not the world of the show I had watched, and that most of what I’d be finding in the wild would be completely unfamiliar. With my Totodile by my side (named ICE in all caps, of course), I set out on my first journey in gaming with all the untouched imagination and emotionality of a six-year-old. The giddiness of finding new creatures and the level to which I cared for all of them, silly names aside, was pure.

Fast forward to nowadays: I’ve played and failed at many Nuzlocke runs, including on Black, Diamond, and Red Version. Once again, for all the silliness of the names I’ve given to my Pokemon, I find myself remembering them more fondly because of the restored sense of discovery and value that this challenge gives these old games. It’s easy (and admittedly boring) for me to replay Red Version, grab Bulbasaur, catch a Butterfree in Viridian Forest, and wreck Brock for the fifth time; it’s an entirely different feeling to team up with “The Guy,” hope to find anything worthwhile on our way to Brock, get hyped when I do find a Caterpie (named Bumpadump), and feel like a tight knit team as we try to survive Brock. Furthermore, that’s why I always include “name everyone” as a rule for these runs: I haven’t ran Red Version in a couple years, and I still remember my team’s names. These are playthroughs to remember.

Man, I hope I survive Gold Version when I go back.

Darkest Dungeon: Age 21

Speaking of surviving, let’s get bleak.

There’s a very good argument for why you shouldn’t name anyone in Darkest Dungeon. I feel that content creators have already broke down the thematic implications of the unforgiving mechanics in this game quite thoroughly, and so I won’t be diving much into that area of discussion. I don’t even really plan to discuss much in the way of imagination with this example. Instead, I want to explore how the way I played Darkest Dungeon fundamentally changed once I imposed my own narrative on the game by naming every single character after people I’ve met.

There are many videos discussing the mechanics and ludonarrative of this game (check out Mark Brown or hbomberguy for some of my favorite explorations of these ideas), and there is a recurring focus on how Darkest Dungeon’s difficulty can force the player into the role of a cutthroat business manager; some of the best strategies available in the game rely on one’s willingness to exploit the expendability of characters in the game. For me, choosing to name everyone in my roster after friends and family led me to choosing strategies that, while not optimal, made the difficult risks and challenges of the game even more frightening.

During this run, the parties I decided to send out often relied just as much on how I knew the people in real life would interact in a team setting as they did on class synergy. Choices on whether to keep delving for treasure after completing the quest’s objective felt like an actual risk when I knew that doing so may jeopardize the life of someone I care about. Seeing new positive quirks that suited the person they were attached to was entertaining and seeing bad quirks service made me feel like I let them down somehow. The themes of the game’s mechanics—risk versus reward, life and death, and making the best of a bad situation—became cemented in my mind when those I love were at stake. Much like Pokemon Nuzlocke, greater personal attachment led to an alternative experience.

This choice, of course, led to some difficult moments. Few games have made me feel as torn as Darkest Dungeon has in its final battle, where, despite all the effort and turmoil I spent getting friends up to an appropriate power to take on the finale, two had to die by my own choice. In the end, no matter how many people you’ve saved or victories you’ve had, this game makes you remember how selfish you must be to see its terrible events to the end. It is one of the few experiences I’ve had in gaming where I’ve had to confront genuine helplessness in face of horribleness; we choose to voluntarily engage games like Darkest Dungeon, and in the moments that matter most, it strips us of our agency and makes us responsible for our choices. That’s easily up there in my most uncomfortable memories in gaming, especially when I had chosen loved ones as the avatars.

No matter how well you prepare, Darkest Dungeon sets you up to fail. And by naming everyone, it reminds you that, no matter how hard you try, you can’t be everyone’s hero.

Reflection

Why “name everyone?”

Stories are subjective: no matter their actual content, what we take away from them are the meanings that we have imposed on them. What makes gaming special is its interactivity as a medium, and through that interactivity we are able play out stories in completely different ways than other people. In analysis, we speak so often to the wider themes that games explore that it’s worth stepping a bit closer sometimes and considering what these experiences specifically meant to us. A game that explores friendship can come at a time when you need it most; a game from your childhood can have a renewed sense of importance in your adolescence; a game can communicate dark themes when the idealism of your high school days is falling away. In all these cases, the moment I experienced these games in were as important as the experience itself, and many games allow for the unique ability to insert the faces you see around you into them. I don’t intend to make some sweeping statement on how life and art imitate each other; I only wish to say I am grateful for the ability to have new ideas and appreciations for the people in my life because of a medium I care for so much.

Name everyone because games can be different for everyone. Name everyone because people are so often what make our lives’ moments special. Name everyone because loved ones are worth caring for, moving for, and fighting for. Or, name no one, and experience games how you choose to. That’s why they’re special.

Do you have any gaming moments that are special to you? What about the games you love made them so memorable? Let me know! ♦

“Name Everyone”: A Reflection on People and Games

That phrase may be my most common piece of advice when approaching games. It’s probably a weird thing to say, but I don’t mean to be forceful or that it’s the correct way to go about any game. Still, oftentimes I find myself back at those words when I’m recommending my favorite experiences in this medium.

“Name everyone.”

Naming a cast of characters in a video game is probably trivial to a lot of people, but for every person I’ve met who doesn’t care about the naming screen, I think I’ve met an equal amount of folks who have spent upwards of an hour on it. This essay isn’t really meant to be a dissection of the mechanical or aesthetic properties of the naming screen, though. I’m writing this as more of a personal exercise and to reflect on and share my own gaming experiences, with one central question to act as my guide: Why “name everyone”?

 

I hope you’ll join me in reflection as you read or, at the very least, relax and enjoy the ramblings of a guy who loves games. Some spoilers ahead.

8e86271b-55b4-485e-828b-7ec0db89c585

EarthBound: Age 13

My parents were divorced before I started middle school. Going to stay with my dad in the city was enjoyable, but it did mean having a lot of free time alone; all my friends were in the suburbs and going out in the city alone wasn’t a smart idea. We lived in a loft that doubled as my dad’s house and office, though, which meant I had plenty of time to spend on open workspace computers goofing off on Newgrounds, Google Video, and, eventually, emulation sites (oops). I can’t recall exactly how I came upon it, but given my time trying my best to main Ness in Smash as a kid, I eventually found and downloaded EarthBound to play for the first time.

What surprised me most when I booted up the game for the first time was that Ness wasn’t any set character; beyond the bumping, low-fi beat and Mint flavored color palette I had chosen was a box that read “Please name him.” It’s not like I hadn’t named a character in a video game before, but I didn’t realize that this would be one of those kinds of games. I remember scrolling through all the character screens once before naming them, just to get a sense of who was who.

In my first playthrough, I felt as if I had casted the game with people I knew. The small town boy with the striped shirt and hat became a good friend of mine; the girl in the dress became my middle school crush; I gave my name to the kid with the glasses; another friend I knew from class became the foreign martial artist. The dog was my dog, my favorite food was wings (a pre-vegan favorite), and, of all things, my favorite thing was “Fight’n”—something I perhaps wished I was good at, given my scrawny body and goofy demeanor.

All of this is to say that, because of my outlook on the characters and game world, EarthBound became very personal to me. I took the ROM file back and forth between houses so I could play it at my mom’s whenever I could; despite the game’s admittedly primitive combat, frustratingly long segments and somewhat slow pacing, I couldn’t put it down. To me, EarthBound was, and still is, a game about a boy living with his mother and sibling, with their dad only reachable by phone, who grows up and discovers what makes him and his world special with the help of a small group of friends on a cross-country adventure to save the world (my apologies for the run-on). So much of this game was both what I lived, but also what I needed at that age. That made it mine.

Every time I’ve gone back to play the game, it has been hard to separate it from the way I initially imagined it, with the people I initially cast in the roles of each character along the way. EarthBound allowed me to be part of the adventure I had dreamed of with those I cared about and also helped me see the world more positively; in a weird post-divorce time, this game was a reminder that people are often more humorous, loving, and connective than they may appear to be, and that even a couple of kids can make a difference with enough support and kindness. That’s a lesson I need to keep in mind to this day.

One last note: Partway through the game, you break from your party in Threed to guide the boy with glasses to meet his father, Dr. Andonuts, for the first time in 10 years. When he gets there, the conversation is odd at first, but by the end of the game, the party will have gotten to interact with Dr. Andonuts enough to realize his brilliance and how he cares for his son. Playing this out with the boy in glasses being named “Mitch” on the weekends where I was getting to really know my own dad for the first time is up there with one of my most treasured moments in gaming.

 

In EarthBound, name everyone.

Nuzlocke: Age 18

This challenge is the closest I’ve came to the way Pokemon felt to play when I was six years old.

That probably sounds weird, given that the whole idea of a Nuzlocke revolves around your Pokemon essentially dying when they’re KO’d, making them unusable for the rest of the playthrough. Let me elaborate.

Pokemon Gold Version is what I consider to be the first game I ever “beat” as a kid (granted, I had a lot of help, but I digress). As a little kid coming off the first season of the anime, diving into Gold Version broke so many expectations for me; I quickly realized that Johto was not the world of the show I had watched, and that most of what I’d be finding in the wild would be completely unfamiliar. With my Totodile by my side (named ICE in all caps, of course), I set out on my first journey in gaming with all the untouched imagination and emotionality of a six-year-old. The giddiness of finding new creatures and the level to which I cared for all of them, silly names aside, was pure.

Fast forward to nowadays: I’ve played and failed at many Nuzlocke runs, including on Black, Diamond, and Red Version. Once again, for all the silliness of the names I’ve given to my Pokemon, I find myself remembering them more fondly because of the restored sense of discovery and value that this challenge gives these old games. It’s easy (and admittedly boring) for me to replay Red Version, grab Bulbasaur, catch a Butterfree in Viridian Forest, and wreck Brock for the fifth time; it’s an entirely different feeling to team up with “The Guy,” hope to find anything worthwhile on our way to Brock, get hyped when I do find a Caterpie (named Bumpadump), and feel like a tight knit team as we try to survive Brock. Furthermore, that’s why I always include “name everyone” as a rule for these runs: I haven’t ran Red Version in a couple years, and I still remember my team’s names. These are playthroughs to remember.

Man, I hope I survive Gold Version when I go back.

Darkest Dungeon: Age 21

Speaking of surviving, let’s get bleak.

There’s a very good argument for why you shouldn’t name anyone in Darkest Dungeon. I feel that content creators have already broke down the thematic implications of the unforgiving mechanics in this game quite thoroughly, and so I won’t be diving much into that area of discussion. I don’t even really plan to discuss much in the way of imagination with this example. Instead, I want to explore how the way I played Darkest Dungeon fundamentally changed once I imposed my own narrative on the game by naming every single character after people I’ve met.

There are many videos discussing the mechanics and ludonarrative of this game (check out Mark Brown or hbomberguy for some of my favorite explorations of these ideas), and there is a recurring focus on how Darkest Dungeon’s difficulty can force the player into the role of a cutthroat business manager; some of the best strategies available in the game rely on one’s willingness to exploit the expendability of characters in the game. For me, choosing to name everyone in my roster after friends and family led me to choosing strategies that, while not optimal, made the difficult risks and challenges of the game even more frightening.

During this run, the parties I decided to send out often relied just as much on how I knew the people in real life would interact in a team setting as they did on class synergy. Choices on whether to keep delving for treasure after completing the quest’s objective felt like an actual risk when I knew that doing so may jeopardize the life of someone I care about. Seeing new positive quirks that suited the person they were attached to was entertaining and seeing bad quirks service made me feel like I let them down somehow. The themes of the game’s mechanics—risk versus reward, life and death, and making the best of a bad situation—became cemented in my mind when those I love were at stake. Much like Pokemon Nuzlocke, greater personal attachment led to an alternative experience.

This choice, of course, led to some difficult moments. Few games have made me feel as torn as Darkest Dungeon has in its final battle, where, despite all the effort and turmoil I spent getting friends up to an appropriate power to take on the finale, two had to die by my own choice. In the end, no matter how many people you’ve saved or victories you’ve had, this game makes you remember how selfish you must be to see its terrible events to the end. It is one of the few experiences I’ve had in gaming where I’ve had to confront genuine helplessness in face of horribleness; we choose to voluntarily engage games like Darkest Dungeon, and in the moments that matter most, it strips us of our agency and makes us responsible for our choices. That’s easily up there in my most uncomfortable memories in gaming, especially when I had chosen loved ones as the avatars.

No matter how well you prepare, Darkest Dungeon sets you up to fail. And by naming everyone, it reminds you that, no matter how hard you try, you can’t be everyone’s hero.

Reflection

Why “name everyone?”

Stories are subjective: no matter their actual content, what we take away from them are the meanings that we have imposed on them. What makes gaming special is its interactivity as a medium, and through that interactivity we are able play out stories in completely different ways than other people. In analysis, we speak so often to the wider themes that games explore that it’s worth stepping a bit closer sometimes and considering what these experiences specifically meant to us. A game that explores friendship can come at a time when you need it most; a game from your childhood can have a renewed sense of importance in your adolescence; a game can communicate dark themes when the idealism of your high school days is falling away. In all these cases, the moment I experienced these games in were as important as the experience itself, and many games allow for the unique ability to insert the faces you see around you into them. I don’t intend to make some sweeping statement on how life and art imitate each other; I only wish to say I am grateful for the ability to have new ideas and appreciations for the people in my life because of a medium I care for so much.

Name everyone because games can be different for everyone. Name everyone because people are so often what make our lives’ moments special. Name everyone because loved ones are worth caring for, moving for, and fighting for. Or, name no one, and experience games how you choose to. That’s why they’re special.

Do you have any gaming moments that are special to you? What about the games you love made them so memorable? Let me know! ♦