In our second article, I wrote about Undertale, the presence of W.D. Gaster in the game and its code, the collaborative dynamic between Toby Fox and his audience as well as the implications it had on that world. In this third and final article I will cover how this potentially affects Deltarune’s reality, and how themes and worlds — along with Gaster and the player — can collide. After all, like the Deltarune itself, all good — and bad — things come in threes.
Let’s now focus specifically on Deltarune. Kris, the player’s Human character and the protagonist of Chapter One, is a slightly older child than both Frisk and Chara: or at least that is what it looks like. You find out, later, that it is after 202X, ten years after Chara — at least in another timeline — fell into the Underground. This can be seen with the unused asset of Ralsei’s Manual. Kris wears the same green and stripe sweater as Chara. They live with Toriel, and go to the same school where she works. You also find that you are on the Surface now, along with the rest of Monsterkind. But there are some … differences, even initially.
For instance, you are told that Asriel — your brother — is away at university and is coming back to visit you. However, in Undertale the character of Asriel is — officially — long dead. You also pass by a character who was missing one eye in Undertale, but has both of them in Deltarune.
It is here, through Kris, that you meet a Monster character named Susie: an eerily familiar name from the “Suzy” mentioned in Undertale. And it’s with Susie that you find yourself going through a … strange door, which should be to an unused classroom, only to find yourselves falling into another plane of existence called the Dark World. It’s down in the Dark World that you see a race of beings called the Darkeners — that resemble toys and game pieces — along with another being named Ralsei which is anagram of Asriel, who joins your team to get out of this place, and restore order to that plane.
You do find Save Points, but they are silver instead of yellow or gold. You can fight or pacify enemies, but you do so as a team: with Ralsei and eventually Susie at your side. It isn’t just you encountering foes like in Undertale. More than that, you can’t actually kill any enemies. If you injure them enough, they just run away. You do not gain EXP (experience points) and your Levels do not change. You do not gain more power by killing because you can’t seem to kill at all. However, your Soul — which is red like Frisk’s and Chara’s — has a shield around it that can just negate some damage if a projectile or enemy hits you on the edge. In addition, when you do utilize a Save Point, everyone in your team — not just you — is saved and regenerated as well. Perhaps it is because you chose to have your Determination affect them too, though this ability is never remarked upon.
It’s as though Deltarune is the Alice Through the Looking Glass to Undertale’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, or its older title of Alice’s Adventures Underground, with a “Jabberwocky” nonsense-minded bonus boss for good measure: with all these bad analogies having been created by an eccentric mathematician. Both have similar aspects, perhaps even some continuity, but they seem to be different stories entirely. Undertale is about choices and consequences, while Deltarune appears to be about how your choices mean nothing. However, there is another way of looking at this.
When you go through the Dark World itself, and if you’ve played Undertale you will notice some … interesting details in the form of assets. For instance, two of the antagonists carry around a sign that looks awfully a lot like the blueprints to a machine that is broken in Sans’ secret workshop in Undertale.
There are doors with strange energy emitting from them that resemble the door to Sans’ room: which is energy created from, to paraphrase his brother Papyrus’ words, “space-time shenanigans.”
Two more characters, one a shopkeeper named Seam and a frankly pathetic attempt at a puzzle maker named Rouxls Kaard resemble the distorted being found occasionally in the hidden door at Waterfall that many believe to be Gaster.
In fact, both of their musical leitmotifs are based off Gaster’s “hidden Theme” in the Fun Values from Undertale: the Theme possibly serving as the foundation of most music in Deltarune.
Seam himself refers to the words from a secret, hidden Undertale Entry 17 of Gaster’s “darker, yet darker.” And it is no coincidence, I think, that Rouxls Kaard means “rules card.” The beginning of the player’s introduction to the Dark World also resembles a grey and lifeless place with some strange black substances, and grey antennae and dust creatures that serve as a tutorial through example as to how to interact with the environment, and avoid damage.
Photo Credit: MmIce
There is also the fact that if you keep on going back between two paths — between the transition between two areas — you can find yourself in a place with a tree. You can walk out of the bounds of the path, and find a man behind it, that you can’t see, who is both a man and “not a man.” This hidden figure offers you an Egg, a literal Easter egg, that is according to the Item text “both unimportant and not unimportant.” It is an Item that can transition with you back to the Surface, and it is capable of duplicating itself in a jar.
Then, there is also the fact that fans have discovered a Debug Mode in Deltarune itself by altering a file in the game. Aside from some unused content, including a disturbing message worthy of creepypasta status of someone lost in the dark — presumably unused text from when Kris and Susie find themselves trapped in the dark room but theorized to be anything from Gaster calling out from his exile to even the character you made that got discarded — you can, again, alter your statistics and transition between areas with hotkeys. And this where I made another, admittedly tenuous, connection.
Back in Undertale, Sans the Skeleton — who is obviously more than he seems with his knowledge of time or at least timeline travel, along with the suspicion of your Human character being able to Save or Reset — can basically travel between areas of the game through what he calls “short-cuts.” Sans even calls the player “A dirty hacker” if they have hacked the game to change settings enough: perhaps an indication of the metaphysical knowledge of what his world is. You find out, in some routes, that Sans also has a hidden Workshop, and access to Gaster Blasters.
This, along with his door with that strange energy and the possibility that he worked with, or is related to Gaster in some way, makes me wonder if Sans experimented with his timeline’s Debug Mode or menu in some way: with Gaster, through his accident, taking it a few steps even further.
Because while Sans can’t Save or Reset the game of Undertale, Gaster may also not be able to do the same. But he knows who can. When you return, with Kris, from the Dark World, you find characters from the last game in similar but different situations. Toriel and Asgore, for instance, while they are not Queen and King anymore of the Monsters, are still separated from each other. Alphys is still intelligent, but she is a teacher instead of a scientist, and Undyne — who was Captain of the Royal Guard in the Underground — is the same personality, but neither of them have even met despite their relationship at the end of the first game. There are some characters here that you have never seen before. Other characters, from Undertale, have sadly passed away.
And then, in addition to Asriel being alive and well, there is Kris. Kris wears the same shirt as Chara. Asriel is their sibling. They like chocolate, like Chara did. They even like playing pranks and, resemble to an extent, some depictions of Chara with their hair over their eyes. And this isn’t even mentioning how they have the same colour Soul. The Town itself, that Kris lives in, seems peaceful but we don’t know much about it. In fact, Kris seems to be the only human that lives here: and with adoptive Monster parents besides. There is some reference to “A History of Humans and Monsters,” but there is no reference to a War between them.
So what is happening here? After going into these details at length, I will finally give you my take on what is going on. I think that Gaster, in his accident, gained access to the Fun Values of Undertale: of that timeline. Gaster then began to experiment with it, manifesting others who may have also been erased with him — who once existed in the timeline — and attempted to affect reality. Initially, he was relatively unsuccessful: with greyed out versions of these unused or lost characters that could only last for some time. And this doesn’t even include the room he attempted to create in Waterfall. But he never forgot the power of Human Determination.
Gaster realizes that Determination can alter reality. He also sees what the Human — as Frisk or Frisk being overwhelmed by Chara and the player’s worst tendencies — can do to Monsterkind and reality itself. Sans himself has been monitoring something — or someone — called “the anomaly”: which is resetting timelines left and right. But Gaster, if he is in the code of existence, can witness and experience this even more intimately. So Gaster realizes that the player is the one who is ultimately behind this, and sees that it is curiosity that drives them into committing acts of good and evil to see what will happen to the universe.
Photo Credit: God0fTacos
So, with this in mind, Gaster either creates or gains access to another timeline or an alternate universe. His work manipulating Fun Values has gotten better. The clam being that talks about “Suzy” in Undertale was actually in colour for a little while, and seemed plausible in that reality.
Perhaps buoyed by this, Gaster manages to craft a world where you cannot gain EXP — or Execution Points, or LOVE — which is a Level of Violence. He manages to either stop or make the War Between Humans and Monsters cease to exist entirely. For a while, Save Points can’t even manifest. Perhaps, at first, he makes it so that Determination cannot exist at all. This is his attempt at a paradise, to save his fellow Monsters so that no one has to needlessly die in war or genocide. Think of Gaster, in this role, as something of a benevolent Turbo — or one with good intentions — from Wreck-It Ralph: a character that was forced to leave his own game and modify another to keep existing, but in this case to make a better world.
The problem, however, is that this new world wasn’t growing. It was just static. Gaster can’t really make anything new. He can work with assets — unused and discarded — which he can repurpose, or take pre-existing beings, and just place them in other scenarios. But the old relationships do not all hold up here, and some of the Monsters aren’t fulfilling their proper destinies. Mettaton, for example, is still a reclusive ghost without a body as Alphys never became a scientist. Alphys never meets Undyne. Two other characters, Catty and Bratty, never become friends and instead hate each other. The elemental bartender Grillby doesn’t seem to exist. And it seem like no matter what reality they are in, Asgore and Toriel always manage to break up. There is something out of place here, something not quite … right, and Gaster knows this.
So his solution is Kris: or more specifically you — as the player — in the game he’s created through learning from hacking a previous reality. Think of the Dark World, with its Darkeners, as a tutorial on a level that Toriel back in Undertale would never dream of being. As Kris — garbed in a costume that resembles Mettaton’s EX heroic robot body in another timeline — you are encouraged to be a hero: to show mercy to those that might attack you, to understand the value of friendship, cooperation, and teamwork, but to also learn the lesson that there are some things that you cannot, and should not change. He encourages Kris, and you the player, to be kind but also eliminates any possibility of you killing and gaining a Level of Violence.
He allows you to use your Determination, under his supervision, to make the world of Deltarune in “the unused classroom”: an eerie callback to areas in a game’s assets that officially do not exist beyond code. The Darkeners themselves, modelled after toys and playing pieces, and claim that they were “left in the dark” when the Lightners, Humans and Monsters from the Light World — stopped seeing, and playing with them.
Perhaps, unlike in Undertale where your Loading and Resetting disrupts the timeline, and keeps characters trapped in a cycle of purgatory, in Deltarune your presence as a Lightner and Human actually keeps these characters, and this world functioning and in existence. Perhaps, in this way, Gaster functions like The Architect from The Matrix — with Kris, or the player as the “anomaly” or “The One” — the random element in the system — that must make a choice that will, nevertheless only affect the quality of the Matrix, but not the continued existence of the Matrix itself. Hell, between Kris, Susie, and Ralsei there is even a “Trinity.”
And for Kris, perhaps they are this world’s version of Chara. However, instead of being raised or even left alone on the Surface by themselves to adopt a ruthless “kill or be killed” ideology, they were found by Toriel and Asgore earlier in their life. They are raised with Asriel as a younger child and for many more years. They never have the need to create their plan to give their Soul to Asriel to attack Humans: wherever the Humans of this world might even be. Perhaps Frisk is never born, if they are a reincarnation of Chara in Undertale, Chara — named Kris by their parents — has a whole new life. If any of this is true, it seems as though Gaster has learned, and pulled all the stops to shape Determination to beneficial purposes, or at least keep this world of his — this Deltarune — from atrophying.
More importantly, perhaps Gaster has made this timeline to contain you: as the player. Maybe, and this is all speculation of course, he was the one having the exchange with you on Toby Fox’s Twitter — operating on the assumption that players have been looking for him or other extra Undertale content through Easter-egg hunting — and then in the character creation part of the game. Just look at Toby Fox’s UNDERTALE/DELTARUNE Twitter account from October 31, 2018, and consider whether or not this is necessarily a one-sided exchange.
HAVE YOU BEEN LOOKING
HAVE BEEN LOOKING FOR YOU
I HAVE SOMETHING
SOMETHING I WANT TO SHOW YOU
I THINK YOU WILL FIND
These Tweets, particularly the latter ones above have very similar language to a hidden Entry 17 from Undertale’s unused assets that is translated, fittingly enough, from the wingdings font. It reads.
“DARK DARKER YET DARKER
THE DARKNESS KEEPS GROWING
THE SHADOWS CUTTING DEEPER
PHOTON READINGS NEGATIVE
THIS NEXT EXPERIMENT
WHAT DO YOU TWO THINK?”
It is clear from Undertale at least that Chara’s destruction of the world from the Genocide Route also obliterates timelines. There are no photons. No light. That could be this encroaching darkness, or — likewise — the darkness could be something to make something else with. The “next experiment” could be the world of Deltarune. The Tweets on UNDERTALE/DELTARUNE themselves could be Gaster’s attempt to feed on your curiosity, to keep you entertained, to make a “new game” for you with new rules so that you will either stay out of the way of this new world he made, or be charmed enough to keep it going and not move on to plague the multiverse of other timelines: other games.
It seems like no coincidence that when you leave the Dark World through one of the Fountains of Darkness — one of which is actually stated to give the Dark World its form — it also resembles what the game’s introduction where your Soul is incarnated into a swirling vortex of character creation before being revealed as Kris.
Certainly, there is another eerie symbolic parallel to consider. Towards the end of Deltarune, you have the option of finding a bonus boss to fight: called Jevil. Jevil is essentially a combination of a clown and a devil seemingly “trapped” in his own prison for causing chaos in the Dark World. He was trapped there by Seam, when the shopkeeper used to be that kingdom’s court magician. Jevil himself used to be the court jester before he went completely insane, or … all too sane. Something happened to Jevil, some truth was revealed to him that made him a force of pure and utter chaos: one that was so disruptive that, according to him, the World had to seal itself away from him and the pure freedom that he represents. Seam, when you encounter him to repair the key to either Jevil’s prison — or out of the Dark World’s prison depending on your perspective — tells you something to the effect that perhaps it is best to deal with Jevil as it “could be troublesome if he was left alone …”
It should be noted, again, that Seam resembles Gaster who — before his accident — was actually King Asgore’s Royal Scientist in Undertale who, aside from stating “Darker, yet darker” also dealt with forces of free will and power possibly beyond his comprehension. If Gaster is the being talking with you — as the player — at the beginning of Deltarune in an attempt to control your freewill and Determination to make his world function, perhaps Jevil represents the chaos and curiosity that this freewill can bring: something that Seam — as representative of an aspect of Gaster — admits made him realize the dynamic between order and chaos, freewill and fate, survival and imprisonment, and the nature of existence itself.
Perhaps this is part of an agreement between the two of you: a collaboration of player and game-maker, or a very logical gamble on his part. Just look at these Tweets from the UNDERTALE/DELTARUNE Twitter account:
YOU AND I,
WE HAVE BOTH BEEN WAITING
SUCH A VERY LONG TIME.
SO TO BE HERE
ON THE VERGE OF CONNECTION
I LOOK FORWARD
A NEW FUTURE
SHOW YOURSELF !
Gaster, the scientist, the character defined by his own non-existence or what he isn’t even spread throughout space and time, is like a mathematician playing with inherent variables, or a musician knowing that you can create different soundtracks and music in a similar fashion by working with universal themes or leitmotifs. And Toby Fox is also a musician. His own efforts in writing the tweets between what appears to be Gaster, and perhaps the prospective player works on some interactive multimedia lines. According to Fox, he has been working on the project that would become Deltarune in 2012, and the idea for it had developed during his production on Undertale. Is this perhaps illustrated by the fact that “Suzy” is mentioned in Undertale as the reason for Frisk coming to the Underground: for their adventure ever happening?
Metafictional cleverness and fourth wall considerations — this idea of a game within a game, a greater story told between frames, the ephemera between narratives, or the gaps between code, or even the parallel between Gaster and the player’s cooperation, and a game creator with his audience and potential players — aside, Toby Fox himself has said that Deltarune is neither a sequel, nor a prequel to Undertale. However, there is definitely some carryover: perhaps from the Man Who Speaks In Hands, whose language of wingdings is something of a code in and of itself.
However, can this world hold? Is it truly without any real choice? What if, in manipulating the Fun Values or code of a game to only allow for fate, there might be some kind of reaction? What if there is a force of freewill that might lash back? Conversely, it’s also worth noting that Determination, while possibly symbolic of the power of choice, can also be tied to determinism or something pre-determined: to a fate that no one, and nothing, can truly change.
It may be that there are forces that one cannot safely control all of the time. Hackers, and game developers know intimately well about bugs and crashes that happen — unintended consequences of attempting construct code into an interactive world?
Perhaps Deltarune, as of Chapter One, this parallel game to Undertale as opposed to a prequel or a sequel is just a rat’s utopia — a behavioural experiment of a world without a predator — that might tear itself apart … or become prey to a Determination that will not allow itself to be enslaved. Nature abhors a vacuum after all and, perhaps, we will just have to see how this game will change — along with the player — as it inevitably goes forward. After all, sometimes the road to chaos is paved with good pixels.