And it’s time for me to shill for Undertale again… sort of. Really I’m just revamping another one of my old DeviantArt journal entries. Previously, I mainly covered “Battle Against a True Hero but I would like to cover all of Undyne’s themes these time. Note, I’m not talking about just her battle themes either. I’m never the one to leave any stones unturned after all.

Undyne is definitely my favorite character from Undertale. What is there not to like about a lesbian fish woman who loves violence and anime? Hell she actually somewhat reminds me of a certain someone I know IRL. I won’t say who, but just know that if I compare you to this person then you’ve already won me over. Anyway, let us get started.

Undyne

This track is short and suspenseful, which is pretty much all that it needs to be. Undyne is the first major character in Undertale to represent any real threat to the player not counting Flowey. Prior to this, the only major obstacle in your way was Papyrus, and we all know how competent he was. Undyne, however, is someone who is fiercely protective of her people and will go out of her way to remove any potential threat to monster kind… which unfortunately includes you. I guess this is how TERFs feel about us trans women… it always comes back to trans politics doesn’t it?

The percussion harmonizes so well with the harpsichord that I didn’t even notice they were separate instruments in this track until just now. The way that those violins steadily pop in and out, that flute instrument in the mid section creates somewhat of an alien vibe that evokes a feeling of unfamiliarity, representing what the MC must be feeling at this point, and that xylophone at the end helps evoke a more human side to the otherwise dehumanized portrayal of Undyne in this scene. She is literally clad in armor to the point where you cannot see her face and she has no dialogue up until you face her.

Run!

I thought for a second that this title may have been an NES Godzilla creeepypasta reference, but I looked it up and the one In NGC didn’t have an explanation point. Anyway, this track is actually a slightly altered sped up version of the last one. Anyway. there’s not much to say about it but it is appropriate for dodging Undyne’s spears.

NGAHHH!

I should note that this is NOT the same track as “Spear of Justice” even if they do sound very similar. This version is in a higher pitch and it stays in the same key throughout the entire song (I think), unlike “Spear of Justice.” This track actually plays on the overworld before you fight Undyne and while she is chasing you. I think there is also a sped up version that plays in some of the more humorous cutscenes involving her.

This track definitely serves its purpose of getting you hyped up before the battle with Undyne. That intro is addicting as fuck, and that piano portion does make it sound more like hype music. Almost like something playing during the preview of the next episode in an action anime, which is fitting given how much of a weeb Undyne is. There are subtle differences that make this one feel more distinguished from “Spear of Justice” enough while also sounding almost exactly the same.

Spear of Justice

So yeah, this obviously sounds just like the last one, only with more variation in its structure and more key shifts. That intro is addicting as hell, and this is a part where Undertale’s smart use of combining Chiptune and orchestral music really pays off. Chiptune music emphasizes strong and catchy melodies while orchestral music emphasizes harmony. That intro would be nowhere near as iconic without the chiptune music.

Toby has described the intro has evoking the feeling of “being heroically punched in the face.” I would say that is appropriate as it has that strong “en garde” vibe going for it. It’s not too overwhelmingly over the top and represents a clash of swords… even though you never use a sword and Undyne uses a spear. What is notable about this song is how it starts out with the high point, but afterwards it becomes a bit softer and slowly starts to build itself back up while carrying a subtle nuance that doesn’t push too far in either direction.

Also worth noting that there are parts of “Spear of Justice” that do bare similarity to “Magus Confronted” from Chrono Trigger. Of specific similarity is the percussion follows a very similar beat. I also decided to listen to both tracks at the same time, starting from after the slow paced intro in “Magus Confronted” and right from the beginning of “Spear of Justice”, and they both soften up in tone around the same time. Of course, I would not have bothered to make this comparison if the game was not continually signalling references to Magus through Undyne’s character. You know, such as her loving to pose in front of a a dark fortress backdrop just like Magus, and “The wind is howling” is about as close as you can get to “the black winds begin to howl” without making it too obvious. Additionally, Undyne is built up similarly to how Magus was in Chrono Trigger.

Spear of Justice (Unused)

The description of the final version of Spear of Justice being described as “being heroically punched in the face” comes from Toby’s reason giving for not using this version. While that intro in undoubtedly more iconic, I actually kinda prefer this version as a woman who values subtlety. The fact that this song isn’t as direct is what makes it more effective at creating a sense of tension and danger. I also tend to value atmosphere and emotion over how “epic” or catchy something is and will go with the former over the latter if I had to choose.

Also using a lower key for the hook just gives off a greater feeling of harmony in addition to its increase in the sense of risk. Then again, the final version of “Spear of Justice” is probably more fitting considering the approach of the rest of the soundtrack as well as being more appropriate for Undertale itself. I may like this one better, but I’m pretty sure most would disagree so it was a good call. Also this one sounds even more like “Magus’s Theme.”

An Ending/Undyne’s End

Yes, this one is more so a theme for the Neutral Ending, but it plays during Undyne’s neutral death scene and I likely would never cover this one otherwise given just how many great tracks there are from Undertale. It actually plays after you have drained her HP, but she’s still trying to hang on for the sake of monsterkind. Seeing her body slowly destabilize and melt away as she tries in vain to stop you. The scene is nothing short of tragic, the blatant sense of denial as she pretends she’s not dying. It’s like the Black Knight in Monty Python except far more depressing.

Of note is that this variation is missing the first minute of the version played in the Neutral Endings, which I find makes the scene all the more effective. Hearing those strings come in around the 30 second mark gives this track such a mournful tone, and it really does bring a tear to one’s eye. Even though killing Undyne IS justified on a Neutral playthrough, it certainly makes you feel like shit for doing so. I do say this as someone who is very pacifistic and anti conflict in nature. I just don’t like hurting others, and even in cases where I am in the right, it doesn’t feel that way.

I have always found it tragically ironic how the entire message of Undertale was lost on the majority of its fanbase. The same people mourning over the fact that you can’t save Asriel then go on to reblog “Bash the fash” posts and spread intolerance. The entire point is that the Pacifist route is difficult, but it is the most rewarding, but unfortunately some people still think the Genocide route is the ideal outcome. I will definitely need to expand on this in a future piece.

But the Earth Refused to Die

The key difference between when you fight Undyne on the Genocide route and the normal route is who has the upper hand. On the normal route, you are just a kid and Undyne is built up as this big bad knight clad in darkness who likes to pose menacingly in front of the scenery. On the Genocide route, however, you are the villain, and the battle plays out like a typical JRPG climax, but YOU”RE the final boss!

Undyne, despite being overly aggressive and rash on the normal route, is instead a hero on this one defending the world against a force of pure evil, represented by your own character. You have now become the very destructive force of nature that you are trying to fight in most other games, and your existence justifies Undyne attacking you on other routes. After all, hearing this track in game means that you have just tried to murder a defenseless child in cold blood.

On top of that, the Chrono Trigger allegories continue. The title “But the Earth Refused to Die” sounds very similar to “but the future refused to change,” the message on the game over screen if the player dies against Lavos. Lavos is a gigantic parasitic monster that struck the earth in 65 Million BCE and the plot of Chrono Trigger follows an attempt to destroy Lavos to prevent the world’s destruction after having seen the result firsthand in 2300 CE. “But the future refused to change” (reworded as “In the end the future refused to change” in the DS port) refers to how, despite the Crono and his friends best efforts, everything was all for naught.

The title of “But the Earth Refused to Die” is an ironic invocation of that phrase meant to refer to how, despite very clearly being the villain in this case, you are still the player and thus see yourself as the hero. It is an obvious commentary on the “you will destroy everything and everyone for no other reason than “because you can and that means you have to” that is later spelled out more explicitly in the Genocide route’s final boss fight. I have touched on this when I included “Too Much” and “In My Way” as the number 1 entry on my most disturbing video game songs countdown.

One playing a Genocide route is essentially someone who goes through these appalling and horrific actions in an attempt to extract as much from the game as they can because they’ve already seen everything else the game has to offer, very similarly to how Flowey became a murderous psychopath due to an absence of emotions, and similarly to what I assume may be the case with some actual serial killers; and because of it, you feel no remorse or empathy for those in front of you.

You desensitize yourself and eventually you no longer feel these connections; and it becomes easier and easier to kill. Sure, you may remind yourself that it’s just a game, but the entire point of a game like Undertale is to form an emotional connection with the player; that is arguably the point of the game in general. The sheer act that you need to force yourself to remember that it is just a game signifies that you are capable of this; that ANYONE is capable of this. Quite simply put, NOTHING can get more disturbing than this realization.

Quite simply put, the key theme of the title “But the Earth Refused to Die” is quite simple; you think you’re Crono but you’re actually Lavos. Lavos drains the earth’s energy away through its existence like a parasite in order to subsist and then leaves the planet uninhabitable after it’s done. You are no different. In a desperate attempt to extract as much content out of the game, you kill everyone and drain life away from the world of Undertale until it is completely destroyed. Meanwhile, Undyne is still Magus, who was presented as a bad guy when you first fought him in 600 CE, but you later realize he was attempting to summon Lavos in order to destroy him, not to destroy the world. You even get him as a party member if you choose not to fight him when you meet him again in 16,000 BCE, quite similar to Undertale’s own theme of pacifism.

All this and I haven’t even described the song itself. It is a short loop that plays in the cutscene after Undyne takes a fatal hit to protect monster kid. Unlike the neutral run where Undyne dies after sustaining mortal damage, she manages to give off a dramatic speech with this song playing as she does. That choir complete with the atmospheric background noises sets the tone. Everyone’s heart beating as one representing by the sound of a faint heart beat. For the sake of monsters, humans, and all living things, Undyne obtains an 11th hour superpower in one last ditch to destroy you. In any other RPG, this would be the scene before the final boss and would represent the will to overcome all odds. And you proceeding forward on this route means to destroy all that. It’s like how Kefka’s final boss quote goes…

Life… dreams… hope… Where do they come from? And where do they go…? Such meaningless things… I’ll destroy them all!

… only that’s you now.

 

Battle Against a True Hero

Okay now it’s time for the main event. I consider this to be the second best battle theme in Undertale only to “Hopes and Dreams.” Even if this were played straight as a JRPG final boss theme, this track would be amazing. Firstly, the title is a reference to the naming scheme for a lot of the Mother trilogy’s battle themes such as “Battle Against a Flippant Foe,” “Battle Against a Dangerous Foe,” “Battle Against a Machine,” etc. This is once again meant to be an ironic echo reflecting on how you are still the player, but your former friend and the once destined to be the savior of monster kind is nothing more than just another boss fight to you.

So yes, in addition to being Lavos, you are also Giygas now. And you are also Kefka, and every other stereotypical JRPG villain out there. The entire point of the Genocide route can be best summed up as “if you play the Genocide route then you’re an asshole.” But I’ve made that point pretty clear right now, although there is one last Chrono Trigger reference in that the piano is from the Chrono Trigger soundfont and it is apparently a Touhou reference as well but I’m absolutely clueless about the latter.

So there’s a lot to unpack with this song. That piano melody is and amazing intro and there is once again amazing use of chiptune instruments for melody. The violin following the same note pattern as the chiptune is a very nice touch, and those drums create a very fast paced feeling. When the song calms down with it’s piano and acoustic guitar, it really invokes a sense of emotion reflecting on the tragic nature of the fight, while the triumphant brass portion at the end greatly enforces the typical “you must win at all costs” vibe… to Undyne of course. It actually is a bit of a misnomer to included this in the Undyne themes article when this is actually YOUR battle theme!

The elegance and beauty combined with the intensity of this track also serve to make you feel like utter shit when you beat her. As if it isn’t enough that she is brutally difficult, you don’t even feel satisfied after winning. In fact, you NEVER feel satisfied, but you still need to lay waste to all in your path just to make sure. Yeah sure, just tell yourself they aren’t real; that it’s all just a game and you aren’t actually hurting anyone. After all, I’m sure that’s what God tells herself when she lets the starving African children die. Anyway, see you next week you bastard.

… I wonder who the real monsters are?

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6 thoughts on “Amazing VGM: Undyne Themes (Undertale)

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