The slow-paced madness that is the 30 days of video game topics…thingy continues with yet another head-scratcher. My favorite protagonist. Again, being asked what my favorite is of anything is always quite troublesome. My favorites change constantly, and as difficult as it was to decide upon my favorite villain, as was the topic of day 17, it gets even more difficult when I’m asked about my favorite protagonist, as I really don’t think I’ve ever had a clear favorite when it came to the good guys. Until recently. (Just gonna warn you right now…Undertale spoilers ahead).
Yeah, I like Link because I’m a huge Zelda fan, but he’s such a blank slate as far as characters go, I have nothing to really say about him. Samus is super cool, but… And I like Clank in the Ratchet & Clank series, but…
But… Butt? Okay, I’m really sorry about that; I’ll stop.
But seriously, though…this question couldn’t have come at a better time. Because not too long ago, I played a game where you can almost say there is no real villain. Where every character has their own motivations for their actions, and even the “bad” characters are not really so bad when you try to look at things from their perspective. Honestly, the only REAL villain would be the player…and only if they choose to be. The game I am talking about is Undertale.
In most games, I’ve usually been drawn to the villains. It’s not that I approve of their actions. I just always found them to be more interesting. Heroes often came off as flat and boring. Villains often have reasons for what they do. Not good reasons, but reasons, nonetheless. But heroes…their only motivation most of the time is to stop said villains. Yawn. Then along came Undertale. I’ve never before played a game where pretty much every character was so well-developed. Even if my initial impressions of certain characters were not always positive, it never took me too long to appreciate them, even characters I never expected to care about. I think part of what makes Undertale’s characters so interesting and real is the way Toby Fox manages to contradict stereotypes you would normally associate with certain personality types.
Cue the reveal of my favorite protagonist…Papyrus! I absolutely adore this goofy skeleton, but it was not always that way. When you first hear about Papyrus, it’s from Sans, who warns you that his brother is a “human hunting fanatic”. I had assumed, then, that this was a character I’d best avoid. When we first meet Papyrus shortly afterward (I use the term “meet” loosely, as we are actually hiding behind a “conveniently shaped lamp” at this point), it would appear that the lanky skeleton is a loud, obnoxious, and arrogant character who only cares about his own fame. We see these kinds of characters a lot. The best example I can think of is Captain Qwark from the Ratchet & Clank series. And while I think Qwark is an amusing character, I can’t say I particularly like him. Because, well, he’s a jerk.
Well, my initial, negative opinion quickly began to change when I realized just how utterly harmless Papyrus actually is. In his attempts to hinder my progress, Papyrus would present me with puzzles that were either quite simple or the answer to which he would accidentally reveal moments later. He also left me a plate of spaghetti at one point, which had since frozen in the cold and which he openly admitted via a note was there to distract me. (Hey, if a guy wants to capture you, the least they can do is be honest about it.) The only puzzle that took me a few moments to solve was one he had messed around with out of boredom in order to make it look more like his face.
Now, Papyrus’ astounding incompetence, and ability to make me laugh as a result, is not the only reason I began to like him. Qwark, too, shares a similar level of comedic ineptitude, and that is not enough to make me forgive him for his arrogance. You see, after passing through the town of Snowdin, you come upon Papyrus once more, and a battle commences. It is here that you learn that he only wishes to capture a human, and subsequently join the Royal Guard, because he thinks this will make people like him. Furthermore, I learned from my own lack of skill that Papyrus is the only character who won’t ever kill you. (Even Toriel can kill you by accident.) In fact, as soon as you reach 1 HP, he captures you instead and puts you in his shed, from which you can easily escape. If you manage to outlast him in battle, or get captured enough times (guess which category I fall into…), he will change his mind about capturing you and become your friend instead.
It is at this point that you have the option to go on a date with him. It’s super funny….and also really awkward.
Throughout the game, we find that Papyrus is actually one of the kindest, most genuine people one could ever have the pleasure of meeting. Sure, he is quite self-absorbed, but he wouldn’t be a very realistic character if he wasn’t flawed. And that’s what I love about Undertale. As I mentioned a few paragraphs ago, the characters of Undertale are so real and interesting to me because the game avoids all the stereotypes you’d normally come to expect. Arrogant characters are usually like Captain Qwark. They are selfish and put others down or even resort to immoral acts for their own gain. And then there’s Papyrus, who always cares about doing the right thing and sees the good in everyone, even a player who chooses the Genocide Route. Sure, he also thinks he’s the greatest thing in the world, but he would never put anyone down just to make himself look better. In fact, you want to know why Undyne won’t let him into the Royal Guard? Because he’s just too nice.
If I was tasked with listing my top five protagonists, they’d all probably come from Undertale. The game, and its characters, are just that good. Papyrus is my favorite of the bunch because of his kind and innocent personality (and because he’s downright hilarious), but I have to admit that I’ve grown to care about nearly all of Undertale’s characters. Before I ramble any longer, however, I think I’d better end this post. Now it’s your turn, dear readers. Who is your favorite protagonist? Please let me know in the comments below!
And I Bet You Guys Thought My Favorite Character Would Be the Duck That Carries You Over a Disproportionately Small Gap…Wait, That is a Duck, Right?
This post was originally published on Virtual Bastion on February 27, 2018.