Undertale for Nintendo Switch: Beginners guide

The strange, adorable, and surprisingly dark RPG Undertale has arrived on the Nintendo Switch, allowing those who were waiting for Toby Fox's indie adventure to experience the Underground for the very first time. Though Undertale seems on its face like a traditional RPG, it includes bullet hell elements in its battles and has a curious system of sparing monsters rather than killing them, which can lead to a significant challenge for those willing to play the game as a pacifist.

If you're just starting out in Undertale for the first time, here's a quick primer to help you navigate the Underground as a merciful friend, or a cold-blooded killer.

Kill or Spare?

In the game's opening minutes, you'll be invited by Toriel to strike up a friendly conversation with monsters who attack you. However, the first button to the left is a traditional "Fight" button, like you'd see in any other RPG. Talking (and other actions) are located under "Act", the next button over. So which should you do?

Well, either! Undertale is a game that will play out in different ways for you depending on whether or not you choose to kill the monsters who approach you, or find creative ways to befriend and "Spare" them. There are different endings based on whether you killed no one (it's possible!), killed some (with variations depending on which characters died), or went out of your way to slaughter everything in the Underground. The choice is yours, though be warned that once you start on a path of killing your actions will get progressively more difficult to undo to turn back to a peaceful path.

Killing is simple, but if you opt to Spare, you'll have to "Act" in certain ways toward the monsters until their names turn yellow in the Act and Spare menus. Once you see yellow names, you can go to "Spare" to complete the fight. The sparing route is more difficult at times, though, because you won't level up by sparing monsters, and will have low health the entire game.

The quality of mercy

Undertale Switch

Undertale Switch (Image credit: 8-4)

The other challenge of playing the game while sparing your monster friends is that sometimes, getting their names to turn yellow is difficult or seemingly impossible! Most normal monsters can be spared if you just listen to the things they are saying in their dialogue in the fight, or use the "Check" function to learn about them. Then, examine the actions you're offered.

A good example early on is Vegetoid. Vegetoid is a vegetable. Among your options is "Dinner," to which Vegetoid will reply by offering you a healthy meal. During its attack phase, one of its vegetables will be green. Simply touch it to "eat" it, and Vegetoid will be satisfied.

Another one you can figure out from context clues is Gyftrot. Using context clues, you can figure out Gyftrot is burdened by the weight of too many gifts. "Undecorate" it multiple times to get the Spare option.

Aside from actions, there are two other methods you may need to use to Spare monsters. One is to actually Fight. Fighting is precarious, as you don't want to accidentally kill them, but sometimes damaging a monster to low health will convince it to give up and let you Spare it.

The other method you might try is simply persistence. Some monsters are very stubborn (particularly an early boss) and will require a lot of patience and steadfast playing to spare. If you want to play with mercy, don't give up! Keep trying, and know you can always reset to your last save if you mess up.

Dating Start!

If you want to achieve a "good" ending in Undertale, simply sparing every monster you see isn't enough. You'll need to seek out some of the characters you befriend for additional events — including a few dates.

Without spoiling what these are, it's a good idea to occasionally return to areas you've been before to check up on previous bosses you've fought. A bit later, you'll gain access to a fast travel option that lets you jump between a few different destinations quickly without having to retread a ton of ground.

Secrets of the Underground

Dating characters isn't the only special secret Undertale holds. There are plenty of interesting bits of lore, hidden items, encounters, and other elements you can find if you're diligent in hunting down secrets. Keep an eye out for keys that might unlock rooms you've walked past before, and don't forget that backtracking can be your friend!

Here's an early example: when you name your character, you can name them "Frisk" to unlock a short, secret "hard mode" that only goes through the end of the Ruins. It ends there with a humorous encounter, but it's a neat little secret if you're interested in a greater challenge than the usual Froggits and Moldsmols.

Any questions?

Stuck trying to spare a difficult monster? Let me know in the comments and I'll help you out!

Reb Valentine