Undertale – An Exploration of the Soul

“Undertale” is a role-playing game that was released September 15, 2015. There have been a slew of retro-style games in the past couple years, and all of them have been very similar: the two major versions have been third-person shooters and games with a battle system in the style of “Final Fantasy.” This one is neither: it is a completely different and completely unique game.

Now you have two options. One: stop reading this review, follow this link, buy the game, and play it with absolutely no information. I promise you, you will not be disappointed. However, if you are not sold on word alone, go ahead and continue so that I can speak in vague and disjointed terms about one of the most fantastic games that has ever been created, and still leave you completely unprepared for one of the most remarkable and spectacular experiences you will ever have behind a screen.

The story


You are a human in a world of monsters. When you boot up the game, you hear retro-style music and see a text and picture cinematic describing the universe. It tells you that the world of Undertale is one in the modern era, but in this world, there were once humans and monsters (which can range from anything from a dog in armor to a ghost) living together in peace and harmony, but a great war began. This war claimed the lives of many on both sides, but the humans were victorious and forced the monsters underground, where their lives are difficult, but manageable. These monsters desire freedom, but cannot grasp it without certain conditions being met. I will say no more, especially not about the story of the actual game, because the way the story goes is entirely up to the decisions that you make.

The characters

I will say nothing here except that this game contains lovable and fantastic characters, well-rounded and developed, and that the game itself has a sense of humor that it displays through them.

The music

Where do I even begin? This game’s soundtrack is one of the best video game soundtracks I have heard in a long time. As I have said before, it is a retro-style video game, and the music is no different. It sounds like the classic 8-bit music that would be in older games, but it has so much more depth and emotion than one would expect. The battle music is catchy and exhilarating, and the emotional music is heart-wrenching. The story is phenomenal, and the music complements it greatly. Here is a link to listen to the intro track to the game on soundcloud! (note: the comments section of the sound file has language, so I have dsiabled it – if you click “Listen in Browser,” they will not show up).

Content summary

Just a brief warning about potentially objectionable content for Christian audiences: there is a pair of characters that are revealed to be homosexual during the course of the game, and the game does dance around the subject of sexuality with some of the other characters, as your gender is never specified. It also has occasional lanuage – I can recall that there was an h-, a d-, and a ba-, but nothing worse than this. The game does deal heavily with the concepts of death, and though there is no blood, the things that the player can accomplish can sometimes be very dark. It is, however, no matter how you play it, an introspective commentary on life and death and gaming as a whole,and will provide a massive amount of conversation material and Biblical application.

A word of warning

You are in control of this game. Your decisions will shape the outcome. Choose wisely when you decide whether to kill or to spare. This is not an ordinary RPG, though it may seem so at first. Choose wisely, and begin your adventure filled with determination.

Who knows where your journey will lead?

Teen Titans

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Genre: Superhero

Aired on: Cartoon Network

Current status: Completed

Type: Cartoon

NOTE: This is for the original Teen Titans, not the recent Teen Titans Go!

Teen Titans is a children’s television show that aired in the 2000s, and was very popular in its day, and remains a positive childhood memory of many of its viewers. The show itself is generally innocent, although sometimes it contains allegories to more mature topics. First: content. The IMDB content summary for this show is very brief, and contains what you would expect from a superhero themed show (action, cartoon violence). It mentions that two characters kiss a few times: this is inaccurate (I believe there is only one kissing scene in the television show) although there is one in the animated film Teen Titans in Tokyo, which takes place after the conclusion of the series (since that is pretty much just a long episode, I have just included it in my review). There is one innuendo in one episode: one of the characters, who goes by the name of Starfire, is flying above the ground with a thick sweater on, and there is a one-eyed teenage villain with mechanical glasses on, and he mentions that he has x-ray vision and Starfire immediately covers her chest. Other than that, the only other drawback to the show in that respect is the way that the female characters dress, which I will address in their biographies.

THE PLOTLINE

The plotline of this show is very simple: there are five teen superheroes living together in a large building who fight crime and keep their city safe. Each season has its own plotline, and all of them are very engaging. There are two kinds of episodes: plot episodes and filler episodes. There are five to six plot episodes per season, and the rest are all standalones. The exception is season 5, where almost all of the episodes are tied into the plotline one way or another.

THE CAST

Teen Titans Robin

Robin. Young, brash, sometimes arrogant, the leader of the Teen Titans is a hero with surprising complexity for a children’s show. A skilled martial artist, he leads the team with the battle cry of “Teen Titans, GO!” As far as characterization goes, Robin is generally regarded as the second best hero of the squadron, with the first season centered around him in a complex plotline. He has times where he is faced with leadership decisions that are difficult, and sometimes he makes the right choices, sometimes not. However, when he makes a wrong decision, he learns from his mistake.

Teen Titans CyborgCyborg is literally a cyborg: half human, half machine. An accident (no details are provided as to its nature), left him injured beyond normal medicinal cures, and he was infused with robotic technology to keep him alive. He is now the fun-loving, cannon-firing, car-driving technology expert of the group, designing the base’s security and building contraptions. The plotline of the third season centers around him, which is easily the weakest plotline of the show. But it is by no means bad. Episodes that center around him usually are about him struggling with his humanity: is he human or machine? The episodes are sometimes good quality, sometimes not so much. His fun demeanor is something that remains through the show, as he charges into battle with the excited cry of “Booyah!”

Starfire

Starfire’s demeanor is one of innocence to the world of mankind: she is a tamaranian (an alien from another planet), who arrived on Earth somehow: we are not told the specifics of how she arrived until the fifth season. Her power is to shoot starbolts out of her hands, and, later on in the show, her eyes, that deal damage to enemies. The only problem I found with the character, as you can see by the two images posted, is that she is dressed skimpily, her stomach showing in nearly every episode. For the first episodes, it drove me crazy, because this is a KIDS show and she is dressed immodestly, inspiring her fangirls to dress the same. However, she is not nearly as bad as Ahsoka Tano from The Clone Wars, so that’s something I guess. But the show’s main drawback is definitely the modesty of the female characters: even minor ones are often not dressed adequately. An interesting thing about the character is that while she has multiple episodes centered around her, none of the season plotlines put her in a more important position than any others.

Beast_BoyBeast boy is, with Cyborg, one of the comic relief characters of the show: he cracks jokes and has an amusing, energetic character throughout the show. However, he is my personal third favorite character, because of how they take the comic relief character and make some of the more heavy episodes centered around him. He has two seasons where he is not the main character, but he is the most important of the Titans: season 2 and season 5. In season 2, he meets a girl who he obviously likes and who obviously likes him back, and they begin to develop a relationship. They hold hands, but no kissing ever occurs between the two characters. However, he teaches a good lesson: it’s okay to be funny and energetic, but there are times when you have to act your age and be mature. His power is the ability to transform into any animal he can think of.

RavenI like to save the best for last, and it is nearly unanimously agreed that Raven is the best character in this show; the most well written, the one with the most engaging plotline, and the one with the most character development. She has two potential drawbacks to her character: the entire show, her costume is a leotard covered by a blue cloak. However, her legs are entirely exposed in almost every episode. In one episode, an event occurs that rips her costume, exposing her stomach for a few minutes. The other is that her character is portrayed as a “goth”, she dresses in dark black and blue, and has an air of darkness around her throughout the show. She likes to be alone with her books, and she gains her power through magic (a critical viewer could draw connections to witchcraft, as she gives a cry of “Azarath Mentrion Zinthos!” We learn that Azarath is the world on which Raven was born, but the other two words are never defined. You can draw your own conclusions; I tend to think that the similarity was unintentional). The only concern I would have with showing my child this show in Raven’s case is the gothic attitude; I wouldn’t want my daughter to take Raven up as a rolemodel, because she is so closed off to the other characters and just has a dark demeanor. However, Raven’s faults are overshadowed easily by how well written she is, and the fantastic plotline that centers around her in season 4. I tend to think that Raven is the writer’s voice coming out, sometimes remarking on a plot convenience, showing us that the writer’s noticed it too, or making a sarcastic joke that you can’t help but laugh at. Season 4 is the most mature season: Raven’s origins are revealed, and the plotline takes you through an epic series of events that end in a three part episode called “The End”. It is a complex, extremely engaging plotline that can be enjoyed by youngsters who don’t quite realize the gravity of the situation, and their parents or older siblings. She is the main character of all of the episodes, and, as she is the most powerful of the Teen Titans, she gets to unleash herself more than she has in any other episode, and believe me, it is EPIC.

SladeSlade is the main villain of the Teen Titans series, although comic book fans know him better by the name of Deathstroke. I won’t say much about him, but I will say this: whenever there is a mature plotline, or one that is heavy and emotional and dark, he is probably involved. A fantastic villain, he is easily my personal second favorite of the show. One of the most disturbing images of the show involves him: I won’t tell you where or when (you’ll know it when you see it). If you’re reading this to see if it is appropriate for your child, Google it: you’ll find the image easily.

CONCLUSION

For all its faults, Teen Titans is one of the best animated children’s shows out there. While there are better (most of the better ones being other DC animated cartoons), it is certainly one of the best I have ever seen. It is funny and lighthearted, with the capacity to be mature and dark in a captivating way. I highly recommend it, for college kids with nothing better to do that never watched as children, and for adults to watch with their children. Enjoy!

Age Rating: 12+

Quality Rating: 7/10

 

Death Note

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Genre: Anime

Current status: Completed

Type: Cartoon

First non-music review! Which is not saying much because I’ve only reviewed two albums xD I’m gonna take a crack at a TV show… bare with me, it might be a rough-around-the-edges review (I’m not going to individually review all 37 episodes and waste everyone’s time xD so it won’t be as complete as my others.) First of all, this show is something that I definitely would say to use discretion on. I am not going to go into the full content summary: IMDB has already given it a pretty solid content review, which you can access here:

IMDB CONTENT RATING

That synopsis is pretty accurate, although the content rating bolds “All of the women were clothed” in referencing a scene where a character was looking at magazines that were supposed by be inappropriate, and while this is mostly true, they were BARELY clothed. So their modesty is exaggerated by the site.

THE PLOTLINE

The Death Note

This is the Death Note. The Death Note is the item the entire show is focused around, and it sets up the entire 37 episode story-arch. The Death Note falls into the hands of Light Yagami, a young high school student who sees this as a way to make the world a better place: by killing all of the criminals on the planet. What does it do? Well, all the holder has to do is write down the name of the person in the book, and in forty seconds that person will die of a heart attack. The Death Note can also be used to specify the time, place, and circumstances behind the death. There are many rules to the notebook that are described throughout the series, particularly at the beginning, when Light is first utilizing it. The plotline takes off as a detective catches Light’s trail and starts to close in on him, and it becomes a game of chess between the two that is engaging and exciting, and that builds momentum throughout the show.

THE CAST

Light

Light Yagami, the main character of the show, is a young senior in high school/college freshman during the show. He is the character the plotline is centered around. An interesting part of this show is that Light, while he seems to be the protagonist and is undoubtedly the main character, he is also the villain of the show. He obtains the notebook by complete accident, but he thinks that it could not have fallen into better hands. He desires to use it to clean the world of crime and violence, and make it a celan place. And, in the end, it is his plan to become the “God of the New World.”

RyukkThe next character is Ryuk, which, while he does not necessarily have a huge part to play in the series, is the reason the series begins. He drops the Death Note into the human world for one reason: he was bored. He is with Light throughout the show, and only people who touch a page of the Death Note can see him. While his appearance may make him look like an intimidating character, he is actually where most of the comic relief of the show originates, as his only intention in the show is to have fun watching the interesting developments centered around the Death Note. He is a “Shinigami,” or a “god of death,” which is one of the only spiritual parts of the show, besides his declaration that someone who uses the Death Note “cannot go to Heaven or Hell”.

L

“L” is the next main character on the list, introduced in the second episode and instantly making the viewer desire to watch the rest of the show, for some, in one sitting. He comes onto the scene with a brilliant and cunning attitude that leaves the viewers and the characters stunned, particularly Light. In the first episodes, we do not see his face, and know him only as a L in an old capital letter font, or part of a face shrouded in darkness. But when we do meet him in person, he provides a new, fresh character to a show that was already fantastic, increasing the engaging plotline and continuing to build momentum. The character is a fun, enjoyable character with a darkness to him that makes him all the more interesting. Alessandro Juliani, his dubbed voice actor, brings to life his quips and quirky personality that make the character so enjoyable. He goes by a code name (L), which gives him protection against the Death Note and allows him to conduct his investigation and show his face more safely, which is why the fan base knows him as L instead of giving him a proper name, although he does don aliases throughout the show. He is the favorite character of many viewers, this author included, and he also ranks as one of the most popular characters in the Anime world.

misa-misaMisa Amane is a blonde female who is introduced later in the show, and plays the unfortunate role of “dumb blonde” to the T, a complete embodiment of the concept in visual form. She is the most sexualized of the characters, often wearing skimpy clothing and sporting some dialogue that has innuendo or outright sexual implications. This dynamic in her character reduces its quality throughout the show, ruining what could otherwise have been a very engaging part of the cast. Her motive is driven by her unrelenting dedication and love for Light Yagami, giving her very little depth of character and a very shallow portrayal in the story. She does have her moments, but they are overshadowed by minimal character development, especially near the end of the show, where she is reduced to a whiny extra with very little personality and even less clothing, making her a sexual item alone instead of an engaging character. In my opinion, this character was one of the pitfalls of the show, one that could have been executed much better.

SPIRITUALITY

So how should we, as Christians, view this show’s contents? First of all, there is the existence of Shinigami, which are referred to as “gods of death”, who, while not immortal, are viewed as spiritual beings throughout the show. Also, while there is a mention of someone using the Death Note being unable to go to Heaven or Hell, there is also a frame that shows a rule from the Death Note in one episode that says that human beings go to “Mu,” which is a spiritual belief that there is nothing after death (the word literally means “nothingness”). And then there is the idea that Light desires to become the god of the “New World”. So there are definitely some warning signals for Christians throughout this show, including the question of whether a civilian killing criminals in an act of righteous judgement is an acceptable occurrence. The show does take a stance against it, but also leaves a few unanswered questions about Light’s morality lingering in the viewers’ heads. However, the show does have quite a few redeeming qualities: throughout the show justice is defended and moral stances by the protagonists generally agree with Christian morality, even though L’s methods sometimes skirt the edge of morality. The show also does raise some important questions about morality, particularly the death penalty and vigilantism, that Christians should wrestle with. And if you suspend your disbelief and allow the spiritual world of Death Note to exist within the show itself, not expanding into your own perspective on the world, the religious differences between the show and reality become obsolete, as they are just the writer’s fictional creations. Overall, I’d say the show’s redeeming qualities far outweigh the bad.

FINAL CONCLUSION

While the violence, sexual themes, and strained morality of the show do sometimes put a dampener on it, overall it is a thrilling psychological ride that takes you on a high stakes chess game played by two of the most brilliant characters in literature and written by brilliant authors who will dazzle you, surprise you, and play with your emotions. I definitely highly recommend this show, for Christians and non-Christians alike, if only for the high-quality way in which it is presented and the enjoyable and gripping conflicts that ride the show to its conclusion. I will warn the viewer that the show was extended past when the writers wanted to include it, and the turning point is very obvious. There is much debate about whether added on “part 2”, as it were, was a good or bad addition, and I will not influence your perception by giving you my own opinion. Overall, this show is definitely worth the watch, and quite possibly a buy. It has very high re-watch value, and I thoroughly enjoyed the series myself. By the way, if you start this show, you may want to give yourself a wide time cushion, because after episode 2, it’s hard to stop watching, as the show is one long connected story that is very addictive, as each episode builds the show’s momentum and most end on cliffhangers.

Age Rating: 17+

Quality Rating: 10/10

Rhythm ‘n’ Moves by Capital Lights

Capital_Rhythm_N_Moves

Capital Lights is a small band that hopped onto the scene a few years ago. They are a band under Tooth and Nail records, and claim to be Christian. Their most recent album, Rhythm ‘n’ Moves, is a more obscure release, and falls under the radar often, in Christian and secular circles both. But the band themselves have a good songs, solid songwriting, and high quality tracks: while they may be more obscure they are by no means bad. However, any band that claims to be “Christian” has a standard that they are expected to live up to in the morality that their songs present. Capital Lights, unfortunately, sometimes does not quite live up to that standard, and this album is no exception. The band has one more album: “This Is An Outrage”, which, while I have listen to it, I have never listened to the full album under a critical lens, so I cannot give a total review of the band at this time (I may review that album later on), but I can tell you what I think of this album in particular.

THE GOOD AND THE BAD

“Rhythm ‘n’ Moves”, the title track opens the album, and it sets a rhythm (haha) that will remain for the rest of the album, establishing the theme of the album (relationships) and the mood (peppy and upbeat). The song is very atypical for the rest of the tracks: it is about a guy whose girlfriend left him, and it describes her and how he wants her back and how she’s his perfect girl and continues on like that. The song itself is fun and makes you smile and tap your foot, and, while it doesn’t have much substance, it doesn’t have anything really objectionable in it either. Overall an enjoyable, clean track.

The only word I can think of to adequately describe “Let Your Hair Down” is bipolar. The narrator is in a relationship that seems like it is ending: his lover is leaving him, and he is giving up on her but still wants her back. It’s clean and fun, and emotionally driven, but it is an “eh” track at best, just because the narrator seems kind of confused and unable to decide what he wants.

Ahhhh yes. “Caroline”. This is one of the CATCHIEST songs I have ever heard, and it gets stuck in my head ALL THE TIME. The song itself is clean, and the message is pretty good: it’s about a guy who was in love with a girl that fell victim to fame: “Caroline, wo-0-ah! Hollywood took the girl!” and he’s sick of her newfound self-love and is getting out of that one-sided relationship. Give this track a listen… at your own risk. Because it’s really peppy and will have you bobbing your head and tapping your foot for hours after it’s done.

“Coldfront Heatstroke” was their hit single, and it is one of the best tracks on their album. Again, it is a track about a one-sided relationship that he’s calling quits because he can’t take her emotional flip-flopping anymore. It’s a fun, acoustic driven track that is well written and completely clean. Plus, it’s got creative lyrics that are fun to listen to.

Controlling my anger, I will try to write a clean-headed review of the next track, which is a waste of talent and time and drops the morality of the album out from under itself. As a “Christian” band, this is a shameful track for them to put out. Called “Newport Party,” this is about a beachside party where there are a bunch of guys waiting for good-looking “Laguna beach bodies to arrive” and make them “lose their Cinderellas”. It is spit in the face of love, replacing it with a lust for good-looking girls in bikinis. I call it a waste of talent because there is some clever writing here, with the band referencing two of the songs on their previous album: “With the fellas singing This is an Outrage/Girl, you’re just a Mile Away” (This is an Outrage and Mile Away are the two). But it’s ruined by the rest of the song. I violently despise this track and recommend you steer clear from it. I wouldn’t even give it a listen.

This album is pretty darn bipolar: in between the two worst songs is a really good, inspiring one for girls going through depression. “Honey Don’t Jump” is a really touching song about a broken girl who is thinking about suicide, and it is written from the perspective of someone encouraging her with touching lyrics such as “Honey, don’t jump the gun/There’s a life worth living on/When the world comes crashing down/In God’s arms you’re safe and sound/Let the love of new life spread/In the light, you’ll walk til death/Then, arise, a forgiven soul/As Daddy says, welcome home and job well done/Oh honey don’t jump the gun!” It’s a good song, a very good song. I highly recommend it.

“Say Hey” is not necessarily a BAD song. But I did not like it, enough for me to take it off of my iPod. For one thing, the song opens with the sound of a can being opened… and since it is a party song written by adults, it’s hard to imagine that it would be a soda can. But I guess that is the assumption we are supposed to make. The song itself proceeds to, while not being out-front inappropriate, kind of shady, including lyrics like “Four silhouettes getting down in the daylight”, “Me and shawty in our best clothes/getting down on a late night”, and a few others that walk a razor’s edge. Use great discretion with this track.

“Don’t Drop Dead Juliet” is narrated by a boy who’s in love with a girl, but is having trouble committing to the relationship, and is scared of what the future may hold, but is encouraging her to stay because he knows he wants to stay with her till he dies. It’s a pretty touching song, and changes the tempo of the album a bit: instead of him leaving a girl because the relationship is unhealthy, he’s encouraging a girl to stay with him because he wants to make things right between them. Not a bad track at all.

“Hey Little One” is a track that takes the album to a much slower pace, and it’s a warm, heartfelt song. It’s about a boy who lost his love, and regrets it and thinks back on it with happy memories and a desire to relive them. It is touching, and the artist puts raw emotion into the song that makes you sympathize with him and, if you have ever lost a love, brings you back to those memories. He also looks towards the future, and asks God with the strength to move on. The song has one questionable line: “What if this was just a dream?/When I awakened from this nightmare you were lying next to me?”, but if you can overlook that tiny detail the song is very good. I like the track, but it might not be for everyone.

Next is “Save the Last Dance,” another iffy song on the album (while not NEARLY as bad as “Newport Party”). While does not have any outright inappropriate content, its message is not one that, as Christians, I do not believe we should condone: the narrator is at a party, and he sees this girl who he describes as “a real life girl in a dream girl’s body”, which throws up a red flag in the first place because all he knows about this girl is that he likes her body and that she’s a good dancer. The man continues to make a plot to cut in in the last dance of the night and get the girl. That is the entire song; again being one that is pretty shallow and has very little sustenance to it, except this has enough “eh” to it to put it off some Christians’ iPods, or at least make it a less popular track. It’s worth a listen: the song is catchy and fun, but it is not necessarily worth a buy. Use discretion.

And then the album ends by making your eyebrows shoot up as you say “Wait… this was a CHRISTIAN band?” This is their only purely religious song on the album, and a good one at that. It is a great track about God’s love and its effect on the people who have it. I like this song, while it’s not as catchy as some of the others it is one of the only ones that deviates from the relationship theme; while that is not a bad theme, it can sometimes get exhausting when every album is all about it. I highly recommend this song.

CONCLUSION

This album has some ups and some downs. If you’re looking for a “Christian” band, this would not be a good place to look. However, if you’re looking for a secular band made of Christians, Capital Lights is not that bad of a pick. There are better bands, but there are much, MUCH worse ones. And their songs are catchy and enjoyable, allowing the album to be a fun experience with some emotion along the way. In today’s age when you can preview songs using services like Spotify and YouTube, and can purchase individual tracks, this is definitely a band to check out. I placed this album into my secular category, and rated it:

7/10