Colour, Power, and Determination in Undertale

The Power of colour in Undertale


Tea: Spider Cider made with whole spiders, not just the juice


What? You didn’t really think I was done with Undertale, did you? There is still a lot to talk about and while I will not challenge the big mystery of W.D. Gaster (yet), I have another little bit of theory I would like to discuss. This time it is all about colour, souls, and the ability to change the world. Very basic stuff so to speak. As always: Spoiler-alert for the entirety of Undertale. Go! Leave! Play it! With that out of the way, let’s dive into it.

When I talk about colour, I am referring to visible colour during the fights. Of course, the rest of the game is in colour, but it is curious that the highly detailed sprites are black and white. We, the player, become a red heart, our soul, the culmination of our being, as we are told by Flowey in the beginning of the game. So we can therefore conclude that the fight-realm is an abstraction of the other world. As discussed in my other article “Undertale is real!” this realm simply is just like that, no abstraction at all, but just blatant reality. What stands out in these encounters are three individuals, namely Asgore, Sans, and Flowey. These three incorporate a colour or more in their respective fights and change the abstract black and white space. My theory is that these colours are at the core of a representation of power.


– A ‘normal’ Undertale fight. No colour on the enemy, everything is kept in black and white-

Let’s take this one at a time, starting with Asgore. He is the rightful king of the Underground and therefore holds a lot of power already. Furthermore, he has already collected souls and can therefore be assumed to have power that can be physically exerted aside from the power only exercised in a political form. Beyond that, we have seen that he has the power to affect parts that we would assume are reserved for the player only: the interface. Asgore shatters the MERCY button with his red(!) trident. It would be easy now to simply assume that the trident was made by Alphys and is an altered weapon, but looking at where it comes from it does not seem as if Asgore is actually equipped with it, but rather materialises it at will. This would also fit his character, I would not view Asgore as the kind of (goat-)man that walks around armed to the teeth in his little flower garden while drinking tea. So we can somewhat safely conclude that the trident must come from somewhere within him. Keep this in mind for now.

Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 3.09.58 AM

– Look at the size of that thing! Try to hide that under your cape. –

The next suspect is Sans: At the end of the Genocide Route you can see Sans also has a bit of colour, his changing yellow and blue eye. While minor, it also defiantly stems from within him and is not a tool given to him. His power also affects the interface as little bones keep swiping over the interface buttons, hurting you should you touch them with the little heart that is also your cursor. He is also able to alter portions of the fight by cancelling his own attacks into others and returning your soul to the centre of the box as part of his ‘special attack’. So we can add Sans to the list of characters that have colour incorporated in their fight and that have power over seemingly unrelated layers of reality. Another thing both Asgore and Sans have in common, is knowledge over the game: Asgore is well aware of how many times he has killed you as is Sans. Another thing to add to the list.


– A brief glimpse at Sans’ eye (changes from yellow to blue). Sorry about the quality –

Next is the big baddy himself: Flowey / Asriel. Photoshop Flowey’s colour is quite obvious as he is literally nothing but colourful pictures frankensteined together. A similar case can be made for Asriel. In his first form his Chaos Buster fires a rainbow coloured blast, the realm he floats around in is nothing but colours constantly switching and moving, and his second form has an ever changing colour pattern contained in his massive wings. So let’s see if these characters have the same trademarks: Can affect the game space: Definitely, Photoshop Flowey straight up alters the main gameplay and does not even allow for most of the options, only if you can rip it away from him. Asriel can change the game as well and alter the text as he sees fit. Similarly, he – in either forms – has vast knowledge over the game. Flowey doesn’t stop at the Game Over screen, transforming the usual message into: “This is all just a bad dream… and you’re never waking up!” He can load and reload save files at will and so on. What of Asriel though? Surely he is immensely powerful, but he cannot display as much power as Photoshop Flowey. Why is that? Well, I lied when I said there were only three entities with colour in their fights.


– So much power in an uncontrolled form results in an uncontrolled mess of a monster

The forth (and by extension fifth to tenth) are the human souls. As mentioned numerous times throughout the game, human souls hold the greatest power and even all souls of all monsters from the Underground combined can barely match the power of a single human soul. Yet, Asgore managed to kill six of them already, Flowey can kill you easily (don’t lie, he beat you at least once), and Sans, yes Sans can basically wipe the floor with you. And how is a little kid supposed to fight a giant with a trident anyway? Well, you are not fighting, but the culmination of your being is: your soul, the little pixel heart. Just as the culmination of the opponents being is fighting against you. And it just so happens that the three most powerful beings and the human souls are all in colour. So to enumerate: Power beyond normal bounds, knowledge over the gameworld, and ability to interact with the game itself. These three all seem to be defining factors of colours in this game. This can only lead to one conclusion: Power = Determination.


– Human souls are the only other coloured participants in fights –

Think about it, the three being that have colour in their fights are also three individuals that have the strongest agendas for winning: Asgore to keep his promise to his people, Sans to avenge his fallen friends, and Flowey in his ever present lust for power now at the height of his strength. Some monsters have come close to this level of determination, such as Undyne in the Genocide Run, she can bring herself back from the dead (power over the game), but lacks the knowledge and therefore falls short of also gaining a marker of determination, i.e. colour in her fight. Yet, the light bursting from her eye almost reaches that level. If we believe that determination is represented by colour we can view Asgore’s trident as a manifestation of his will, the same goes for Sans’ eye, and Photoshop Flowey’s body. But what of Asriel, why is he never able to attain such heights of power?


– Flowey’s power extends far beyond the internal world, it even affects the name of the game –

When Asriel transforms we assume him to have gathered six human souls and all the souls of every monster in the Underground (minus Napstablook). Yet, his power does not seem to rival that of Photoshop Flowey. In fact, he should be more powerful, seeing as all monsters’ souls should give him about one more human soul of power, but at this point Flowey merely has six human souls and lacks the rest. Flowey may hold the souls, but the determination of all works for the fallen child. And in the final clash of determination, i.e. Asriel’s super rainbow beam, the human can hold his own and is not defeated. Asriel neither has the determination, nor can he muster it up himself. By becoming friends with everyone, the fallen human has become the most powerful being in the Underground.


– As we now know, this is far more than just a little encouragement –

To sum it all up, colour is the visual representation of determination and therefore power in Undertale. Only individuals with a high amount of determination and fuelled by their own desire to achieve something can harness the full extent of this. To do so, they must also possess knowledge of the world itself. Or as Foucault put it: Power and knowledge are intimately linked (somewhat like that). Power is knowledge and vice versa, basically. The fallen human is no exception and his power can clash with the will of others (depending on the route he chooses). His Genocide version reaps the power of those he killed, i.e. EXP, whereas his Pacifist version uses the power he gains in the form of affection from others to weaken Asriel in the final confrontation, until Asriel’s will to kill him cannot outmatch the human’s desire to SAVE him. This is underlined by the save phrases for these two routes. Where the Genocide version rings with a hollow “Determination”, the other states the well-known: “It fills you with Determination. For the Genocide this is something that is desired and held (like a knife), whereas the Pacifist version is something emotional and amorphous.

While sounding a bit convoluted at time, I hope to have shown my point and why I believe that colour and determination are linked. But feel free to disprove me in the comments. It is important to keep in mind that theories about Undertale can involve more than just Gaster and writing little pieces like this truly fills me with determination.

This is not the end, we will continue soon… (Dammit, WordPress doesn’t have WingDings, so much for that inside joke…)



Image sources in order of appearance:


2 thoughts on “Colour, Power, and Determination in Undertale

  1. Colour, ey? Could it be, that my question in my last comment concerning the meaning of the colour red in “her” inspired this particular article?
    In any case, I love this kind of hypothetical thinking. It also shows, just how much thought has gone into Undertale and the fact, that it this game has a very valuable message.
    I also like, how “DETERMINATION” is written in bold type by the way.


    • Well, to be perfectly honest I am writing a paper at the moment about the topic of power in Undertale, but I cannot deny that your colour comment nudged me in a certain direction.
      I fully agree, this (over-)analysing is just so much fun and even better when it all fits together.


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