The first time I played UNDERTALE I was blown away, not by the game’s interesting and ever-changing game mechanics, combat situations, pacifism, or clever writing. What really stood out to me was developer Toby Fox’s incredible soundtrack that I would often find myself not playing the game at all just to appreciate the background music. Since the game’s release, plenty of artists have given the Undertale OST a crack, and while there are some exceptional covers out there, such as the incredible jazz album “Prescription for Sleep: Undertale” by Gentle Love, UNDERTALE: Strings Of Determination by Diwa de Leon A.K.A “String Player Gamer” is the best collection of covers that at times rivals the original OST. This massive four volume soundtrack has been officially licensed and covers almost every track from the game with its own style and flair for each song.
Since this record is a whopping 46 songs, I realized that it would be unfair to give the album a blanket review ,and so I will now break down each track on its own and explain why each song here is well worth listening to.
Death by Glamour
In this song Diwa really sets the tone of the album and lets the listener know what to expect. Death by Glamour features a dueling sound of distorted and crunchy guitars with clean strings all dancing around rythmic drums and a pulsing bass.
A ska like arrangement accompanied by strings and organs of Spider Dance really gives life to the 8-bit original.
Shop is a beautifully simple song that harkens back to the SNES era of JRPG music. The churched up arrangement here really gives the melody room to breathe and makes it one of the best songs on the album.
Believe it or not, this is one of the few songs I dislike from the original soundtrack. Diwa de Leon makes it better at the 1:00 mark when the song gains a funky bass line and chip tune backing to a lead fiddle. Not bad at all.
Snowy shares the melody from Shop and yet sounds like its own song. In the original OST this song was my absolute favorite and this cover is no exception. If you listen to any song off this album, make sure its Snowy.
Oh! One True Love
The original sounds like an SNES while this cover feels like it would have belonged on a PS1 era JRPG.
I like to imagine someone somewhere listens to this at the gym. I would …
Temmie Village Acapella – Tera Catallo
Acapella is always interesting and one of the most impressive and difficult things to do. The insanely talented Tera Catallo AKA TeraCMusic lends her mic skillz on this one.
Asgore features the catchiest chorus on the album as well as a solid breakdown. While the original has a very “videogamey meets anime intro song” feel to it, this arrangement is a bit closer to a metalcore song than anything.
Megalovania is a song where the strings really shine. Accompanied with a punchy double kick drum and fuzzy bass line, this song is quite better than the original. Which if you’ve read up to this point you’re probably starting to see a pattern…
… That being said, this song falls short of the simple brilliance of the acoustic noodling of the original. It’s just a bit too overproduced for a song in which less was definitely more.
I never would have expected spanish guitar to work so well with this song.
Easily the second best song on the album. The guitar here really outshines the arrangement in the original game’s soundtrack and gives an otherwise boring song a totally new sound.
Musically this is the best song on the original soundtrack; it was unfortunately gimped by the choice of almost chip tune sounds. Diwa de Leon fixes that and turns one of the most interesting songs on the OST into the absolute best song on this record.
This arrangement of Sans. feels like it should be in the background of some awful show on Speed Network where some dude finds a priceless car in some barn in the mid west. Perfect.
Spear of Justice
The spanish guitar and heavy kick drum give this song a feel that sounds like something ripped straight from a Final Fantasy or Xenoblade.
As the name suggests Quiet Water is a serene and relaxing track. This is something you could add to your sleep mix.
Waterfall is the softest yet biggest sounding song on the album. It’s not my favorite, but I can appreciate the effort put into this arrangement.
But the Earth Refused to Die
But the Earth Refused to Die is also one of the shortest and, quite frankly, one of the lowest points here. Its briefness doesn’t really make the song warranted and could have been dropped entirely. With an album consisting of 46 tracks, it’s expected to have a few missteps here and there.
Battle Against a True Hero
One of the more string heavy tracks on the album, Battle Against a True Hero isn’t anything special until the breakdown at 1:36 where the song goes from a triumphant string ballad to an almost country acoustic-backed violin lead. This part here greatly outweighs the rest of the song, and it’s a shame it’s almost ruined by what comes before it.
Once Upon a Time
This song seems to lose its charm when it doesn’t sound like it was written on a Game Boy. While I can see the effort put into making one of the standout melodies from Undertale have a richer and fuller sound, it ultimately doesn’t work. That being said, there is a cover that exceeds this as well as the original track by an artist on the same label.
Your Best Friend
Similar to Once Upon a Time, Your Best Friend loses its whimsicalness and mood when its played on real instruments.
Spooktune benefits tremendously from the use of real strings. The original reminds me of farts while this cover reminds me of skeletons. Both are pretty scary.
Diwa de Leon managed to give one of the worst songs in the OST a breath of new life in this cover. Where the OST version sounds like a mess, this cover has a “Disney” feel to it in the best way possible.
One of the more upbeat tracks here, when listening to Core my first thought was driving at night with the windows down. It’s upbeat, moving, has a great string lead accompanied by guitars, and, at times, feels like a more mellowed out Periphery track than a videogame OST cover.
This is one of the melodies I simply cant stand in any version of the song, and this cover doesn’t do much to remedy that. It’s a straight forward string cover of a straightforward song.
If you listen to any song off the album that can give you a sense of what Diwa de Leon was going for with these covers, this is it. Do yourself a favor and check it out.
Another Medium is another song with strings and delayed guitars backed by electric drums. It’s not bad but unfortunately the song doesn’t seem to go anywhere until it’s 3/4 of the way complete. At 1:21 delayed guitars and soft electric drums kick in to an ambient piano that gives the song a totally new vibe. More bridges such as this would be great.
If you’re really into strings and the violin then check this out; if not, then pass.
Hopes and Dreams
If I had to pick a handful of songs to showcase this album, this would be one of them. It has everything: a true to the original sound, great violin, grooving drum and bass, and a well-planned-out arrangement.
Save the World
Save the World is one of those songs that falls into the “Doesn’t need to be on the album” category. It’s almost the exact same as the previous track Hopes and Dreams and really didn’t need to be included here or at least in the track listing right after Hopes and Dreams.
Start Menu, Hopes and Dreams, Save the World, and Once Upon a Time all have the same melody. While this isn’t a terrible thing for an OST of a videogame that needs a ton of music to accompany its moods and areas, this doesn’t need to be covered five times. Now that that’s out of the way, Start Menu is very piano heavy and sticks out from the rest.
Dating! reminds me of a song from Persona 4 Golden, and that is the highest compliment I could give a video game song.
Uwa!! So Temperate
The intro to Uwa reminded me of every metalcore song released in the last three years. The ambience of the track has a moody vibe that’s not that present in this album. If you liked the soundtrack to Final Fantasy 13, then you’ll dig this.
Alphys has some of the more interesting and real drumming on the album that definitely improve on the original Toby Fox track.
One of the rare non string driven songs here, and its focus on piano is a welcome addition this far into the record. Give it a listen on a rainy day.
If you appreciated The Last of Us, then you’ll dig Premonition‘s plucky and moody guitars. It’s stripped down, dark, and an absolute improvement over the song found in the game.
Here we Are
Nothing too exciting with this track outside of the echoy guitar and 5/4 time signature changes.
This is another song that initially loses its charm when it’s played by “real” instruments, but once you get over that, the strings here really make for an exceptional cover.
If the synth lead here was played with a guitar in B, it would be a pretty brutal Djent song.
Your Best Nightmare
The metal influences here make this one of the stand out tracks on this album. The original version by Toby Fox has a weirdness to it that fits the tone of the song and game to a T, while Diwa’s version gives it a more gothic meets metal meets progressive feel while still keeping the integrity of the original in-tact.
If you listen closely, this song and Your Best Nightmare share a riff. It’s a cool song, but I think this could have benefited from being a combo with the previous track instead of a stand alone song.
It’s Raining Somewhere Else
It’s Raining Somewhere Else would be the perfect album closer here. It’s mellow, ambient, and has this cinematic “ending” feel to it. The string cover here gives the song a Professor Layton vibe to it rather than Undertale.
Live Report/Death Report
The song sounds exactly like the title suggests. More at the top of the hour …
Bird That Carries You Disproportionately Over Small Gap
When compared to the original song, this is definitely the most “cinematic” cover on the record. It also features the most difficult song name to write since The Chariots, “Someday, in the Event That Mankind Actually Figures Out What it is That This World Revolves Around, Thousands of People are Going to Be Shocked and Perplexed to Find Out it Was Not Them. Sometimes, This Includes Me.”
It’s Showtime is the final song on this album and it’s one of the best examples of what composer Diwa de Leon set out to do. It’s true to the original but features his signature sound and a much larger sound. Great ending to a four volume record.
Undertale: Strings of Determination is an artistic undertaking you don’t see too often in music. While I strongly agree that some songs such as Save The World and Start Menu, don’t belong on this album, tracks such as Snowy, Uwa!!, and Another Medium stand out as some of the best Covers and even rival the original soundtrack by Toby Fox. I urge anyone who enjoyed the Undertale soundtrack to give this a listen.
Undertale: Strings of Determination is now available on iTunes, Spotify, and Bandcamp. This album was reviewed off a Spotify link provided by the label, Materia Collective.More About This Game