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I’ll level with you – I like to have my work done for me. So when I saw this video by MediaMotifs…

…I thought, goody, now I don’t have to go through all forty tracks in the music for Chapter 1 of Deltarune and painstakingly pick out every plausible example of that creepy three-note repeating motif that appears as a secret track in Undertale:

I knew I had already recognised it in Deltarune‘s opening track, “ANOTHER HIM”, as well as a few places here and there during my first play-through, but I was sure there would be more. The MediaMotifs video listed eleven tracks that supposedly contain it, which had me pretty excited – until I actually watched it.

Out of eleven tracks, it turned out that only six or seven of them actually contain Gaster’s theme. So much I could tell simply by watching the video and listening with mine earen. After that I had to go and do my own analysis, referring to various transcriptions of the soundtrack in Musescore’s online library to make sure. Some of the incorrect findings in the video were baffling, as in most cases they were pointing to a simple bass line or arpeggio (broken chord) that, as far as I could tell, had no resemblance to the Gaster motif. It’s as if the creator of the video just thought, “Yeah, that sounds like a repeating pattern of notes, must be Gaster.” Even for those of you who don’t read music, the motif above should be fairly unambiguous.

I think the theme’s simplicity does lend to its being something of a musical Jesus Toast – that is, once you’ve decided to look out for it, you start hearing it everywhere. For the purpose of this article, I’ll define the Gaster motif as a figure in any key that follows a pattern of at least three notes, with the intervals between them being a rising semitone followed by a leap of a perfect fifth. The motif is actually an extremely common melodic figure in game music. Here is a list of tracks I can think of from the top of my head that use it:

Light World Dungeon – A Link to the Past (at 0:31):

The Sealed Door – Chrono Trigger (at 0:00):

Aquatic Ambience – Donkey Kong Country (at 0:58):

Scars of Time – Chrono Cross (at 0:03 and 1:21):

Zoness – Starfox 64 (at 0:06):

Endless Mine – Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (at 0:16):

So it’s not exactly distinctive on its own. The other element to the Gaster motif is the way the melody changes – the whole figure moves down, not diatonically (according to the key the piece started in) but chromatically, one semitone, before going back up again and repeating. There are many places in Deltarune’s music where this chromatic shift occurs (sometimes of more than a semitone), and while this doesn’t necessarily amount to a deliberate use of Gaster’s theme, it’s enough to remind the listener that there is some unknown shadow lurking underneath the game’s surface. (Interestingly, the Link to the Past track linked above contains the same harmonic shift as well as the melodic figure!)

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So, now I’ll go through all the tracks listed in the video and point out where the motif is found – or not found, as is the case for several of them. There are three more possible references to Gaster in the soundtrack which I have also put in at the end. Where necessary, I’ve included both written scores highlighting where the quotations are, as well as audio recordings of those scores.

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1. “ANOTHER HIM”

This track plays during the opening character-creation section of the game, and is essentially Gaster’s theme wholesale, with a fuller harmonic arrangement and without any other theme. It may as well be saying “This game is about Gaster ok”.

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Verdict: DARK, YET DARKER

***

2. “Scarlet Forest”

This track plays while you explore the second main area in the game. The quote occurs very briefly in the oboe part, about two thirds of the way in. While it’s always possible that instances like these could be accidental, I tend to lean toward this one being intentional, as it is a prominent melody rather than an accompaniment, and that the notes are both in the correct order and with the right intervals. I can’t help but have retrospective appreciation for how careful Toby Fox was to avoid using Gaster’s theme throughout Undertale’s soundtrack.

***

Verdict: Cheeky Gaster

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3. “Card Castle”

The section that supposedly contains Gaster’s theme is actually a reprise of Lancer’s theme, which appears in a few tracks including the boss theme, “Chaos King”. I initially thought that what the video was referring to was the melody, which does contain a figure similar to Gaster’s theme, only with a leap of a 4th rather than a 5th. But it turned out that what the video was actually pointing to was the bass line, which amazed me for two reasons. First, it’s just not Gaster’s theme. I mean, look at it:

BUT, it amazed me again when I realised that, not only is the bass line almost an inversion of the Gaster motif (i.e.,  played upside-down, albeit with a whole tone instead of a semitone) but the movement of the harmony also follows the same chromatic fall from the original Gaster’s theme. Toby Fox tends to use his themes in a very straightforward way, and I haven’t yet seen him turn them upside down or do anything Bach-like with them (though he does seem fond of playing with the tempo and rhythm of his themes, which can be heard in the various reappearances  of the “Ruins” theme in Undertale, for example). So, while I’m not convinced this is an intentional occurrence of Gaster’s motif, the way the harmony shifts certainly evokes the same feeling, and I think this might be why the creator of the video thought there was something in it.

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Verdict: Wishful thinking.

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4. “Rouxls Kaard”

This is the theme song of a ridiculous man who gives the player absurdly simple puzzles to solve and speaks in pretend Early Modern English. Again, the video is pointing to the bass line, but this time it’s just flat out wrong. The rapid harpsichord notes do not resemble Gaster’s theme whatsoever.


Given how similar Rouxls’ face is to Gaster’s (in the “Mystery Man” sprite found randomly in Undertale), I think it’s very likely he will be related to Gaster in some way, but this theme does not seem to reflect that at all. However, Rouxls Kaard has a second theme, which I think may possibly contain a reference to Gaster – but we’ll get to that later.

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Verdict: Leitmotif readings negative.

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5. “April 2012”

This short theme plays in the Clubs room where several of the enemies are having a little get-together. I’m undecided if this counts as a reference to Gaster or not. The melody and rhythm are somewhat garbled, but the right notes are there, even if in the order is wrong. The figure even shifts down a semitone. I’ll let you listen and decide for yourself:

As we will see further down, the particular ordering of the notes here actually recurs in other tracks, which is another reason I suspect this to be a deliberate use of the Gaster motif.

***

Verdict: Possible Garbled Gaster?

***

6. “Chaos King”

The theme of Lancer’s dad, big baddie of Chapter 1. This is the same deal as in “Card Castle”, only the bass line now has a syncopated rhythm (it’s the same notes, but with the rhythm changed up). Because it’s essentially the same material, I haven’t included a recording for this one – even though it is one of the best tracks in Deltrarune and you should defs check it out on Toby’s Bandcamp!

***

Verdict: No egg.

***

7. “Darkness Falls”

This was a track I never heard during my first play-through; in order to find it, you must die, then say NO when the narrator (Gaster?) asks you if you will try again. The game goes black, and this theme plays. The first part of this section of the MediaMotifs video gets it right – there are two clear quotes of Gaster’s theme in the main melody, this time separated by a drop of a major third:

But once again, the video tries to point out the accompanying parts, which in this case are just broken chords. This is what I meant about the Jesus Toast:

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Verdict: Correct; then very incorrect.

***

8. “The Circus”

This track plays when you enter the dungeon where the door to Jevil’s prison (or, according to him, the door to your prison) is. The motif appears very briefly, but given that this track is meant to foreshadow “THE WORLD REVOLVING”, it makes sense.

***

Verdict: Cheeky Gaster!

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9. “THE WORLD REVOLVING”

Jevil’s battle theme is full of Gaster’s motif, and is probably the most overt use of it in the soundtrack other than “ANOTHER HIM”. I think I found three separate examples altogether. Below are two of them – the third is very similar:

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Verdict: Gaster everywhere!

***

10. “THE HOLY”

This track appears just before you return to school at the end of Chapter 1. There is a moment in the melody below which contains the motif with the notes out of order (in the same order as they appear in “April 2012”), but it’s slight enough to be doubtful. Still, I wonder if the fact that certain tracks in Deltrarune have titles in all upper-case is significant in any way?

***

Verdict: Possible Garbled Gaster.

***

11. “Friendship”

This track plays after you have defeated the King. Again, the video tries to tell us that the bass line, the pattern of arpeggios highlighted below, is Gaster’s theme, and, again, it isn’t. The pattern does admittedly follow the same general shape as Gaster’s theme, but the intervals are wrong, which is really the most important part of using a leitmotif so that it is recognizable to the listener without having to look at it on paper.

***

Verdict: Right shape, wrong intervals.

***

Extra 1: “Hip Shop”

These next three tracks were not listed on the MediaMotifs video.

Earlier I said that Rouxls Kaard had a second theme, and here it is. It plays when you enter his shop (shoppe?), and, though I’m unsure if this counts as an intentional use of Gaster’s theme on Toby’s part, it definitely has the right notes in the right order, so I’m putting it in this list.

***

Verdict: Subtle, possibly thematically relevant?

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Extra 2: “Man”

This track does not appear on the official soundtrack on Toby Fox’s Bandcamp. You can only hear it in-game by exploiting a glitch to access a secret room, where an unseen man behind a tree gives you an egg (a possible reference to the scene in Chrono Trigger when you use the Time Egg). The music that plays has the same muddled version of Gaster’s theme we heard in “April 2012” and “THE HOLY”, which leads me to think that this might be a very deliberate alternate version of the motif.

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Verdict: Gaster is the Egg Man???

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Extra 3: “Don’t Forget”

Credit to EpicFailureFive for pointing this out in the comments of MediaMotif’s video.

I have to say, of all the instances of Gaster’s theme in Deltarune, this one amazed me the most. This track is the ending theme for Chapter 1, and it has lyrics. The final line, “Don’t forget; I’m with you in the dark” is already sufficiently creepy with it’s double meaning, but the fact that Gaster’s theme appears in the piano part exactly on the word “dark”, as the last bit of music you hear in the game, is just perfect.

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Verdict: VERY, VERY, INTERESTING

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Well, that’s it. If you’ve heard Gaster’s theme in other parts of Deltarune‘s soundtrack, or indeed in other music, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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Posted by Matthew Sandstrom