Holy shit, Codie, how much Deltarune content are you going to make? You gave Chapter 1 a single quickie and moved on. Yeah, funny thing about that, if it wasn't for Spamton, I would have forgotten about Chapter 2 a week after I finished it. Which would still be an improvement over Chapter 1, which I think I forgot about within a couple days (and in retrospect, went easy on in said quickie). But that little fucker wormed his way into my head, and brought the rest of the game with him.
In my last Deltarune-related writing I mentioned how the whole "Kris is the player's puppet" plot point doesn't work unless the Knight is Toby Fox. I feel it's time to finally explain myself, and slightly amend that statement.
Couple things before I begin. First, I'm aware of Fox's disdain for outlandish fan theories (although with the years-long gaps between Deltarune releases, he's damn well inviting them at this point), which is one of the things that wore out his patience with Mat-"Sans is Ness"-Pat along with MatPat comparing everything to Undertale - not because Fox believes Undertale is unapproachable, but because he wanted those games to be recognized for their own merits, not for how they compare to Undertale - to the point of not even acknowledging the game he was comparing to Undertale in the first place. But even if Fox knew who I was or gave a shit about what I think, this isn't really a fan theory but a collection of musings. My thesis here isn't "the Knight is Toby Fox" it's "Kris as the player's puppet does not work unless the Knight is Toby Fox."
Second, I admit this essay hinges on "The player is the game's greatest monster" being Fox's intent and not a prevalent fan theory, or people trying to justify their Snowgrave run with "Yeah, well, everyone who plays this game is scum anyway, whether they go kill-crazy on everything or exclusively play pacifist and only ever killed a monster in either game because they thought you Spared Toriel by weakening her like catching a Pokemon, and were horrified when they knocked off 2/3 of her health by grazing her"* so this could very well be built on a foundation of broken glass and cigarette butts. But I don't believe it's entirely unfounded because Fox has stated you're supposed to put your own name in at the beginning of Undertale because the psychotic bastard that is the "first child" is you... even if you play pacifist, somehow?
It's also possible he's writing the story such that it can be interpreted multiple ways, and if you want to ignore the meta shit and take it as a melancholic tale about how the fantasy world is only for visiting and no matter how much the real world sucks with its shitty jobs, heartbreaks, humiliations and failures, and parents who are divorced, deadbeats, or dying, you can't live in the fantasy world, go ahead. Like that Murder Falcon comic where it's heavily implied the whole thing is a dream the protagonist is having as he's dying of a brain tumor in a hospital bed but if the reader finds it more satisfying to take Jake's demon-slaying adventure at face value there's no reason they can't.
* Yes, this happened to me. I've known three other people who played Undertale, and two killed her the first time for the same reason. The third killed her intentionally because he couldn't stand her.
So, what do we know about the Knight? Not much, other than they're going around creating sources of dark energy called Dark Fountains that turn locations into mini worlds known as Dark Worlds with the apparent goal of triggering a calamity called the Roaring, and that Fox supposedly intends for them to be the game's final boss. We also see Kris acting possessed at the end of Chapters 1 and 2 and even opening a Dark Fountain at the end of Chapter 2, indicating they're either being controlled by the Knight, or turn into the Knight when something overtakes them. The Knight - or the entity that turns Kris into the Knight - is also able to manipulate other characters in the game, for when you ask Spamton about them he begins to answer you, then seizes up, begs somebody to stop doing... something, then answers with a non-sequitur.
Tangent nobody cares about: I keep accidentally calling the Dark Fountains "Shadow Geysers", but those were the pillars of darkness wreaking havoc on a fantasy world that the hero from the real world had to seal up so they could return home in Magi Nation. I'm not accusing Fox of pinching the idea from Magi Nation, if only because I'm probably the only person in the world who even remembers that game, but it's a hell of a coincidence if not especially since "Dark Fountain" and "Shadow Geyser" are synonymous (also, Tony was indirectly responsible for the Shadow Geysers, and I'm pretty sure there was a plot point about how the Shadow Geysers would keep spawning faster and faster until they overran the Moonlands). And even if he did nick the idea, so what, good artists steal and all that.
Fuck it, while we're off course, is it just me or is the Roaring - an apocalyptic "Roar" in which a Knight with a blade infused with the story's big MacGuffin creates a rift into a parallel world from which an overwhelming amount of energy erupts out and consumes the real world and unleashes a bunch of dormant titans - basically the Great Roar of the Astral World with a big scoop of the Rumbling mixed in? Although the Rumbling hadn't happened yet when Deltarune Chapter 1 released, and while the Great Roar happened all the way back in 2010... I can see the Homestuck community having a thing for uncovering quirky obscure RPGs and Magi Nation being one of the games they dug up. Shit, the Mercy aspect of Undertale was inspired by a Japan-only PSX game I had never heard of before called Moon. But while I'm sure Fox is familiar with Attack on Titan even if only through cultural osmosis, I get nosebleed trying to picture him reading Berserk.
One could also compare the Roaring to Kefka pushing the goddess statues out of alignment and unleashing a torrent of magical energy that rips the world apart and releases monsters that had been imprisoned in the earth for ages like the eight dragons, Doomgaze, and Humbaba, plus waking up the goddesses themselves (amusingly, the GBA translation called them the Warring Triad and "Warring" rhymes with "Roaring"). Or for a lesser known Final Fantasy, Xande screwing with the Light Crystals, upsetting the balance between light and dark and conjuring the Cloud of Darkness which threatened to consume the World of Light in shadow but I'm getting lost in the weeds now.
To get back on topic, who I think the Knight is going to be, and who I think the Knight needs to be are two different questions. If you were to ask me who I think the Knight is going to be, with what I know currently, I'd come up with three possibilities:
1. Chara or their Deltarune equivalent, as Kris is to Frisk. Let's call them "Raha" for the sake of conversation.
2. That figure you create at the start of Chapter 1, which might be Raha anyway.
3. Kris while under 1 or 2's control.
Three other possibilities, but I doubt them for one reason or another:
Kris Directly - I don't think Kris is, on their own, malicious. They get super unhappy when you complete the requirements for a Snowgrave run when if they were as sadistic as they act at the end of Chapter 1 you'd think they'd find it funny, and if you release control over them to go check in on Susie and Noelle in the Ferris wheel they don't immediately stab Ralsei up. Noelle brings up two instances of Kris being a little shit out of nowhere, once by shaking a Ferris wheel and once by hiding under her bed to scare her, and at the end of Chapter 2 Toriel tells Susie that Kris has always randomly behaved strangely. Meaning Kris has always had weird outbursts, long before the player got involved, but is generally a quiet kid who just wants to be left alone. The question is what causes those outbursts, and are they being controlled by the Knight, or do they turn into the Knight when something else takes them over.
Gaster - I'm more inclined to believe Gaster and the Knight are separate entities. The question is whether Gaster is trying to thwart the Knight, aid them, or is sitting back and passively observing the Knight's attempts to cause the Roaring and taking notes. Although it would be pretty damn funny if Gaster was the Knight, since as a skeleton that would make him the Skull Knight.
Asriel/Ralsei - Only if the Knight's identity changes depending on if you play the game pacifist or genocide.
But if Fox's intent is that Kris is not the player character but an unwilling puppet the player is forcing their will on, then the Knight needs to be either Fox himself or Kris while under his control. Or the Annoying Dog if he doesn't want to literally put himself in the game. For starters...
It's in line with what the game establishes.
Toby Fox is literally the one creating the Dark Worlds. In GameMaker Studio.
Toby Fox is literally the one disabling the player's control over Kris and taking them over at the end of Chapters 1 and 2. By switching the playerControlsKris boolean to False, and while we control them with our buttons presses, Fox controls them with his programming scripts.
Toby Fox is literally the one who prevents Spamton from answering when you ask him about the Knight. By overwriting his dialogue.
Shit, Fox is already in the game, as the Annoying Dog.
Hold up, why would Fox want to cause the Roaring? We'll get to that later.
But come on, you're not supposed to think about the development staff when playing a game. Like when you play Chrono Trigger you accept it as a grand adventure about time traveling teenagers trying to stop an alien porcupine from blowing up the world, not a bunch of sprites and programming routines being fed to your television through a box of circuits... okay, that might be a bad example because of the developer room ending, but you get my point. But that's the thing about a self-aware game like Deltarune, isn't it...
The game has already severed the suspension of disbelief.
By establishing Kris not as the player's avatar but a separate entity the player is manipulating against their will, Fox has not just broken the fourth wall, he's adhered C4s to it and blown it completely apart. And as much fun as demolition is, you have to remember that wall is holding up the ceiling and if you're not careful you're going to bury yourself in support beams, insulation, and roofing tiles.
Suspension of disbelief is not just the thing that allows you to accept a dragon in a movie can fly when deep down you know its wings aren't big enough, it's the thing that allows you to watch that movie and believe the battle between the knights and the dragon is actually happening, and it's not just an image of actors in costumes waving prop swords at an animatronic on your television screen. This is why people get upset about rubbery swords, extras in a fantasy world wearing sunglasses, and coffee cups left on the set. They're not being anal, stuff like that shatters the illusion and reminds them none of what they're watching is real.
But Deltarune deliberately shatters the illusion. It wants you to know you're playing a video game, and that you are not Kris. When you play Ocarina of Time, you become Link getting lost in the Water Temple. When you play Symphony of the Night you become Alucard wrecking up papa Dracula's castle. When you play Resident Evil 4, you become Leon Kennedy running away from the giant mecha Napoleon. I know in some games you take on the role of an in-game character issuing orders to the characters actually doing the work, like the GBA Fire Emblem and the Pokemon series, but you're still that in-game character.
In Deltarune, you remain yourself, sitting in front of your computer or Switch, making Kris do what you want with your keypresses. And when you become aware of that, you start to become aware of everything Fox is doing behind the scenes I mentioned earlier.
Sorry to derail this with another tangent, but an interesting topic to explore would be how the player's own mentality shifts depending on that of the character they're playing as. Think about what you want when you're playing as a stoic bounty hunter fighting space pirates trying to create a bioweapon in a Metroid game, versus a treasure-hungry chaotic neutral sleazeball in a Wario game (a proper platformer, I mean, not that Ware bollocks), versus an amoral bastard who kills for the sake of killing in Drakengard. When you step into a character, the character also steps into you.
Now here's where things start conflicting with each other, because Deltarune is heavily implied to be a simulation created by W.D. Gaster, the scientist from Undertale who was erased from that game by an experiment gone awry (generally believed to be when he fell into the CORE).
Except it isn't. Deltarune is Toby Fox's creation. (Yes, I know he has a team helping him, but it's still his vision.)
"Nonono, the fourth wall is still up around that."
So you want me to acknowledge that I'm playing a video game, but also want me to pretend a fictional character created it? You can't tell me the Wizard of Oz is just an illusion, then expect me to ignore the man behind the curtain.
And Fox playing Schroedinger's Fourth Wall and trying to guilt me for manipulating Kris even if the worst thing I ever made them do was eat the moss in the prison, while pinning everyone's woes on Gaster strikes me as, to be honest, kinda cowardly because...
If Fox wants to make this about the player messing with these characters for entertainment, he needs to acknowledge his own role in what's happening to them.
Three fingers pointing back at you, and all that. I apologize if I sound antagonistic while talking about the whole "Kris as the player's puppet" thing, it's because I don't get what the point is supposed to be other than Fox calling me an asshole for playing his game while using Gaster as a scapegoat for his own sins.
Maybe Fox doesn't want to berate the player, he just wants them to think about their role in a game and what they're doing when they make Gordon Freeman bunny hop on his coworkers' heads, a Paragon Commander Shepard take the Renegade option out of nowhere for giggles, or Master Chief teabag his fallen comrades. Okay. Then Fox needs to think about his own role as a creator. There's debate over whether Mike, Gaster, or the Knight** is the one who toyed with Spamton and destroyed his life, but ultimately Fox is the one responsible. By giving him the backstory he did. Fox made him a failure, gave him what he wanted, ripped it all away, and dumped him in the trash. And the Addisons didn't ditch Spamton out of jealousy, they ditched him because Fox made them do it. And the only reason anyone is able to destroy the Cyber World in an apocalyptic winter is because Fox put that option in the game. Where's the option to take Spamton to a burger joint and buy him a kid's meal after the NEO fight, Fox?
** Assuming they're not all one in the same, but I think it's generally believed that Mike is going to be the main antagonist of Chapter 3. When you beat Jevil violently he mutters something about "the Queen" and Queen wound up being the main antagonist of Chapter 2. When you beat Spamton NEO violently (how dare you), he makes a final shout-out to Mike. The pattern being that beating a chapter's secret boss violently makes them drop the name the next chapter's main antagonist.
Put another way, anything short of Fox going full Grant Morrison on Deltarune (hopefully without the dumbass mother-fucking PETA plug) is, well, I don't know if "trying to have his cake and eat it too" is exactly the right phrase, but I think it gets the point across. For the less comically-versed, Morrison's run on Animal Man famously had Buddy becoming aware that he was a character in a comic book, and it ended with him confronting Morrison and demanding to know what the fuck. With that in mind, one could draw parallels between Spamton and Crafty from "Coyote Gospel," both being characters who knew the truth about their world, challenged their masters and failed, tried to tell the protagonist what was going on but couldn't get through to them (albeit for different reasons, Spamton was being censored while Buddy just couldn't read Crafty's writing), and end up in very similar poses, especially if you beat Spamton NEO mercifully. The analogy isn't perfect, I admit, Crafty wasn't obsessed with an abandoned battle mech, and I don't think Fox meant for Spamton to be a Jesus figure.
Which brings us to that final question about the Knight, why would Fox want to cause the Roaring? He doesn't want to cause it, but he has to try for the same reason Morrison killed Buddy's family, or George Lucas made the Death Star blow up Alderaan, or Chris Metzen made Arthas take Frostmourne, kill his father, and raze Lordaeron, or any creator makes bad things happen in their world: stories need conflict, stakes, and adversity for the protagonists to overcome.
I get that deconstructing the creator's role in their own story is dangerous because one mistake and an Animal Man becomes a To Boldy Flee where you're just watching the creator sniff their own farts, but I believe Fox has the chops to pull it off if he took Deltarune in that direction. Come to think of it, the player themself is being puppeteered by somebody. Who's making me make Kris kick the NEO machine when I check it after putting the Loaded Disk in, when I'd only go as far as shaking it? Oh yeah, Fox and his scripts again. As the disembodied voice at the start of chapter 1 states, our choices do not matter in Deltarune, because Fox is the only one whose decisions can truly affect its world. And when we step into Deltarune, we are all Fox's puppets.
Before we conclude for the day, I'd like to share a couple images, first from Morrison's Animal Man:
Yeah, okay, I admit it's a stretch to say Spamton gets crucified after the NEO fight, unless you squint hard enough and claim his strings down to Kris, and the brickwork on the wall make up his cross, but the elements are there with a "traces of the puppetmaster" parallel between the artist's hand and the strings.
And then some applicable words from our old friend Skull Knight (quick reminder that manga is read right to left):
Perhaps the player isn't as powerless against Fox as I originally opined. We may not be able to oppose him within Deltarune but if he displeases us we turn off his game and go do something else. And there's fuck-all he can do about fanfic, or Spamton being redefined by fanon when the Internet collectively decided he was a widdle baby gremlin to be dressed up in pajamas, given a grilled cheese sandwich and a hot cocoa, and tucked into bed as opposed to... whatever Fox originally envisioned him as (I mean, holy shit, have you seen how many YouTube videos there are just of people putting Spamton to bed?)