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September 21, 2012 9:29 AM   Subscribe

Tool-assisted speedruns seek to create a perfect run by using tools such as slow motion, scripts and manipulation of random numbers. A few TASs have appeared on the blue before, but it's easy to get lost in the archives of TASvideos. The pages of popular videos and notable videos are useful here. You could browse by platform or use the tabs to sort the videos by various statistics. A good starting point might be Actraiser (yt), a hybrid of sidescroller and city simulation, which has been subtitled so that you can understand the choices made by the author (click on the 'closed captions' button). Some of the most impressive TASs take advantage of glitches: watch Link complete Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (yt - no cutscenes) by supersliding, bomb jumping, and eschewing boss keys or a long game like Super Mario 64 (yt) completed in 5 minutes in a no-stars run. However, sometimes watching a longer, competent run like Donkey Kong Country 2 (yt) 102% is just as fun. Here are some recommendations.

Tool-assisted speedruns are in essence a sequence of button presses that can be recreated in the specific version of the emulator used to produce the recording. The primary link for each game in this FPP is the comments page when it contains the video or the publication page otherwise. In the latter page there are mirrors and an emulator file containing the run in case you want to recreate it. A TAS is not a test of reflexes but rather a puzzle: plotting an optimal sequence, hopefully, also results in an entertaining video. In case of major glitches there is usually a TAS that uses it and a TAS with different goals like 100% completion. Due to the length of this post I organised the videos in three categories, but don't read too much into the titles.

Showcase/entertainment value
A TAS can be a good way to see the majority of a game played by a superhuman player. Yoshi's Island (comments) (yt) is a brilliant run. To quote the creator himself: I juggled some eggs to a tune. [Later] I juggled some monkeys because eggs were getting old. Super Mario Bros 3 (comments) (yt) doesn't go for max speed in order to show off glitches and pursue goals such as trying not to touch the ground by jumping on enemies' heads. Lost Levels (yt) from Super Mario All Stars has one of the lowest number of rerecordings on the site, yet Mario blasts through the stages with aplomb. You can watch full playthroughs of Super Mario World (comments) (yt) and a long mod of the former, Super Demo World (comments) (yt) or you can watch Mario showcasing lesser glitches in Super Mario 64 (yt) while collecting 70 stars.

A Link to the Past (comments) (yt) is another great run that shows off most of the game, shying away from major glitches but showing other tricks. Here's also a full run of Ocarina of Time (yt) that takes advantage of some interesting glitches and a full run of Link's Awakening DX (comments) (yt) that plays through the whole sequel of ATTP without using glitches.

Mischief Makers (comments) (yt), like a lot of Treasure's games, never found fame proportionate to the quality of its gameplay. In this run Marina, a robotic maid, gets a Super rank in every single stage of this quirky sidescroller. Speaking of space, here's Samus tackling all bosses before Mother Brain in reverse order in Super Metroid (yt). As if the woman in the $6300 power suit would talk to Kraid, COME ON!* Metroid: Zero Mission (comments) (yt) 100% is an extended remake of the original that showcases some tricky shinesparking dashes. Other people would rather not leave their spaceships. In Arkanoid (comments) (yt) the player repels an alien invasion by constantly juggling 3 balls without losing any of them. The aliens get dispirited and go away. Gradius (yt) has a proper gun, but the screen scrolls at a set pace, so the pilot kills time by creating pretty patterns and dodging bullets before willing the final boss to disintegrate by his sheer presence.

Megaman & Bass (yt) might not be the most famous installment of the series, but makes for a good speedrun. If you like it, check out the Megaman X series for SNES and PSX. It has its charms like one hit kills with hadoken (Megaman X) (comments), shoryuken (Megaman X2) (comments) and a glitch similar to that shown in Zelda where Zero's sword constantly deals damage (Megaman X4 and later games) (yt).

Goof Troop (comments) (yt) demonstrates the kind of two-player cooperation you never had with your friends in a game that takes a few cues from Zelda. Another game with good coop is Double Dragon 2 (comments) (yt) although it's not too flashy. Ninjas are not flashy either, but you can see one waltzing and swinging through the stages of Ninja 5-0 (yt) while saving hostages and saving baddies in this fast-moving game. Finally, Aladdin (comments) (yt) is that rare beast: a good movie tie in and also a good speedrun as the protagonist is pretty agile and his monkey is pretty cute.

Major glitches
Some of the most famous runs employ heavy glitches. Players skip part of the game, but not the final boss. In this way, one can finish Super Mario World (comments) (yt) in 9:57. Castlevania games are easy to break this way too: Here is Aria of Sorrow (yt) in 6:14 and Portrait of Ruin (comments) (yt) in 4:18.There are games like Werewolf (comments) (yt) that are mostly unremarkable apart from contributing one important element to werewolf folklore: werewolves can walk through floors and walls. You can see Link's Awakening (yt) cleared in 3:48, but this exhibition of glitches from a Let's Play can be even more interesting.

Indeed, the best runs show off glitches and interesting gameplay like Metroid (yt) in 8:19 or Megaman (yt) in 12:23, which starts off by jumping through walls and ends up disintegrating reality in front of Dr. Wily. There are five sequels as well. This run of Super Mario Bros 3 (comments) (yt) in 10:26 includes a sequence where Mario gains 90 lives in 8-1 by bashing bullet bills.

Not everyone bothers with the final boss. That way one can finish Super Mario World (comments) (yt) in 2:36 or Super Mario Land 2 (yt) in 2:08. Pros: uses a cool secret-worlds glitch. Cons: Nothing to do for the rest of the car trip. Now watch Link use a hidden passage to find the Triforce in A Link to the Past (comments) (yt) in 3:44. A lot of people who had played Battletoads (yt) won't mind seeing that one get destroyed in 1:02, but finishing Earthbound (yt) in 9:01 by accessing the debug menu toes the line between impressive and ridiculous. See also Ash realise that all pokemons exist in his mind in, well, Pokemon (yt) in 1:09 or a confusing run of Chrono Trigger (yt) in 3:28. In comparison, the fastest non-tool-assisted run of ALTTP would take 1h29m, of Pokemon 2h10m, of CT 3h34m and of Earthbound 4h13m.

Speed & skill
Suppose you want to see animals rip through stages as fast as they can. Biker Mice From Mars (yt) are unlikely favourites, but they put their bikes to good use so that they often go off camera due to their high speed. However, Sega is the undisputed king of the fast-animals genre. You can choose between a hedgehog (Sonic & Knuckles) (yt) in flashy hyper-mode or in extra-fast speed that is friendlier to the eyes (Sonic 2) (yt), a fox (Sonic the Hedgehog) (yt), a dolphin (Ecco the Dolphin) (comments) (yt) or an opossum (Rocket Knight Adventures) (comments) (yt).

Games of infamous difficulty appear easy in a TAS. Think of Castlevania (yt) and its Medusa heads or the pantsless, lance-wielding knight Arthur in Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts (comments) (yt). Another example is Contra 4 (comments) (yt), which is an extended remake of Contra with better graphics (even the Konami code isn't enough for this game). When you don't have to worry about coins or continues, you can enjoy the sprites of Metal Slug (yt) (sequels here) or the soundtrack of Streets of Rage 2 (yt).

These are some of the runs I found worth watching, but in general most installments of Mario, Castlevania, Metroid, Megaman and Sonic have interesting TASs. There are some rpgs that show off luck manipulation like Shining Force (comments) (yt), but most of them are rather long. As a final recommendation, Demon's Crest (comments) (yt) is a metroidvania game that is slow in the beginning, but has surprising depth and picks up steam later on.

In case you were wondering, Super Mario Bros (yt), takes 4:57 nowadays. Happy watching! (Previously, previously, previously).

cortex approved.
posted by ersatz (37 comments total) 53 users marked this as a favorite
posted by ersatz at 9:29 AM on September 21, 2012

Oh wow, great post! I love watching speed runs. Can't wait to dive into these after work. Thank you!!
posted by lazaruslong at 9:42 AM on September 21, 2012

Fantastic post (and DKC2 is one of the greatest platform games of all time. Of all time!)
posted by Navelgazer at 9:45 AM on September 21, 2012

YE GODS. I never realized this kind of thing existed, though in retrospect of course it must.

So gonna watch these.
posted by AugieAugustus at 9:47 AM on September 21, 2012

This is sort of like buying a second RealDoll and programming it to have sex with your first RealDoll while you film them
posted by crayz at 9:50 AM on September 21, 2012 [7 favorites]

Hoooooly shit yes.
posted by griphus at 9:51 AM on September 21, 2012

B-b-b-b-b-b-but it's CHEATING!

Seriously though this stuff is awesome
posted by 0xFCAF at 10:00 AM on September 21, 2012

B-b-b-b-b-b-but it's CHEATING!

Or playing an entirely different game altogether.
posted by valkyryn at 10:23 AM on September 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Now that is a post, yo.
posted by mhoye at 10:34 AM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

What I love the most about the TAS community is their standards. Most groups would be content to just make cool videos - but TASers not only run through the games quickly, they will not publish a video if there are known improvements, even by a single second. That is integrity, right there.
posted by LSK at 10:51 AM on September 21, 2012

Also, you missed the most logistically impressive TAS of them all: Four Mega Man games completed with the same input.
posted by LSK at 10:55 AM on September 21, 2012

TASs of multiple games with a single inputs were the subject of a previous FPP (the first "previously" link) and I tried not to include double links. I used a slightly faster version of SMB3 as the link of an older post for that game was dead and the 0-star run of SM64 because I only found a MeFi post for the 16-stars run (not even the 1-star run).

The TAS of Symphony of the Night and the TAS of Kaizo Mario World are both worth seeing too.
posted by ersatz at 11:07 AM on September 21, 2012

Man, no wonder I didn't like Act Raiser. I didn't understand the game at all.
posted by cmoj at 11:10 AM on September 21, 2012

Heh, in the Act Raiser video, at 24:40, the boss is Deluxe Paint.

Well, okay, King Tut from Deluxe Paint, but still.

Darn it, that's just disrespectful. If you're going to make the major symbol of the Amiga a boss, you make it the last boss.
posted by Malor at 11:15 AM on September 21, 2012

Speedrunning is like a human running the 100 meter dash as fast as they can.

TASing is building a machine that travels 100 meters as fast as is physically possible according to the laws of our natural world.

Some people like the first, because they're interested in how good a human can become at something. Others don't care about what humans can do- they want to know what can be done. They like the second.

Please keep in mind that these are very different things!
posted by Algebra at 11:18 AM on September 21, 2012 [5 favorites]

That Chrono Trigger run is very silly. The game is just like "Wha? Huh? But you're not supposed to be here... or here... y'know what, fuck it, roll the credits."
posted by clockbound at 11:23 AM on September 21, 2012

I should also like to mention that TAS's might take thousands of hours of work, years of development, and almost always quite large amounts of collaboration between several people. For the "main games"- the games given the most attention like Mario 64 or Ocarina of Time, the current top runs are massive, massive accomplishments, absolutely representative of an outrageous amount of effort, skill, and knowledge on the part of one of the most dedicated communities around.

Check out the TAS forums to see how the development and discovery progress can unfold:
posted by Algebra at 11:28 AM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Very sorry for the triple post here! But I've forgotten to mention this excellent video of some experimental development of a partial segment of a TAS run for Yoshi's Island. It's very instructive as to the amount of work these runs take, and how the construction of one can go.

... I'm done now.
posted by Algebra at 11:36 AM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by captain cosine at 11:54 AM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Any excuse to watch more! I was briefly in the scene, and did SUPER early runs of Ninja Gaiden 2, Blaster Master, and a couple more. But the amount of time and effort these guys put into it is INSANE. They're building entire toolsets around the stuff. I was just playing at like 10% speed and doing things over and over until I nailed it. Not exactly scientific.

On a related note, a fun thing to do is just record your playthrough in FCEU or whatever when you're playing normally - watching yourself play Mega Man 2 or the like in retrospect is surprisingly entertaining, and gives you insights into your play style. "Oh man I really do lead my jumps too much. Dang and I could have dodged that one super easy..."
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 11:56 AM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

You know what would be cool? A professional commercial game designed to be impossible to run through normally - the whole point is you have to cause glitches in the gameplay in order to progress. Glitching and causing the right kind of errors to occur is a puzzle in itself and is built into the game in a non-coding-intensive way. Then the leaderboards have all kinds of ways to make people compete to get the most creative glitches, fastest speedruns, most area of the map uncovered, weirdest game-breaking bugs. Recording is a built-in feature too with a direct-to-Youtube option. SOMEONE MAKE THIS HAPPEN.
posted by naju at 11:58 AM on September 21, 2012

OK, now do the shortest possible post that links to
posted by jepler at 12:00 PM on September 21, 2012

posted by griphus at 12:07 PM on September 21, 2012 [6 favorites]

I really really love Speedruns, and I'll say that while you might or might not enjoy some, it helps a major amount if you've played the game, especially intensely. Watching someone run towards a place you carefully plotted and died over and over getting through and leaping through it like no big thing is breathtaking.

You'd be missing out if you didn't check out Quake Done Quick With a Vengeance (and here is a OpenGL re-rendering of pretty much the same run. The point at 1:45 in this video where the guy solves the quake level in thirteen seconds? A miracle to behold.
posted by jscott at 1:21 PM on September 21, 2012

does anyone do speedreads of books

would that be a synopsis?
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 2:33 PM on September 21, 2012

It is too easy to focus on the fact that the trick works rather than why. It works because the door is a real thing, that will eventually open. This may sound obvious, but it’s not. In years previous to games like Super Mario 64, just because there was a door somewhere didn’t mean that there was anything behind that door. That door was, effectively, a painting that was later replaced with a real door when all the objects you needed were assembled.

I liked this part of your post about the bunny trick to bypass the door in Super Mario 64. I was inadvertently impressed when I read Black Mesa featured breakable glass because glass wasn't real glass in Half Life in 1998 even though I knew BM was a Source mod. I also love that many indie games use destructible or procedurally-generated environments.

Navelgazer, DKC2 is brilliant. DKC3 too although it came later in the life cycle of SNES and was relatively overlooked. Its difficulty curve is intuitive and ranges from "press right" to having to attempt all kinds of platforming tricks to get the bonus coins.
posted by ersatz at 2:41 PM on September 21, 2012

Tool assisted speedruns sounds so fun - I'd love to play SMB w/Maynard!!!
posted by symbioid at 2:44 PM on September 21, 2012

Still my favorite speedrun of all time
posted by mediocre at 3:08 PM on September 21, 2012

does anyone do speedreads of books

Yep, my friend Cliff.
posted by butterstick at 3:52 PM on September 21, 2012

Yes, DKC3 is indeed very good, though I haven't played it as much (And mostly remember it for one piece of dialog from a guy named Bjorn, introducing himself with "Hello! I am being Bjorn!" which always makes me chuckle for some reason.

I've wanted to do a decent post on DKC2 for years now, though. I did one on the series as a whole about 4 years ago, which I wasn't really satisfied with. I feel like DKC2 occupies a similar space with Yoshi's Island, in that neither got the critical claim that they deserved, both were more groundbreaking and full of ingenuity than their highly-praised predecessors, and both are games which anyone who has played them understands how amazing they are, but nobody who hasn't can really get it.

Ironically, of course, in that Yoshi's Island met its fate of undeserved obscurity because it was overshadowed by the first DKC.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:33 PM on September 21, 2012

I thought just the FPP was fantastic (I've been obsessed with TAS for about a decade now, though I've never made any of my own), then I clicked through to the rest. Holy mother!

Also, finally, an opportunity to boast about this: I hang out all the time with the former holder of the Guinness world record for realtime Battletoads speedruns. I don't even know anyone else who can get past the snake level, and this motherfucker destroys the entire game flawlessly, effortlessly. It's kind of horrifying to watch.
posted by jake at 7:36 PM on September 21, 2012

You know what would be cool? A professional commercial game designed to be impossible to run through normally - the whole point is you have to cause glitches in the gameplay in order to progress. Glitching and causing the right kind of errors to occur is a puzzle in itself and is built into the game in a non-coding-intensive way. Then the leaderboards have all kinds of ways to make people compete to get the most creative glitches, fastest speedruns, most area of the map uncovered, weirdest game-breaking bugs. Recording is a built-in feature too with a direct-to-Youtube option. SOMEONE MAKE THIS HAPPEN.

It's not commercial by any means but there are hacks for old games out there which I think are basically impossible to play without tool assistance, e.g. Super Kaizo World. I agree making a whole game from the ground up around that concept would be awesome though.
posted by passerby at 4:48 PM on September 22, 2012

You're making me blush, guys, and the animation takes up precious frames. I could have highlighted this and this segment by the way.
posted by ersatz at 6:43 PM on September 22, 2012

Family Feud (love the 'shocked' expression on the other family as they get shut out)

Shadow over Mystara - always enjoyed the relentless spell casting and RND abuse in this one

Golden Axe - the one where he just tricks everyone into falling off ledges... (see also Demon's Soul speedrun)

I love tool assisted speed runs, they are a form of art
posted by jcruelty at 1:07 AM on September 23, 2012

Excitebike TAS

Illustrator, acrylics and orysmacolor pencil on canvas, 11x17

Excitebike just never got old; all the other NES games just seemed to wear out on me. But there was no shortage of retarded possibilities my brother and I could explore by making custom tracks... which were almost entirely composed of speed boosts and "H" jumps -- the small, triangle jumps that would send you flying when preceded by twenty speed boosts.

It also had some of the best animation from the 8-bit games. The idle shaking of the bike to the exhaust were spots of quality that you didn't find in most of the old games. The simple somersault wipeouts were also a nice touch.

posted by jcruelty at 1:13 AM on September 23, 2012

cortex approved.

And how! Only now got around to reading the actual thread but I've been poking through the links for the last few days and having ball. I've watched a lot of traditional "do it fast but not abusive" runs over the years, but the super glitchy stuff is an eye-opening new genre for me—that SMW glitch thing to jump to THE END is kind of stunning, in part for just how un-speedrun it looks while playing out and then in much larger part for the explanation about the detailed memory manipulation being accomplished with all that bizarre platforming work.
posted by cortex at 4:53 PM on September 25, 2012

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