Over the next few months, we will be inviting the fantastic people at SuperMegaStore to write about their very favourite retro videogames moments. This time around, we have Retrogaming: Speed-Running. More specifically, how the N64 has enjoyed a revival with some expert gamers competing in a modern day gaming league. Anyway, over to those who know much more than you and I…
Every now and then you come across something exceptional online. A world you had no idea existed and one that will send you on a YouTube or Wikipedia binge for days. Speed-Running can define a game. It can also remind you of a game you haven’t played in years or make an otherwise obsolete game relevant again.
MARIO KART 64
The world record progression for Mario Kart 64 had that effect on me. It fascinates me endlessly. When I found out about Mario Kart 64 speed runs, I thought they would be highly optimised routes through each course. However MK64 is one of the few racing games that is run in a way that is easily recognisable as a speed run.
Despite being a huge fan of MK64, in 2015 the Speed-Running community made me want to replay a game that had been released almost 20 years before. It gave me a whole new view of the game and its mechanics.
Mario Kart 64 Speed-Running, like GoldenEye, Perfect Dark and Super Mario 64 has its own superstars. Two of which, Matthias Rustemeyer and Beck Abney dominate the Mario Kart 3 lap, fast lap, all cups skips and no skips tables respectively. This makes up for almost 100% of the records set in the most popular Mario Kart 64 tables.
I think, my favourite of all MK64 skips has to be the Choco mountain skip, which though hard to pull off, lead to the world records for the track dropping from minutes to seconds. The technique involves using a mushroom to boost at a very specific point just after the finish line, sending you flying back over the line. If done correctly your kart will be high enough over the finish line that the game thinks you have completed another lap when you cross back over!
A LONG TIME TO MASTER
What seems like a brute force technique on first view is actually a subtle and pointed manoeuvre that took a long time to develop and master. It seems like many people literally banging their heads against the wall until they got it right. Through TAS this manoeuvre was so hard that many Speed-Runners lost record times and even gave up playing MK64 it would seem because of it.
The ingenuity, creativity and determination of Speed-Runners can seem endless. This is shown nowhere more than the recent record set in DOOM – original DOOM that is.
Around a month ago a monumental run in the DOOM Speed-Running community beat a record set 20 years previously. The thing is, I doubt anyone thinks about DOOM Speed-Running, including retro gamers and Speed-Runners themselves. But a small sect of Speed-Runners devoted 20 years of practice, TAS runs, no enemy runs and frame by frame analysis culminating in the 8 second run of the first level, Hangar.
The run itself was 8.97 seconds however because of a quirk of DOOM rounding down times to the closest second the time given at the end of the level was 8. For comparison, the previous record was
9 seconds according to DOOM and 9.91 in reality. To give you an idea of how hard beating the time was, 4shockblast beat the record by 0.94 seconds. However if they had been 0.09 seconds slower they
would only have equalled the previous time.
The super thin margins of DOOM Speed-Running makes the fact that there are people out there willing to try and beat previous records all the more crazy. Not only are there some hard tricks to perform but if you’re 0.09 seconds too slow there’s no saving it.
SUPER MARIO 64
SM64 Speed-Running is probably what you think of when you think of retrogaming Speed-Running. It’s the one I probably think about the most. It’s a classic, a game we all played, it was a revolution in 3D platforming and above all its really, really fun to play and watch.
Not only is it fun to watch but it might also be one of the hardest games to start running. People who set records in Super Mario 64 dedicate years to learning frame perfect jumps, pixel perfect time skips and inch perfect routes through each level. Even ways to skip most levels entirely! I have a lot of admiration and time for SM64 Speed-Runners. It amazes me that despite being the hardest of the lot, it is probably the most popular.
Super Mario 64 tries to make you collect 70 stars to complete the game, with the last level being locked off with a 70 star gate known as ‘’the endless staircase’’. But something as simple as the rules of the game were not going to stop Speed-Runners! At 70 stars, just over an hour was about as quick as you could get. However, if you go to the endless staircase and long jump backwards, mashing the A button you can build up incredible speed and fly past ‘’the endless staircase’’ to reach the last level. Note: as simple as this trick sounds, it is actually incredibly hard to pull off.
This was the first in a slew of glitches designed to take Speed-Runners from needing 70 stars to complete… down to 16… and eventually 0!
Tool assisted Speed-Runners showed that the game was able to be beaten with One star out of the 120 that were available, starting a landslide of new world records and personal bests for the game, this wasn’t the end though, again TAS runners managed to complete the game with 0 stars, leading runners to take the time needed to complete the game down from over 1 hour to under 7 minutes, it only took a decade or so but Speed-Runners managed to dominate SM64 to the point where the game could be speed run in a tenth of the time intended and without any of the stars needed to complete the game.
Though Super Mario 64 is probably my favourite speed run game, some of my favourite speed-
running stories come from GoldenEye.
GoldenEye is a weird space in retrogaming Speed-Running, sometime saves and skips have come from years of dedication and playtime on each level, some record times have stood for years only to be beaten by Speed-Runners who are able to utilise new time-saving techniques like damage boosting, where Bond accelerates in the direction he takes damage or a technique developed in which you kill Trevelyan in
Cradle by destroying an automated gun in the hopes that he will drop a grenade destroying a console which is another objective in the level (I can’t even comprehend how someone could come up with this never mind understand how it works), both of these techniques created monumental shifts in GoldenEye Speed-Running and changed many of the leader boards after they were discovered.
OUT OF THE BLUE
In other instances, though, someone like John Kaleta comes along with something out of the blue. John pioneered both ‘’lookdown’’ and ‘’the dot’’, techniques. Kaleta developed his lookdown technique when he read a Speed-Running walk-through and misunderstood the phrase ‘’put your nose to the grindstone’’ as a literal direction. Looking at the ground as you strafe, GoldenEye put a lot of pressure on the N64’s processor and looking down meant it didn’t have to generate as much scenery. So as Bond’s running speed is effected by the frame rate giving the N64 less work to do, this makes you move quicker. This was a technique that was able to save a lot of time. Less than a week later, the world records set on the level streets had been broken in all 3 categories. As a result, many old school GoldenEye Speed-Runners to quit completely!
‘’The Dot’’ was a little different, many Perfect Dark Speed-Runners were using this technique already, but most GoldenEye Speed-Runners were not, in GoldenEye, unlike today, aiming down-sights or ADS took a lot of time slowing your run down, so having to aim correctly at an enemy or objective could ruin a perfect run, John had an ingenious solution to this problem, he had a cross-hair that he himself had stuck to his TV screen, to remove the need to ADS in the game itself, another revolutionary technique, developed by a 55 year old man whose first ever post online was to the GoldenEye Speed-Running community, the story of John Kaleta really warms my heart and gives me hope that no
matter how old I get, I can still have a presence in the gaming world.
Though it seems that GoldenEye will never be completely optimised in terms of speedrunning Ocarina of Time has on many occasions been declared optimised only to have its previous record times destroyed by new upstarts and disruptors.
OCARINA OF TIME
This may be the greatest game ever made but that doesn’t mean that it cant be broken. The initial speed run of 6 hours is now down to just over 17 minutes. Ocarina of Time had a similar set of barriers to complete the game as Super Mario 64, in order to complete the game you must collect 3 spiritual stones, enter the temple of time, take the master sword, become adult link, collect 6 medallions and gain access to Light arrows, once you have done all of this you then get to fight Gannon.
Through many complicated and convoluted glitches Ocarina of Time turned from a 6-hour speed run to a 4-hour speed run and eventually to a sub 60-minute speed run game. Using skips like the trials skip where you could completely miss the 6 mini dungeons in the game by pushing a statue up against a wall and phasing straight to Gannon’s tower, Bottle adventure where you catch bugs with a bottle written into the wrong slot, this glitches the game and writes items directly into your inventory, like medallions and the light arrows that were needed to complete the game.
NEW SKIPS AND TIME SAVES DAILY
The Ocarina of Time thread on speeddemosarchive.com had hundreds of pages in which it seems
new skips and time saves would be found on an almost daily basis.
They took a game that was so broken that it could be beaten in a sixth of the time intended and
made people want to play it again, the most notable instance of this would be Cosmo wright, now
Narcissa wrights speed run of ocarina of time at AGDQ 2013. Many people site this run as a motivating factor in becoming Speed-Runners or in just picking the game up again, Narcissa echoes the passion of the community towards Ocarina of Time and planted the seed back in peoples heads that they should dust off their N64 and search their attic for their old copy of OoT.
Each time a new barrier was broken, each time a newer, lower time was achieved interest in Ocarina of Time grew alongside the interest in retrogaming Speed-Running. Speed-Runners are the workhorses of retrogaming, they renew interest in games that have waning fanbases and each of the Speed-Runners mentioned here and in the tables of speedrunning.com should be canonised in the world of retrogaming.
For more Nintendo-goodness be sure to check out this tag, there’s plenty to catch up on…
Gotta catch ’em all!