As is the nature of speedruns, there's a slight chance runs showcased here may have already been improved, especially on newer titles. It's also worth noting that any and all videos should be considered NSFW due to occasional strong language. Please also consider this your SPOILER WARNING. Now: let's go fast.
You'd be forgiven if you've only really experienced the speedrunning corner of video games through the odd article like this or mega events such as Games Done Quick. Sure, this event has elevated speedrunning over the past few years with Summer Games Done Quick – this year's schedule has recently been announced – and Awesome Games Done Quick, but there are many other marathon events on the calendar which showcase great games and personalities. One of those is Calithon, which took place last month and delivered not only a great show, but also raised over £18,500 for the charity Direct Relief. The event took place in San Francisco, California over a weekend which saw a whole host of games played, from Super Mario Bros. 3 and Shrek to Mega Man and F-Zero. We watched the lot, and here's some choice picks from the marathon.
Super Mario Bros 3 – All Forts Race – GrandPooBear Vs SuperSonic71087
The All Forts Race is “the hottest category in Mario 3 speedrunning” according to the speedrunner with the finest name, GrandPooBear. He's being ironic because so few members of the community actually run this category: which requires the player defeat every fort and castle in the game before killing Bowser (so no skipping straight to World 8 with warp whistles). The popularity of this run is growing, however, and quite right too. All Forts is a brilliant run to watch as it takes in parts of the game you don't see in an Any% run, plus runners like Poo are slowly bringing others to the fold: he'll be racing against probably the best Super Mario 3 speedrunner in the world, MitchFlowerPower, in this very category at SGDQ this year.
A run like this is great for anyone wanting to see glimpses of their childhood while the game is dominated by people of ridiculous skill. If you want to see the warp whistles, they're here. Giant World? Yep. Holding down to phase through the scenery? Of course! There are plenty of levels from each world that will be hazy memories for most, and tricks galore too. Wall jumps and Mario clipping through bricks happens with both of the runners, as well as insane movement, but the real treat is at 24:17 when GrandPooBear manages to hit the door skip in World 3 Fort, first try.
It's a hard trick to pull off as it requires an input on one singular frame and Poo celebrates as much as he can while still running, rightly, because this hasn't been done in a marathon setting before. What makes it even better is that not long after, superSonic71087 also nails the trick first time. SuperSonic has some unfortunate moments before this which put him behind in the race, but executing this trick in front of the crowd must have softened the blow somewhat. I haven't put the finish time here because that would spoil the race outcome.
Shovel Knight – Plague Any% - MunchaKoopas – 43:36
Muncha makes everything here look easy. So much so, he barely looks flustered or troubled at any point of the run. It's understandable enough: Muncha was a part of the community the devs came to when they wanted alpha testers for the Plague Knight campaign. He knows the game inside and out, even joking when the lights go off in the levels near the start that “it's as if the lights are still on” because the required movements are so entrenched in his memory. Muncha comments that learning Shovel Knight is about “memorising inputs” which sounds so blasé, but so much of this game functions through RNG. For a perfect run, the RNG needs to be on his side and at many points it isn't – bosses don't always move where he'd like them to be and frog enemies jump into his path halting the flow.
Throughout the run, the tech needed for control of Plague Knight rarely falters and Muncha, as well as his support couch, give a great commentary on how the dashing in the air works and how he has to line up his landings in order to refill his dash. While the stages are interesting enough it's in the bosses where Shovel Knight Plague Any% comes alive. Skip to 43:54 in the video to see Muncha's movement in the King Knight battle. Again he makes it look easy, as King Knight sprints back and forth across the screen, while Plague Knight leaps through the air bouncing bombs off of the wall and into the path of his enemy. And you barely have to wait before Muncha makes short work of him and moves on to fight Shovel Knight (because the campaigns move in tandem).
In this fight (44:00) he manipulates many elements at once – his movement, where his bombs land, how Shovel moves and even which skills Shovel will be able to activate. Muncha gets an almost perfect fight by keeping Shovel Knight in the corner of the screen and consistently stun locks him with bombs, ending the fight in under a minute. One glance over to the runner though and he's calm. It all went as expected.
Cuphead (Any% Legacy) – TheLonelyBoson – 33:44
This is a really nice run for watching not only insane movement skills in Cuphead, but also because Boson manages to get some great skips throughout. He storms through many enemy phases by overloading the damage being dealt, making short work of bosses that no doubt caused mortal players a few headaches. It's worth noting that Boson is playing on the legacy patch, which means the version he runs has none of the developer fixes that came later. There are so many great moments from this run and usually all of them come from the juggle of weapons to ensure a constant barrage of projectiles encompass the boss in question.
The full run isn't particularly long at 33:44, but if you're pressed for time you can skip ahead to 3:37 for a great phase skip, or 3:39 to watch Boson make short work of the robot that so many people fear – even other speedrunners. Jump to 3:51 and you'll see how a glitch is used to defeat Monkey Crane by parrying a playing card in the background and dashing over to the right hand side of the screen. This causes the boss to move differently and disappear off the opposite edge of the playing field, which the game considers a knockout. It takes a few attempts to nail the trick, but Boson doesn't cave under marathon pressure and grabs the bizarre victory in the end. As he's running the any% category, the run does end rather anticlimactically because of the ending needed for this speedrun, but that hardly detracts from a great overall performance.
Resident Evil 4 (New Game Professional) – JTB_ - 1:39:42
This is a treat. As the video opens, JTB states the obvious, “this is a game that practically everyone has played” and he's right, which is what makes this great to watch. Any time a runner destroys a game that we're familiar with is entertaining, but he not only does this, but does it on the hardest difficulty while giving great commentary. Much like Gungeon below, it's tough to pick a highlight from the entire run which lasts a little over an hour and a half.
There are glitches, precise movements, AI manipulation and quick menu selection. The nice thing about watching a speedrunning a horror game is that the tension oddly ramps up further. This is because so much more is on the line – getting hit and losing time is all the more painful, and watching as JTB dodges in and out of enemy waves leads up to some very clutch moments. RNG keeps the runner on his toes and the excitement level high.
Enter the Gungeon (Normal, The Bullet) – Teddyras - 18:36
Teddyras starts the run as he means to go on; the incentive was set for his in-game character to wear the bunny suit and so he decided to suit up himself, unzipping his hoodie to reveal his own rabbit clobber. Teddyras is a great speedrunner who just wants to have fun with his runs and it shows through this video. Enter the Gungeon is a tough game to speedrun because of the randomness throughout – items, guns and maps are all procedurally generated – but experienced runners have intuition about the algorithm's outputs and it shows as Teddyras often knows which direction to go from just looking at the map. Plenty of tricks are on show, including the reload trick from dropping a gun and picking it up again right away. But if you've played Gungeon, you'll be mostly impressed by the enormous skill on show moment-to-moment.
Using the Bullet character gives Teddyras a lot of abilities not granted to other characters; contact damage becomes less of an issue and reflecting bullets is a large part of every fight. It's hard to pick one great moment from this run, because each room and boss battle shows something interesting and skill based. This is a short run of a brilliant game.
Bonus Run: F-Zero GX (TAS Showcase) – 5:49
This showcase is a lot of fun. 1DavidJ loads up replays of Tool Assisted Speedruns which effectively gives AI the controls and the computer finds the fastest way to complete a game or, in this case, race a course. This is stuff humans cannot pull off: the TASBOT performs tricks that shaves minutes off of world records using emulator software. It's like watching the game play at three times the speed, while finding every glitch possible within the tracks. WARNING: The movement here creates something akin to a strobe effect.
Honourable mentions from the many great moments at Calithon; GrandPooBear met his incentive to run Jaws in 9:13 and it's great to watch for the sheer fun of it appearing at an event. The Super Mario Maker Blind Race was filled with excitement and skill, despite a DNF and Shrek Extra Large, Eternal Darkness and Kirby Super Star Ultra all prove that speedrunning can be executed in many different genres. The event was a great success and, while we don't have long to wait until SGDQ, this certainly helped pass the time.
The month of May only features one marathon event in Voltathon: Amped, which runs May 4th-6th and features a large variety of games: you can see the schedule here. Next time around we'll be back to looking at world records, new games, different categories for games we already love, plus a chat with GrandPooBear.