Gotta Go Fast: May's Most Thrilling Speedruns

By Daniel Lipscombe on at

As is the nature of speedruns, there's a slight chance that 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 strong language and topics of discussion. Please consider this introduction your SPOILER WARNING, also. Now that's out of the way, let's go fast.

It’s barely been out five minutes but runners are already breaking Dark Souls Remastered wide open, with Capitaine Toinon finishing the game in a mere 39m 07s, and Hivemind coming close behind with 40m 46s. This was always going to be a big release for the community, as runners rushed to check whether old skips and tricks would still work.

Away from Blighttown, developer Bishop Games released precision platformer Light Fall for Switch and Steam, with speedrunning in mind – the game features categories and timers for ease, and Realtyz bettered Normal Any% in 32m 57s. We'll interview Bishop Games below, but for now let’s look at five of the best speedruns from May, with two appearances from two very different Marios.

All Stars Super Mario Bros (Warpless) – 19m 55s 864ms – Kosmicd12

It’s not often we see runners take on the All Stars versions of the Mario games, with most runners preferring the original outings on the NES. However, Kosmic made the jump from the NES to the SNES, forcing himself to relearn a game that was ingrained into his mind and muscle memory: “when I'd bounce slightly higher off an enemy, or encounter an enemy that doesn't spawn on the NES version, I'd get really tripped up at first.”

Tiny differences between the two versions make the runs for each game unique. “All Star version has several minor changes that have a major impact on the speedrun," says Kosmic. "One of them is a change to the enemy hitboxes. Not only are some enemy hitboxes changed, but there are more enemies in general. There are also some physics changes in this version. Mario bounces slightly higher off of enemies.”

This new world record run is full of highlights, including flagpole glitches which changes the direction Mario faces as he lands on the pole and levels bursting with fireballs and obstacles, “My favourite part of this run is probably 6-2. None of the piranha plants despawn in this version so there's a lot of fireball action going on. Hitting the star block in this level saves time when you grab the flagpole, and the way you hit it is pretty cool. The fireball kill on the koopa at the very end is great too.”

You’ll notice that Kosmic utilises the fire flower a lot throughout this run, mainly using it to kill Bowser rather than hit the axe and wait for the bridge to fall, “This saves about 10 seconds over the course of the run.” Kosmic is going to keep plugging away at the game in the hopes to better his time as he believes there’s still a little more left to do: “Adding up simple mistakes and obvious time savers, there are about 5 seconds to save.”

Bioshock – 39m 56s – KPCzombie

The first time Bioshock has been completed in under 40 minutes is a big deal, and this run is well worth watching for all the little tricks that make up a great display of glitches. Using the Telekinesis ability with abandon, KPC lifts himself from the ground and over walls, doors and entire sections of levels that would normally be mandatory. At other moments he’ll drop his energy lower using the fireball, before forcing a death in areas that cause him to clip through the scenery to respawn further along. For anyone wanting to watch lots of glitch work, this is impressive. Not to take away from the movement KPC has either, as he bounces through the map, cutting corners and taking tight lines to objectives. You might want an anti-sickness pill after watching certain sections, however.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Any% (Amiibo) – 38m 36s – RasenUrns

We’re used to seeing speedrunners change the languages on games in order for the text to scroll faster, enabling a quicker time, but we don’t usually see German. This change already makes for an interesting run, but the tech that Rasen and the community uses is genuinely brilliant. One of the biggest tricks you’ll notice is tree launching, which enables the runner to get places faster than on foot, or even by horse, “By using stasis and hitting an object you can max out how fast an object can go. Luckily enough, as long as you are in the right position, Link usually grabs the tree and he gets launched along with the tree. To have a more specific angle, we use an arrow shot.”

RNG (the randomness of an event decided by behind-the-scenes number crunching) rears its head a fair amount in this run, leaving certain situations to chance.

“Horse RNG can be annoying when using Epona," says Rasen. "Sometimes when you try to dash she doesn't, or she sometimes goes and a weird direction when riding her, but this is not as bad as RNG later in the run... if you are really unlucky, as you enter Hyrule castle, there's a chance that the bloodmoon cutscene might occur. There's also arrow RNG. We need about 30 arrows, around 10 for all the blights and 20 for calamity. It's less if we have bomb arrows, since bomb arrows do more damage.”

This run isn’t special just for the tricks and weapons, it’s special because everything is achieved with very little in the way of upgrading. Imagine defeating all those bosses with so few heart containers, real edge-of-the-seat stuff. Considering the hours many of us have sunk into Breath of the Wild, it’s crazy to think the game can now be finished in under 40 minutes — indeed, it was this that spurned Rasen to run the game in the first place. “Seeing other runners run the game when it first came out inspired me. To think you could beat the game in an hour was insane back then. Now we've grinded the run down to under 39 minutes.”

Super Mario Bros Any% - 4m 56s 245ms – somewes

The world record that everybody keeps thinking will never be broken... has fallen once more. There is so little time left in a Super Mario Bros Any% run that timing is now down to just frames – the blink of an eye. Runner somewes laid out a practically perfect run of the Nintendo classic to swipe the record from Kosmic, and one of the most unusual aspects of it is being able to see his nerves symbolised by a heartrate monitor in the corner of the screen.

“The most difficult thing for me in this speedrun is the mental aspect of it," says Wes. "Staying focused and not letting the pressure interfere with my inputs is more difficult than any individual trick. Playing 8-4 on world record pace with a 170+ bpm heart rate is completely different than doing 8-4 in practice.”

The run wasn’t smooth sailing, as you’ll see if you skip to world 8-3, Wes's reaction is one of shock as the Hammer Bros doesn’t move as they are meant to: “The bro patterns are determined by the frame you get to 8-3 and how you play the level. Any enemy you hit or any slowdown you do will affect the patterns. In this run, I accidentally hit a bullet at the start of the level, so I was forced to react to whatever patterns I got.”

There’s not much left in this run, though Wes does think that with some tricks that are currently being worked on, the fabled 4:55 will be seen. “There will most likely always be frames to save in this run because the chances of pulling off a perfect 8-4 on top of a perfect run are extremely low. At this point nobody has even played 8-4 perfectly in an individual level attempt. As far as realistic time saves go, there is one remaining trick to add in level 1-2. This 0.35 second time save will result in the legendary 4:55 time, assuming no major issues in 8-4”

“I’ve had so many world record pace runs die in 8-4, multiple runs die in Bowser’s room, and I’ve been 1 or 2 frames off of the record for so long," reflects Wes. "When I finished this run, it was satisfying for sure, but it took a while to really process that it was in fact a record. I had been through it so many times and ended with disappointment, it was almost unbelievable that it actually happened.”

You can see the excitement on Wes’s face as he breaks a record he’s chased for so long.

Light Fall Any% - 32m 57s 594ms – Realtyz

I’m sure Realtyz won’t mind us saying that there’s plenty of time left to be found in this run. He died several times at crucial points meaning there’s a lot to improve on and, while the record has been standing for a little over two weeks, the community and the developers would be eager to see new players step in and try to further progress. Light Fall is a lovely game to watch because of the fluid movement and block placement. There are some close shaves, wonderful wall jumps and shortcuts galore. Given the game's explicit love of speedrunning, I thought it only fair to hit up developer Bishop Games and ask about why.

Let’s look at Light Fall from a speedrunner's perspective. I found it interesting that you not only include speedrunning within the game, but also focus on categories – what was the decision behind this? Do you think you'll add more?

Benoit Archer: The idea to make a Speedrun game mode was the result from our first visit at PAX East, 2 years ago. We had a timer in our demo that would calculate play sessions' time. It was to give us a general idea of how long our demo play-through was and if we needed to shorten/lengthen it for future shows. However, we quickly realised that people would use the timer as a racing clock instead. Two friends would play next to each other, on the two TVs, and would start the demo at the same time to have same timer. People had a lot of fun throughout the weekend, racing against their friends, and we decided to pursue this idea. As for the Speedrun categories, we observed different communities and games and the Any% and 100% were the ones who came up the most often.

Did you work with any speedrunners or was running the game at pace part of the development process?

Archer: We did work with a few different speedrunners throughout development, but it was mostly to ask questions or gather feedback. In the end, all the decisions were taken by us. We also observed and learned from different speedrunning communities and tried to emulate what was appreciated by these communities.

We seem to be in a great period for platformers, especially precision platformers (the new Meat Boy is coming soon, we've had Celeste). Why do you think that is?

Archer: I think that it's because you truly have to bring something new to this genre if you want to succeed. Let's be honest, the platforming genre is pretty much a classic at this point. The genre is saturated and there is a ton of platformers out there. I think people that still want to work on a platformer, knowing that, are people with a great idea or twist in mind.

Can you tell me a little about the original ideas for the game?

Archer: The initial idea of Light Fall was this world plunged into darkness, this world where it was always night time. The ideas of the Shadow Core [spawnable platform], the Speedrun Mode and the story in general are all things that came after. Our first objective was to create a game where darkness was your ally and light was the enemy. We wanted to switch the usual cliché. With this in mind, the silhouette style we used for Light Fall was a natural fit. It worked well with the vibe we wanted to create, and with only one artist at the time, it was much more time efficient.

As for the Shadow Core itself... I think we had like 10 different iterations before we finally 'got it right'. I remember at one point, the platform would spawn and move on a rail around the player. You would need to press a button when the platform was on the desired position to lock it there. So much for fast-paced gameplay...

 

You can take a look at Light Fall here, and I'll be keeping an eye on whether it gains traction amongst runners. Thanks for reading as always and, if we've missed any hidden classics from May, do let us know in the comments.


Enjoyed this? You might also like our previous Gotta Go Fast roundups for February, March and April.