For years, the “Barrier Skip” was the holy grail of speedrunning tricks. The trick, which would allow passage through a seemingly impenetrable barrier in The Wind Waker, became a reality in the HD version in 2017. Meanwhile, the trick still couldn’t be performed in the original GameCube version. A new glitch has finally made that possible, allowing players of both versions to perform the trick and potentially cut a significant amount of time from their speedruns.
Early in The Wind Waker, Link arrives in the underwater kingdom of Hyrule to retrieve the Master Sword. In that same area is a bridge that leads to the final area of the game. It is, however, blocked by a massive barrier. Skipping this barrier cuts out large portions of the game and radically alters speedruns. In 2016, two speedrunners broke through the barrier but didn’t know how. It took until early 2017 for players to find a consistent means of performing the trick. The catch was that it was only possible in the HD version of The Wind Waker, as it required a trick to move incredibly fast which wasn’t available in the original game. Now, speedrunners have found a different way through the barrier in the GameCube version: mess with the game’s memory until it removes the barrier entirely.
That sounds like a dramatic solution, but thanks to a new trick that allows Link to fire an infinite amount of arrows, it is possible to despawn the barrier. A video released by the ZeldaSpeedRuns community last Friday outlines the trick and shows it in action. Long story short, players fire enough arrows inside Hyrule Castle that the game starts to remove other entities to free up memory for the arrows in the game world. The arrows don’t despawn when players head outside to where the barrier is supposed to be, making it possible for Link to walk across the bridge.
Solving the puzzle of Barrier Skip in both versions of The Wind Waker feels like the turn of a page. Following the discoveries that came after barrier skip, times for The Wind Waker HD have reduced dramatically, and now the original version will possibly see similar developments should this trick be used in a speedrun. As Zelda games like Skyward Sword and Breath of the Wild also expand thanks to new glitches, there’s something of a mini-renaissance in their speedruns. It’s a reminder that given time and persistence, very little is impossible in games, especially in the mind-bending realm of glitch hunting and speedruns.