||Speedrun Your Way Through Metroid Prime
Don't have time to stop and
smell the roses? Excellent—you'll like
trying to complete a video game in the fastest time possible, is
almost as old as gaming itself. At least, it's
almost as old as games that have a definite end point or staging
points, because speedrunning a game with infinitely repeating levels
is Sisyphean. That's good fun until the novelty
Speedrunning needs boundaries. Start with a game that you can finish
or a game with lots of individual levels with their own ending
points. Then try to complete them in the fastest possible time.
It seems so easy. First, you find a nice path or a little trick to
cut a corner. You practice for a while until you have a great time.
Then, as you're preparing to claim your bragging
rights on the Internet, you find out that other people have done the
same thing, only faster. If you're drawn to finding
out their secrets and beating their times, you have what it takes to
be a speedrunner.
What's involved in
a game? On a technical level, there are three main points: route
planning, sequence breaking ( ), and tricks. On a personal
level, there's determination, persistence, skill,
practice, and time.
Why do it? Possibly for peer respect. There are certainly bragging
rights attached to being the first person to demonstrate a route or
trick. For money and power? Unlikely. I'm not aware
of a single millionaire who made his fortune speedrunning games.
Maybe you want to get the most out of your game. The practice and
persistence needed to perform runs certainly adds to the replay value
and helps you wring every cent of value out of your investment.
I don't think these are the main motivational forces
that drive people to truly master a game. Most importantly,
it's fun, at least for the kind of people who find
fun in doing the same thing over and over again until they achieve as
much perfection as possible. We call these gallant people
speedrunners. Speedrunners play a game, level, or section tens or
hundreds of times trying to save a second or two. They examine the
playing area in minute detail to ensure they haven't
missed any potential shortcuts and test the limits of the game engine
to find ways to go faster or gain some advantage.
A second group of people don't have the skill and
mindset to perform breathtaking runs but enjoy watching demos of
speedruns. We call these people viewers.
Viewers form a very important part of the speedrunning community.
First, they often contribute feedback, ideas, and even new tricks for
the speedrunners to use in their next runs. Second, they form an
audience for the speedrunners to perform for. After all,
there's no point bragging about how great your run
is if there's no one there to brag to.
A third group of people does nothing of note, ever, until the
announcement of a new speedrun. They then rush to post remarks such
as: "Pfff. Why are people still playing this game?
Why doesn't this person get a life?
Haven't they got anything better to
do?" (except that they have worse spelling). The
civilized world calls these people losers. I won't
mention them again.
Earlier, I broke the technical aspects of speedrunning into three
separate techniques: route planning, sequence breaking, and tricks.
Ideally, you will combine all three into one beautiful, seamless
whole by planning a route that uses tricks to sequence-break to best
effect. Until you have those chops, we'll consider
each technique separately before exploring some example speedruns.
Route planning is the most fundamental part of
speedrunning. No matter how good your
tricks, running through a game in a foolish order will produce a bad
time. Whether you are going for a straight run (finishing in the
fastest time possible), a 100% run (finishing with all kills,
secrets, items, and whatever else you want to measure), or some other
variation, route planning is the key to improving your time.
In some games, such as The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
or Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
there are no real sequence-breaking tricks; route planning and game
skill are everything. The order in which you choose to do things,
your item usage, and your ability are the main speedrunning criteria.
Demo Archive, http://planetquake.com/sda, has demo
speedruns for both games.)
Speeding as Metroid's Samus
This is the fun stuff: abusing game physics and exploiting bugs to
allow you to perform stunts that should not be possible. Explaining
all the available tricks could fill a book in itself.
Let's limit the tricks to a few from the Metroid
series (the 2D Metroids and Metroid Prime).
The world of a 2D platform game, such as the Metroid series, is a
much simpler place. Generally, this means that there
aren't as many tricks available in an engine with
simpler, probably less exploitable physics, but speedrunners will
always find a way.
The most basic and the most useful of all Metroid speed tricks is the
wall jump, introduced in Super Metroid (http://speeddemosarchive.com/hack/walljump.html).
Somersault towards a wall, and jump again in the opposite direction
at the moment you make contact. If you have done it correctly, you
will be jumping the opposite direction of your first jump a fair
distance off the ground. You can repeat the procedure while
you're still in the air, as long as you have walls
to scale. With practice and some nifty thumb work,
you'll soon ascend vertical walls in no time at all.
The difficulty of this trick varies with the version of Metroid you
Zero Mission had its own special trick, the ability to do
"infinite bomb jumps" while in the
morph ball. No matter the height at which a bomb explodes against you
while you're in a ball, it will always push you
upwards the same amount. If you lay a bomb and then lay another bomb
just after the first bomb has bounced you into the air, the second
explosion will propel you higher than did the first explosion. If you
had the foresight to lay a third bomb just after the second bomb
boosted you upwards, you will find yourself even higher still, and so
on until you hit the roof.
An even faster variation, the so-called double bomb jump, requires
very precise timing to lay bombs at the top and
bottom of each alternate boost. That probably
doesn't make much sense unless you watch an example
The Metroid games also have a built-in speed
hack, the beautifully named
It's not needed to complete the games, but is the
key to many secret areas and can be the
speedrunner's best friend. To perform a shinespark,
you need the Speed Booster powerup.
While merrily boosting along, tap down. Samus will crouch and
continue flashing, indicating that you've charged
the shinespark. You now have a short time to move into position and
release it, sending Samus hurtling off like a glowing missile.
If you hit a slope while 'sparking, you will start
running at boosted speed again, which allows you to charge another
shinespark and start the process again. Using this approach, you can
chain together sequences of shinesparks to reach the most
inaccessible of secret areas and cover large distances in very little
time. See Metroid 2002 (http://www.metroid2002.com/) for useful
time-savers in Metroid Fusion and
that use the shinespark.
If you're looking for more information on
speedrunning for diverse titles over diverse consoles and the PC, the
site (http://planetquake.com/sda/other/) announces
all the new speedruns. If you want to know how to accomplish new
tricks, either watch the runs in question or go to specific FAQ
sites, such as Metroid 2002 for the Metroid series.
Poor old Samus
Aran seems hampered in her movement in her first 3D
sojourn. It takes forever for her to turn around, her running is not
up to the speed we expect from the blonde battle-machine, and her
jumps are a little labored. It only seems fair that the
world's speedrunners have uncovered ways to return
her to her athletic glory.
The L-Lock-spring jump lets you gain some extra distance. Use the R
button to look down, lock the view with the L button, run off a
platform and jump, then release the lock right away to gain extra
distance. To gain even greater horizontal distance but little
vertical height, use the dash jump: acquire a lock somewhere
convenient, point your analog stick in the direction you wish to
hurdle, tap the jump button, then release all keys right away. You
should find yourself flying in the direction you pressed.
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