The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past Forum  /  Early ALTTP speedrunning history from my perspective
  flagitiousflagitious
(edited: )

Sometime in the early 2000s I saw a challenge in Nintendo Power magazine to do a low% run (it falsely listed 14 hearts as the minimum w/ a mirror shield - so I thought I'd do better with 13 and no mirror shield). It took me many frustrating tries to do it without dying to Koldstare, Ganon, and more. Eventually I completed it, and since it took several tries I had a decent handle on the game. Little did I know years from then people would find a way to do it with 3 hearts and fast.

Shortly after, I don't recall where but, I saw that the speed record was around 2 hours and I decided to beat it. Meanwhile a person named TheSilentAssassin was also trying to do so too. I think my first success was 1:50 which I had tape recorded with a VCR and sent in to TwinGalaxies via mail. I went back and forth with TheSilentAssassin (TSA). I'd come up with new techniques like bomb jumping for the moon pearl and fire rod or taking damage to get the Big Key in eastern palace. And although TSA wouldn't get to see my run, the judge raised weather or not such things should be legal so TSA got to learn my tricks and then would seem to execute them slightly better. Also I was using save+quit which was later deemed not allowed so I had to do it again without.

I think my best time was around 1:40 (probably w/ S+Q) but the fastest one listed on https://www.twingalaxies.com/game/the-legend-of-zelda-a-link-to-the-past/super-nintendo-entertainment-system/ntsc-fastest-completion/page/1?ref=fbshare is 1:46:54 in 2003. I think when I stopped trying TSA had bested me. I had become tired of the nature of the runs, where it was more about execution than figuring stuff out. It was incredibly frustrating to die and have wasted all that time, which still happened a decent amount since I was skipping all major safeties and taking damage deliberately (I'm guessing this is all too familiar still). All the boss strats I had to figure out myself and I didn't know some basic things like what caused hits to not count on Mothula, I also didn't even realize you could hit trinex's necks with the sword after using the appropriate rod, so you had to be very accurate with all rod shots - so most of the time I wasn't necessarily trying to beat bosses fast, just trying not to die. Much later TSA was found to have been splicing videos in OOT and so it called into question all his runs. I do not know if he was cheating in ALTTP - but this gave me great satisfaction as he'd always been arrogant.

A couple years after the speedrunning, I was following the progress OmnipotentEntity was making in a TAS of ALTTP. I had never TASed before nor even used an emulator, but I thought I could do better, so I did so in parallel and in secret until I was done (kind of a dick move on my part). The tools weren't very good back then, frequent desynchs, when loading a save state I had to wait 2 frames to see anything, no memory watch, etc. But I got lucky when walking out of Link's house I discovered wobbling to show off, not realizing at first that it saved time, but then must have noticed something strange when comparing it. In retrospect Up+Down was a stylistic mistake, it makes the run somewhat unrecognizable and makes the distinction of what is a major glitch less clear.

I spent almost all day on the run, everyday for 2 weeks while I was in college, which isn't that long to spend on a TAS now days, but at the time it seemed enormous. I wasn't super scientific about the run, I didn't have data on whether or not getting the gold sword was faster (the Ganon trick for skipping the silver arrows was not known then). Nor did I plan every item collection / rupee. I also became impatient optimizing the gauntlet and I would often just go with what seemed the most logical as opposed to timing everything. The run is here

In the end I was happy with the result (even though by today's standards it isn't perfect and misses several glitches). I remember being worried that I'd spent so much time on this game that it would be permanently etched into by brain (turns out it is but I also forgot a lot too)...

I followed Tompa's progress as he took it to another level with his TAS. I wished I had figured out how to skip the silver arrow and the maze skip in palace of darkness - those were major!

Last year (10 years from when I'd last checked in) I googled for the current speedrun and was blown away by the execution and development of new glitches in a run by Xelna - it was super entertaining to watch. Superspeed is pretty cool and definitely makes it worth using the JPN version. When I saw the "spooky action at a distance" glitch in misery mire I was like "what?" how did that trigger the switch?? I may have missed it the first use but the second is pretty obvious... Luckily it was an aptly named glitch and I was able to find it by searching the list of glitches.

It is really impressive to see what is being done in RTA, I never would have imagined it. When I first watched Xelna's run I thought, oh that's well done, but I'll find some trick somewhere that could improve it (beyond the obvious little execution mistakes). I search long and hard and didn't find a thing. I'm really delighted that this game has seen so much attention and feel lucky that it just so happened that a game I was really into turned out to be one of the most speedrunned games ever over the next decades. At the same time though it would be hard for me to get into it now as all the low hanging fruit has been found and it would seem hopeless to beat that run (and I loved finded low hanging fruit...).

Many of you may take for granted that wealth of information that you all share with on another, the tools for analyzing the game, and the community that motivates you and challenges you to go deeper/faster. But these are special things for sure. It has me psyched to try and retake the world record! Just kidding but I will be trying to learn from you all and hopefully get a sub 90 minute run though 🙂

oneuponeup, ChexhumanChexhuman and 10 others like this. 
  fsgfsg

wow, very cool read and amazing to hear you are planning to pick the game up again. while i know you from the TAS, i didn't know you were an RTA runner prior to that. i'll let you know that TSA did indeed splice his ALTTP runs, as was revealed by drops not being consistent with the prizepacks, and also other highly suspect things like gathering large quantities of rupees from drops alone.

as for discoveries and low hanging fruit i think you will get a kick out of knowing that the trick where you throw the rock outside of the catfish rock circle (https://youtu.be/dOJUOFpJscM?t=2704 in your TAS) wasn't picked up on by RTA runners until quite recently (2018). it simply fell out of memory and nobody had any idea until it was rediscovered by watching tompas TAS.

 
  flagitiousflagitious

Hi Fsg, that is funny I recently watched Tompa's TAS again with commentary and remember seeing that trick but had no recollection and assumed he had found it 🙂 Also very fitting that TSA got caught due to people gaining better understanding of the game that he never anticipated.

Also someone PMed me about trying to get original footage of the runs. I'll look for an old hard drive and VCR tapes next time I visit my Dad's place, the VCR tapes are more likely, those would probably be the earlier runs, but there is a good chance I haven't kept them. (I'm not allowed to even respond on this forum until this account has been active 7 days so responding here for now).

blucentioblucentio likes this. 
  flagitiousflagitious

Well, just so I don't disappear mysteriously. I did put in a bunch of effort to learn the new tricks and routes. Got the Japanese version and modified my old SNES to be able to play it. Being able to practice with the practice rom and save states is incredibly handy. But 1:30 is still really fast and more difficult than I expected... It also seemed to be hard on my body to put much time into a video game with a small controller, I guess being older makes this type of thing harder in ways you wouldn't expect. So I've decided it isn't worth it and have moved on to other personal projects. Kudos...