Within 24 hours, top Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD (WWHD) runner mralberto23 has broken not just one, but three barriers in WWHD speedrunning. On May 2, he finished WWHD 100% in under 5 hours for the first time ever, clocking in at a blazing 4:59:20 — breaking the first hour barrier since June 2017 when gymnast86 got his 5:59:48.
The following day, mralberto returned to his original category of choice — Any%. Although there were obstacles to overcome and resets to be had, he managed to clutch out a sub-50-minute Any% Unrestricted and sub-1:10 Any% No MSS — a sweep of the Any% category.
New Discoveries & Developments
2020 and 2021 brought some amazing discoveries for the WWHD community. Some left only a small impact, but others were absolutely game-changing.
In 2020, a consistent setup was discovered by BowserIsBored where if you die on the same frame you trigger the loading zone for the second Forsaken Fortress cutscene, you can re-enter later on without the game crashing where it normally would have. This allows you to return later when you normally wouldn't be able to, skipping an entire trip to Hyrule — chopping off a hefty 4 minutes from the run. (Keep this in mind for later!
2020 also brought along the decision to use a community-developed RNG calculator that allows runners to consistently do the battlesquid minigame, which was a big run killer before caused only by randomness. Finally, the big kicker in 2020 was the absolutely bonkers Puppet Ganon Skip. discovered by Joaish (PG Skip for short).
As a twist of fate, 100% is the only category where PG skip is possible (out of the 3 records mentioned) since it requires the hookshot. It also happens to be the longest, and this incredibly scary trick happens within the last 5 minutes of the 5-hour run. Why is it so scary? Well, you need to: hookshot up high, fall down on top of the entrance doorway where you roll clip out of bounds (while Puppet Ganon attacks you), and shoot fire arrows up to the top of the room where the extended hitbox of the fire arrows can (hopefully) hit 2 Morths, which will then have a 38% chance to jump onto the pot lid and burn it, allowing you to teleport up to the top — skipping the fight. Essentially, there’s a 62% chance you fail it and lose a minute and a half for every time you need to retry.
Oh, and by the way, mralberto did this trick on the first try in his 4:59 run.
The main theme around discoveries in 2021 seems to be strategies to skip cutscenes — a speedrunner's worst enemy.
In March, WWHD speedrunner/glitch hunter LegendofLinkk discovered a new glitch called Pause Storage and then a day later, the very first of many cutscene skips with the method. Pause Storage lets you enter a cutscene while still being able to menu during it. This means that for cutscenes where the flag to mark it as complete is set at the beginning of it, you can save and quit, continuing as normal afterward without needing to watch the whole thing.
Cutscenes aren’t the only thing that Pause Storage affected, however. As it also allows you to duplicate a Wallet upgrade, and basically “steal” items from the auction section, Removing even more RNG from the route!
These new Pause Storage strats, as well as other (smaller) discoveries from 2021 including Medli Skip, a 1-cycle Molgera, the Bomb Island Magtail Skip, and the implementation of strats previously thought too difficult like Tree Cutscene Skip and Cliff Plateau Oddshot allowed Linkus7 to lower the record a solid fifteen minutes, down from a 5:24:39 to 5:09:29.
The unfortunate thing about Pause Storage is that it requires the use of the Pro Controller. Mralberto ordered a controller when Pause Storage was discovered, but it didn’t arrive for a week and a half. When he finally got it, he began working on relearning segments with the new controller to avoid swapping controllers as much as possible. Mralberto prides himself on optimizing segments and going for very difficult time saves, even the small ones that add up over the course of a run. It’s likely this commitment to optimization that allowed him to take these new strats and grind down the 100% time a further ten minutes, bringing us to the first-ever sub 5-hour run achieved just earlier this week.
Mralberto says his next goal is to get a full sweep of not just the main WWHD leaderboard, but its category extensions as well. As for the future of 100%, which seems to be the category with the most attention right now, previous world record holder Linkus7 is already back on the grind for his own sub 5-hour run. You can watch him grind for that on his Twitch stream. There’s also rumors that Gymnast86 (who has also held the world record many times before) could potentially be coming back to WWHD.
There’s no doubt that this is an incredibly exciting time for the WWHD speedrunning community. Throughout this process, I’ve garnered a lot of respect for the WWHD runners because, damn, if these aren’t some of the most complex tricks I’ve ever seen. It’s amazing to me that the game that had the holy grail skip of all holy grail skips keeps on giving with new cool tech and starts.
If there’s one thing you can expect from a Zelda game, it’s that its speedrunners will find the coolest looking tricks. (Twilight Princess, I’m looking at you. It’s your turn now.)