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Submission #3512: TheAxeMan's NES Final Fantasy "White Mage" in 1:16:37.56

Console: Nintendo Entertainment System
Game name: Final Fantasy
Game version: USA
ROM filename: Final Fantasy (U)
Branch: White Mage
Emulator: (unknown)
Movie length: 1:16:37.56
FrameCount: 276308
Re-record count: 69975
Author's real name: Frank Amoroso
Author's nickname: TheAxeMan
Submitter: TheAxeMan
Submitted at: 2012-03-31 15:38:25
Text last edited at: 2012-04-12 21:17:54
Text last edited by: natt
Download: Download (24136 bytes)
Status: published
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NES Final Fantasy (USA) "White Mage Challenge" by TheAxeMan

  • Uses a suboptimal character
  • Takes damage
  • Heavy luck manipulation
  • Uses soft and hard resets
  • Contains a speed/entertainment tradeoff (To execute a special technique on the final boss)

Happy April 1! I've been thinking about making this April Fool's run for a long time and finally got around to it. The goals are as follows:

  1. Pick a party of four white mages.
  2. Use a certain technique on the final boss. I'll try to keep the details a surprise until more people have watched. It has been discussed on the forum but will still be a surprise to many.
  3. Finish as fast as possible.

A point of technical style is that I have no input on as many frames as possible. So there are no buttons pressed for over 96% of the run.

White Mage Challenge

The white mage challenge is famous because it was mentioned in the Nintendo Power strategy guide for Final Fantasy. 20 years later, Final Fantasy has the most active gamefaqs message board for an NES game and many of the topics are discussing some challenge or another.

Besides being famous, a white mage challenge also makes for an interesting game. The six character classes in Final Fantasy are not well balanced at all. The white and black mages have low physical attack power and defense and poor equipment selection. While physical fighters keep getting stronger, magic damage is fixed and only 9 charges per level can ever be stored up. Black mages are generally more useful because they get attack magic. White magic is tactically very useful, but the lack of offense makes the early game very difficult.

To create this run I adapted the code I used to analyze the game for the fighter run. The battles against Garland and the pirates were generated by an optimization script. I had another script that planned out encounters to avoid unrunnable fights and reduce the battle count. The route is slightly different because the white mage needs to pick up different treasures. Finally, the script that got the most work is the one that plans out running from all the battles. This script is why my runs tend to have low enemy count and few preemptive fights (the message takes time). See the submission text for the fighter run for more on my scripts.

As with my Crystalis run I am going to share all of the code used to create this. Feel free to download and make your own Final Fantasy TAS.

Differences from Fighter

Compared to fighters, white mages have lower stats and much lower attack power. They have the worst selection of weapons and armor. The only advantage is that they get magic. For a TAS that means spending time and gold to get spells instead of weapons.

Later in the game some equipment becomes available that can be used in battle. This is extremely helpful in a white mage challenge as it is otherwise very difficult to do much damage. Some hardcore players might disallow this to increase the challenge. This run doesn't hold back, using the mage staff and bane sword.

In Final Fantasy, each levelup will gain some stats guaranteed. The other stats may be increased with a chance of 25%. The white mage's highest stat is intelligence and he earns a point on every level in this run. Unfortunately, intelligence is useless and has no effect on anything.

In a TAS, luck becomes the most important stat because it controls the chances of running from battle. The white mage gets about the same luck as a fighter but the guaranteed luck levelups are different.

This run takes about six minutes longer than the fighter run. About one minute is due to the special technique. The rest is due mostly to longer boss fights and shopping for magic. Kraken is the worst by far, about two minutes longer than the fighters.

Special Technique

The special technique used requires some setup that is coordinated with the route. I need to acquire and use two spells that aren't needed otherwise and I need some extra experience. Four points of level 4 magic are required, so I need to be on level 14 before going into the final dungeon. It also makes the last fight longer. So this can be considered a speed-entertainment tradeoff that adds about a minute to the run.

The first one to bring up this special technique on our forums was Bisqwit himself. He not only described the possibility but provided a program to analyze this. So thank you, Bisqwit!

New Tricks

A new trick in this run is to stay at an inn and hit the reset button as soon as the game is saved. This takes you outside of town with a faster screen transition, saving a few seconds in Pravoka and Elfland. Thanks to Vcimdarf (the top unassisted speedrunner for this game) for this tip. This can improve the fighter run as well, so stay tuned for an improvement on that. Vcimdarf had some other ideas that didn't work out for this run but may help the fighters.

Magic

White mages get magic and I put that to use in this run. Only to some extent though, because luck manipulation makes most non-damage magic useless. Only five spells are ever used and two of those are only used for the special technique.

RUSE increases the user's evasion rate. It is only used on the wizards.

HARM and HRM2 damage undead enemies. They get used against two undead bosses.

MUTE can prevent an enemy from using spells or abilities. I thought it would be more useful but it turned out that it was faster to manipulate luck. It ended up only helping on the final boss where I would otherwise not be able to execute my special technique.

The Route

Fighters can get away weaponless but white mages really need to arm themselves. So first thing I do is invest some of my starting gold in three iron hammers, HARM and RUSE. I only need three because one of my mages dies on Garland before attacking.

The Garland fight goes faster than the fighters because the armed white mages have slightly higher attack power and crit rate than unarmed fighters.

Luck is guaranteed on the levelup from Garland but not on pirates. I thought about making that happen but it turned out to be unnecessary.

After pirates I buy four tents at the item shop. This will be the only visit to an item shop.

All classes levelup at the same rate. So as with the fighters I need to kill off one party member on Garland and another on pirates to levelup on each battle. The third character dies on wizards to buy time for the survivor to use RUSE. RUSE is necessary to line up a critical hammer blow and two misses. It is possible to win with one RUSE, but two opens up more options and ends up being a little faster.

In Marsh Cave I pick up a house. It will be useful and I need to take some extra steps to work out the encounters.

You probably expect me to use MUTE on Astos but it is unnecessary when I can just make him attack and miss. Sorry, this ended up being the case on every boss until the end.

After beating Astos I have enough xp to get two levelups. However, the game only allows for getting one per battle. The white mage can really use another one so I take out an oddEye.

After getting the key I could pick up a silver hammer from the Elfland Castle treasury. I don't because it is much faster to buy one in Crescent Lake later and I won't need it until then.

In Elfland I buy HRM2 and stay at the inn. This recovers my MP and lets me get out of town quickly with the reset trick.

At Dwarf Cave I don't bother with the treasure room, saving about 26 seconds. The house and cabin would be useful but the items I have will suffice.

The white mage can actually beat the next two bosses faster than the fighter. I could beat the vampire in one turn but I use two to get luck and fit with the RNG flow better.

Before entering the cave again for Lich I use a house and a tent. I want to recover my MP and do a hard reset to set up encounters. There is a quirk with the house where MP is restored after saving. After using the tent my game is saved with MP recovered. So when I come back after the power cycle I have full MP.

Lich dies in four hits. As with the fighters, the next battle vs shadows has a 251/256 to be an ambush and I have to manipulate that with the last hit on Lich.

In Crescent Lake I buy a silver hammer. I have a few more bosses to take out before getting the bane sword and none of them are undead. Unfortunately, this hammer is the best I can do for a weapon.

Ice Cave is pretty straightforward. As with other bosses, it is faster to beat the Eye without spending a turn on MUTE. I manipulate another point of luck on the levelup. I get the same gold and tent chests as the fighter but skip the flame sword. That difference is why the hard resets before Crescent Lake and after Ice Cave are in different spots and also why I do not sail all the way into the Crescent Lake dock.

The Sea Shrine is mostly the same except that I make a side trip to get the mage staff. Mage staff has the effect of FIR2 when used in battle. That will let me fry a couple bosses later on, saving a ton of time over the hammer.

Sorry, the Kraken fight is very long and tedious but there is no way around it. Mage staff is not as effective as the hammer because he is strong against fire. So at 31 damage it takes 26 hits to finish him.

Waterfall and Lefein trip go the same as the fighter. If you have been keeping an eye on savegame/healing items you might notice that the tent before Mirage Tower is my last one.

Blue D. is weak against fire and goes down hard to the mage staff. Again, it turned out to be faster to take damage and manipulate misses instead of using MUTE.

After picking up the bane sword I rearrange my inventory so that it is in the first slot. The reason for this is complicated. First, the RNG is cycling as you move the cursor in battle. So if the item is in another slot, it may not be possible to use it on time. In some cases only one value in the RNG will do and it would take about 8 and half seconds to cycle back to that point. Later on this turns out to be the case. That's why I spend a few seconds on this, to cut out an 8-second cycle of the RNG.

I use the bane sword to take out a GrMedusa and two Naocho for extra experience. The goal is to hit level 14 on Kary. This is the best time to get the experience because I have the bane sword's killing power and the enemies here are worth a lot of experience. My first idea for the experience was to set up an encounter with WarMech, who would have single-handedly given all the experience. But it turned out to be impractical to set up.

Gurgu volcano is the same as with fighters. Kary is the fight where I needed bane sword in the first slot. There was no other way to work it out without another cycle of the RNG.

Before the final dungeon I make a pit stop in Elfland. The main reason is to buy a certain spell for my special technique. It would not be practical to get this earlier due to lack of gold. While here I stay at the inn to recover HP and MP. The inn takes some time but lets me avoid another stop at an item shop.

Mage staff is used on Phantom. Killing it with bane would always have four Zombie Ds in the next fight and I cannot run from it. Luckily it is weak against fire and uses mostly effect magic. (The fighter run gets away with bane because it gets a held-over levelup on the Phantom. The levelup uses the RNG for random stat gains, changing luck so I can get two Zombie Ds.)

Everything else in the Temple of Fiends goes down pretty similarly to the fighter run. Of course, until the final battle. Enjoy!


DarkKobold: Judging.
DarkKobold: I would have liked to see less Bane sword, but that seems to not be echoed. Accepting! Loved the end!
natt: Processing...

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