This is the NTSC-U version of Actraiser 2 completed on the hardest difficulty and aims for the fastest completion time. I chose to run this game because I wanted to do something different and wanted to use LSNES to TAS something that isn't TASable under Snes9x. The game had a lackluster reception as opposed to its counterpart Actraiser 1 due to the simulation mode being completely removed and a harder difficulty. I think it's an interesting game and even the plot and meaning behind the stages and bosses are quite compelling. Completing one stage opens up another on the map that contains a boss each of these stages/bosses is based on the bibles seven deadly sins.
- Plays at the hardest difficulty
- Aims for completion in the fastest time
- Takes damage to save time
- Manipulates 'luck'
Tricks and game mechanics:
- The characters speed is '1' while walking and '2' while gliding, so obviously I try to glide as much as possible. If you land on the ground while gliding without diving or canceling the dive, you get a sort of slide animation that has a speed of '2' halfway through it and then 1, most of the time its faster to not slide and continue a glide, but sometimes sliding up a slope is faster.
- Diving downwards gives a maximum speed of '4', but falling can reach a speed of '8'. So I try to fall as much as possible when descending unless I need the maneuverability a dive.
- It's possible to go straight into a gliding animation without hopping first by being at neutral when you press jump, waiting one frame, and pressing jump again. The character will skip the jump animation into the glide animation and simply do a glide animation to begin with, this is key to getting dive attacks off as fast as possible.
- Ground swings do 1 Damage, Sword plunging/Gliding swing does 2 Damage, Diving attack does 3.
- When jumping and attacking downward the character does a downward sword plunge that makes him completely invulnerable to attacks, he is also completely invulnerable while gliding and attacking downward for a diving stab. These are key parts to the gameplay because it allows you to get past enemies without taking damage and still moving forward
- Magic works differently than Actraiser 1, you don't have to choose the magic you wish to use before the start of the level, you need to hold down attack and wait for the character to 'charge' the magic. Depending on what direction you are holding (or the action you're doing, like gliding for example) determines the magic you will use. The 2 most useful magics are firebomb's (U+attack) and the phoenix dive, both of which are the most damaging in the game. It's worth noting that charging magic takes much longer on 'hard' difficulty.
- When most enemies are attacked, their 'hitbox' (the box that can hurt you) disappears entirely allowing you to position yourself to get a double sword plunge.
- You can attack cancel any ground attack into a jump or even another attack even before the attack's active frames are active. I use this a lot to pass time if I have to wait on something or during an autoscroller simply because the character will make the attack noise constantly. It also comes in handy during the Deithheim stage, because the 'powerup' projectile the player receives still comes out even if the swords active hitbox doesn't come active in order to maintain a constant stream of attack projectiles vs the boss rush.
- Some enemies have a set pattern, some are RNG dependent when you enter the stage, some are RNG dependent when they come on screen. Most boss patterns can be manipulated by what you do, the bird at Modero is an enemy who's pattern is changed based on what the RNG is when you reach him. The crabs in Stormrook and Palace that you must walk on have several different patterns that are set when you enter the area.
- Spikes instantly kill you if touched.
Stage comments and notes:
- Not much to say about this stage. There is some slight game lag before the plant mini boss fight, but it's faster to glide past everything than try to kill it. When I reach the top of the tree before the boss, the game makes you wait momentarily before it takes you to the next area, I do get the screen transition on the first possible frame.
- Benefic (Sloth):
- This area is pretty straight forward. It's worth noting that the initial firebomb magic used on the snake when the screen is scrolling is a very tight window, which is why I dive into the ground then immediately into another dive right before I reach him. This is done in order to position myself before the screen scrolls to hit him, because after a few frames when he spawns his 'hurtbox' disappears and doesnt appear again until his head is very high up. The 2nd area proved quite difficultto get up the slope of water pushing you down, but thanks to PJ's strategy of using the magic glide attack to double slide up the slope it was much improved over what I had originally done. My original boss fight vs. 'sloth' was sub-par, but PJ showed me his strategy (which I believe he ultimately received from Mondrunner) and it turned out very well!
- Another pretty straight forward stage. I re-did this stage 3 times because the first time I missed a crucial strategy of attacking through one of the birds while gliding. Since their hitbox disappears when you hit them, a while timed 2x glide attack allows you to pass through them safely. However, my first boss fight was far better because I got a much better pattern for the bird. So I re-did the stage again and found an even better glide that allowed me to skip an additional bird, but I still received a bad boss pattern, but even with this I was able to beat my two previous runs by about 40 or so frames. This is possibly one stage that can be improved by better RNG manipulation, an ideal bird fight would probably save another 25 frames but I could not determine how the bird's pattern worked. The 'hunger' boss fight is the first time you see the most damaging thing you can do in the game, bosses have 20 HP and the double phoenix magic does 12 damage, so only 4 attacks from 2 well timed sword plunges finishes him off very quickly. Once again thanks to PJ and Mondrunner for this strategy!
- Demons Cave (Gluttony)
- With the tight corridors in this stage it was sometimes difficult to get a good character speed going but it was quite fun to do. This is another stage I re-did about 3 times. I originally thought diving was faster through some of the drops, but later found out that falling is more than twice as fast to get through it. I use a damage boost on the area before the boss, however I later retested midway through the run and not damage boosting would have saved about 4 frames, a minor mistake I left in because it was impossible for me to edit the input file because the game's RNG begins at startup and doing so would change patterns for me at a later time. The boss is interesting because after he lunges at you once, his 2nd lunge puts him on the ground but while he is descending he is invulnerable, so a well timed dive as soon as he is vulnerable and a sword plunge attack makes quick work of him.
- Another somewhat difficulty strange to get a good forward momentum on due to tight and small corridors. Right before the gargoyle miniboss I kill the goblin rather than put him in hitstun and glide past him, gliding past him probably would have saved about 8 frames, another small mistake I left in due to the previous region of the RNG being effected if I edit the input file. PJ's gargoyle miniboss strategy was invaluable here. It's very difficult to hit these gargoyles because they block most attacks with their shield, so the trick is to hit them from behind and once you have them in hit stun, keep them in hit stun. The boss fight strategy was also extremely good and very difficult to setup but makes quick work of the goblin king.
- Stormrook (Greed)
- This stage was very fun to TAS due to the openess of itand holds the first appearance of the crabs that you must use to get across the spikes. During the miniboss with the gargoyle, it was necessary to do an upward swing to keep him in block stun even though it did not hurt him due to the ceiling of the stage in order to get a concurrent hit. Everything went very well here and I ended up coming up with a very good strategy before the dragon fight to bypass both the butterfly skull and cyclops by gliding past and under them before the dragon. The dragon boss fight once again displays the double phoenix being used. This is a boss that has a manipulatable pattern and the him using the wind is ideal and I'm able to use another 1 frame phoenix magic on him to finish him off extremely quickly.
- Oh Palace...how I loathe you. I really hated this stage because I got a really bad crab pattern. An ideal crab pattern is they take you all the way across the spikes without trying to attack you. Their pattern is set as soon as the area loads and I tried entrering at later frames in order to manipulate the pattern but it proved slower than damage boosting through the area. Also it seems impossible to reach the first set of ice platforms on their first cycle, even with an ideal crab pattern, so it's necessary to wait there. The gargoyle minifight went excellent. Normally during magic you are invulnerable however, for some reason if you use phoenix on a certain frame you can still be hit but not go into your hit stun animation. I use this so I can continue attacking the gargoyle from a optimal positon without him hitting me and make quick work of him. The 'lust' boss fight is an extremely difficult strategy to pull off even when TASing. If done incorrectly she transforms into a ball and wastes A LOT of time before you can hit her again. This is by far the fastest method to kill her and that double phoenix at the end is extremely difficult to pull off.
- Palace 2 (Delusion)
- Pretty easy stage. It's worth mentioning that the door in area 2 only shows up around 95-6 on the in-game timer and even after it shows up it isn't active for a few frames, so I waste some time killing the spectre enemy and get into the door on the first available frame. The miniboss is nothing special, just a dive attack on the first frame possible and sword plunges to finish it off. The 'bubble' room shortcut as PJ calls it (strange room with the cloud under you) was extremely smart, it bypasses a long pathway you have to take to reach the exit. The Delusion boss was probably the easiest boss in the game to TAS, a quick sword dive that hits on the last active frame of the dive to put him in hit stun and just finish him off with invulnerable sword plunges.
- Deathsfield (Lag field =P)
- This stage has a lot of in-game lag due to the fire effects and extreme amount of enemies on screen at once. Whenever I glided and dived I always tried to ensure I hit 2 enemies in order to reduce the screen lag. Other than that, I think I did the best possible method and attacked enemies when necessary and glided past them when it proved to be quicker. The 2nd area was very easy to do because it's so open and few enemies it allows for a lot of gliding and therefor optimal horizontal speed. Not much to note vs the miniboss fight other than getting a maximum damage firebomb hit on him. The 3rd area was a bit tricky due to the tight corridors and getting past enemies, but ultimately I found that damage boosting past one of areas was far faster. Here's another area where you are able to use magic to hurt the boss before the battle even begins, witha double phoenix and quick sword plunge to end the fight. Big thanks to PJ for this strategy!
- Almetha (Wrath)
- Almetha was a fun stage to complete, I found 2 nice damage boosts to get myself up some platforms much faster in the 2nd area. The 3rd area is a semi-autoscroller. If you go too high on the screen here you instanly die (just like if you fall below off screen). I waste some time goofing around while the screen slows and am able to glide to the next area far before the game intended you to do so. The boss fight vs. wrath is another extremely easy one, it's pretty straight forward.
- Tortoise Island
- This first area was very hard to get a good strategy going to keep moving right but eventually a found a very good one in using the phoenix hit stun to bypass all the enemies. The squid boss is strange because you have to wait a certain amount of time before you can hit him with sword attacks but you can still hit him with magic in the meantime. I tested two ways, manipulating a magic drop from a shark and doing 2x phoenix while I waited or just 1 phoenix and sword plunging/diving as soon as he was able to be hit, the 1 phoenix method proved much faster.
- Altheria (Envy)
- Another fun stage, took a lot of re-recording to get past the enemies while moving forward. It's worth noting that those fishmen swimming will run away from you if you are a certain distance from them and you press the attack button regardless of whether the animation came out or not. I use this before the boss screen to get one to swim away so I can glide past the area. The boss fight was pretty boring because its in the middle of the air so sword plunging over and over to make the fight quick doesnt work here, but its still pretty straight forward.
- Tower of Souls (Pride)
- I hated this level, because I figured out the drop formula reversing the game but I couldn't figure out what would drop which can be magic, health or score. So I was constantly trying to find patterns to get a magic drop from enemies to speed up the mini-boss boss rush later in the stage. I also didn't like this stage because no matter how fast you got to the top you still had to wait on electric carts to move you to the other side. In the end I found a good pattern and got the drops I needed. A huge thanks to PJ for the mini-boss and Pride boss strategy. He became a lifesaver for the gargoyle fight coming up with a double phoenix gargoyle strategy on the fly!!! The pride fight is pretty good, luckily I got a very good pattern because this can be a very annoying boss because it has the ability to freeze you in place for 10 seconds and there is absolutely nothing you can do but wait it out, so lucky for me he never used it (good pattern, yay!)
- Death heim (Boss rush stage)
- The beginning of the stage is basically a cutscene where you can't jump/glide until talking to the 2nd angel, who gives you a 'powerup' which is really a nerf because you can no longer use magic but you gain a projectile from your sword attacks that do a whopping 1 damage. All previous boss strategies become null because of the lack of magic so it all comes down to pure swordplay.
- Sloth - Pretty straight forward, dive attack on the first possible frame then sword plunge him.
- Envy - Mondrunner's strategy proved invaluable here, I ended up doing this boss about 4 times. You need to kill the floating heads (which you don't see in this fight) before the boss becomes vulnerable. However, thanks to Mondrunner coming up with an extremely good strategy you can hit the invulnerable head as you fall into the stage and it won't spawn the little heads that make the flame invulnerable. By doing this I can immediately dive on to the flame and continue attacking with projectiles to keep the head and the flame in hit stun until it is finished off with a final dive!
- Gluttony - Once again Mondrunner figured out that in the 2nd fight vs gluttony its possible to sword plunge his hands because the extra reach from the projectile allows you to put the boss in hit stun, removing his hitbox and allowing you to get in reach of hitting him with a sword plunge without hurting you.
- Wrath/Greed - Straight forward fight with wrath. You need to remove his 'shield' before you can hurt him but its all done in one swoop with a dive attack and then simply attacking him over and over. The dragon fight was probably the 2nd most difficult in the game to manipulate (maybe on par with the Palace 1 boss), because he will either do wind, fireball (which causes a lot of lag) or fly away. It was very difficult geting him to do exactly what I wanted, being able to hit him and have something to land on. In the end I got an excellent time and defeated it very quickly!
- Delusion - Exact same fight as before, nothing worth mentioning, easiest boss in the game to TAS.
- Pride - This time around its pretty boring, just sword projectiles over and over and end it with a glide attack. The explosion attack was the most ideal for him to do even though it causes lag because it allows me to sit in one spot and continue attacking him without having to dodge or get frozen in time.
- Tanzra - The final boss and also the most boring and lackluster fight in the game... He cannot be hurt until the cover over his torso is lifted and is on a timed interval of about 10-12 seconds each. He has 50 HP and it's only possible to do 11 damage maximum to him so you must wait 5 cycles to kill him. I try to play around to make the fight as 'unboring' as possible but in the end, its pretty lackluster but I can't really do much about it.
Those are my notes for the game. Once again a big thanks to PJ and Mondrunner from SpeedDemosArchive who helped tremendously in completing this TAS and polishing it. Without their inputs, this run wouldn't have been nearly as good. Thanks guys!
: Solid run, good audience response. Accepting for publication.