TASVideos

Tool-assisted game movies
When human skills are just not enough

Submission #4390: GoddessMaria, Grincevent & VanillaCoke's GBA Sonic Advance "Amy" in 15:25.8

Console: Game Boy Advance
Game name: Sonic Advance
Game version: USA
ROM filename: 0290 - Sonic Advance (U)(Lord Moyne).gba
Branch: Amy
Emulator: VBA-rr v22
Movie length: 15:25.8
FrameCount: 55296
Re-record count: 38262
Author's real name: 満, Greg & James Francis Ryan IV
Author's nickname: GoddessMaria, Grincevent & VanillaCoke
Submitter: Grincevent
Submitted at: 2014-08-04 14:08:28
Text last edited at: 2014-08-09 12:50:58
Text last edited by: feos
Download: Download (3367 bytes)
Status: published
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Author's comments and explanations:
Sonic Advance is a Sonic game released on Gameboy Advance. That's why Sega decided to call it Sonic Advance.
Ahem.
So, since it is a Sonic game (on Gameboy Advance), this TAS is about Amy.
...
And she has a hammer!
Seriously, if you want good info about the game, you'd better use wikipedia or something.


(Link to video)

Note from Grincevent: I mostly worked alone for this new version of the run, because it was not a very big project, only two levels and two bosses have been redone. But GoddessMaria still helped, for example by suggesting using death to save time. It all started when Thevlackdemonn2294 came up with a new interesting, glitchy and really fast strategy for Angel Island 1. Then I had some kind of revenge to take against Egg Rocket. The two bosses were redone simply because they had to, due to a different RNG and hex editing. So, here you have a "little" update to the run since most of it was not changed; that's why I'm keeping the previous submission text and I'll just add notes in italics where new things happen. Enjoy!

Goals and methods:

  • Aims for fastest ingame time
  • Uses a suboptimal pink character
  • Takes damage to save time and to make Amy suffer
  • Uses death to save time and to make Amy die
  • Abuses programming errors
  • No Ultraspindash
  • Emulator used: VBA-rr v22

The Amy Player's Guide to the Sonic Advance Game (APGSAG):

Playing as that pink hedgehog can make the experience really different compared to the 3 other characters. The main cause is her lack of typical Sonic-type moves, but she has her own unique moveset (very hammer-centric) along with related useful tricks. First, Amy Rose can't turn into a ball at the player's will, unlike Sonic, Tails, Knuckles and Samus. Her jumps by themselves are not attacks either, again unlike Sonic, Luigi, Knuckles and...No, not Samus, she needs the screw attack and that doesn't count. The answer to "how do I attack, then?" is obviously to use Amy's piko piko hammer, but let's just see in detail what she can do.

The moveset:

-pressing A does the basic jump, it can be adjusted in height by holding the button longer.
-Amy's 2nd jump is a high and fast one, done using Down + B on the ground. For some reason she seems to use the hammer to perform it. For some other reason, while in the air after this jump, it's impossible to use any other move. The jumping height is non-negotiable.
-to do a short hop, press Down + A when she's on the ground. Its main function is to gain speed faster, let's call it the poor man's spindash; but it has other uses, and a derived move: by pressing B while hopping, Amy trips (yeah, in the air) in order to wipe the floor with her face. Don't laugh, this is an attack move! The only problem is the recovery time...
-speaking of (real) attack moves, B is the hammer. On the ground it kills Amy's movement and has a big recovery time too; pressing B again starts another hit after the first one that makes Amy move forward a little and have a better reach. Hey, that is a combo! Particularly useful to know since all normal enemies die in one hit. In the air, the hammer is a nice attack in an arc in front of the player, it can be used to bounce once on an enemy or a breakable object, too.
-last but not least, there is the... Hum, whirlwind attack (let's name it like that). It's Down + B in the air. A special attack that can be used to bounce indefinitely on enemies or other breakable stuff like bosses, for example. It has so many uses that it will have a dedicated paragraph in the tricks section.

A special note concerning all the hammer attacks: They can be used to hit bumpers, making them more effective (they give a bigger boost) and allowing Amy to use them from some distance thanks to the hammer's reach. There are still times when it's better to let the hammer stay in her pocket (or wherever she hides it) and use a bumper the normal way, though.

Tricks, glitches and Amy's secrets:

"Nope, this game was not made by the Sonic Team, I swear."

There is a little trick at the beginning of the game that allows the player/TASer to skip the "Created by Sonic Team" screen. A simple soft reset (A+B+Start+Select) at the right time and that's it.

Whirlwind attack

This technique has so many little uses that it's almost unfair for the other moves. See above to know how to do it. Its basic function is to attack and to be able to bounce on things, like with a regular jump from the other characters, but there is more. The most interesting point is one specific property of that move: when performed, it immediately stops all horizontal movement (it puts the X speed back to zero), and Amy can start accelerating by going left or right instantly too. It is like having a portable wall that can be pulled out of thin air at will. The simplest application is to change direction sharply or adjust speed more precisely. Here is an example of a more advanced use of it: when taking a diagonal bumper, by doing that whirlwind attack right after the collision, Amy literally transforms that bumper into a normal, vertical one. And it leads to new and fun shortcuts.

Clipping through the floor

Maybe the only true glitch of the run, and it's done twice 3 times. When approaching some elements of the scenery, if Amy has the right speed, the right position and the right amount of faith in the Glitch God, jumping at the right frame makes the collision detection go nuts and puts her a little under the ground (under the object used to clip through the floor).

Manipulating random bosses

Some bosses have different patterns that are chosen randomly, while other bosses are nice and just act as totally predictable robots. To manipulate the randomness of a boss, the time at which the player encounters him plays a role... But before losing frames to have the desired pattern, there is another factor that can be used without sacrificing time. When the character skids (or trips *evil laugh*), the shoes (or face ^^) create little dust clouds; each time a cloud appears, it influences the future randomness.

Waiting to be faster

Or the joy of hex editing and redoing whole chunks of some levels. At the beginning of each act, there is the classic screen that indicates the name of the level. At this point, it's possible to start the action whenever we want by pressing any button, or we can just wait a little for it to start by itself. First thing: when it starts (pressing a button or waiting too long), the timer starts too, so there is only a real time malus if we delay it, the ingame time is safe. Second thing: As soon as the screen appears (act name, etc...), all the moving objects that happen to be present in that level start their routine. That includes moving platforms, moving bumpers, retracting spikes... Everything that is not an enemy, it seems. So here is the conclusion, it's possible to pick the state in which all those moving things will be by delaying the beginning of an act. The only problem is that they can't be changed individually, creating some sad moments: "yeah, that platform was out of the way, and these ones were right where I wanted to, just a little rush to the en..." *gets impaled by rising spikes* (it happened, for real).

Stage by stage comments and times:

Neo Green Hill 1 - 0:29:10

The beginning with the loops is all about building speed before the long flat part. Passing under that frog near the end was special, it didn't work at first, but using the hammer apparently changed Amy's hitbox just enough to make it.

Neo Green Hill 2 - 0:45:35

This time, the end is where we can build a lot of speed, every downward slope that has a good enough angle is a potential speed builder with a well timed jump. Easy boss, easy go, let's free those animals!

Secret Base 1 - 0:37:72

Those horizontal cables where Amy spins around have strange characteristics; it appears that the vertical speed Amy has when grabbing one influences the (horizontal) speed she'll have on it.

Secret Base 2 - 0:59:98

We have proof that Amy can be very fast with her hammer, by hitting two bumpers in succession. This technique, almost too fast to be visible by an untrained eye comes from a piko piko-fu master. Or not. Another boss, not too hard but he always does a high jump after four hits taken, and he stays up there for a long time. Defeating him before that jump is apparently not possible with Amy, but it was sooo close :(. We have to endure that waiting time in the end...

Casino Paradise 1 - 0:24:37

Those casino levels are quite mean when it comes to delaying the start in order to tame all the moving parts. Now that this is done, enjoy the first clip through the floor. A pretty big time saver.

Casino Paradise 2 - 0:45:55

That boss gave us trouble, it's the first random boss and arguably the worst because of the number of possibilities (only 2 patterns are optimal, and he has a lot of them). Killing him after having finished the luck manipulation was a pleasure.

Ice Mountain 1 - 0:44:57

Riding on a frozen rail, a lot of whirlwind attacks for good movement, water, falling faster than a big ice block. That's the story of this act. Many real time frames (more than a second) were lost just for fun at the end, sorry.

Ice Mountain 2 - 0:58:42

Again, quite a lot of hammer action here. The boss has some randomness, but it's never in the way (there is no "bad pattern"), so let's play with the stalactites. He has a very long invulnerability time after each hit.

Angel Island 1 - 1:04:17 0:35:27

That was not easy, but there is nothing extremely noteworthy. A lot of very small tricks were used, one of them was about a brown, hum, screw thing and some weird collision detection, if you wanted an example.

The level that started this new run, and thanks to Thevlackdemonn2294 for the new strategy. It involves glitching our way out of the level's normal collision mechanics. It's now possible to go through most walls, but still interact with specifics objects. I don't understand the details about that glitch, but let's say that Amy is sent to another "layer" of the level, but that layer is empty (some items and the enemies can be interacted with independently of the "current layer"). Just a theory. Anyway, the glitch works and that's all we need. At that point, the route is about jumping or bouncing from one "tangible" part to the next.
There is an additional little glitch right after getting the speed shoes, at the very end of the loop where Amy runs. It's difficult to explain, but it has to do with the character's angle (it goes crazy at the top right end of loops when using this "out of the level" trick) and jumping. What's important is that it allowed me to avoid a jump and get a big speed boost. After that, the level is self explanatory, and checkpoints can be useful ;).

Angel Island 2 - 1:04:78 1:04:65

There is a very visible use of the "diagonal bumper to whirlwind attack" trick in this level. It permits to go over that bumper and take a better route. The optimal time to hit the boss is when he prepares a spindash attack, it makes him land 2 to 3 frames sooner compared to hitting him when he's just standing. Since his invulnerability frames timer only starts when he has landed, you get the idea. Sadly he uses randomness against Amy, and there is little time to skid (luck manipulation) between attacks, he was hit while standing at one point, not counting the first hit, of course.

Rectification: due to a nicer RNG, the fake Knuckles is manipulated to use a spindash every time here, yay!

Egg Rocket - 0:10:77 - 4:41:18 4:41:32 - 4:26:80 4:26:85 - 4:23:68 4:25:57 (these are the times for each segment, they are countdowns from 5:00:00 except the first one that is "normal")

Horrible level... It has been redone a lot of times, urg. That's where we discovered the diagonal bumper + whirlwind potential. The jump to reach the first bumper where it is used needed to be frame perfect, and the hammer barely reaches it, too. What happened between the 2nd "whirlwinded bumper" and the breakable wall was particularly technical (not that the rest of the run isn't ^^') and hard to pull out, you'd better enjoy it :p
The other highlight of the act is the clipping through the floor using one of those tube things, whole seconds are saved thanks to it. You can also notice a strange visual glitch if you know the game well (it happens at least once in other levels): when doing a high jump as soon as Amy lands on a moving platform, with the right conditions it looks like a normal jump, but without the starting animation.

Here we go again, Egg Rocket. It took me waaaay more time to redo than Angel Island 1. For the previous version of this TAS, I was working as an optimizer, it means that I tackled the levels after GoddessMaria (and VanillaCoke for NGHZ1&2) to try and find as many frames to save as possible, and this was the first act I worked on. Since I discovered some new tricks when working on it (and all the other acts after that), I think I didn't have the full "toolbox" of techniques that are used in the whole run in my mind at all times, especially in the beginning of the level. And when hex editing made me lose some frames after having redone Angel Island (there is some randomness to the transitions when the scenery explodes in Egg Rocket), that was the perfect opportunity to go back and grab some bonus frames. It was a gamble because gaining frames meant having a slightly (at first) different pattern for all of the moving parts in the level, meaning I could have made all this for nothing... Or for a big gain.
Well, it was a "big gain" scenario in the end. I've found some minor improvements around the first half, that made me gain more time at some points, but also made me lose time at other parts (moving platforms, bumpers, etc...). There were also big improvements. A 2nd clip through the floor not long after the first one, for example. I tried to use this one in the previous movie, but only to be stuck in the floor then sent back up, I just didn't play enough with the X position and subpixels at the time... Two other big improvements were found thanks to the difference in the moving parts' positions, creating shorter routes. The initial gamble was worth it near the end.

Cosmic Angel - 1:07:82

Changing gravity, yeah! (it can happen in Egg Rocket but that was skipped by a shortcut...) There is a little corner boost on the 2nd bumper encountered, saving a whole... Hum, 4 pixels maybe? There are 2 close calls with retracting spikes, one of them was responsible for some big headaches and reTASing the whole level with a margin of 4 or 5 frames (to get behind the spikes in time) after changing the starting time of the act. That boss was quite annoying too, he can't be flipped when hugging a wall and is immune to the standing hammer attack. Why? Just because.

X-Zone - 0:46:58

Just 3 bosses in a row, and two of them are jokes. For the first and 3rd ones, doing the right jump at the right moment makes them appear sooner because of the camera movement. It's almost a glitch. Anyway, that last boss is one of the random guys, hopefully it was quite easy to get his best pattern. The movie file could have ended earlier by using the whirlwind attack to bounce on him, but it sacrificed ingame time; so that's it, we just have to watch Amy jump and land unharmed on a plane... The End.

And finally, this last boss had to be manipulated again too. No time gained, but no loss either. I tried to attack him in a more entertaining way. Or less boring way, maybe?

Time table:

This is added because of high popular demand (high popular demand = Zeupar). Here is the comparison between this run's times and the ones from The Sonic Center. It's just here to have an idea about what you can expect from a world record real time speedrun vs a TAS. (I don't personally like to make that kind of unfair comparison :P).
Egg Rocket is not listed because it is separated in 4 parts in the main game, and when hex edited in time attack mode it just desyncs due to the RNG: the player regains control of Amy later after the 2nd explosion (if I went and hex edited again for that part, all of the moving objects would have a slightly different position later, causing another desync).

Level TAS Time TSC time
Neo Green Hill 1 0:29:10 0:31:70
Neo Green Hill 2 0:45:35 0:47:87
Secret Base 1 0:37:72 0:43:03
Secret Base 2 0:59:98 1:06:98
Casino Paradise 1 0:24:37 0:37:00
Casino Paradise 2 0:45:55 0:52:88
Ice Mountain 1 0:44:57 0:52:85
Ice Mountain 2 0:58:42 1:02:70
Angel Island 1 0:35:27 0:56:20
Angel Island 2 1:04:65 1:17:75
Egg Rocket XXXX 2:22:57
Cosmic Angel 1:07:82 1:26:20
X-Zone 0:46:58 0:49:55


GoddessMaria's comments:

It was indeed both a pain and a pleasure working on this run with Grincevent. The aforementioned pain coming from the run itself along with other issues, including from my last submission... but that is for another story! I was starting this alone on behalf of those that were looking to see a TAS with Amy as well as a '100%', when it was revealed that my attempt was not good enough after seeing VanillaCoke's early WIP... I then asked to work on it with him and while he didn't do much else aside from Neo Green Hill Zone, he has taught a few things as well. Eventually, Grincevent and I began working on this run together as VanillaCoke's NGHZ work was also being improved on. We both learned a great amount of things as work was being done (with me learning more than anything). At the same time, the sting from the previous submission lingered in my mind and heart so I had stopped focusing on the run and lost motivation momentarily. When my focus returned to the run, I looked back and at my solo attempts and wondered what did I need to do to truly appeal to the masses while producing results... I only came up with a whatever-it-takes method.
Regardless of that, it was fun and I hope that you all enjoy!

Grincevent's comments:

My main task was being an "optimizer", so I didn't do a lot of route planning, except when I've suspected a possible better path by looking closely at the maps of the levels or when applying some new knowledge to create a shortcut. To use a metaphor, the drawing was already done (thanks to GoddessMaria and VanillaCoke), then I launched Gimp (Photoshop is not free and I'm poor) to apply some smoothing and change a couple of details. It means that the game was TASed at least twice to end up like it is now. But some acts have been redone more than that due to the discovery of new useful tricks, for example. Discovering little by little all the possibilities that the whirlwind attack offered was really fun, even if it caused me to redo Egg Rocket entirely for one new shortcut, ouch... It sounds like I was working alone after the others, but there was a lot of cooperation all the way to the end: I in fact started to search for improvements on earlier acts while GoddessMaria was doing the middle to end game, then sometimes we worked on the same boss at the same time to find solutions (boss manipulation and some strategy testing), or I remember asking her to (re)do a trick in the optimized version that I couldn't replicate despite all my efforts ^^. I didn't meet VanillaCoke at all on this project, I was too late to the party, but I'm sure I would have learned some tricks from him. Did I mention I enjoyed being part of this project? Have a good time watching it :)


Thanks to:

-Zeupar for being the special Sonic consultant and helping with various things
-TerraEsperZ for having made the maps that were of a great help for this run
-All the speedrunners from The Sonic Center, or at least the ones that have good times or videos to give a good feeling for the routes to use ^^
-Thevlackdemonn2294 aka vlackSR for Angel Island 1, the trigger for this second version of the Amy TAS
-La bande à Bicou (ouh, ouh!) - this one is from Grincevent, don't pay attention
-And Claude François


feos: Publishing to Moons...

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