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Submission #6625: The8bitbeast's NES Fantasy Zone in 03:57.31

Console: Nintendo Entertainment System
Game name: Fantasy Zone
Game version: JPN
ROM filename: Fantasy_Zone_Japan.nes
Branch:
Emulator: Bizhawk 2.3.2
Movie length: 03:57.31
FrameCount: 14262
Re-record count: 41779
Author's real name: Jake M
Author's nickname: The8bitbeast
Submitter: The8bitbeast
Submitted at: 2020-02-16 01:15:42
Text last edited at: 2020-03-03 17:01:17
Text last edited by: Dacicus
Download: Download (11189 bytes)
Status: published
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Fantasy Zone is a 1986 Shooter arcade game developed by Sega. It was ported to many consoles including the Famicom, which is the version that this TAS uses. Unlike most shooters, Fantasy Zone does not autoscroll, making it a very interesting TAS game. Each level involves destroying 8 enemy bases which allows you to fight the boss for the level. The game has 7 levels and then a boss rush at the end.

This TAS is an improvement of 562 frames (9.37 seconds) to #1364: hisatoki's NES Fantasy Zone in 04:07.07

I originally gained interest in Fantasy Zone due to the demo glitch in the Master System version, which allows you to skip straight to the final boss rush. But before TASing that, I wanted to make sure that I understood all of the known tech about the game. This is why I decided to TAS the NES version and compare my knowledge to the previous TAS. But it turns out that the Master System and NES game mechanics are extremely different

Differences in Game Versions

There are 3 versions that I’ve had some experience with: NES (J, Sunsoft), NES (Tengen) and Master System.

This TAS uses the NES (J, Sunsoft) version because that’s what the previous TAS used and also because it’s much prettier. The Tengen version is drastically different and should be considered a different category.

I’ve had experience TASing the Master System version before swapping to NES. Some major changes are: 2 different bosses, Master System lets you keep your shot upgrade forever if you have all of the speed upgrades, SMS doesn’t limit your fire rate on normal shots (SMS = 3 shots on screen max, NES = 5 frames between shots), SMS has the demo glitch and your movement post shot doesn’t affect your shot’s trajectory on SMS, SMS can handle more than 1 damage calculation per frame, SMS doesn’t seem to have a frame rule.

There are also similar differences on the Tengen version. There are a lot of minor differences that I didn’t mention above or haven’t discovered as I’ve only TASed a few levels of the Master System version.

The Frame rule

The address 0015 ticks up once a frame and repeats every 60 frames. It affects 0016 (level fadeout controller) and 01BF (shot upgrade expiry timer).

This means that each level only checks if it should fade out once per second, causing a 60 frame frame rule. The frame rule check occurs when the boss disappears and the coins spawn, then it’s a constant amount of time until fadeout. It also occurs between bosses in the bosh rush.

This frame rule doesn’t increment in shops, so it’s important to buy exactly what I need and nothing more. Usually a frame rule would make things boring, but it actually causes me to carefully route my upgrades and only buy exactly what I need to hit each frame rule.

The other thing that can lose time is lag. This only happens when collecting the boss coins and you can sometimes get chunks of 10-20 lag frames. However, it’s extremely easy to get 0 lag frames and Bizhawk’s counter is accurate for this game’s purposes.

Review of the Upgrades

The shop has many options and it’s important to vary your upgrade choices as the price increases on an item every time you buy that item. Below is a review of the upgrades.

A quick note on the shot upgrades is that these will have a timer on them. For short levels, you can beat the level before the timer runs out which resets the timer to full on the next level. This allows me to carry the 7-way shot through several levels in the TAS.

Normal Shot

Your normal bullets are good on the SMS version as you can fire as fast as you can mash, but this version makes you put a 5 frame gap between each shot. These only go straight, which is a disadvantage.

Normal Bombs

Normal bombs travel in a parabolic arc downwards from where you shot them. You can shoot them further by holding right on the frame you shoot. Bombs will cause double damage to the enemy bases and to some bosses, making them very useful. Unfortunately having fire bombs and heavy bombs prevents you from using normal bombs, so their usefulness is limited to the early game in this TAS.

Speed upgrades

Arguably the most important upgrade(s) in the game. I get the $10,000 one incredibly early as this allows me to get to each base in the level as quick as possible. I also get the $100,000 rocket engine very early. The slight downside to the rocket engine is that you lack precision movement, which can cause issues weaving into precise spots for bosses. But the benefits of the rocket engine far outweigh the slight inconveniences.

Laser Beam

The previous TAS loves this upgrade and for good reason. It’s especially powerful on this version, but much weaker on SMS. The Laser Beam is good for casual play as you can hold shoot to fire quickly. It’s even better for TAS as it removes the 5 frame gap between shots and allows you to fire as quick as you can mash (once every 2 frames).

The laser beam occasionally does more damage than the 7-way shot, making it useful in some scenarios. An example of this is level 2’s boss, which takes twice the damage with the laser beam and is also much easier to hit with it. The downside of the laser beam is that you have to be on the same height as your enemy and it’s got a lower fire rate than the 7 way shot, as you can cause damage every frame with strategic 7-way shots.

7-way Shot

More use of this weapon was the primary timesave in this TAS. This usually deals the same damage as laser apart from some bosses like level 2. The main advantage of the 7-way shot is destroying enemy bases. You can deal damage to bases while travelling to their height, meaning you have to slow down much less than with the laser.

The main downfall of the 7-way shot is the difficulty of optimizing it. When firing, you will actually get a 7-way shot but then you can only fire again once one of the bullets has disappeared. If you fire at this point, you’ll shoot one bullet instead of 7 and it seems to be in an inconsistent but predetermined. It could have something to do with which shot had despawned.

Optimally, you can damage an enemy every single frame with the 7-way shot. An example of this is level 7’s boss. However, you would be very lucky to do this with bases as they have a small hitbox and you’re travelling towards them. What usually works is firing a 7-way shot every second frame which often gives you 2-3 bullets (when close to a base). Out of these 2-3 bullets, usually only one will hit the base. Occasionally you can get one B press to cause 2 hits to a base, but this requires you to be a certain distance away and hence would require you to slow down. The main issue with getting several hits in is that you need to hit the enemy on different frames with different bullets. If 2 bullets hit on the same frame you despawn both but only get the damage of 1 bullet.

Usually with the 7-way shot you can destroy bases without slowing down just by adjusting your height. This is also helped by the extra time you gain as you can destroy the base form underneath/above rather than having to destroy it before you hit the side of it.

Wide Beam

More like “Wide Meme”. This thing is pretty useless. It has the same damage output and fire rate as the normal shot, but it’s just a bit wider. I actually had a WIP that used it on level 6 boss before I figured out I could beat it optimally with the normal shot.

Twin Bombs

Twin Bombs are actually good, but just aren’t used because I usually have fire bombs or heavy bombs instead. They could save a little bit of time on level 2’s boss, but not enough to save a frame rule. Even if they did save a frame rule, you would lose almost all of that time scrolling to the twin bombs in the shop.

Smart Bombs

Dumb Bombs

Fire Bombs

Fire bombs are awesome if you need any horizontal enemies killed. These are exclusively used to take out bases. They seem to work by firing as a normal bomb, then detonating once they match the height of a base. Then they fire out fire to the left and right which kills the bases in one hit. If you combine this with the ability to control the trajectory of the fire with your movement, you can even take out several bases at different heights.

Fire bombs aren’t great against bosses, so they are used in the 2 levels where heavy bombs wouldn’t be good against the bosses anyway.

Heavy Bombs

Heavy bombs are super OP. They can kill most bosses or bases in one hit. The only downside is that you have to wait for the bomb to come down from the top of the screen, which is occasionally slow for base killing.

Heavy bombs aren’t used in level 6’s boss because they deal 2 damage to it (and it’s total is 26 hp). They also aren’t used in level 7 because they only deal 1 damage for every frame you’re touching the boss, which is easily achievable with 7-way shot.

The route

As the game runs on one second frame rules which don’t count up in shops, it’s important to buy the things that allow each optimal frame rule to be hit without wasting any time in the shop.

Shop visit 1 (Level 2)

This visit is in level 2. We go to the shop as early as possible since it drastically speeds up everything. Money is spent immediately on the turbo booster and laser beam. Laser allows us to kill every base without slowing down at all and turbo booster makes this even faster. The laser makes killing level 2’s boss very quick. Even if I had enough money for a heavy bomb for the boss, the extra scrolling in the shop would have made that slower.

Shop visit 2 (Level 3)

Here I swap to my OP 7-way shot and heavy bomb combo. I manipulated enough coins to just barely have enough heavy bombs to get optimal frame rules. Level 3 and 4 are short enough that I can keep my 7-way shot to the end of level 5.

Shop visit 3 (Level 6)

Now that I have enough money for the rocket engine, I get that immediately. Now that I have the rocket engine, the 7-way shot is too slow to kill bases before passing them, so I have to use fire bombs. I get the exact amount of fire bombs that I need because I’ll be going to the shop in level 7 anyway.

Shop visit 4 (Level 7)

This shop visit is unfortunately necessary due to the bosses in level 6 and 7. The only fast way to kill level 7’s boss is a 7-way shot. Level 6’s boss is so long that there is no way that I could keep a 7-way shot into level 7. This means I have no choice but to visit the shop here. I use this opportunity to buy everything I need for the rest of the game as I have already scrolled over to fire bombs for level 7’s bases.

Shop visit 5 (before boss rush)

I routed it so that I didn’t need anything here, but the game forces you into the shop anyway. Usually I would buy heavy bombs, but since I still have them from the shop in level 7, I can just quit the shop right away. I use the equip menu after the shop to swap to laser and heavy bombs for the boss rush.

Tricks and Techniques

Post shooting control

After shooting a bullet or a bomb, it is influenced by your movement. This is more effective with some types of shot upgrades than others. A particularly potent effect is fire bombs. These usually travel just horizontally across the screen and take out bases, but you can move up and down to make 1 bomb take out several bases at different heights. Of course, this effect can be annoying at times too when you’re trying to shoot something then quickly move somewhere else.

Fadeout to boss requirements

As mentioned earlier, you have to destroy 8 bases to cause the level to fade out to the boss. However, you also need no objects to be on screen too. This means that you have to collect the last coin from the last base you destroy before the level can fade out. You also have to manipulate enemies to make sure that none are spawned when you’re trying to fade out. A particularly annoying case of this is level 3 which has a type of enemy that will sit up the top of the level and follow you around, never leaving the screen. You have no choice but to RNG manipulate those enemies to not spawn, which is not easy considering you can’t actually see them when they spawn unless you scroll right up to the top of the screen. There’s a section in RAM addresses which has some values that you can watch to make sure they don’t spawn.

Quicker Bomb Shots

Usually you have to wait for a bomb to explode before firing another. However, if you hit an enemy with a bomb then scroll the bomb explosion off screen, you can fire another straight away. This is mainly used in level 1.

Shoptimization

The shop menu is easy to lose time on. When buying multiple items of something then scrolling back to exit, you shouldn’t hover on the leftmost pixel of the item, you should scroll the screen as right as possible in that time you have so that exit is closer to the item.

Another little improvement over the previous TAS is using A and B to buy items, this allows an item to be bought every frame rather than every 2 frames.

Some RTA runs of the Master System version intentionally route it so that they have $0 when buying items and then they get kicked out of the shop. This is not useful in this version because the waiting time to be kicked out is actually longer than scrolling back to exit.

RAM Addresses

Address Description
0093,0092 Y Pos
0091,0090 X Pos
0094 X Vel
0002,0003 Screen X,Y
0015,0016 Frame Rule
01BF Shot Powerup Timer
0057-005C Money
0400,0410,0420,0430,0440,0450,0460,0470 Base HP
040F Boss 1 HP
0087 Square Boss
0406 Circle Boss
0407 Circle Boss Timer
0284,0294,02A4,02B4,02C4,02D4,02E4,02F4 Boss 2 HP
0235,0200,0210,0220,0230,0240 Stuff that I forgot to label
0200-02FF Loaded objects on screen

Time Saved to previous TAS

Below is a summary of the timesaves. The previous TAS seemed to lose 3 frames to emulation differences on the title screen. It also had some unnecessary inputs on the end, costing it time.

Level Time Difference (f) Cumulative Reasoning
Title Screen -3 -3 Emulation differences?
Level 1 -120 -123 Different base order and other optimization
Level 2 0 -123
Level 3 -7 -130 Alternate A/B mashing to buy heavy bombs
Level 4 -60 -190 7-way shot and other optimization
Level 5 -372 -562 Cut out shop trip, use of 7-way shot, 1 more fr saved with 3 h. bombs
Level 6 +113 -449 More stuff in the shop since I skipped level 5’s shop
Level 7 -67 -516 ROCKET ENGINE
Shop -15 -531 I didn’t need to buy rocket engine as I bought it in level 7
Boss Rush 0 -531
Last Boss -31 -562 Optimization and ending inputs much earlier

IL Comments

Most of this is covered above, so I’ll just cover anything I missed here.

Level 3

The heavy bomb at the start is necessary to save a frame rule

Level 5

The 3 heavy bombs are all necessary to save a frame rule, it just barely works out.

Level 6

This boss is really stupid. It has 26 health and a 10 frame window of invincibility between each hit. The only way I know of to kill it faster is to use heavy bombs, which deals 2 damage instead of 1. Since this only saves 10 frames and would mess with the route, it totally wasn’t worth it.

Level 7

The boss here sucks and the only way to beat is fast is 7-way shot + normal bombs. Interestingly, if I had heavy bombs at the time, it would have taken 3 cycles instead of 2 cycles since normal bombs do 2 damage in 1 frame, whereas heavy bombs do 1.

Boss rush

The first boss is on a weird cycle. It’s invincible unless it’s mouth is open and it’s mouth will only open at certain spots on a global timer (independent of frame rule). This global timer ticks up anywhere, even when you’re paused. I was lucky enough to have enough time to kill it optimally here, but if I was a frame rule slower I would have had to use a heavy bomb to kill it optimally, which would have lost another frame rule.

I use lasers rather than 7-way shot due to lasers being twice as effective on the 2nd boss.

The 7-way shot runs out on the 4th boss. I thought about dying since that brings you back to the shop and keeps your boss progress. This would have let me get the 7-way shot back for the 7th boss. However, dying overall is a little bit slower no matter where you do it.

The 7th boss requires 2 heavy bombs to beat on an optimal frame rule. It may be possible to save one more frame rule using a 3rd heavy bomb, but this would make other aspects of the boss rush slower.

The last boss can be easily beaten by heavy bombs. I have to kill the first part with shots but I drop the first heavy bomb as soon as possible which allows me to drop the last heavy bomb as soon as possible. Inputs end on the last heavy bomb drop.

Interestingly, it’s impossible to beat the last boss on the Master System versions without any upgrades because it chases you down too quickly to outrun and you’re too weak to kill it before that happens. I haven’t thoroughly tested on this version, but I would think it’s the same.

Thanks

Thanks to Hisatoki for making the original TAS. It was super impressive, especially considering it was made 14 years ago.


ThunderAxe31: Judging.

ThunderAxe31: This submission got a lot of positive votes, and I agree with them. The current publication's ratings are borderline, however that movie is very old, so I'm giving the benefit of doubt in favor of this submission.

Accepting for Moons as an improvement of the current publication.

Dacicus: Processing...


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