Submission #4188: FatRatKnight's NES Solar Jetman: Hunt for the Golden Warpship in 16:16.64

Nintendo Entertainment System
FCEUX 2.2.1
Solar Jetman - Hunt for the Golden Warpship (U) [!].nes
Submitted by FatRatKnight on 2/8/2014 8:48:40 AM
Submission Comments
Our hero today is on the search for the parts of the Golden Warpship. He's kind of in a hurry, and decides to skip a few planets because apparently he had nine of the parts in his back pocket already. Walls are often used as a form of brakes, since the jetpod doesn't have any of its own.

About this run

  • Uses FCEUX 2.2.1
  • Aims for fastest time
  • Uses warps
  • Takes damage to save time
  • Subtitles
This beats Blublu's TAS by a bit less than seven minutes. Notable differences:
  • Warps from Planet 1 to 7 instead of from Planet 3 to 7
  • No Boosters and no Time Bombs mean more care is needed for Planet 7
  • Spins the orange crystal for a lot of needed money
  • Buys more items with said money
  • More tethered item action in order to move faster
I have produced a lua script for TASing this game. It also handles certain controls for TASEditor to fit my habits, though runs fine without it.
Some frame counts I have measured, with a few frames of BluBlu's TAS adjusted to make the initial reset work in the transition from FCEU to FCEUX.
Each frame count is measured in when a button is pressed to clear the planet information screen. For Golden Warpship, it's the button pressed to clear the "got last part" screen.
P 1-start122121-1+1
P 2-start7313
P 3-start19834
P 7-start21201913-20288+20287New warp
P 8-start3563317320-18313-1975Underpowered jetpod; Spinning a crystal
P13-start3716518863-18302-11Wait, how did this happen?
P12-start5231632180-20136+1834Wormhole boosts; Tighter optimizations
Warpship7426550241-24024+3888Wormhole boosts; Better items; Tighter optimizations
Complete8306958695-24374+350Better boss RNG

About the game

Whoever this guy may be, he's looking to assemble the Golden Warpship. To get these pieces, you must collect enough fuel for your base ship to reach the next planet, and to then seek out a large wormhole leading to the ship part necessary for the assembly, then you go to the next planet. Along the way, there are many treasures to find, as well as useful equipment to add to your jetpod to make this quest easier.
The physics of this game is pretty complex. Your jetpod has a thruster to move about, but keep in mind there isn't any friction. While you will keep going, you're not likely to keep your momentum for long before you decide to thrust the other way or end up face first into a wall or an enemy bullet. When you shoot, your bullets are affected by your current speed. There are a number of tools you can buy to change how the jetpod handles or weapons to deal with enemies you find.
There are also secret warps you can take that will take you several planets ahead. For whatever reason, taking these warps will also hand you a Warpship piece for every planet you skip. These warps are also the only way to reach Planet 13, but clearing it will still take you to Planet 12, which houses the last part to move on to the endgame.

Physics oddities

The pod's usual maximum is 3 pixels per frame. This speed limit can be broken by tethering an object and having its momentum throw you around. This can let you reach 4 pixels per frame, but if your thrust pushes you in the same direction on that axis, the boosted speed is lost. Even gravity enforces this 3 pixels per frame limit, so I need to turn it off with the handy Anti-Gravity item in order to fall faster. This leads to odd habits like dragging wormholes around even if I don't need to use it to get (more) items, just so I enjoy a higher speed.
Gravity also affects the item you tether. For some reason, even if you aren't thrusting, the item rotates its way to the bottom of your swing (or the top in reverse gravity), which implies that your ship has very low density in whatever fluid it's in with the tethered object being high density. It makes even less sense when you go into some kind of liquid and find this object now flying up to the top of your reach. Even zero gravity enforces the 3 pixels per frame limit for going down. Anti-Gravity shuts off these behaviors completely.
There's some asymetry for how tethered items affect your momentum. For example, when the item swings around at the bottom of your jetpod, if it's slightly to the left, it imparts a lot of left momentum and very little down momentum. If it's at the bottom and slightly to the right, it imparts very little right momentum and a lot of down momentum. This makes it very easy to go left faster, and difficult to go right faster.
Tethered objects do not affect your ship's momentum on the first frame. You can also untether the item on the first frame. Since you didn't give it time to be tethered, the item moves two pixels closer to you in both axis.
It's possible to trick the game into thinking you hit a surface of the wrong angle, such as acting as though you hit the ceiling even though you clipped its corner going down to it diagonally. Good for getting around a corner quickly and lack a good braking mechanism or dealing with heavy tethered objects. I have not analyzed this closely, but I make use of it anyway.
When you pause and unpause the game, it forgets to check for collisions with enemy ships and bullets. This is only good for one frame of protection, so if you can't avoid an enemy, yet at the same time end up inside of it for exactly one frame, pausing the game might yet save your jetpod. The trick is used once while spinning the orange crystal.
You start with 0xE000 (57344) fuel. Each frame with thrusters active uses up 2 units. Crash into a wall, you bounce off at a somewhat reduced speed and you lose 0x1000 (4096) fuel per 1 pixel/frame you crash into a wall at, relative to angle of collision. You are also invincible to further wall collisions for 48 (non-lag) frames.
Whenever you thrust up or down, and on a frame where it's enough to change the sign of your speed (positive to negative, or negative to positive), the game applies your vertical thrust again, effectively doubling the strength of your thrusters for that frame. It seems small, but it was critical in maintaining height in Planet 7 with the first fuel cell, as I did not otherwise have enough thrust to stay at negative Y speed in order to get through that tunnel safely.

Items acquired

Secondary weapons are activated by pressing select+A. Instead of firing a normal bullet, you use the secondary weapon. They have a limited amount of ammo before they run out, but just return to the base ship for a refill.
Weapon boxes aren't used in this TAS.
Utility items provide a passive benefit to your ship when equipped.
These three item types may be preserved for as long as your jetpod lasts. If your jetpod breaks with these equipped, you lose the items even if you survive to reach your base ship to keep a life. This is why I buy multiple copies of some items, as I lose them to use a wormhole as a shortcut back to the base ship, and I'm not finished using them.
Other item types include the mapping system (not used in this TAS), boosters (skipped), shields (also unused), and jetpods. You keep these forever once acquired.


Cost: 1000. Secondary weapon (technically). When you "shoot" it, your ship starts flashing different colors and gravity no longer affects you. This means you no longer accelerate due to gravity, your vertical speed isn't capped due to gravity, and tethered items don't just fall to some spot below your jetpod. It's a very handy item. Lasts 3584 frames, which at 30 Hz, means it'll keep working for nearly two minutes straight.
As a quirk, although no projectile is produced, if you're at your 8 bullet limit, pressing select+A will have no effect. Meaning if you wanted to switch this on or off, you must wait until your bullets disappear. The timer keeps running if you go into a large wormhole, the kind that leads to the area with the Golden Warpship part.
The "gravity spheres" also have no effect on you. The attractor blue and repulsor red apparently work their magic on your ship by gravity, as this item also shuts off their acceleration on your ship. This really helps while I have this item, as their pushes and pulls also enforce the 3 pixels per frame limit, on either axis.
This is an excellent time saver. Since you can switch gravity on or off at will, it gives one more way to control your momentum. The insane stunts done with some item tethering is only possible with this, especially when getting a speed boost for vertical movements, both up and down. Less helpful for horizontal movement, but it still helps to keep tethered objects in control. The two minutes it lasts for is more time than I can use. I get two, as I lose one when breaking my pod for a warp back.

Double-Stregth Thrusters

Cost: 1000. Utility item. Thrusting will provide four times the acceleration while using the same amount of fuel. It says double-strength, but the packaging lies.
This sort of acceleration boost is very much appreciated. It gives a lot more control when tethering objects around. While not strictly needed, trying to control the heavy, heavy wormholes or getting around corners in a timely fashion would be next to impossible using the default thrusters. How much time it actually saves is questionable, but the time needed to pick two up on the way to the Sports Pod and the time to equip them is rather minor. I believe they do save the time to be worth the purchases.

Nippon Sports Jetpod

Cost: 10000. A Jetpod. Allows tethering more items, including wormholes. It also has a more sleek design than the standard jetpod.
It's very expensive. However, the tricks this thing allows makes it very much worth the trouble to spin an orange crystal around for the extra money. The biggest help is that you can drag wormholes to items rather than the other way around, letting you skip some travel time. The second biggest help is that it lets you use wormholes for breaking the 3.0 pixels/frame speed limit using the tether mechanics. Wormholes are very heavy and are often convenient as you need to use them anyway.

By Planet

I'll list out the planets for your convenience. Anything that comes to mind about them, I'll share here.

Planet 1 - Preludon

Take the warp as quickly as possible! Blublu's TAS does not take this warp. I wonder why, since this alone saves around 20000 frames.
That wall bounce is faster than flying around the corner directly. Yes, those default thrusters are so weak that this corner is best taken by slamming myself in that opposite wall. I think this warp is taken optimally, as I carefully worked out those sub-pixels.

Planet 7 - Chorlton

Since I didn't pick up the boosters, I'm stuck with the default thrust. Since I don't have Time Bombs, I must shoot all 48 HP off those large green enemies if I want past some of them. Blublu clears this planet faster than me, but that's because I don't have these useful items. Without a chance to shop, I'll have to rely on the default pod.

P7 - Fuels

A quirk with both rapid tethers and zero speed vertical thruster boost gives me a way to maintain height while accelerating quickly back to the left. The height is used to get around that corner more cleanly.
Bypassing that green enemy in the way may look unusual, but it actually sprouts an energy barrier to its sides to stop you. The spot I crash into is necessary to get under this barrier. As if that wasn't enough, I also had to have some non-zero speed going to the left in order to have upward momentum after I crash, so that the barrier thinks I'm trying to go up past it, pushing me down instead. I had difficulties finding this out until I got a .fm2 that worked.
The tunnel ahead was plenty of fun, too. I had plenty of downward velocity I had to get rid of somehow, thrusters so weak they can't lift both me and the fuel cell in this gravity, and spiky terrain that would absorb my horizontal momentum if I crash into it. Ultimately, a lot of tweaking with the swinging fuel cell, crashing into the flat part of the ceiling to cut my downward speed in half, and rapid tethers allowed me to make it through. Try TASing this spot without merely copying my movie, I dare you!
Almost to the wormhole, drop the fuel cell. Round the mountain, get the other one, and come back. The last bit of distance to the wormhole will be covered by dragging two fuel cells.
Not much of interest on the way to fuel cell #3. That green thing at the liquid's edge I can't just bypass. A fuel can is helpfully placed for me to shoot to recover. The next green thing that looks identical to the others that blocked me can move, but I suspect it's supposed to do that as its ID number is different from the others. I can't say with certainty, but only a disassembly will give a clear answer.

P7 - The orange crystal

I spin the orange crystal. Each spin generates, in order: 25, 50, 100, 200, 400, 1000, 2000, 5000, 1-up. This is a secret with orange crystals, blue ones don't work this way, or any other object for that matter. The extra life is meaningless, and the 9th spin turns the crystal blue, but the 8775 generated goes toward paying for the Sports Jetpod. Spinning this crystal adds a bunch of seconds to clear Planet 7, but the jetpod is easily worth the delay. Unfortunately, the displayed number and flashy dots it generates each spin takes up your bullet slots, reducing how many you can shoot at once. Keeping that bullet count maxed out prevents this inconvenience, and you are still awarded the money.
Here's what I have to do: Spin the crystal; Shoot at off-screen enemies from about two to three screen lengths away; Keep the crystal under enough control as I navigate the maze; Bounce off of walls to make up for weak thrusters; Shoot the fuel can just as I make an otherwise fatal slam into a wall; Manipulate the many enemy bullets being fired into not hitting me. A lot of simultaneous factors are at play here. In the end, the limiting factor appears to be how quickly I can spin the crystal rather than how quickly I can get to the large wormhole.

Golden Warpship part 7

Fly to the right, bounce off the far wall, drag the part into the wormhole. Huh, low on fuel again. Thankfully I'm done anyway.
My challenge for the cyberzone: Get all crystals with default jetpod. Seriously, this in and of itself is a difficult enough challenge! Face downward because the game uses the same facing that you ended the cyberzone with when dumping you back over the base ship.

First shop

Buy two Double-Strength Thrusters and the Nippon Sports Jetpod. The shiny new jetpod provides a way to tether wormholes, which I commonly use to break the usual speed limit of 3.0 pixels per frame. The time it takes to select the jetpod is a long time, so I opt to get both thrusters now, as it would also take a very long time to select the thrusters.
I'm uncertain if getting Anti-Gravity now would save time. If you can get another 706 money from Planet 7, go ahead. If not, trading one thruster for one Anti-Gravity means you either skip the second thruster or go through the slow scrolling process to get another from the second shop. It takes roughly 270 frames to go from Anti-Gravity to Double-Strength Thrusters, so any time savings need to beat that for a Planet 13 Anti-Gravity to be useful.

Planet 8 - Shishkebab

There's a warp over to the right. Nothing to do but to take that. Face to the right, thrust until maximum x-speed is reached, then fly downward a bit to show off the terrain. At least it's fast.

Planet 13 - Urownd

Nothing special, really. Pixel-perfect corners are simple with strong thrusters. The first fuel is gotten easily enough, but I need to swing it upwards to reach the wormhole. Fuel #3 is a bit weird in how I do it, but the nearby attractor blue helps in speeding me back to where I need to go.
After that, something wonderful happens. I figured out that I can get a tether boost from the wormhole. Up to 4.0 pixels per active frame. This gets me going to the next fuel a bit faster. The repulsor reds first slow me down, but I shoot them down. The attractor blue shortly after also slows me down, because although it pulls me forward, it forces me down to the slower speed limit. In any case, I get past the large enemy and on to the fuel. This one went more smoothly than Fuel #3, as I have to turn around anyway.
If you're curious why I decided to drag the wormhole for a little longer even though I got the last fuel cell, it's because of that horizontal speed boost. Once at 4.0 pixels per active frame, I can just drop the wormhole and keep the higher speed as long as I don't thrust to the left. Nothing special happens on the way to the large wormhole.

Golden Warpship part 13

A sort of a spiral, I guess. Dragging the wormhole along does make it more interesting. Although the gravity is zero, it's still counted as pulling me down, and I can't get a downward speed boost with the wormhole in tow. So I opt to maximize its use in speeding up my horizontal and upward velocities.
Not sure why, but this ship part takes priority over the wormhole when it comes to what gets tethered. This means that I don't have to get out of range of the wormhole in order to pick up and immediately deposit the ship part. Nothing else I interacted with in this TAS does this. I adjust my Y position carefully to get the wormhole tethered below me, as that position greatly helps for the later horizontal boost.
My challenge for the cyberzone: Only turn immediately after picking up a crystal, and keep the thrusters going the whole time. Apparently, I have a lot of time to spare.

Second shop

Buy two Anti-Gravity items. This shuts off the intense gravity whenever I find it inconvenient... Which is nearly all the time. This allows for vertical speed boosts as well as providing an extra form of control for horizontal boosts.

Planet 12 - Miplezur

This is a harsh planet. It has a really, really strong gravity. The default thrusters are overwhelmed by it even without items tethered. You can't make useful upward climbs without at least one of three items. Boosters from Planet 2 or the Double Strength Thrusters are good enough, or if you don't mind the two minute option, Anti-Gravity can also be used. I took both Double-Strength Thrusters and Anti-Gravity because they're such useful items.
I use Anti-Gravity most of the time. On the upward climb, using Anti-Gravity is slightly faster than thrusting normally, as gravity applies, then your current velocity (reduced by gravity), then your thrust (which doesn't affect what gravity did this frame). I bring the wormhole part of the way up so that it doesn't interfere with me picking up the fuel, then use that same wormhole for remaining fuels. Anti-Gravity is really, really helpful in maintaining that 4 pixels speed throughout, as even when going down, shutting off that gravity means I'm not maxed out at 3 pixels per active frame.
At Fuel #4, I carefully take enough damage to be left with 0x3802 fuel. After an impact on sloped ground with speeds 0x400 to the right and 0x300 downward, this means 0x3800 damage. One frame of thrust later and I blow up the jetpod at any time I wish. The "deathwarp" is done very swiftly as a result. It's also why I bought two of each item, as I lose the first set when destroying the jetpod.
The path down is also fairly uneventful. Pixel-perfect corners are easy until I pick up the wormhole along the way. Then it gets complicated all of a sudden. In the maze, I clip a few corners in such a way that I'm deflected off the wrong wall. I do this four times. Smashing up the jetpod like this from max speed four times plus other minor bounces would destroy it before I ever reach my destination, so for three of these, I first lightly tap a wall then abuse its invulnerability to survive the wrong deflections. Take a look at my fuel as I ascend for the last time.

Golden Warpship part 12

There's a lot of gravity spheres. As if that's not enough, there's also very noticeable downward gravity as well. Anti-Gravity proves its usefulness once again. My last terrain-based crash into that stalactite doesn't seem to be very clean, but I didn't spot any obvious solutions I can try to get me to fall faster. This Golden Warpship part doesn't take tethering priority like the last one, but all I have to do is be out of reach of the wormhole. Just drop it for one frame with it above me, and I can tether the ship part and instantly deposit it in the wormhole.

Golden Warpship

Start: Physics-based exploration. End: Side-scrolling shooter. My goodness, one life, and tolerance for three collisions with objects and instant death on terrain. The controls are vastly different with motion based on the d-pad rather than facing and thrust. You go through some strange place where the terrain can't make up its mind on what color to be. What's this eye thing you have to shoot? There's a boss now? Someone get me out of this crazy zone! ... Honestly, the dramatic change I outlined here does leave me a sour taste after such a wonderful game.
In any case, there isn't much I can do to speed things up. Even the RNG doesn't seem to do too much, as I literally copied Blublu's run and it still beat the boss, though it did take three hits and missed some scattered blue stuff from the direct copy, so it wasn't a complete sync. Of course, I'd rather fill this place with my touch, so I TASed this part as well. I hope my antics entertain, at least the parts where I didn't just give up the entertainment potential.
I've heard of an eye being prevented from spawning. I never actually investigated this with any detail. Then again, I still make an improvement as the eyes do rely on the RNG on when to open or close. Some eyes use the highly volatile RNG that completely changes based on controllers, while other use a more stiff bit-shifting RNG that can still be affected by the highly volatile one. Preventing an eye from spawning will definitely speed things up more, though.
Oh, by the way. My weapon bar is still being emptied out by my Anti-Gravity. No one shut that thing off. And since I don't have it, I can't turn it off now. The Anti-Gravity has no effect here anyway, and when that bar empties, nothing happens. It is, however, a good indicator on how close I am, as once it empties, there isn't much left to this place.

Possible improvements

The messages that show up whenever you collect something. I press A on the first frame possible to clear them, but for whatever reason, the first moment where input can clear it isn't a constant. There's something hidden that I haven't analyzed that forces these messages to stay for varying amounts of time, and any improvements I try to make is stopped by this effect. This will need some analysis.
It has been observed that the final boss's eyes might not fully spawn, as noted here. Since I never actually searched for the (E) ROM, I never actually looked into what happens here. I made an attempt at an object overload by keeping those blue asteroids following me, but my first attempt failed, and I've burned myself out a bit much for a second attempt. My TASing was packed solid for several days straight, and I want a break!
One thing to check is if Anti-Gravity is worth picking up for Planet 13. I highly doubt it's possible to get enough money (quickly) for that plus two Double-Strength Thrusters and the Nippon Sports Jetpod, so one strong thruster will need to be traded for that. If a second thruster is desired, this takes a lot of shopping time to get, as the thrusters are deep in the menu, and the second shopping trip does not have the convenient desire for the shiny jetpod.
And, of course, the flight path throughout each planet. Getting through without carrying something is usually straight forward enough. Having to tether an item you need to collect or are using for speed boosts adds a great deal of chaos that needs to be accounted for. Planet 7 is a nightmare with the orange crystal and default thrusting power, but at least effective gravity is zero.
Why am I not trying them now? I TASed this game so hard in the span of several days straight that I really want to stop. Such extreme density TASing just can't be healthy for long, can it?
The lua script I used is here. It displays a lot of useful numbers, although almost all numbers are in hexadecimal. If you have the patience to try to improve this game, I hope you also have the patience to learn hexadecimal. For seeing enemies from off screen, it'll show them as single pixel dots, and holding a certain key (Z) will black out the screen to make these pixels be more visible.

feos: Judging!
feos: This movie (almost) unexpectedly got great feedback due to many factors, so it's not just a time improvement over the existing run, but it is also a Moon, not Vault. Accepting.
Last Edited by adelikat on 10/9/2023 1:27 PM
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