Hello, everyone! Ars is back with another Genesis/Megadrive RPG classic: Landstalker. Specifically, this is a 100% completion run that improves KanonKessen's current 100% RTA record by a full hour and seven minutes (1:07:xx).
- Emulator used: BizHawk 1.7.1 (but should sync on the latest version)
- 100% completion
- Uses death to save time
- Takes damage to save time
- Heavy luck manipulation
- Genre: Adventure
- Genre: Platform
- Genre: RPG
About the Game
Landstalker was developed by Climax Entertainment (who also helped develop Shining in the Darkness, Shining Force; and eventually Alundra for the PSX) and released in 1992 (Japan) and 1993 (worldwide). You play as an adventure-seeking treasure hunter named Nigel, an elf who's remarkably young looking for his age (88 years young!). After collecting the bounty for his latest find, he abruptly runs into Friday, a female wood nymph (i.e. fairy) who's in the middle of being chased due to her alleged knowledge of the location of the fabled treasures of King Nole. After helping evade her pursuers, Nigel becomes immediately interested and tells Friday to lead him to the general location of the treasures, which lie on a peculiar island called Mercator. After spending his bounty on a flight to Mercator, him and Friday are dropped off near the top of the island outside of a vast, ancient cavern.
Are King Nole's treasures truly close by? Are they ripe for the taking, or still jealously guarded to this day? From here, our adventure begins...
Gameplay-wise, Landstalker reminds me of a cross between Legend of Zelda and Indiana Jones. There are similar adventure and RPG elements, yet Landstalker sticks out by also being a challenging platformer with a number of notable puzzle and maze elements thrown in, as well. It's really too bad this one didn't have a real sequel (outside of the pseudo-sequel Ladystalker for the SNES).
Definition of 100%
The 100% branch is based upon KanonKessen's 100% RTA strats (link embedded, at the top).
- Obtain all 80 Life Stocks (via treasure chests & shops*).
- All equipment (Swords, Armor, Boots, & Rings).
- All unique/key items (Silver Bell, Pawn Ticket, etc.).
- Complete all side quests (Tibor, Helga’s Dungeon, etc.).
- Activate all teleport trees (10, total).
Note: An exception here is made concerning the game's final shop in Kazalt, which replenishes its supply of Life Stock until Nigel maxes out at 99 HP. In addition to the RTA runner foregoing this, I've also further reasoned that spending the extra time money grinding to purchase one (1200 Gold), or even 15 to max out Nigel's HP (18,000 Gold!) would be redundant towards the primary goal of speed running and the secondary goal of entertainment value.
Tricks Used *some spoilers if you haven't yet watched the encode!*
Shortcut Screen Transitioning (credit to RatFunk Z)
This is the earliest and most frequent one used. When Nigel exits into another screen, the game will reset his starting position either to the left-hand or right-hand side of the entry point, depending on which side he was closest to. You can save 3-5 frames, each time, by simply lining up with the closest point of the exit that will "round you over" to the desired starting point on the next screen.
With the hundreds of screen transitions contained in the run, this small trick saved upwards of an entire minute in the TAS!
'Gate Hopping' (shared credit with Maanitou X)
This is a major one relied upon to save time in various areas in the game. The basic premise of it goes like this: In Landstalker, object & enemy/NPC hitboxes can be organized by height. Smaller objects, such as chickens, have a height of 1; taller objects, such as Nigel, are more common and have a height of 2; and giant objects such as iron gates are at 3 1/2, and so forth. When Nigel jumps, he has a maximum (and constant, unless impeded by something) jump height of 1 1/2.
With that in mind, Nigel can successfully sequence break past certain rooms and other points in the game if he can jump off an object/approaching monster that has a height 1 1/2 units lower than the blocking obstacle. To illustrate a more common example, iron gates (height: 3 1/2) can be leaped over by first taking damage and, while invulnerable, hopping onto a smaller foe such as a Slime (1), onto a larger enemy such as an Orc or Mushroom (2), and then up and over the gate or impeding obstacle.
Mountain Dungeon Sequence Break
Based off the feedback and research I've done in the Landstalker community, I'm certain this TAS is the first to pull this one off! Based on the 'Gate Hopping' trick above, this one required considerably more execution and some imagination. Basically, the first village in the game, Gumi, contains a short dungeon that is normally inaccessible until very late in the game. There's a set of specially programmed trees blocking access which have an object height of 4 1/2 (and can't be removed until receiving a special ability). However, with creative NPC manipulation, tool-assisted timing and the help of some farm animals, this intended obstruction can be effectively overcome :)
I go into more detail concerning this trick in the 'Game Comments' section.
(And whoever can pull this off in real-time has my respect!)
Ghost/Spector Hops (shared credit with Maanitou X)
In addition, certain monsters in the game can also hop or teleport high into the air. Ghosts, when clustered next to each other, hop up to 2 units upward (saving the need to find a taller enemy to assist). Specters, more remarkably, will teleport close to Nigel's current position and at his current unit height (whether standing, or whatever height he's at jumping or falling).
Hovering Friday (credit to Maanitou X and RatFunk Z)
Both a novelty and a legit time-saver, I was blown away when RatFunk informed me of this discovery, months back, over at SDA. I especially wanted this one to be included in the run!
Here's the premise for how it was executed: Some forced events in Landstalker program Nigel to move a certain distance to a predetermined spot on the screen (similar to most games, really). If Nigel is currently poisoned during movement in these cut-scenes, however, he'll still suffer from the effects due to triggering the step counter. Even odder, if you have at least 1 Eke Eke available, Friday will interrupt and revive him at some point if there's a lengthy scripted pause in between dialogue boxes. And once revived, you regain control of Nigel--even while the cut-scene is still occurring!
Late in the game during the event where Duke Mercator activates the teleporter to Kazalt and flees, Nigel needs to enter the scene, from the right-side entry point, at just 2 HP and poisoned. He'll immediately take damage down to 1 HP and then die in the middle of chasing Duke toward the teleporter. After he flees, Friday will revive him after Princess Lara celebrates him saving her. After Lara and Friday get into it, you regain control of Nigel and can move him toward the teleporter to Kazalt before the other NPCs arrive to continue the cut-scene (although you must perform one extra step if you want the teleport pad to Mercator to activate: I go into more detail on this part in the 'Game Comments' section). Doing so will leave Friday in a permanent state of hovering over Nigel--at least until you activate another event (such as if Nigel dies) that involves Friday's appearance.
There were various other timing-dependent tricks used simply via frame advance. I'll briefly list some of the more quirky ones (and all others will be mentioned throughout the 'Game Comments' section).
Money Bag Hop (credit to RatFunk Z)
While not too useful in a 100% (mostly due to Nigel's high attack power), the furthest edge of dropped money bags can be landed on soon after they appear on-screen. This one appears very timing-dependent, as the ending arc of Nigel's jump must coincide with the edge of the money bag as it's dropping toward the ground.
An any% TAS would be able to take great advantage of this, as Nigel's low HP and attack power become a bit of a handicap in the later stages of the game.
Spiked Boulder Hopping
I'm not quite sure why the game allows this (perhaps as a way to deal with lag?) but very seldom Nigel is able to hop off a spiked boulder, or other lethal object, on the first frame he lands on it without taking damage. It is RNG dependent, and appears to only work when Nigel jumps on certain frames (he can also occasionally jump underneath them without taking damage, as well).
This is most prominently used in Mir's Tower and King Nole's Labyrinth.
Ladder Climb Suspended Animation
Performed by inputting the following sequence while climbing ladders or vines: down+left, up, (blank input), up, up+jump.
As the description states, inputting this will leave Nigel in a 'suspended' state of falling while he remains stationary against whatever he's climbing on. I use this at a certain point in the came as a funny gag, as I have to kill time anyway to wait on an approaching platform.
"Straight" Movements & Other Shenanigans
Due to the 3/4s perspective, movement can technically only be performed in the diagonal directions of NW, NE, SW, and SE. However, with frame advance and considerable patience, Nigel can travel in a "straight" line in either direction. It has no practical use aside from novelty and entertainment value. I used it (and variations of the idea) sparingly in spots where I believed it added to a particular scene in an entertaining way.
Due to the sheer length of the game, I'll try to keep things brief here and comment only on something particularly noteworthy.
Pathway to Kazalt (1)
When opening chests, if there's a set of stairs or a higher platform nearby within reach you can save time by jumping from off the chest to it, instead of starting along at the base. I take advantage of this twice when obtaining the first 2 Life Stocks.
Not much else to do here at the moment except evade the 'Temple of Doom'-esque rolling boulder and dive down into the waterfall. I do like how old-school games used foreshadowing by teasing an obscured view of future areas. Anyhow, time for Nigel to take a brief nap...
Gumi Village (1)
After obtaining Life Stock #3 from the neighboring hut, I do some slight RNG manipulation with a jump-slash (and some button-mashing on the jump button) to cause the chicken to head toward my direction. Along with manipulating the village guard, this allows me to reach the top of the center statue to immediately access a well-hidden Life Stock #4. I also manage to exit the village just before the gate guard blocks my path.
In room 1-C with the floating raft and stairway switch, I save additional time by damage boosting off of the falling Slime and onto the switch. This saves me from having to perform one extra jump as I hop from the Slime and back up to the platform, above, and down to the basement floor.
The Slime hop performed in the bridge room is now a commonly used skip in the speed running community. It's easy enough to pull off in real-time (due to the Slime's starting position), and it allows you to save the very first Key you obtain in the dungeon for future use, elsewhere.
Gumi (2) to Massan Village (1)
The reason I've been killing off so many enemies is to save up to purchase a Life Stock in Massan, a little later on (206 Gold). I had very good RNG along the way here as well, which I manipulated a little more to obtain 3 Ekes Ekes (1 in 64 chance, each) for use at certain other points in the game.
Once in the village, the demon-possessed tribesmen finish their ceremony and take off with their captive Fara, leaving the square abandoned. From a TASing standpoint, I immediately noticed the crazed chicken rapidly running amok and envisioned taking a ride on it to save significant time completing errands. RNG in this game is easily manipulable, yet easily volatile at the slightest change of input (making re-syncs a pain, as you more or less have to re-do entire areas that contain any AI activity from monsters or NPCs). From moderate trial and error, I adjust my movements to get the chicken to head my direction, allowing Nigel to hop on and fulfill the TASVideos creed of gotta go fast! as I rush right into the tribe leader's hut to obtain the Idol Statue.
(In case anyone is wondering, Pockets has no programmed dialogue when you attempt to speak to him)
Afterward, I make use of Senor Chicken twice more to obtain Life Stock #7 and exit the village in a...very timely manner :)
The entrance hallway lags heavy due to the rolling boulder traps scattered around. I reduced it as much as possible by walking along the outside edges to keep most of it off-screen. The gate hop skip into the 4-way junction room has also become common in RTA speed running. For the TAS, I reduced the execution time further by timing a jump toward the approaching boulder that knocked me backward into the air and right back on top of it, as it rolled toward the iron gate (saving time by not having to do an extra jump).
The 4-way junction has to be cleared of the 3 patrolling Orcs each time it's entered. Uninterrupted, Nigel can swing his sword once every 20 frames. Unimpeded, he can also jump once every 24 frames as soon as he touches the ground. Along with enemy movement manipulation and attack power, this is the basic formula I kept in mind throughout the game to clear such "monster trap" rooms as quickly as possible. At this point with 12 HP, it takes four attacks to take out an Orc. I tightened the sequence here to the point where I basically 'herd' them toward the exit that I'm heading into.
A little later in the trap room with the 2 Mushrooms and Slimes, I perform a more timing-intensive gate hop by taking damage off a Mushroom and onto a decoy. RNG manipulation was also used to guide the Slime closer inward toward Nigel. From here, I kept everything tight by circle-hopping off the Slime and Mushroom, and then up over the iron gate. This skip (both ways) saved 6-8 seconds over having to clear the room out normally!
On the 3rd floor, the open trap room with the large spiked and repeating rolling boulders lags much more heavy. Not much could be done to reduce it, unfortunately. I patiently climb my way up (adding some small reactions from Nigel, along the way) towards the last spiked boulder and perform a damage hop, up above. This saved about a second and a half (including lag) from walking around, otherwise. I had very good RNG and timing in the next switch room with the 4 Orcs. After knocking the first one back with two strikes, I evade the attacking one in time to reach the unlocked doorway. After many prior test-run improvements, this one became a virtually 'perfect' room execution.
Once on the last floor, I group all 5 Orcs together to obtain the combined 10 Gold drop before entering the boss room. The 2 Forest Orcs are a slightly tougher upgrade, but were quickly dispatched with five consecutive sword strikes. I timed the last jump so Nigel could nab the falling chest containing Life Stock #8 before it even touched the ground. From here, you only have to approach Fara close enough in order to trigger her dialogue (the extra sword slash was just for show).
Gumi (3) to Mountain Dungeon
Here, I'll go into more detail in how the Mountain Dungeon sequence break was pulled off. As soon as Gumi was entered, I was actively manipulating the NPC movements of the dog, chicken, and village guard near the statue. All three had to be optimally placed in order to enter the dungeon the quickest.
Both Bell (the dog) and the chicken were manipulated to head towards the west side toward the Sacred Trees--while the guard is continually manipulated to travel left each time he moves (every 80 frames). I also put on a show with Nigel to add to the suspense :) Anyhow, I then guide and pick up the chicken since it has the fastest movement. The dog, simultaneously, is manipulated to walk back and forth from the blocked entrance. Once I'm ready, I hop toward it and collide with the edge of its hitbox, causing it to also move backward again. Once the village guard is in range, I transfer onto him and then immediately jump and power-throw the chicken (by holding toward+attack) into the left-side wall. This gives it enough momentum to ricochet off the side of the hut and onto the village guard--giving me the 3 unit height needed the scale over the Sacred Trees and into the Dungeon!
The dungeon itself is a rather brief one, as one return trip back up to the top was cut out by timing a close jump onto the final switch on the bottom floor, blocking access deeper within (I'm fairly certain the programmers intended for a couple of these shortcuts to be found).
3 elite Purple Lizardmen at 6/14 HP is not good at this point in the game! I wait a bit at the entrance until knocking the first one back due to them having a frame-precise counter-attack that is impossible to avoid once in range. From here, I both damage hop off the spiked ball and gate hop to access the treasure room, containing a Life Stock and the Fireproof Boots. These boots have very limited use in the game (mostly at Verla Mines), but equipping them early both saves a bit of time and also frees me from having to heal while taking damage in the lava (the highest damage tile in the game).
Once back in the village, I obtain the Red Jewel and forgo purchasing the Life Stock in the shop for 150 Gold. Route-wise, purchasing the one in Massan first will save having to revisit there later on in the game. This route change is a huge time saver of well over a minute! Due to the sequence break, Gumi also will only have to be visited once more to speak with the dog (Bell) to access Helga's Dungeon.
Massan (2) to Kado's House to Ryuma
After purchasing Life Stock #12 (206 Gold) and obtaining #13 in the tribe leader's hut, I have no further need to revisit here. Looks like the chicken has regained his sanity!
After receiving the Magic Sword from Kado, I immediately equip it and the Fireproof Boots. Menu-wise, the game is quirky in that you can't access both the item and the equipment screen at the same time. Once you open one, you have to exit out and reenter to open the other. Therefore, I get the equipment change out the way immediately before heading off (for those who have watched my other TASes, it's also my personal style).
After the run-in with Kayla and her goons, a little time is saved by jumping onto the very edge of the dock next to the raft. This activates the cut-scene a tad earlier and saves a couple of frames, as I head out towards the hideout.
One of the immediate advantages of a 100% is the sheer attack power Nigel obtains due to accumulating Life Stock. The two trap rooms in the beginning (with the Blue Slimes and Orcs) are quickly handled. From this point forward actually, no other "monster trap" rooms will take very long to complete due to Nigel's increasingly high attack.
Much later on in the puzzle room containing access to Life Stock #17, the turquoise boulder that drops down can be redirected by Nigel as long as he is faced backward to it. Otherwise, it ricochets back toward the ladder. Clever programming.
After obtaining the first Key (giving access to the boss, at the top), completing the long pit room with the floating rafts was challenging in figuring out how to reach the rising platform in time. Even after taking advantage of the momentum speed boosts on the rafts, I ended up having no wiggle room (not even a frame!) and just barely made it onto the platform. THAT is an example of tool-assisted timing!
This was a short, yet slightly tricky dungeon to figure out; due mostly to managing lag and optimizing 'Ghost hops'.
Ghosts (and other undead) have a unique damage property in that they can "drain" you of HP, instead of outright attacking you. If Nigel approaches them at the right time, he'll walk right through them as his invulnerability timer activates and he begins to take damage. From a speed running standpoint, this has an obvious advantage of not suffering knockback and also not having to jump once more on top of the particular foe. I use these 'Ghost hops' in two instances by manipulating two of them to come into contact with each other. Isolated, they will not do anything except pursue Nigel. If two or more are grouped together though, they will hop high up into the air. From a speed running standpoint, they are a great, low-risk way to sequence break past rooms and other puzzles.
The twisting path room before the boss lagged heavy at points, due to the number of ghosts clustered on-screen. The best way I found to minimize this was to herd them into groups and kill them off in pairs. Once the Ghost Generator produced more, I hopped off one as soon as I could to reduce lag down further (this also allowed me to skip climbing a stair).
There are a lot of things to do in this big town, which are broken up into different segments throughout the course of the run. To start things off, I head directly to the elderly lady's house to help her organize her jar collection, on the top floor, three consecutive times. This causes Life Stock #21 to appear once the task is completely finished.
(and if you'll notice, the last jar only has to touch the tile in order for it to count. She doesn't seem to mind that I save time by breaking it :p)
Heading to her house first is also quicker due to it being located just down the street from the Castle entrance. The guardsman on the right must be spoken to in order to continue the story and open dialogue at Madame Yard's. I also go ahead and walk around to open the conspicuous locked door around back by the moat. Normally, you don't have access to an extra key until a bit later on when you're ready to head toward Green Maze. Activating the switch inside this room now also saves time by allowing an earlier jump towards the girl that appears near where the fountain statue was, shorty after visiting Madam Yard's "ballet" studio.
Once allowed access inside Castle Mercator, you have to go speak with Arthur and one of the maids blocking the exit door in the kitchen in order to activate the grand banquet event. Like the prologue in the beginning, this is a rather lengthy segment that can't be skipped (although the piano score was very nicely done for it's time). The morning afterward, I head to Greenpea's to
hose him down win some money. I chose to go here at this point due to a villager offering to split his winnings if I invest 100 Gold with him. As for Greenpea himself, he will only allow you to win the 400 Gold prize four times before forbidding you to play again. This is a very quick way to accumulate 1400 Gold (minus 4x50 Gold in entrance fees), while also obtaining Life Stock #23.
This is one of my favorite parts of the game, and a nicely done concept for its time. In order to cross the moat and reach the final room, you have to solve 8 individual riddles; some of which were real brain-twisters back in the day, before the Internet and video play-throughs. I can even recall my Mom being impressed with the game here, while my friends and I would strive to figure out the puzzles!
Anyhow, all but two of them are quickly solved (since I know the solutions, and all). Crypt riddle #2 requires Nigel to "not make a sound", either by jumping or slashing, or leaving the platform and hitting the floor. I take the opportunity to really play around here and have fun until the riddle timer expires (I time it just before I touch the ground). I also took the time to construct a sequence for entertainment value at the last riddle cell, which simply requires that you don't open any treasure chests for 16 seconds (960 frames). I turned it into a 'trial of temptation' for Nigel, being a treasure hunter, and how he must struggle with his inner desires and resist the urge to open the treasures. I also timed Nigel's exit to coincide with the exact frame the riddle timer expires.
The 'ball of fire' room before the boss is also timer-based. The fireball will only touch the locked door and "solve" the riddle after a certain amount of time passes. After about 9 1/2 seconds, it can be manipulated to shoot toward the door. I chose to take damage into the boss room since it glitches the flames into a more purplish color as Nigel is thrust in. The Mummy boss's sprite is an illusion, as its real hitbox is about three tiles NE of it. By intentionally striking the walls, I can cancel the sword strike animation and attack again sooner, saving some more time.
Back in town, I head out into the port to take the back exit toward Mir's Tower. Before doing so, I head into the wholesaler's den to order the merchandise for the variety shop next door to Greenpea's. ...It'll be quite a while before I end up saving the money to purchase them, though.
While not quite as riddle-intensive, this part of the game proved to have quite a few short-cuts waiting to be discovered!
In the room with the 4 Mimics, I came across some very good RNG and obtained a Statue of Gaia item drop (1 in 128 odds). Obtaining needed items from monsters instead of opening chests saves about 100 frames, each time. I'll need two of them for later points further in the game. On the way back up after obtaining some Garlic, I also damage hop off a Mimic to save having to scale an extra step up the stairway.
After picking up Life Stock #26, I head into the next room and drop down next the edge of a pit containing a Mummy. Since he's an undead, I walk close enough so that he'll start to drain my HP, which activates Nigel's invulnerability timer. This allows a quicker sequence break across the pit and to the ladder leading above.
You'll notice that, after I obtain the first key in the trap room with the three spiked boulders, I manage to hop off the first two without taking damage. As explained in the 'Tricks' section, I don't quite know the reason why the game allows this. All I do know is that, through trial and error by jumping at certain frames, I simply found a sequence that "worked" in here. I wasn't able get a free hop off the third one, but a damage boost provided the same needed result, instead.
The last power of the tower climb starts to contain more of the recent skips uncovered. In the teleport room with the four Mummies (sound effects reminiscent of Shining Force, anyone?), I use one as a makeshift taxi and ride it over the previously inaccessible stairs. In the next room with the four Cyclops, I defeat the last one in mid-air, which prevents the forced event of "mannequin" Milo turning tail and fleeing upward. Finally, it only took five shots to fell wizard-man Mir. Not too many foes put up much of a fight in this run.
Mercator (2) to Catacombs
Along the way back, I obtain Life Stock #29 by knocking a Forest Orc into the hidden switch obscured by the landscape (which activates the barely visible platform which allows access to the chest).
Yep. The Duke was playing us the whole time! Mercator's Catacombs is another short dungeon populated with a few challenging obstacles (mostly standard stuff, at this point). Once out of the dungeon portion, Nigel must scale up to the top of the tower that Lara is held in; defeating separate waves of the Duke's Knights whom are blocking each floor. I uncovered a gate hop on the 3rd floor by guiding the lone Knight up the stairwell with me with sword strikes and RNG manipulation. Afterward, I give the last two Knight 'the slip' as I simply stun and maneuver by them.
After Zak skips town with Lara, you must head back and help Arthur get out of a jam with an slightly tougher White Knight. However, you don't actually have to defeat the Knight to advance; simply knocking him outta the way and speaking with Arthur will activate "cut the armour" event up the stairs.
Despite the advertised 30-40% off, I spend a pretty penny at the Mercator General Shop buying the Steel Breast (480 Gold) and the Silver Bell (750 Gold; indicates when a Life Stock is nearby). This is the earliest point in the game when the Silver Bell is offered, which is why I wait until now to purchase it along with the armor.
Green Maze (3)
Just on the outskirts of Green Maze, Life Stock #32 is revealed upon defeating the 2 Reapers, which randomly teleport on and off-screen. Walking into the trees for 15 frames was the quickest way I could get both of them to appear next to each other, as the adjacent pathway is too narrow for Nigel to attack, otherwise.
Green Maze was relatively easy to TAS, due to me becoming more familiar with the game engine and being able to use rewind on BizHawk to spot-correct small mistakes. Kayla & the Gang make their final known appearance in the game (apparently becoming permanently lost in the well maintained shrubbery of Green Maze...). If you watch closely, I jump just after their dialogue to reveal that they are actually walking into the trees on their way out :p
(First-time viewers might not quite realize this, but sooooo much frustration was skipped by TASing Green Maze. This was the scorn and ire of many gamers, way back when, in trying to figure this leafy labyrinth out!)
Gumi (4) to Helga's Dungeon
After obtaining the Sun Stone, the remaining portion of the outskirts of Green Maze is explored to access a shortcut leading back to the very beginning, to Gumi Village. With Einstein's Whistle in possession, Bell can now be spoken to in order to activate the side quest of Helga's Dungeon. The inexpensive Life Stock (150 Gold) is now finally obtained at the shop, also. With the Mountain Dungeon out the way as well, this will be the last time Gumi will have to be backtracked to.
Along the way to Helga's witch hut, there's a certain platforming puzzle which requires the use of a jar (set off to the side) in order to solve. I lightly budge into the moving platforms in order to time them just right for my trek across.
Whoa, doggy! Wait a sec, who's a doggy? Helga's Dungeon actually contains some of the game's more challenging puzzles (especially the second and third ones, when attempting in real-time). As a kid, I actually quit this dungeon at one point out of sheer frustration. TAS-wise though, it's more like a casual stroll while walking your dog ;) After all is said and done, Life Stock #39 and the Saturn Stone are obtained (doubles magic blade recharge rate) before journeying onward.
Other Side of the Island!
Enjoy the new overworld BGM! Upon departure, I take the moment to equip the Steel Breast and Saturn Stone (I'll need the higher defense power to survive the next dungeon). This half of the game goes by significantly faster, as there's only three major dungeons to explore between now and reaching King Nole's labyrinth.
Due to having an extra Key, a large portion of the mine is skipped due to avoiding having to fight an additional 'mini-boss', on the other side of the dungeon near the (currently blocked) exit way to Destel. This is the primary benefit of sequence breaking all the way back at the beginning in the Waterfall Shrine.
I came up with a clever time-saving solution in the giant wall room with the 5 Forest Orcs and scattered jars. Normally, you need to gather up all five jars and stack them up, like a stairway, to reach the top of the room and proceed further. I envisioned how to perform a creative shortcut by using one of the Orcs as a makeshift base for stacking a fewer number of jars. To my pleasant surprise I discovered that, if a monster tries to jump with an object set on top of it and is obstructed, it will continuously "stutter" in place as it fails to execute its programmed command! (I hope that explanation made sense. If not, watching the run will bring clarity to what I'm attempting to state). This little glitch allows me the time to collect the remaining jars and stack them on top of the Orc without him running off.
Obtaining the Fireproof Boots early on pays off here in the sub-level of the mine with all of the lava. With Nigel's already low HP, I can safely obtain Life Stock #43 and the Chrome Breast without having to obtain medicinal items to heal, while navigating through. Even with the Steel Breast, lava tiles can damage around 6 HP, each time. At the very least otherwise, I would have to obtain a Dahl (restores all HP) and access the menu screen to heal.
Before leaving the mine, I need to spend a little time money-grinding in order to get a few Life Stock purchases, coming up, out of the way. 6573 frames were spent grinding in one of the quickest rooms to obtain money at, at this point in the game. 3 White Knights (7 Gold, each) and 2 Forest Orcs (4 Gold, each), with a combined 29 Gold each, were farmed in 21 cycles. This actually was the most will-testing part of the run for me, as much RNG manipulation was needed--each cycle--to both move the monsters where I needed them to be at, and to kill them off in the least amount of strikes.
Overworld to Destel Ancient Well
Between now and after the Lake Shrine, a TON of Life Stocks will be picked up along the way. #44 and #45 are added barely four seconds apart from one another, before purchasing #46 (450 Gold) at Verla's item shop. Before leaving town, the newly uncovered Thunder Sword and upgraded Chrome Breast are also equipped onto Nigel.
47-53 are obtained in short order, as well, with Kelketo Waterfall's (300 G) and Kindly's (600) picked up in succession due to money grinding earlier in the mine (a significant route savings over the RTA 100%). Once down inside the well, #54-57 are also conveniently located close by (the pace really picks up in the latter half of the game).
The Hammer Smith boss has an interesting damage pattern, in that he can be continually struck up until he's backed against a wall. After knocking down his HP by about half, he becomes vulnerable again during the middle of his second jump. After rinse 'n repeating this pattern, Nigel finishes him off from behind and collects the Healing Boots as they drop down from the ceiling.
Overworld to Lake Shrine
During the journey there, two good RNG rolls occurred in succession as I obtained an Eke Eke and another Statue of Gaia from consecutive foes (the Eke Eke will be used a bit later during the return trip to Kazalt Cave). Over in the next screen, I damage boost off a Specter to obtain a normally out-of-reach Life Stock to go along with the other one over on the other hill. (unfortunately, due to the Sacred Trees blocking access, I can't sequence break any further)
Along with King Nole's Labyrinth, many sequence breaks and other short cuts were used to reduce completion of the Lake Shrine down close to half of what it took in the current 100% RTA. One of the major skips begins on B3F, where a ghost hop in the two-way trap room takes me right back to the starting point. This allows a much quicker exploration of the sub-4th floor, in which I obtain three more Life Stocks, a Key, and the Shell Breast armor. Afterward, I head across to the other side and take one more Key and the Sword of Ice. The major benefit of this weapon is the tornado projectile it emits on a full charge, allowing for even quicker monster defeats than before.
After retracing my steps back to B4F, I utilize another set of ghost hops to scale the iron gate and access the switch leading to the last Key and another Life Stock. Normally after activation in this room, you have to work you way back around to the other part of it due to a blocking Taurus Golem statue on Nigel's immediate right as he enters. However, you can rather ingeniously scale over this statue as soon as you reenter again by using another gate hop. Once in the next room above, you can, once more, use a Golem statue to gate hop again and into the room the Life Stock and Key.
Finally, one more sequence break is used at the end, in the room with the falling spiked boulders, to access the boss room with Duke Mercator. This allows me to stockpile two additional Keys for use in King Nole's upcoming labyrinth. As for the "duel"...well, let's just say the Duke doesn't put up much of a fight!
Mercator (3) to Mountainous Area
Now equipped with the means to chop down the Sacred Trees, Nigel returns to Mercator to complete another side-quest: Fahl's Dojo. For 20 Golds, you can challenge this martial arts master as he systematically transforms into every encountered monster in the game to attack you (save for a few). Your HP is reduced down to 1 at the beginning of this gauntlet challenge and, if struck just once, you lose and have to start over. In addition to having to survive six consecutive waves (in which he'll offer increasing amounts of Gold to get you to quit), the old man is also a dirty cheat! Specifically, if you're in attack range and defeat one of his forms, he'll sometimes counter-attack you while the game restricts your input, causing an instant loss.
As a result, I don't feel too bad in "tipping the odds" in my favor in this TAS. As soon as the gauntlet begins, I work my way over 5 frames to the left and about 56 frames toward him, to where you're just slightly off-center from him. This allows me to continually strike him while he's unable to tag me back with a cheap counter-attack. As a result, changeling Fahl submits in record time, giving up the valuable Pawn Ticket as a prize! What this item does is convert your current HPs (not max HPs) into 10 Gold each, leaving you down to 1 HP in return. With my high HP and the Healing Boots equipped to recover, I cash in this item at 'Greedlys' near the Lake Shrine to purchase the last store-bought Life Stock for a whopping 900 Gold. With a couple hundred golds left over, using this item saves a bunch of time over having to do additional money grinding.
Sadly though, it's a one-time use item. So it's best to use it near the end when your HP total is at its highest.
Once back at the Mountainous Area, I oblige Draconian Zak's challenge to a duel. To save even more time in this fight, I bait him into following me toward the exit where I stun-lock him with consecutive strikes and force his submission. He hands me 'Gola's Eye' as a parting gift before he takes off the fly home. Before returning back to where this crazy adventure started, I explore the remaining caves scattered along the mountains to obtain two remaining Life Stocks and the Moon Stone (lowers odds of being afflicted with mind-altering status aliments; a.k.a. not useful in this run).
Pathway to Kazalt (2)
Say...these elite-level monsters weren't here before! As Nigel makes his way back to where he was prior, I also steadily chop down his HP enough to activate the 'Hovering Friday' skip in the teleport room with the Duke. Once in the hallway with the 'Temple of Doom' boulder now safely plugging up the hole, I manipulate the Grey Mushroom to poison me as I also knock Nigel back into the now unlocked room. I take another damage-boost in the room with the Lizardmen as I enter the odd hallway that was partially obscured in the beginning of the game. The Taurus Golems here cause big time lag and are extremely durable, to boot. Therefore, I hug the left side of the steps leading up in order to prevent the Golems on the right side from coming to life.
In the next Golem statue room, lag is also a big issue to workaround as I need to reduce my HP down to 2 before entering the teleport room. Having the Healing Boots equipped makes things considerably more complicated as the healing step-counter is also in effect, in addition to the 'poisoned' status. That's why I have to walk an extra 45 or so frames before gate-hopping into the room (it's far faster than opening the menu, un-equipping the boots, and then re-equipping them immediately after).
Here's where the craziness happens! If you notice, I entered the teleport room from the right-side entry point in order to die a certain way, chasing the Duke. This is necessary, as entering from the left-side causes Nigel to bite the dust too early and messes up the trick. After Lara becomes overjoyed with being saved by "her prince", Friday revives Nigel and temporarily interrupts the event. Full control is temporarily regained after the brief catfight between Lara and Friday commences. From here, Nigel has a brief time window to reach the teleporter before Moralis and the maid assistant appears and reaches Lara. After successfully reaching the teleporter, Friday remains in her 'hovering' state above Nigel until another event involving her appearance occurs (either a cut-scene or reviving Nigel again).
HOWEVER, one extra step needs to be completed here in order to move forward in the 100%--which I found out the hard-way while working on the WIP. You see, technically, the game doesn't flag this cut-scene "completed" until Moralis finishes his dialogue (urging Nigel to visit Maple once he's done with his adventure) and disappears from the screen. The teleporter to Mercator WILL NOT appear unless this part is completed! As stated, I found this out the hard way after I had a complete WIP of the labyrinth completed only to be dumbfounded at finding out that I had no access back to Mercator to finish the 100%! Anyhow, while going back to this scene and experimenting some more, I uncovered that it's possible to bring up Moralis' exit dialogue earlier (and, thus, skip Lara's dialogue entirely) if you block his scripted walking path a little with Nigel. The accompanying maid's path must also be blocked as well, or you'll end up triggering Lara's dialogue.
Once executed, Moralis will momentarily pace around and then give his finishing dialogue, before leaving for the exit. Additionally though, if you slightly block his path again, he'll immediately turn left and vanish into thin air once he hits the screen boundary, allowing the event flag to be completed much earlier!
Kazalt to King Nole's Labyrinth
Combed through as it was intended, the labyrinth is a very large, intricate maze that can easily take players upwards of an hour to conquer. Even the 100% RTA spent 24 minutes getting all of the items needed to advance. With tool-assisted precision, and some slightly better planning and route changes, the TAS completion time was reduced down to almost half of this amount, at around 12 1/2 minutes.
Here's a summarized play-by-play of the route: Immediately after I enter, I manipulate a Casino Ticket drop from one of the Purple Slimes. This extremely rare item has a drop rate of 1 in 512 (it took about as long as you can imagine to generate it!). Aside from this rare drop, Casino Tickets can only be obtained by Arthur back at Mercator Castle (where you can access a small casino inside the town well). Getting the quick drop here saved well over 30 seconds over the RTA by going back and getting one at the Castle. Afterward, I also improve on the RTA route by taking the east path toward the Sword of Gaia. This path naturally takes me to where I need to head next, without having to backtrack or optimize another 'monster trap' room.
Once charged, the Sword of Gaia produces the same, time-consuming visual effect as if using a Statue of Gaia, which is why Nigel remains equipped with the Sword of Ice. Once the exit for this path is taken, I'm back where I need to be as I head eastward again to pick up the Lantern. As described, this item lights up the 'dark zones' scattered throughout the labyrinth. I thought about using it as a speed/entertainment tradeoff to light up all of the rooms. However, it only brightens one room at a time, which makes justification for using it so many times a bit flimsy.
Back on the main path, I gate hop over the first locked door (credit to Maanitou X for uncovering this one) via assistance from a Red Orc and Purple Specter. In addition to not having to access the menu, this also saved me from obtaining the first Key back in the forested area before getting the Sword of Gaia. The other two Keys I hoarded back from the Lake Shrine will also make the trek through far quicker. After getting two more Life Stocks, I head further down into the labyrinth proper and lay claim to a set of Iron Boots. The skip performed here (credit again to Maanitou X!) saved a solid 20+ seconds over the normal route. Gotta say though, that these boots are among the least useful accessory in the game, as they were intended to be used back in the beginning towards getting the Sword of Gaia (which isn't hard at all to perform in real-time, at this point in the game).
I'm especially proud of the solution made in the puzzle room hiding Life Stock #77. After considerable testing, it occurred to me that, if situated just the right way, there were enough moveable objects available to create a makeshift stairway that could reach the exit path quicker.
After a bit more puzzle solving, most of the maze is now opened up to engage in the boss rush, and obtain the three 'Gola accessories' (Nail, Horn, and Fang, respectively) needed for the final palace. If anyone has seen real-time playthroughs, the Fire Efreet is a special kind of frustration to deal with. To compliment its high HP, the entity also quickly jumps from pit to pit, flinging waves of fireballs at Nigel while remaining elusive to counter strikes. He also can only be hit with one attack at a time, before he jumps around again into a random pit. Careful RNG manipulation made this battle far more manageable, while even appearing a bit trivial in how easy it made it look! Basically, after striking the lava djinn, its next destination point can be manipulated by jumping or ending your walking animation on a certain frame. The trial and error took a bit of a time investment to figure out, but the results were well worth it with a finish time of just 459 frames (barely under 7 1/2 seconds) on a notoriously difficult boss!
After getting the Venus Stone (triples sword recharge rate), another Life Stock and the Snow Spikes are gathered in order to navigate across the special ice tiles scattered at certain choice spots in the maze. Also, some backtracking is now needed in order to receive a special set of Logs (Nigel is a pretty buff elf to be carrying all of this stuff around...). Boss #2, Spinner, has an uninterruptible counter-attack animation that occurs of you're too lined up in front of him. After every strike therefore, I subtly move Nigel over 1 frame in order to get him to adjust his position, also. Once backed against a wall, a few more consecutive hits takes him out before he can respond with anything else. After Gola's Fang is ransacked, the partially obscured Hyper Breast and one final Key is obtained before heading forth to finish the labyrinth.
In the last 'dark zone', doppelganger Milo makes a surprise return cameo and challenges Nigel to a rematch. He probably should've remain retired as this second bout wasn't much different from the first (he did last a tad bit longer, though). The final Gola accessory is obtained as we...finally make it...to King Nole's Palace!
King Nole's Palace (1) to Mercator (4)
Before adventuring further, I need to grind up to 2300 Gold in order to purchase those unique items all the way back at the specialty store in Mercator. Fortunately, this area has the best spot in the game for grinding, just two rooms over. 7x Elite Mimics neatly lined up @ 12 Gold a pop makes this segment go by remarkably fast, as I need just 17 cycles in order in generate the needed amount.
One final quick visit to Mercator town in order to purchase the Death Statue (produces a random good or bad effect on Nigel), Oracle Stone (records the total % of rooms visited in the game), Shortcake (Friday will either reward or punish you for this, depending on her mood!), and Spell Book (no known obvious effects...). Aside from the Death Statue, the other items were originally more adult-oriented in the JPN version.
Whelp, that's it for everyplace else. Time to finish the TAS!
King Nole's Palace (2)
The final, final area is remarkably much shorter than the one prior; although as a trade-off, it contained some of the most challenging platforming aspects and puzzles in the entire game...
King Nole has a rather noteworthy AI behavior in that, when he materializes, Nigel will only be able to strike him anywhere from 1-5 consecutive times before he disappears again. After a couple of test runs, I experimented with this and luck manipulated his attack pattern to the point where I defeated him in just three cycles of 5x hits. Afterward, Duke Mercator only appears if Nigel is within a certain threshold near the top of the screen; therefore, I landed the killing shot as close to this threshold as I could (I needed to walk just 6 frames toward it).
...This also allowed me to sneak in a first-strike toward Gola as soon as he completes his grand entrance. Gola has a near-constant timer in between attacks, and usually won't pause to breath fire, provided Nigel remains on the run. I strove to make this last battle a bit more epic by adding the dramatics in Nigel's movements (they cost no extra time to do). Anyway, due to Nigel's massively high attack power, the great dragon is felled in just seven strikes, ending this grand adventure and four-month long project!
^ And as you can prominently see above, there's another encode here that contains an alternate ending where Nigel defeats Gola and also dies at the last hit. It cost about 10 extra frames or so to do.
Which ending do you guys and gals prefer?
- In the Crypt within the 3rd riddle room, it is not necessary to read the plaque in the center part of the cell (this particular riddle is active as soon as you enter). Around 210 frames (3 1/2 seconds) can be saved, otherwise, by simply completing the puzzle as soon as you enter (credit to Dilandau).
- In Green Maze, there were two parts (around frames 236065 and 243850) where I was too focused on creating symmetry and overlooked that Nigel could cut a corner sooner and reach the end point a little earlier. In total, these two errors cost about 32 frames (1/2 second).
- In the Destel Well, there are two trap rooms near the end which each contain a Key. Although I saved considerable time by using the ambushing monsters to gate hop out, this clever skip by Maanitou I overlooked shows that you can actually jump completely over the tiles which activate the traps, entirely! In total, 240 frames (4 seconds) can be saved by utilizing these skips, instead (credit to Maanitou X).
Hey, look at this way: Whoever decides to someday improve this run already holds an 8 second advantage :p (...good luck dealing with the RNG, though.)
- Not sure if it's possible to hop up n' over here at the blocked road between Mercator and Verla (the programmers might have sealed it off, entirely). If there is a way though, you'd have to get Nigel above an object height of at least 7 in order to pull it off. This might come in handy for an any% TAS.
- Similarly, at least a solid 35+ seconds could be saved in the Lake Shrine if there was a way to gate hop in the room with the four Purple Skeletons (just outside the room bordering the Sword of Ice). Even after manipulating one skeleton to stack on another and jump-slash me, it still wasn't enough to get me over...
- Finally, and this might just be a result of faulty memory, but I seem to distinctly recall playing on console, many years back, and being able to remove a Sacred Tree near Mir's Tower without having Axe Magic. As I recall, I believe I was striking at an enemy near one of the trees when it suddenly disappeared after slaying the foe. Again, I have no further evidence of this aside from a nagging memory I seem to have; but it may be worth someone testing out.
I'd like to give a special shout-out to the following for helping me out with this project. The run definitely would not have been the same without them!
The Real-time Runners
His 100% RTA run is the primary basis I used for the TAS, referring to it time and time again throughout (I've probably given that video almost half of its views!). Without his run, I would've just about been at a loss at how to accurately route the 100%. At the very least, it would've taken much longer to figure out, otherwise.
So Kanon, if you ever happen to read this: Merci beaucoup! :)
YouTube and Twitch channels.
Also holds the current RTA any% (JPN) and 'statueless' (JPN) category WRs.
While browsing over at the SDA thread, I was introduced to members of the real-time speed running community for Landstaker. In particular, RatFunk helped me out right away by pointing out the more subtle screen transition trick which I wasn't using, in the early WIP stages of the run. He also directed me towards Maanitou's channel, which contained many of the TAS-related tricks I was coming across (including a few I didn't find!). The 'Hovering Friday' trick was also included in the TAS, thanks to him and Maanitou.
In terms of uncovering most of the TAS-related tricks in Landstalker, Maanitou had them figured out long before I did! A choice number on his channel blew me away; including some crucial time savers in the final dungeons. If any new tricks are to be discovered in this game down the road, I wouldn't be surprised if Maanitou would be the one to find them!
After joining the forum, Taloof regularly gave me motivating feedback and encouragement after I'd release a new WIP. In particular, his ネバーギブアップ pep talk took me out of a temporary slump towards the end of the project. I still appreciate that one, good sir!
As with the other RTA runners, I appreciated the feedback and encouragement Vayarda gave throughout the last leg of making the WIPs. It was a blast having everyone around to cheer the project on!
A fellow member of 'Mission: InTASible™' (with me and Alyosha), Samsara provided the submission encode(s) for me so viewers would be able to immediately see the full run upon submission to the Workbench. For someone like me who isn't too tech-savvy in this area, it is greatly appreciated!
Nifboy, MaTo, MattyXB
They haven't been around in years, but these three started the Landstalker thread about 9 1/2 years back, and inspired me to put the work in to finally having a quality Landstalker run on TASVideos.
If someone ever runs into these three, tell them that "THE RUN HAS BEEN MADE" :D
Other Noteworthy Contributors
NicoNico TASer 'ニコ' (Niko)
His any% TAS (parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5) initially provided a solid framework on what a tool-assisted run would look like. It's since become outdated, as an any% TAS done today could, quite possibly, knock the completion time down past the sub-1 hour mark...
This GameFAQs contributor's bestiary guide proved very useful in revealing monster gold amounts, item drops, and RNG probability of obtaining said items.
edit: I've decided this would be the best one (the chickens helped in more ways than one!).
Truncated: It has been nice following the making of this movie. A long time ago it was thought that Landstalker would not make for an interesting run, due to length and lack of tricks. It feels good to have that proven wrong with all the jumping on enemies and over locked gates and occasional sequence breaks going on here. I think the definition of 100% is sound. Accepting for Moons category.