Rockman & Forte: Mirai Kara no Chousensha "Rockman" in 17:19.61 by Noxxa
In this Mega Man spin-off game of a spin-off game exclusive to the Japan-only WonderSwan, Mega Man or Bass duke it out against an air conditioner, a stove, a bullet, a Buddhist monk, a pair of watches, a compass, and finally against yet another incarnation of Mega Man from the future.
- Emulator used: BizHawk 1.11.6
- Aims for fastest time
- Any% (Rockman is the fastest character)
- Takes damage to save time
- Manipulates luck
About the game
Rockman & Forte: Mirai Kara no Chousensha (unofficial translation: Mega Man & Bass: Challenger of the Future) is a sequel to the Super Famicom title Rockman & Forte (official translation: Mega Man & Bass), which itself was known in development as Mega Man 8.5. Therefore, you can think of this game as Mega Man 8.75. It was released in 1999 exclusively for the Bandai WonderSwan, and therefore only hit the stores in Japan.
The game was developed by Layup Co., Ltd and published by Bandai, instead of by Capcom itself. Because of this, the game has several oddball quirks - the set of Robot Masters is more obscure than ever ("What's a Komuso?"), Dr. Wily plays no in-game role at all, the stage enemies more closely resemble Mechaniloids from the X series, shots can pass through screen transitions, weapons do not get refilled between stages at all, bosses have differing amounts of hit points, there are no boss refights, boss patterns are almost all completely fixed and they tend to get temporarily invincible a lot, boss weaknesses are not a thing as each weapon does set damage, there are only six or seven Robot Masters (depending on how you count the Clock Men), only four of which can be fought in a varying order, and Compas Man does not give any weapon at all.
Like the last time Capcom outsourced development for a handheld Mega Man game, the game involves time travel and one of the chief villains is a version of Mega Man from the future (called Rockman Shadow, or R-Shadow in short, this time around). This time around, R-Shadow and his band of misfit robots (calling themselves the "Dimensions") come from the future to ransack a city until Mega Man or Bass kill the lot. (No really, that's literally why R-Shadow went back in time according to the plot).
Before Mega Man or Bass go after R-Shadow, they need to face off against his six-and-a-half Dimensions first. Their names are Aircon Man, Konro Man, Dangan Man, Komuso Man, Clock Men (sic) and Compas Man (sic). After an intro stage, featuring the Grey Devil (which is just the Green Devil from Mega Man & Bass, but now in a greyscale handheld system), the first four of these bosses can be fought in any order. Following them, the Clock Men await, then Compas Man after that, then R-Shadow himself after that. That is just eight stages in total, fairly short for a Mega Man game.
As with Mega Man & Bass, the player can pick between Mega Man or Bass at the start of the game. And as with that game, Mega Man's advantages include having a slide to reach low areas and a charged shot to defeat tough enemies better, while Bass has a dash, a double jump to reach high areas and a weaker multi-directional shot to defeat annoyingly placed enemies better. The weapons that they get from defeating bosses are also different, but only half the time.
 Now that we've figured out that Rockman and Forte are called Mega Man and Bass in English, I'll use their English names from this point on
About the run
This run starts at the character choice. In this game, Mega Man is by far the better character for speedrun-related tasks. The main reason for this is that Bass' buster does half the damage Mega Man's does, and cannot charge up. This makes him extremely slow against boss battles, especially when considering that the bosses in this game have a lot of hit points, and that they, as mentioned before, tend to get invincible a lot. Because of this, Bass loses around a literal full minute in the intro stage alone. So, Mega Man it is.
Regarding routing, the first Dimension is an easy choice - Aircon Man. His Barrier Wind deals 10 points of damage to every boss and miniboss, can do two hits on stationary targets, and even more hits on enemies moving parallel to it and enemies next to walls. This makes it the weapon of choice against every boss other than Compas Man, and against most minibosses. In fact, I do not even use other weapons than Barrier Wind and the default Mega Buster until Compas Man's stage (the seventh stage in out of eight!).
Since Barrier Wind is the only relevant weapon at the routing stage, the rest of the route ends up barely mattering. Konro Man is done next, Dangan Man next (allowing a nice opportunity to refill Barrier Wind ammo from the ammo-costly Konro Man stage), and Komuso Man after that (another Barrier Wind-heavy stage). Clock Men, Compas Man and R-Shadow follow suit as per the game's predetermined order.
Tricks and notes
(Note: I say "Mega Man" here for convenience, but anything that doesn't depend on character-specific abilities will apply for both characters).
- Framerate notice: as this is a WonderSwan game, the game is actually just over 75 FPS, as opposed to the ~60 FPS of most other systems.
- Subpixel notes: The game maintains positions and velocities as 16ths of pixels. However, vertical subpixels are not conserved on landing, and almost all horizontal motion is in full pixel units (exception: moving platforms), so there is not a lot of subpixel movement or optimization.
- Horizontal motion notes: Walking and jumping go at 1 pixel/frame. Sliding goes at 2px/f. Slides last 25 frames and can be jump-cancelled but are otherwise not cancelable.
- Vertical motion notes: Initial jump velocity is just under 3 (47/16) px/f, and decreases by 2/16 px/f every frame. At the apex of a jump, velocity is set to 2/16 px/f and then accelerates by 2/16 px/f every frame. Terminal downwards velocity is 2 px/f. Ladder climbing goes both up and down at 1 px/f.
- Bosses and minibosses have 16 frames of invincibility after getting hit.
- Bosses and minibosses have varying hit points, from 56 (Grey Devil) to 120 (Aircon Man and R-Shadow). Miniboss hit points vary between 56 (Konro Man miniboss) and 96 (Clock Men miniboss).
- Every small bar on a boss life bar corresponds to 2 hit points.
- Weapons have set damage. For standard weapons, the Forte Buster does 1 damage, Mega Buster does 2 damage, and the charged Mega Buster does 8 damage.
- For special weapons, the Barrier Wind/Forte Cyclone does 10 damage per hit, Flame Shower/Flame Mixer does 4 damage per hit, Rockn Vulcan/Forte Vulcan does 8 damage per hit, and Doppel Crash does 10 damage per hit. Bass' Doppler Attack does 4 damage per hit.
- The Mega Buster takes 90 frames to charge.
- Mega Man's Doppel Crash takes 30 frames to charge. Mega Man cannot move while charging if he is on the ground (and not sliding). He can keep moving as long as he is in mid-air, however.
- For the Mega Buster, three shots can be on screen at once (charged or not). For the Bass Buster, four shots can be on screen at once. For all special weapons, only one shot can be on screen at once.
- Switching weapons takes around 160 frames, depending on how many frames it takes to select a certain weapon.
The RNG in this game runs once per frame. Other than that, it is completely unmanipulatable. This means that whenever I need a positive drop (such as a large weapon refill), I basically need to hope that I can kill an enemy on a certain frame where they will drop said refill. I usually have enough chances at drops or enough wiggle room that this works out, but in some tight cases I need to give up a few frames.
There is relatively little randomness in this game. The RNG only comes into play for item drops, and for a small few boss actions (for example, the spread of the bones of the R-Shadow miniboss). Almost all bosses have completely fixed patterns otherwise. R-Shadow has a varying pattern, but it depends on his hit points and on Mega Man's position, not on RNG.
Instant ladder climb
There is an odd trick involving climbing ladders, where if Mega Man stays at the top of a ladder (as high as possible without going up it) and waits for a certain amount of frames, pressing up will lift Mega Man up immediately, skipping the usual ladder-climb animation. This saves 5-10 frames on each ladder, depending on the delay required. The delay can be between 1 and 8 frames, depending on how many frames Mega Man has climbed the ladder for. For many ladders it was an interesting challenge to find the right number of frames to spend on the ladder, so that I could go up the ladder with only 1 frame of delay, or otherwise get up the ladder as soon as possible overall.
Instant ladder drop
Entering a ladder from the top from a certain state at the right positioning will cause Mega Man to immediately drop downwards by ~32 pixels. This can be done either by ending a slide or dash on top of the ladder (which requires very convenient timing), or more commonly by jumping on top of the ladder. This is used anywhere Mega Man needs to drop down a ladder.
Screen transition shooting
Unlike practically every other Mega Man game, enemies and projectiles are persistent and keep on moving whenever Mega Man goes through a screen transition. This means it is sometimes possible to kill enemies before Mega Man is even in the room yet, and it allows Mega Man to fire a few opening shots at a boss or mini-boss before the battle actually starts.
Note that when a boss is hit before his life bar is initialized, its hit points are already set, so it's not possible to quick-kill a boss like Mega Man 7. However, it will decrease the boss' hit points. If more than 8 points of damage are dealt, it will in fact reduce the maximum length of the lifebar when it is generated (and does so for every 8 points of damage). This gives the illusion that a charged shot does no damage, but it actually still does.
It should be noted that this does not work for every boss, as some bosses such as Grey Devil, Konro Man or Komuso Man, start out invincible during the boss introduction. It also does not work with every weapon, as for instance Barrier Wind gets stuck into the boss corridor ceiling instead. In practice, this is only done with the Mega Buster.
Opening up the menu screen will remove all of Mega Man's weapons from the screen, regardless of whether he changes weapon or not. This is useful to get more hits in with weapons such as Barrier Wind, which sometimes may spend a lot of time floating around or stuck in a wall without hitting anything, so you can call another one faster. This is used extensively in RTAs of this game, but in a TAS setting, it is usually slower than just letting the projectile dissipate as soon as possible normally. It is only used in the R-Shadow fight, where it helps with manipulating R-Shadow's next attack pattern (which depends on his damage level).
No ontological inertia
In this game, every projectile is bound to its owner. If its owner ceases to exist, so does the projectile. This is used many times, for example with Metools which are destroyed as soon as possible so their projectile does not get in the way.
- Sliding through a water current is equally fast to jumping over it. Sliding through water suffers less from pushback compared to bunny-hopping, so it's sometimes the faster option, and sometimes it's tied.
- Grey Devil has 56 hit points. It is intangible during boss startup, so it is not possible to hit it during the screen transition.
- Grey Devil is only vulnerable during a certain animation frame (when its eye pokes out). Its animation is slow enough that it is possible to hit it twice per animation frame, and the frame appears twice per round of his pattern, so it is possible to hit it 4 times each round.
- Full name: Air Conditioner Man. Does not exactly sound threatening, but there you go.
- This is the only stage to use the WonderSwan's feature to be playable vertically. For the duration of the stage (but not the boss battle), the screen is vertical instead of horizontal.
- This is a pretty fun and diverse stage with some interesting gimmicks. There's a fair bit of strategy put in almost every room.
- The miniboss in this stage has 80 hit points.
- Aircon Man has 120 hit points. The boss battle (especially the latter half of it) also took a lot of testing with different strategies. In the end, three charge shots in the final phase of the battle turned out to be most efficient.
- By defeating Aircon Man, Mega Man gets the Barrier Wind. It fires a slow-moving but powerful projectile that moves in a wavy pattern and can stick into walls. You will see this being used a lot in the remaining stages.
- For those of you wondering what a Konro is: it is a stove.
- The miniboss in this stage has 56 hit points. I soften it up with a charged Mega Buster shot first, then defeat it with two quite precisely placed Barrier Winds.
- Barrier Wind (from Aircon Man) is really good, but it's also quite slow and there can only be one on screen at once, which makes it annoying to use in stages. (The few short pauses required sometimes are still faster than switching back and forth to another weapon, though).
- Konro Man has 104 hit points. Konro Man is a typical example of a boss that spends a fair bit of time being invincible, but then when it does get vulnerable, it goes down quickly. Konro Man stands so close to the wall that even when the Barrier Wind is wedged inside the wall, it still continues to damage him. This allows me to keep damaging him practically constantly despite the slow fire rate of Barrier Wind.
- Defeating Konro Man gives Mega Man the Flame Shower. By holding the fire button, Mega Man lets out a stream of fireballs from his arm (like Fire Wave from Mega Man X), but if he lets go of the button or jumps, the fireballs will fly straight up. This is reasonably good at damaging (mini)bosses, especially high-placed ones, but the damage is too low to make use of it for a TAS, so it goes unused.
- "Dangan" translates to bullet. Bullet Man.
- The miniboss in this stage has 64 hit points. It was a large pain. Its pattern is simple - it fires three slow homing shots, which can be destroyed, and when all three shots on are destroyed it will hop across the room (mostly invincible) and fire three more shots - but those shots would get in the way a lot, and I wouldn't be able to conveniently get rid of them because it screws up the pattern, or I wouldn't be able to touch them period if I was charging up a charge shot. I tried a lot of different strategies, but couldn't get any working ones with more than two charge shots, and having the miniboss hop once.
- Dangan Man has 80 hit points. With screen transition shots from the Mega Buster, I bring this down to 70 before the fight starts. This allows me to kill him with one less Barrier Wind hit. I use one fairly precise Barrier Wind shot to hit him 4 times, and then he is easily cleaned up with another shot.
- Defeating Dangan Man gives Mega Man the Rockn Vulcan (sic). It fires three bullets, with one arcing upwards and one arcing downwards. Each shot is as powerful as a charged Mega Buster, which makes it useful, but the lack of any other benefit over that means it only sees use in the final stage. Against most (mini)bosses, it takes too long to fire another shot after the first one, as all three bullets have to leave the screen first.
- You're probably looking at this boss and wondering "What the heck is a Komuso?" Here is the answer: it is a type of ancient Zen Buddhist monk. Yes, they decided to model a Robot Master after that.
- To go with that point of trivia, this stage has Tengu Man's music from Mega Man & Bass, although a sky world music like that sounds completely out of place for this stage.
- The miniboss in this stage has 64 hit points. It is possible to defeat it quickly with Barrier Wind, but for that you have to hit the outer upper/lower edges of the miniboss, as straight hits will bounce right off.
- Komuso Man has 112 hit points. Komuso Man's boss fight is one of the most ridiculously designed ones in any classic Mega Man game. He's only vulnerable at all when he stands in the corner of the stage while spawning clones, and is invincible at all other times. And it's not possible to jump over him or his clones, so I'm essentially forced to take damage a few times.
- Komuso's weapon is the Doppel Crash, a very unique weapon. By holding B, Mega Man will stand still and strike a pose while charging. After charging for 30 frames, you can let go of the button and Mega Man will charge forward invincibly, like the Break Dash of Mega Man V but less useful. It does as much damage as Barrier Wind though. It sees its use near the end of Compas Man's stage, first to get past an invincible enemy, and then for the boss battle itself.
- Yes, Clock Men. There are two of them. And they actually look more like watches.
- The miniboss in this stage has 96 hit points. Like Dangan Man, I use a precise Barrier Wind to take off a good chunk of damage for the first hit. Then I just sort of keep plowing Barrier Winds in until it dies.
- The Clock Men have a shared life bar with 112 hit points. They both can take damage separately at the same time, which is used to defeat them faster.
- The Clock Men give the Time Switch when destroyed. It does no damage, but freezes all enemies for around three seconds, and can be used four times. While enemies are frozen, they also won't damage you. This is a quite useful weapon, and would save time in a number of areas, and was considered for this purpose, but it never quite saves enough time to make up for the two weapon switches needed to make use of it.
Compas Man (sic)
- Yes, the game really does call him "Compas Man".
- The miniboss in this stage has 80 hit points. After doing various tests with the Mega Buster, Rockn Vulcan and Barrier Wind, in the end it turned out to be fastest to use the Mega Buster for the start, and then use Barrier Wind for the last 4 hits.
- Compas Man has 96 hit points. Compas Man has a very tricky hitbox, as his only vulnerable part is the little orb on his lower body. Every other part of his body makes shots bounce off. This, combined with his pattern of walking around the stage, makes Barrier Wind very impractical to use. Instead, Doppel Crash from Komuso Man is used instead, which appears like it was made for this bossfight. With precise positioning, it's possible to get three hits with one Doppel Crash, and Doppel Crash can chain into itself rather well, which means that Compas Man's hit points still go down rather fast. Near the end, I jump over Compas Man in order to get another three-hit Doppel Crash to the left; if I used Doppel Crash to the right to pass through him instead, it would send me far away to the right and I would lose time having to catch up back to Compas Man. This method turned out faster by a few dozen frames.
- Compas Man does not give a weapon at all! What a rip-off.
- This stage was a massive pain overall. I've had to redo it several times because of various different possible strategies regarding weapon usage. In the end, the fastest route turned out to be Rockn Vulcan all the way until the miniboss, switch to Barrier Wind midway through the miniboss battle, and stick with it through the end. Other strategies tried included using the Mega Buster for the first half, and using Time Switch for the last few rooms before the boss fight, but those strategies ended up being only marginally slower.
- What also made this stage a pain was the miniboss, which was hard to devise an optimal strategy for (and then I kept finding improvements), and the latter half of the stage, where I ran into Barrier Wind ammo troubles.
- The miniboss in this stage has 80 hit points. This miniboss is the reason I use Rockn Vulcan in this stage; it is the only weapon that I can get a few quick hits in with. Charged Mega Buster shots can't hit it while it is down, and the downtime of charging shots turned out to be too great. Barrier Wind was almost out of the option entirely, as it tends to bounce off the miniboss' invincible skull. However, I found out that with some incredibly precise positioning and timing (depending on pixel-perfect x position, y position, the right motion for the miniboss, and the right animation frame for the miniboss, as its animation causes its hitbox and invincible box to both bob up and down), it is possible to get a double hit on the miniboss with a Barrier Wind, and doing so three times after hitting it with 3 Vulcans first turned out to be the fastest way to defeat it.
- I run into some tricky RNG issues near the end of the level, as I need to get a large weapon refill for Barrier Wind, and there are barely any opportunities to get an weapon refill here (or in the previous stage, for that matter). In the end, I manage to get a large refill from the very last enemy in the game, using my last Barrier Wind ammo, giving me just enough to defeat R-Shadow with.
- R-Shadow has 120 hit points. His boss pattern is to do one of a few things, and what he does depends on his current hit points. He starts by jumping forward and shooting a laser, and then jumps back. This jump back is very convenient, as it allows me to get a Barrier Wind out that hits him six times, cutting out a lot of his hit points quickly. By getting his hit points down to below 25% before he decides his next attack, I get him to teleport into the same corner of the room he already was, which allows me to easily finish him off with Barrier Wind. At the start of the battle, I use a pause trick; this is normally slower, but was essential to get him to do this move in the end, instead of a Sakugarne-based move during which I wouldn't be able to get multiple hits in with Barrier Wind. And so, R-Shadow faces defeat rather quickly.
- Why is Bass in the end cut scene? Where has he been all game? And to sum this final scene up: R-Shadow dies. Mega Man angsts over having killed himself (again). The end.
And what about Bass?
I'm currently not planning to make a Bass ("Forte") run. He is not that distinct from Mega Man, other than a few double jump shortcuts in some stages, and that the intro stage - especially the boss battle - will be much slower. I have thought up a strategy of fixing his boss battle problems by getting the Bass Super Buster upgrade (which doubles Bass's buster damage, bringing it equal to Mega Man's, although still without a charge shot) in the shop after the intro stage. This, however, requires getting 20 big Bolt drops in the intro stage, from the 19 enemies in the stage, and with a none-too-friendly RNG system. Even though this will take quite some time, it still would save dozens of seconds in Aircon Man's stage. But with the RNG annoyances the game has, I don't feel that it is worth the frustration. After Aircon Man's stage, the run would also be mostly identical to the Mega Man run. The Forte Cyclone from Aircon Man functions the same as Mega Man's version, so bosses are practically all beaten the same way anyway. The only difference is that Bass' double jump would allow for minor time-savers throughout the stage, and he wouldn't have charged shots for some of the minibosses.
Thanks to wuqinglong for his real-time record (as far as I could tell) of this game at 24:12.83, which I used for lots of inspiration and research for strategies.
Thanks to those who commented on my WIPs on the forum (dekutony, CoolKirby) and everyone who listened to my occasional rambles about this game on IRC.
And thanks to you for reading this text and/or watching the run!
Screenshot suggestion: any ideas?
Samsara: Today's been a Wave of submissions, Man. Judging.
Mothrayas: Movie file updated with a 23-frame (0.30s) improvement.
Samsara: WSWAN TAS of the Year right here. Accepting to Moons.