Submission #5322: Lord Tom's NES The Legend of Zelda "Swordless Challenge" in 24:39.71

Console Nintendo Entertainment System Emulator FCEUX 2.2.2
Game Version USA PRG0 Frame Count 88929
ROM Filename Legend_of_Zelda,_The_(U)_(PRG0)_[!].nes Frame Rate 60.0988138974405
Branch Swordless Challenge Rerecord Count 1807
Unknown Authors Lord Tom
Game The Legend of Zelda
Submitted by Lord Tom on 12/14/2016 1:24:14 AM

Submission Comments
This movie improves the published "Swordless Challenge" movie by Baxter by 2056 frames (34.3s) using a very different route (watch first if you want to be surprised) and some additional optimization to battles and resource management. I used the same restrictions as Baxter's movie:
  1. Sword not collected until Link has all 8 Triforce pieces
  2. Sword only used on Ganon
Press the CC button to see my comments throughout the movie.
I made the key discovery for this improvement before I even started recording the Any % movie. I knew right away it could be a pretty big time savings, but had to wait a few months to find out just how much. Not knowing where the extra keys would come from was a big source of uncertainty. Since key opportunities are spread throughout the levels I did a lot of testing to really nail down the route's details before I started recording.

The Route

  • Old: Secret(30,100),Reset,Candle60,3,Reset,Ladder,Save,1,Arrow80,6,Reset,Bush100,8,2,Meat100,5,Reset,4,7,Reset,Sword,Reset,9
  • New: 2,Reset,Money(150),3,Ladder,Save,1,Meat100,Arrow80,Bracelet,6,Reset,Bracelet->5,Reset,4,7(RedCandle),Reset,8,Reset,Sword,Reset,9
Because the route is so different, it's easiest to compare times on a level-by-level basis. There were actually several seconds worth of improvements to battles, etc in the Underworld, but it's overall slower due to getting 2 extra keys and the Red Candle.
Level 161206041-79No bomb refill on Wooden Boomerang screen
Level 241004603503Detour to get bombs
Level 362396400161Detour toward Raft getting 2 Keys vs 1 Key
Level 4a3573360229Bad enemy placement & movement luck
Level 4b46164609-7General awesomeness, probably somewhere
Level 577747651-123Wand strats, faster Darknut fight, 1 extra Key
Level 685978368-229Faster fights & more efficient bomb refills
Level 780818567486Faster fights & refills, but added Red Candle
Level 8410941145Bad luck manipulating fewer fireballs in 1st Darknut room
Level 91398813890-98Faster fights & more boosts
Overworld2378821084-2704No initial detour for Rupees, no Blue Candle
Underworld6719767845648Extra key collection, Red Candle
Acquiring an item that lets Link damage enemies is the first big challenge for any swordless route. Prior TASs have focused on getting freely available rupees and buying either bombs or the blue candle. This TAS saves most of its time by getting bombs in Level 2, making use of an otherwise off-route room where a bomb shows up WITHOUT having to kill the room's enemies. As far as I can tell, this is the only such room in the first quest that is accessible without any other items.
This approach saves a lot of time because we have to complete Level 2 anyway, whereas prior TASs forays to grab rupees served no other purpose and were followed by resets. Fortunately, it's possible to use those 4 bombs to get more and complete the level.
Level 2 doesn't have any major items we need (apart from that bomb!), but completing it first changes the best level order for the rest of the route (prior TASs went from L8 to L2 to L5). I tested many route variations, including an "early-wand" variant that would visit Level 6 twice (instead of Level 4). Since there's no need to complete L8 before getting the Whistle in Level 5, we can save L8 for last after getting the Red Candle in L7. Grabbing the Power Bracelet saves about a second getting to Level 5.
Like other LoZ TASs, a huge facet of optimal gameplay involves manipulating where enemies move and choosing which enemies are killed, how, and when to manipulate item drops. There's lots of info on these topics in the submission comments for Baxter and Morrison's 2nd Quest TAS and my 1st Quest Any % TAS.


The wrinkle with getting bombs from Level 2 is that getting to the bomb room requires walking past 3 keys that would otherwise be on-route, due to having no weapon to kill enemies with.
1 key is simple -- the room with the Moldorms (fire worms) is revisited on the way to the boss. The other 2 keys need to be replaced elsewhere in the run, along with the 2 extra keys a swordless route needs anyway (compared to any%) to get the wand, for 4 extra keys total. Figuring out where to get these keys most efficiently was a major factor in planning the route -- due to the screen transition time, taking even a one-room detour to grab a single key can take 9-12 seconds!
Fortunately, I found 2 keys that can be scraped up while visiting the same number of rooms as the previous TAS. A different route to the raft in Level 3 nets 2 keys with a 1-room detour; the prior swordless TASs also took a 1-room detour but for only 1 extra key. I get the second extra key by clearing a mummies room in Level 5 that is on the route but wasn't cleared in prior TASs as the layout (large central island with a river around it) makes it very challenging to clear with bombs. Swapping to the wand after grabbing the Whistle lets me clear the room with only about a 3s delay -- much cheaper time-wise than using the Level 1 entrance trick (6s) or the detour-requiring Level 3 keys (5s apiece).
I did test whether the skipped keys in Level 2 would make it faster to get the Magic Key in Level 8. It was close in early testing, but as I found strats to get the extra keys more quickly it became clear the Magic Key would be several seconds slower.

Wand Double-Hit

With the sword, it is not possible to simultaneously hit an enemy with the sword itself and (at full life) the beam-sword projectile; the projectile shows up one frame after the sword itself stops doing damage. With the wand, however, there's a 1-frame overlap between the wand and its projectile. This can be useful both to reduce the number of enemy-invulnerability periods and to kill Vires (hopping bat creatures) for items rather than split them into bats.
In this TAS, I use the technique to kill the Level 5 Digdogger in 2 hits (vs 4), several mummies in Level 5, some Blue Goriyas and Aquamentus (2 hits vs 3) in Level 7. Unfortunately, the technique only works for enemies damaged by the wand projectile, so it doesn't help for the longer Gleeok or Patra fights.

Walking Glitch

The same glitch that enables Link to walk onto blocks and wrap around the overworld screen has 2 other fairly obscure uses worth noting.
Link always walks on 8x8 pixel gridlines. When taking damage, the boost must also be along these gridlines. If Link takes damage at the intersection of gridlines, he can boost in either direction -- either up/down or left/right. If he's off the intersection, any boost can only be up/down or left/right. If Link's getting an undesirable boost direction due to being on/near an intersection, the walking glitch can sometimes be used to shift his position to get the desired boost.
The Walking glitch doesn't work to embed Link all the way into doors or the outer walls of the dungeon, but he can embed himself one pixel. For some rooms with doors this can save 2 frames on the room transition, though for bombed walls it can actually lose time by shifting Link's position away from the target room.
In Level 9, I saved 15+ frames on the Patra before the old man room by using the walking glitch to get safely past the mini-Patras and into the doorway 1 frame faster. The 1 frame is enough to be enable getting into the next room without taking damage (2 full hearts, as in published TAS) or waiting for the next opening.


  • Baxter - I'm a big fan of his movies and the published TAS is no exception. There were several occasions in both this run and the Any % where I worked to complete a room without looking at the published strat, found my time was 20+ frames slower and inwardly shouted "BAAAXXXTTTEEEERRRR!!!!" a la Star Trek II.
  • jprofit22 - Did the first TAS in this category, which I also went over carefully.
  • jkoper (and co. from SDQ 2015) - I'd already found the bombs in Level 2 when I watched his video, but the in-depth discussion of strats was helpful trying to make sure I wasn't missing anything.
  • lackattack24 - For a WR video in this category that also had some interesting strats.

Comparison to the Current Any % TAS

With this submission, the time difference between Any % and Swordless versions comes down to about 2:22. If anyone's curious, here's a comparison table showing where the big time changes are:
LevelAny %SwordlessDifference(frames)Comments
Level 156746041367Level re-entered to save a Key
Level 238824603721Detour to get bombs
Level 358476400553Detour toward Raft getting 2 Keys
Level 4709382111118Level re-entered to kill boss
Level 572087651443Extra Key, 2 extra item swaps
Level 6606783682301Detour for Wand
Level 7756685671001Detour for Red Candle, extra item swaps
Level 845464114-432Wand faster than Wooden Sword on boss
Level 9138581389032Patra faster with Wand; most other fights slower
Total80386889298543Not using sword ;)

Masterjun: Judging.
Masterjun: This movie features a complete change of the route, allowing for new strategies and requiring new planning. Now this is what I call optimization! Accepting to Moons as an improvement to the previous run.
Spikestuff: Looking for THIS! ()==[:::::::::::::>

Last Edited by natt on 3/18/2022 3:47 PM
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