Submission #5680: FatRatKnight, pirate_sephiroth, Exonym, keylie, lapogne36, Grincevent, Arcree, Tompa, Noxxa, Masterjun, Lord_Tom & ThunderAxe31's GBA Zook Man ZX4 in 20:31.36

Game Boy Advance
BizHawk 1.12.2
Zook Man ZX4 (Luke Ren ZX4) (Unlicensed, Chinese).gba
Submitted by ThunderAxe31 on 10/23/2017 1:26:11 PM
Submission Comments
Zook: "I'm sorry, Midoll. I have to save the frames."
Midoll: "Wait wha-*boom*"
Table of contents

About the run

This game was selected for Dream Team Contest #6, a TASing contest that was held from January 22nd 2017 to April 22nd 2017. There was an unprecedented huge amount of 44 players signing up, and surprisingly 8 of the 11 teams had complete runs when it was over, plus a group of 5 people outside as Secret Team.
FatRatKnight, main author of this movie, was part of the winning team, and ThunderAxe31, host of DTC6 and part of the Secret Team, carefully looked for improvements after FatRatKnight stopped looking, while all other co-authors did either help by providing glitches and strategies found during the contest, or by implementing improvements after.

Run objectives

  • Emulator used: BizHawk 1.12.2
  • Emulation core used: mGBA 5.2
  • Aims for shortest input
  • Entertains without sacrificing time

Target categories

  • Takes damage to save time
  • Heavy luck manipulation
  • Heavy glitch abuse
  • Final boss skip glitch
  • Unofficial game
  • Genre: Action
  • Genre: Platform

Movie development

Due to the nature of the game, the optimal stage order and the strategies were not obvious before gaining thorough game knowledge, resulting in very different approaches from every team, also due to the different tricks and glitches discovered by them. For this reason, making a new run from scratch was necessary.
After the contest, a few teams pooled their knowledge and turns out there were a few things that no team did, but the collective knowledge and analysis revealed these tricks. The most notable is that by combining Miniboss Skip and Door Lock Break, it is possible to skip many boss re-fights as well. Another interesting exploit was the result of researching on Charge Swap and Shot Counter Glitch, which allowed us to "create our own weapons".
The work was mostly looking for every team's best strategies and combining them. Author count is very high for this reason. Some of it was applying the new tricks, and a few bits are just straight optimization. Teams 4 & 3 were both very optimal, a single trick could have decided who won, and were well ahead of everyone else, so a lot of times we picked one of those two teams on a given segment. The resources of the other teams still had a bit of extra information to work with.

Cosmetic choices

There are many parts, especially in the earlier stages, in which it was possible to make arbitrary choices that don't result in any time sacrificies. We exploited these possibilities in order to make this run more pleasant to watch.
There are two kind of situations in which we improved entertainment: in the traveling throught the levels and in minibosses and bosses fights.
Every miniboss is placed around in the half of stages, and from the moment the fight starts, the relative miniboss theme music will persists until we reach the stage boss. Since the musics are the most appealing and original side of this game, for the first three stages we managed to avoid picking up item drops, in order to allow the watcher to enjoy them better.
However, while every stage (except the Intro) has a an unique background music, the 9 minibosses do reuse the same 4 music themes, making them less interesting. For this reason, during the second half of the stages we do the exact opposite, by trying to pick as many item drops as possible, in order to show off extra luck manipulation and kill as many enemies as possible while still maintaining enough ammo for beating the boss as fast as possible.
During the minibosses and bosses fights, we play around with Zook's movements and use as many different weapons as possible. For Whirlwind and Meteor Shower attacks, these are the only occasions in which they can be used without wasting any time, mostly due to heavy lag involving them.
Boss fights also uses the same musics.

Informative inputs

Beside play-around, there is another kind of inputs we left in the movie file that doesn't affect the speed. Actually, these input are not being read by the game at all: these function as a form of bookmarks that will serve as a TASing aid for future improvements.
Whenever we lose control of Zook, we press Start just before regaining control. This is a sync check, letting us immediately know if we wait too many frames. If a change in emulation happened, the pause screen will immediately let us know if the loading took fewer frames for some reason.
We also use the Select button. It has no purpose in game. It is used to mark "important" frames. Around bosses, it denotes when we inserted intentional delay, the moment camera begins scrolling, lag that happens before boss dialog, the first character in the dialog that showed up (frame rule check), and when the boss particles have all finally vanished.


About the game

Zook Man ZX4 is an action platformer bootleg by unlicensed developer Vast Fame from Taiwan, based loosely on Mega Man X series. Most graphics are taken from Mega Man X, X2, X3, and Mega Man & Bass, while some enemies come from previous Zook Hero titles by the same company. Most musics are remixes of songs found in Soul Falchion, although there are new original compositions made for the game.
Like for most Mega Man games, there are 8 main levels that can be accessed at chosen order, while there are as well an intro stage and a final stage that are accessed, respectively, firstly and lastly in the playthrough.
The main difference is that there isn't a final stage with a final boss, but rather a group of 8 mini-levels, each with a boss re-fight. Also, bosses don't have weakness to any weapon. The playability is very low due to many developing overlooks, while at the same time making the TASing much complex and challenging. The hitboxes are huge, the levels are narrow, the weapons are weird, and of course there are many glitches.

Past emulation issues

Ironically, even bootleg games themselves are subject to piracy. For this reason, many unlicensed game developers have implemented protections aganist ROM dumping. Zook Man ZX4 featured especially heavy protections, in both the hardware and software sides, that made it took many efforts to make it emulated. Also, the Chinese version cartridge is much more rare than the English one. For these reasons, the game was dumped and emulated only in June 26nd 2016, at least 10 years after the game was released.


These are the same from Mega Man X series: walk, jump, shoot, charge shot, walljump, and dash (instead of slide from regular Mega Man series). Note that the dash needs to be unlocked by getting the Leg Upgrade in Stage 7.
There are no subpixels in this game, and everything moves in whole pixels. There are three speeds at which Zook can move: 2 pixels for walking, 3 pixels for dash and Flame Dash, and -1 pixel when getting hurt.
Jumping and falling speed is not calculated with an acceleration, but just with a prewritten cycle that makes little sense: you rise faster when the jump is about to end (up 4/frame), rather than at the beginning (up 3/frame). Also, walljumping makes Zook rise much faster (up 6/frame) than regular jumps from floor.
Keeping B button for at least 60 frames charges for the next shot, which will be fired on button release. At first, only the Basic Buster can be charged, then after getting Arm Upgrade is possible to charge shots with all other weapons, and also double charge with Basic Buster. See other sections for more informations.
The Pause Menu is pretty much the same from Mega Man series. You can change weapon, use Health tanks and Ammo tanks, and quit stage from there. Note that you need Head Upgrade in order to quit.
There are only two items that can be stored and consumed at will: Health Tanks and Ammo Tanks. The first completely restores the player's health points and the second completely replenishes the current weapon's ammo.
Apart from these there are also item drops, which are consumed the moment are picked. These may drop from any enemies when they are killed, except minibosses and bosses:
  • Small Health Refill: restores 2 health points.
  • Medium Health Refill: restores 5 health points.
  • Health Tank: adds 1 Health Tank to the player stock.
  • Small Ammo Refill: replenishes 2 ammo for the current weapon.
  • Medium Ammo Refill: replenishes 5 ammo for the current weapon.
  • Ammo Tank: adds 1 Health Tank to the player stock.
  • Life: adds 1 extra life, up to a maximum of 9.


Every weapon, beside the Basic Buster, depletes one or more ammo when firing, and needs to be unlocked by defeating the relative boss in order to be used. Every weapon has a separate stock of 11 ammo maximum. These can be replenished by picking Ammo Drops, using Ammo Tanks, or by quitting the current stage. They won't get replenished between stages of the Boss Rush, differently from Health Points. Current weapon can be changed in Pause Menu, or by pressing L or R buttons.

Basic Buster

The only weapon with infinite ammo, deals 1 damage per hit. It's also the only weapon we can charge from the start of the game, which deals 2 damage. With the Arm Upgrade, it can charge twice for as much as 3 damage, that is the minimum damage dealt by other weapons. The basic shots are the only weapon projectile that can break blocks at range.
Differently from other weapons, you can change to other weapons while an uncharged shot is present, and this will mutate the shot in strange ways, giving it different hitboxes. This is used at times to hit enemies in difficult spots with the mutated hitboxes. Bullets will also get the ability to hit multiple enemies if we switch to laser, which can be useful sometimes. Lastly, there is a glitch with graphics allocation, and if we do these switches, it is possible to have a type of memory leak that may cause more lag. In extreme cases (we don't go this far), enemies and player bullets will start sharing the same graphics.


Deals 3 damage, with a main projectile and two smaller projectiles. Its charged shot does not fire a bullet, but rather sends Zook flying horizontaly at 3 pixels/frame for around 64 frames. The big reason to pick this thing up is for the flying 3 pixels/frame, which for some reason lets us do a mid-air jump after it finishes. No frame perfect trick here, just release the charge in mid-air, and after it's done, we can jump once any time. Critical for breaking the auto-scrollers of Stages 2 & 4.
The fact the charged flame attack also deals 5 damage is convenient for destroying enemies on the way for items, as no regular enemy has more than 5 HP.


Deals 4 damage with a shot that falls to the ground, then creates a column of damage. Charged shot is two of these, that shortly move as well, on both sides. This weapon wasn't really helpful, and we only pick it up after getting all the good stuff. If anything, having it will cost us time in Stage 5, because it's an extra weapon we have to scroll past, so it has the dubious status of being a weapon with negative value. By the way, the ability to hit a boss 2 times with a single use is still welcome for the Boss Rush stages.

Dirt Spike

Deals 4 damage with a spike that runs along the ground, or completely stationary if shot in the air. Its charged shot drops 10-damage huge meteors that can easily create lag, and it is rare to find situations where it doesn't at all. We pick it up later in the run. Nothing against a 4-damage uncharged projectile that keeps lag low, but just having it gets in the way of weapon select in Stage 5, so it's value is negative.


Deals 3 damage with two really slow shots. The charged shot gives a 6 HP barrier that, so long as it is visible, prevents us from shooting, switching weapons, or pausing. This would be a crippling disadvantage, but Charge Swap trick lets us get rid of the sprite and keep the barrier, letting us fight back with impunity. That makes it a cool "weapon" we pick up right after getting all the cooler weapons.


Deals 4 damage. The missile isn't fast. Its charged shot deals 6 damage, and basically acts the same. Its one advantage is that the charged shot is basically the only one that goes away when it hits something, mitigating lag. Shame its usefulness isn't up to par with all the good stuff.
Note that every missile shoot will generate a trail of smoke that won't disappear instantly after the missile hits something, and if you swap weapon these smoke sprites will turn into 0-damage bullets, which could make some problems.


Deals 3 damage with stars, and it shoots 3 in a spread pattern toward the facing direction. Only the upper star bullet is counted, so you regain the ability to change weapon after that one disappears.
Its charged shot deals 6 damage with a pair of pretty fast moving stars in some sideways 8 pattern. These stars can exist pretty far off-screen and is critical for the Boss Skip, but since there aren't any enemies we can use outside of the end stages, this weapon is left until after we pick up all the good stuff. Would be useful for two Miniboss Skips, but it's impossible to do Stage 6 before Stage 6, and Stage 1 has a rather vital weapon we need rather early.


Deals 4 damage, with an annoyingly long bounce around. As fun as it is to make it work, we can't do much other attacking while it's out, and we've got flame charges to do. Its charge shot fires a pair of 8-damage giant spikeballs that are excellent for taking down bosses, but this by itself isn't really a sufficiently good reason for going through Stage 7 as early as we did. The Leg Upgrade is primarily why we end up with this weapon early, but it also saves a small amount of time over just laser versus bosses.


Deals 4 damage and can hit multiple enemies, making it very useful. The charged shot is this mega laser that deals 10 damage and often hits minibosses twice. Lasts just slightly too short to double-hit bosses. The properties of the mega laser also frees our movement in cases where it really shouldn't be freed, which among other small time savers, also allows the Boss Skip to happen at all. It is also easy to trigger the Shot Counter Glitch with this weapon, by hitting an off-screen enemy with an uncharged shot.

Muzzle Flash

An insideous 0-damage hit that exists at point blank for 5 frames after shooting any weapon, and takes priority over any shot. Its hitbox size and position depends on what weapon you have selected, with it non-existent if the basic weapon is selected. It gains a hitbox with any other weapon selected.
If the intent is to deal damage, this thing gets in the way. However, it can break blocks, and if the intent was just to get an enemy into hit-stun, the muzzle flash works as well as any weapon. This also allows to break blocks with weapons other than the basic shot, by shooting them at point-blank range.

Part Upgrades

These are accessories that unlock special abilities when found, similar to those in the Mega Man X series. These can be obtained by entering some sort of capsules found in Stages 5, 6, 7, and 8.

Head Upgrade

Adds an option in the Pause Screen to allow you to leave a stage. We don't collect this upgrade.
You can pause at the same time as landing on the capsule, and despite the pause graphics not updating the icon, it is still selectable and will let you leave before the capsule animation. It can also be used to leave a miniboss fight, and the miniboss state will be preserved when entering the next stage, allowing for segment skips, although the set-ups are more costly than just doing the stages.

Body Upgrade

No effect. Did you seriously expect some Taiwanese knock-off to be fully functional? We don't collect this upgrade.
Many contenders of Dream Team Contest #6 have looked at this thing and couldn't find what it does, and months later, thanks to the new mGBA 0.6 that included debug features, confirmed that it has no function whatsoever.
In most Mega Man X series games, it does provide damage reduction, but in this game all damage sources deal one damage to our hero, so there isn't really any damage for this thing to reduce.

Leg Upgrade

Gives a ground dash. Double tap left or right to move 3 pixels per frame, 50% faster than walking normally. If dash ends due to its 40 frame timer running out or the player jumps, one frame of zero horizontal speed will slow us down. If the player dashes off the edge of a platform, this does not stop the player for a frame. Taking damage or using Flame Charge does not interrupt the dash, merely suspends it for the duration you lose control, and if you're over air after regaining control, you get one more frame of dash.
Shame the ground dash does not extend its momentum when jumping. Still, any flat terrain we traverse can make this upgrade useful. Because we need to double tap the direction, we're spending a few frames holding still, so it takes a few frames of dashing to make up for that wait.

Arm Upgrade

Basic buster gains a secondary, more powerful charge in 140 frames. Also, all other weapons can be charged in 60 frames, instead of being unable to charge at all.
Basically required for a few tricks we end up doing. Like skipping auto-scrollers, bosses, and doing much of anything stylish we've been doing.

Tricks and Glitches

The Game Resources page is generally supposed to be terse, to the point, and lists out what can be done. Here, as submission text, none of those expectations apply, and so I feel free to talk all day long on these things. As such, expect a worse signal-to-noise ratio.

Floor clips

Floors don't work. There are two versions: Ledge Clip, and Ghost Fall. The effects are similar, fall down places you shouldn't, but the excecutions are different.
Ledge Clip is done by falling toward a ledge while facing toward it, then once past it, face away from it. The game is looking at exactly one pixel to see if you land, and it's toward your back foot. This depends on the local terrain, but if there aren't any floor tiles below the ledge, you're going down.
Ghost Fall happens when your feet are below the camera edge. For one reason or another, this disables your vertical collision with terrain. This would be fatal, as terrain is the big thing stopping you from falling to the center of the world, but there's two ways to escape without having to die: Land on an object platform, or use Flame Charge and jump out. As it happens, every place we Ghost Fall, we have such escapes.

Ceiling clip

Ceilings don't work. Wall jumps insist on moving you upward in part of their ascent, even after hitting a ceiling. All we have to do is wall jump into ceilings, and provided our skull is thicker than the ceiling, we'll get through. Apparently our skulls are 3 tiles deep, since it is impossible to jump through 4 solid tile blocks.
In case the knowledge is important, the solid tile, the walljump tile, and the spikes tile all count as ceilings and will try to stop our ascent. The floor tiles, on the other side of the ceiling we're clipping through, do not count as ceilings, so all those platforms that look 4 tiles wide don't have the floors on the topside count, so we can go through those platforms.

Ladder Dash

Ladders don't work, at least in conjunction with the Leg Upgrade. We start the dash timer on the ground then grab on to the ladder and finish our dash on it, within the 20 frame timer. As a bonus, gravity doesn't work either, as we fly straight across horizontally, and can even jump out of the dash, or end it to begin falling sooner. We can't initiate a fall unless we can stop on an air tile, so solid tiles next to the ladder tiles means we still need to jump as normal if we need to fall.
If we're on the auto-climb portion of the ladder, it freezes the timer until the auto-climb ends, giving a little more time to initiate the dash if needed.

Charge Storage

Uncharging don't work. When the player loses control (commonly by taking damage), releasing B won't fire the weapon. When we press B on the frame we regain control, we fire a charged shot without losing our charge.
Note that we only keep the charge if we can fire normally in the situation -- Must have enough ammo for the uncharged shot, must not be in shot cooldown, and must not have existing projectiles that would stop us from firing. Nothing stops us from releasing the stored charge, even stacking multiple charged projectiles is fine, but storing a chain of these shots means we can't do said stacking. Also note that the weapon cooldown part prevents us from chaining a Flame Charge off another Flame Charge.

Charge Swap

Weapons don't work. We prove they don't work by charging a weapon, pausing the game on the same frame we release the charge, and selecting a new weapon before leaving the pause screen. This mixes the properties of the original projectile with the animation of the new weapon, the results being... Unusual.
In this run, it's only used for glitching the bubble barrier. Normally, the bubble barrier shouldn't hit anything, but that didn't work, as we've selected a new weapon and gave the barrier a hitbox. Once it hits something, it goes away. Some weapons have it go away on its own. It further proves its not the barrier itself doing the work anyway, as we continue to have 6 HP of ignoring enemy attacks, and we can shoot stuff as well, because having the barrier makes switching and shooting weapons not work.

Shot Counter Glitch

Weapons continue to fail working. The game counts how many player projectiles are out, to prevent things like pausing or weapon swaps when there are still any, but the game fails to count at times.
Possible triggers:
  • Flame Charge ends -- Sets counter to zero
  • Bubble Barrier ends -- Sets counter to zero
  • Laser hits too many things -- -1 per hit after hitting its 4th (?) enemy
  • Charged laser ends -- Sets counter to zero
It's easy enough to trigger this glitch by shooting a laser at an off-screen enemy -- They rapidly respawn out there. The rapid kills can generate lag, however. Another possibility opens up with the barrier, after we get rid of the barrier sprite, as we can simply have a projectile out when we lose the last barrier HP.
While negative, we can't switch weapons or pause, but we can fire. Getting it back up to zero in this fashion allows us to switch with existing projectiles. In some cases, the game will crash due to animation timers. Charging is also possible with existing projectiles, allowing us to fight a miniboss more efficiently.
But be aware to not get negative shot count while having Basic Buster selected, because it does not increase shot count when firing, resulting in being unable to swap and open menu until you die or end the stage.

(Mini)boss Skip

Minibosses and bosses don't work.
We need to lure an enemy that doesn't work and shoot it at the same moment the miniboss loads. The miniboss will realize it doesn't work and instantly explode, not because it took damage, but because some random enemy died. Only a miniboss should exist in the room, so obviously we destroyed one. Love the logic.
For bosses, we need an enemy to spawn by a door. This only happens during the end stages. We prove the door doesn't work by using a charged laser and freeing our control. After spawning an enemy by the door, they'll continue to exist as the boss prepares to talk. Shoot the random enemy, and the boss will just explode. Not because the random enemy died, but because the boss took damage while at 0 HP. Since the boss is the only one that should exist, obviously the boss took damage when we hit something. Logic is lovely.
The intro boss was smart enough not to keep a door that doesn't work. We can lure an enemy exactly like the usual Miniboss Skip.


Well, the intro has to be done first, and the last stage has to be done last. Beyond that, the remaining eight stages in between can be done in any order, leaving 40320 possible permutations, not counting leaving a stage halfway through.
All stages have a boss at the end which gives a weapon, and some stages have an upgrade as well. There are useful weapons, but before we can get any of them, we need to beat a boss. Which means we deplete 55 HP of a boss on 2 damage per hit, which just takes a long time.
Most weapons aren't too helpful without their charge, as they might save a tiny amount of time on getting past enemies. Body Upgrade is useless. Head upgrade is more costly than it's worth with currently known techniques, so that's out too. That leaves Stages 7 and 8 as our potential first choices.
Well, here's what 7 to 8 gets us:
  • Spikeball and Leg Upgrade first
  • Ground dash for most of Stage 8
  • Spikeball to attack next miniboss with 4 damage hits instead of 2
  • Charged spikeball for Stage 8 boss
Here's 8 to 7:
  • Laser and Arm Upgrade first
  • 3 damage hits, instead of 2, against our first boss
  • Small tricks: Break capsule lock, Extended Invincibility, Break door lock
  • Charged laser for Stage 7 boss
Bosses have a long invincibility time (96 frames per hit), so going from 28 hits to 19 is a huge amount of time by itself. The reason laser isn't an advantage against Stage 7 miniboss is because Miniboss Skip works there, nullifying the 10 damage advantage of charged lasers. Overall, the benefits of 8 first has proven larger than 7 first through testing these routes. The differences are also visible by summing up the best teams that took 7 to 8 and 8 to 7.
Stage 1 has the fire weapon, which when charged, gives an aerial dash that lets you jump in mid-air after it's done. A speedy 3 pixels/frame in air will save time, and also let us break the autoscrollers in Stages 2 & 4. The aerial mobility makes Stage 1 the clear choice to pick early, right after 7 and 8.
Finally, Stage 4 gives us the bubble weapon, which generates a barrier when we fire its charge. Normally, this barrier prevents us from attacking, but one Charge Swap later, and that drawback is gone, giving it much better use in the remaining stages. Thus our fourth stage is Stage 4, allowing us to pass through many enemies we have a hard time hitting.
The remaining stages don't really offer anything of value, and can be taken in just about any order we please. Actually, in one case, getting extra weapons is bad, because then we'd have to get past those weapons to select one we need. Stage 5 starts off needing an immediate Bubble Barrier, then immediately needing Flame Charge with zero break in between. Having weapons from Stages 2 or 3 (whirlwind or dirt) will get in the way, so Stage 5 next was chosen for that reason alone. 2 frames, but otherwise, the value of these weapons aren't even worth that much.
Finally, each stage has a table. Each stage is broken into segments, and a simple script can tell when these segments load. These numbers are gotten by using this script and comparing every team in DTC6 to what I've got.

Stage by stage comments

Stage 0 - Intro

Seg 0 2266 2267 2278 2271 2272 2275 2295 2295 2284 2277
Seg 1 (mB) 783 783 783 783 783 783 783 783 783 783
Seg 2 126 131 131 132 133 132 132 132 132 127
Seg 3 279 280 307 287 298 287 335 287 318 294
Seg 4 2216 1574 1578 1590 1586 1599 1592 1643 1605 1585Setting up the Boss Skip
Seg 5 163 1663 1661 1667 1666 1667 1665 1662 1664 1664Beauty of Boss Skip
Done 5833 6698 6738 6730 6738 6743 6802 6802 6786 6730
We sort of have to do the intro first. If we're able to escape the stage somehow, then we'd get to stage select immediately. Unless someone finds a magic way to spawn items with erroneous ID's, and summon up the head upgrade out of thin air, this probably won't happen.
Team 4's frame war begins here. They did a pretty good job, just a few frames here and there, but then after DTC6 we found we can skip the intro boss and save a bunch of seconds.

s0 Segment 0

Right segment. Team 4 base. Improvements here are razor thin.
All teams likely have spent a fairly significant amount of time on that first jump. It seems mathematically tailored to be out of reach, but only just. I can explain to you this entire paragraph is devoted on the subject of this one jump, the results are disappointing. We need position x376 to land there, yet jumping as late as we can and turning around to move the important pixel further, the best we've got is x374. We are exactly one frame of movement away from meeting it. Again, we are denied this one jump with mathematical precision. If you think you have better ideas than the collective from the Dream Team Contest #6, then you are free to try. A grand total of 6 frames are lost from this wall jump, 5 from the wall itself and 1 from the landing lag.
As for the rest of the segment, as our movement isn't complicated yet, we can simply count all the frames we do not travel 2 pixels to the right. Including the first wall jump, we have 57 frames worth of not moving right. 10 frames are lost to landing lag, 5 from the first wall jump of disappointment, 16 frames at first ladder, 7 frames at second ladder, 8 frames at wall jump after second ladder, and 11 from the final wall jump.
What's the harm in collecting a bunch of items in the meantime? May as well pile up on items we'll never use like lives, heart tanks, and ammo tanks. Well, okay. We do use a few ammo tanks in the run, but since we can't really do much else with these enemies, may as well show our luck without spending a single frame.

s0 Segment 1

Miniboss segment. Inspired by Secret Team. Well, the end of it. Rest of it is basically any team.
Minibosses have 25 HP, 60 frames of invincibility per hit, and annoys us with its time sink. 13 hits is the best we can get, it is trivial to slam the miniboss with charged shot the instant it loads, and charged shots need 61 frames to charge, 1 with B released and 60 frames of actual charging. The strategy is extremely straight-forward, every team without exception cleared it in 783 frames.
While the miniboss is dying, we touch it two times in order to abuse the invincibility time and avoid getting hurt by the spikes in the next segment, just in time. Strategy conceived by ThunderAxe31, for Secret Team run.
Miniboss Skip is possible. Problem is, while the skip itself is fast, the set-up takes far more time than the skip saves. Yes, the 13 hits take a while, but getting the skip ready takes more time than that.
The usual method is that we lure an enemy to the miniboss and shoot that. Problem is the only one who can fly all the way there is far enough away to take more than 720 frames, meaning the skip is possible, but takes longer to do than just blasting the miniboss.
The sneaky method feels clever, but ultimately is far too slow. By the time it's done, we could have already done Intro. Suicide the three starting spare lives. For your fourth, die to the miniboss. Start again, destroy the first enemy, and get to a specific position. The Segment Skip moves us to the miniboss segment, preserving our position. It's a special spot where the trigger for loading the next segment is, normally out of reach in the miniboss segment. So we instantly get to the segment after. Shame it involves dying no fewer than four times and getting a Game Over. .bk2 of the whole thing.

s0 Segment 2

Right segment. Team 4 base, small improvements.
This is the short trek between the miniboss and the spikes we crawl over. We've taken damage at the miniboss as late as we can, so that we can traverse the spikes damage free. Just enough invincibility time to make the trek, too. In fact, the timing is so sensitive we need the 2-frame rule to line up, this one affecting our invincibility time after taking damage. There are enemies below us as well, but we can avoid them, so no need to take damage on the spikes.

s0 Segment 3

Down segment. Team 4 base, somehow we fell a frame faster?
This is what Ghost Fall looks like. Because of our rightward position relative to the camera, we're able to fall to the bottom of the camera before triggering this segment. Since our feet are below the camera, terrain no longer stops us, which is good because we need to get down to the bottom quickly.
As luck would have it, while terrain can't stop us, and we don't have Flame Charge to save ourselves, there are object platforms we can stand on. Since they are not terrain, we can collide with these platforms, and actually stand on something. The alternative without this platform is we fall and die, so it's a good thing there's one to land on here.
We also travel to the left, because this is a time we can adjust the camera, moving it further right, and we can't move further right than the platform we need below. The camera is what determines when segments load, and ultimately we need it to reach the boss room. Or rather, with the Boss Skip, get an important enemy to load and going in the right direction sooner. This is just one example out of many where the camera is more important than the player's position.
After landing on the platform, the camera hasn't scrolled far enough down. We need to jump high enough so that our fall will then get enough scrolling done. Not too high, because then it takes too long to start the scrolling, and not too short, because then we wouldn't scroll enough. Just so happens there's a "Goldilocks" zone where things are just right for jump height. We leave the segment in screen position X 80.

s0 Segment 4

Right segment. Team 4 base, with a different strategy in the second half.
Ah, this one doesn't have a clear and obvious route through the big spikes pit. I recall going through a few iterations before Exonym or Pirate_Sephiroth figured out the platform above delays us less than traversing the spikes straight through. Landing lag is mitigated in a few ways ahead, one of which includes almost falling past an object platform, and snapping to its top. That "almost fall" isn't just entertainment -- The camera scrolling there meant it wouldn't scroll when we landed on the terrain up there, thereby saving us from the landing lag.
Eventually, we come to a stop in this segment. Today's excuse here is that we are waiting for an enemy, which is why we're slower than other teams. Blame the boss's big mouth and thick skull. At least doing things this way lets us avoid his speech and chipping through 11 hits at 96 frames invincibility per hit. In the meantime, uh... We're lazy so far. I hope this changes.

s0 Segment 5

Boss segment. It is unique from any team.
We just sort of jump up a wall, shoot something off-screen, then the boss is so impressed he just exploded. I accept. I thought the optimal hit pattern was 5-5-1 between invincibility attacks, when it was just plain ol' 1 the entire time.
This is the Boss Skip. Actually, a simpler version because there's no door. This particular skip worked because boss rooms do not clear enemies from the screen, normally that's the door's job. Without the door, we can lure an enemy to the boss. Game does not handle this well.
Reaching the boss segment sets the game into Boss Mode. Striking an enemy hitbox in Boss Mode will do damage to a special boss HP stat. Boss hitbox is disabled during dialog, so we can't sneak a shot at him. Normal enemies don't disable their own hitbox, so we can hit them. Oh, we're in Boss Mode, and we hit something? Deplete boss HP. The sneaky bit here is that boss HP is not loaded until after dialog, so I just damaged his 0 HP, which terminates the boss.
Unlike later Boss Skips, we're frozen in place until we beam out. We tried delaying entry to the boss by a few frames, so the kill happens exactly on the same frame, but we either get the skip or don't, and either way, we're still frozen.
Would have said the boss was so impressed he literally exploded, but most people would assume I'm using a rather mutated meaning of 'literally' these days. I mean the firm, definitely not figuratively in any way, shape, or form, 'literally' that people knew it as it was back in the day, when 'literally' was real 'literally', not the fake 'literally' today. Why did I rant all this just now?

Stage 8 - City

Notice: A few teams did not take this stage first (marked with !!). They went to Stage 7 first and got the Leg Upgrade and spikeball, which lets them clear this stage faster. Their times will not be highlighted on any instance they are faster. The Secret Team (ST) went to Stage 1 first, but at least they don't have the Leg Upgrade, so their times are more easily compared.
New# T4 T3 T7 T5 STT6 !!T11 !!T2 !!T1 !!Excuses
Seg 0 681 681 682 687 683 686 555 560 568 556
Seg 1 228 228 228 260 253 247 232 236 254 228
Seg 2 803 803 814 834 836 802 631 657 687 647Secret Team wields fire
Seg 3 150 165 169 162 560 164 163 427 426 437
Seg 4 132 121 121 133 131 133 103 96 91 93Took ladder (-15 Seg3, +12 Seg4)
Seg 5 (mB) 790 790 790 790 790 550 430 430 455 551
Seg 6 122 122 122 122 122 122 88 88 88 94
Seg 7 656 661 671 674 975 687 665 655 668 897Arm Upgrade here
Seg 8 131 131 133 132 141 92 117 116 137 105ST is now on fire
Seg 9 891 900 901 913 1009 459 797 765 803 799ST is able to do flame clips
Seg 10 386 386 394 386 404 336 345 323 365 314Triggered segment early
Seg 11 246 246 246 248 268 290 239 271 256 271
Seg 12 2553 2555 2743 2717 2772 1819 1652 1660 2063 1650
Done 7769 7789 8014 8058 8944 6387 6017 6284 6861 6642
We get laser and Arm Upgrade here. Important this is first because we slay our first boss much more quickly with the Arm Upgrade immediately. We don't have much of anything to attack the stage with, though.
Team 4 has frame warred this stage really well. We've saved 20 frames over them.

s8 Segment 0

Right segment. Team 4's run.
Without complicated dash stuff, there isn't really much to do. There aren't even a lot of enemies in the way, so there isn't much to do with handling them either. Team 4 beats Team 3 because they found a spot to avoid landing lag, making sure to land at the end of the platform.

s8 Segment 1

Up segment. Team 4's run.
The first of our ceiling clips. This one is trivial because it is only one tile thick. Well, two, but floor tiles don't count as ceiling. We'll be bashing our heads through more ceilings, and many of them are much thicker, don't worry.
Note that wall jumps move us upward at 6 pixels/frame, and normal jumps or ladder jumps move us at 1 pixel the first frame, 3 for the next several, and 4 for the remainder. As much as I'd like to wall jump more at the ladders, the game has solid tiles by ladders, rather than walljump tiles, and so my only course of action is to use the slower ladder to ascend.
Team 4 carries on the extreme standard in that we simply can't improve on their early stages in many places. Then again, at least it isn't just Team 4 who got the fastest known route, two other teams managed to copy the time. we're merely copying the time once more.

s8 Segment 2

Right segment. Team 4's run.
Oh, this is a fun one. No landing lag on our first jump around the first enemy here, camera won't scroll with us that low. Jumping up on top of the ladder ahead is actually just a bit out of reach of a full jump, but we press Down to climb on the ladder. This lets us grab on to the ladder from a much higher position than Up, as the game is looking at our feet instead of our head for a ladder tile.
Jumping around the green guy is another tricky part. We have to damage him, as part of his ouch animation disables his hitbox. The precise timing enables our hitbox to clip just past his hitbox corner, and we're past his head without taking damage. He's got 5 HP, and it ain't easy knocking that down swiftly, but our last bullet is enough and we can end our jump sooner, falling past where he once stood and landing early enough to avoid slowing down.
That was the precise part. The rest is just jumping across the remaining platforms. Not much we can about the remaining enemies, they sort of also have 5 HP each. Note that we can't kill 5 HP in less than 3 hits for the moment, and between hits #1 and #3, we're moving over 80 pixels. We do destroy one more enemy, but that one was in a decidedly optimal position to be attacked, it still had 5 HP to start.

s8 Segment 3

Down segment. Team 7 inspired this improvement.
Normally, we would take a Z path, going to the right and climbing down past some obstacles. Turns out, there's a ledge we can clip past instead. We travel far enough right to trigger this segment, turn around, and fall past the spikes. This is the Ledge Clip, something you'll see more of when floors become inconvenient like now. Essentially, the important landing pixel moves 8 pixels depending on where you're facing, and the game doesn't extend the spikes under the floor, so after falling a bit, we turn around and sneak the important pixel under the floor.
Team 4 took another Ledge Clip to the right, but was slowed down due to taking damage. Team 7 took the ladder, but did not get a head bonk against a solid tile by the ladder. We take the ladder, get the headbonk, and overall is just slightly faster than the floor clip over to the right. We have to headbonk on a solid tile down a ways, as the ladder tiles do not extend to the left wall.
Of note, we need to be far enough left to trigger Segment 4. If we Ledge Clip too far to the right, we're still in Segment 3 and unable to advance, with no sign of the Miniboss. The Ledge Clip has us going to the left anyway to trigger this, which is part of the reason why the ladder route wins by a few frames.

s8 Segment 4

Save segment. Continuing Team 7's inspiration.
Well, we trigger this segment much earlier than Team 4, which is why the frame count is skewed a little higher for this segment. We're still 3 frames faster going this way, however.
If you're expecting more for a segment that's rather empty, I suggest you prepare for disappointment.

s8 Segment 5

Miniboss segment. Hardly matters whose team.
Just like the intro miniboss, we're stuck with basic shots and no way to really speed things up. We just plink away 25 HP on 2-damage shots with 60 frames of wait per hit across 13 shots. There's just no complexity here.
While the Miniboss Skip does work on some other stages, before we get damaging weapons, the advantage of a 4-damage weapon here does not overpower the advantage of fighting the first boss with the Arm Upgrade. Even Stage 7 has all the advantages it can get: Miniboss Skip, Leg Upgrade, a 4-damage weapon, and even a good charged shot when we get the Arm Upgrade for the boss, and even those are not enough to be worth the difference of 9 hits on the boss (28 hits down to 19) with the Arm Upgrade. Boss invincibility time is vicious.
There were some minor attempts at a Miniboss Skip for this one, though. We were not successful. There are flying spike wheel enemies in a few places, and they can follow the player through open air. The main problem being that we go through decidedly solid terrain as part of our Ledge Clips. One flying spike wheel enemy can spawn just before our Ledge Clip, but it won't fly left off screen. Another spawns much, much earlier, when we finish climbing that up segment a while back, and it can continue to exist below the right going segment and follow us, but it gets stopped by some unknown terrain long before the down segment ahead.

s8 Segment 6

Right segment. We, uh... Walk right the whole time.
The only reason other teams got through faster is because they got Leg Upgrade to dash with, due to having picked a different stage order.

s8 Segment 7

Down segment. Team 4 was improved on.
Arm Upgrade is here. At last, another thing Team 4 wasn't perfect on! The headache-inducing noisy enemy wasn't handled perfectly, causing Team 4 to wait a few frames for it. I figured out how to fall better after DTC6, so just managed to get there in time to shoot it again.
Ladder headbonk again, thanks to solid tiles. This segment would have us travel in another Z path, but in a shocking twist, there's another Ledge Clip below the ladder! The spikes and floor arrangement is very similar to before, so we just do that and down we go. Point of note, it is possible to time the Ledge Clip to stop ourselves from moving left with floor tiles, but spike tiles do not restrict horizontal movement, so there's nothing we can do to stop from moving 2 pixels left.

s8 Segment 8

Right segment. Team 4's run.
There's a bit of an animation frame rule going on here. We're on the good side of that frame rule in this run, so we can avoid damage from the bullet that enemy shoots. I mean, when we jump back up the spikes, that bullet lingers for a while!

s8 Segment 9

Up segment. Team 4 as base, it is improved on.
For some reason, the first left side ledge does not have walljump tiles, which is why we climbed up the wall as high as we did there. All other ledges have walljump tiles, so we can just use those and travel sooner to the ledge, with something to catch us there.
There are supposed to be enemies nearby the left walls. Carefully timed jumps move the spawn zones just right so that the spawn points move through the corner spawn zone without us moving upward through that corner zone. If you don't understand, we make a magic jump at a magic spot. Team 4 knew about this for the lower enemy, but didn't figure it out for the upper enemy. It wasn't me who manipulated the spawn zones to prevent the upper enemy from ever existing. Note we can't do it on the right-side enemies, as the spawning zones on the right side are extremely thick, and is still easily within that region when we finish even our largest jump.
The Secret Team brought a flamethrower. Now that they have the Arm Upgrade, they can use it with the flame weapon to position themselves nicely for skipping through the sloped platforms. It is not possible to ceiling clip through them normally, the Flame Charge gives a better position to skip through, so I can't replicate what they do in the route I chose. The solid tiles are 4 blocks thick (not counting floor tiles, which aren't ceilings), our skulls are not that thick.

s8 Segment 10

Right segment. Team 4 as base.
We jump. This scrolls the camera up, loading this segment earlier. Since we're in a new segment, the camera refuses to scroll back down to the slope we're returning to. Our walk up the rest of the slope does not move the camera upward, and this is enough to prevent a spawn.
Yes, that jump as we fire our charged shot was necessary. When we land, we're a few pixels further down than walking there, so our shot could hit the enemy earlier. Because we were moving to a slope, our landing does not delay us a frame, slope tiles do not restrict horizontal movement.

s8 Segment 11

Save segment. Team 4 as base.
There are spikes down there. We jump on platform. ... I have a feeling I didn't need to say that.
We lose four frames here thanks to a frame rule. Although finding 4 frames in this stage would let us beat it, this will also be true if we can find 4 frames in the intro, as the intro is no longer bound by the dialog frame rule. Unfortunately, until we find these four frames, we're stuck waiting out dialog for the boss, and I'd rather keep sync by making the delay at the gate here. It help that this stage is completely independent of item drops, so there should be no sync troubles.

s8 Segment 12

Boss segment. Team 4's run.
This is the most interesting battle. Most of them are just "do enough overflow damage, then keep up with invincibility timer." For anyone who didn't route for Arm Upgrade first, it's "shoot boss 28 times with 60 frames charging against 96 frames invincibility," as trivial as it sounds. But with Arm Upgrade and only the basic buster, the stategy then becomes "use doppler effect and Charge Storage to optimize 140 frames charging against 96 frames invincibility."
Bosses have 11 main HP and 5 sub-HP per main HP. In total, that means we need to blast away 55 HP. Since there's no chance at overflow damage with 3 damage maximum, it's just counting how many 3-damage shots it will take to remove 55 HP. The answer is 19, with 2 damage to spare. 140 frames of charging is a long time, longer than the 96 frames invincibility by a full 44 frames, plus one more frame because one of them B is released to shoot. 60 frames of charging (okay, 61 because B released to shoot) is well under, and since we have 2 damage to spare, we can replace two 3-damage shots with a pair of faster 2-damage ones, so we can shoot 17 full blasts and 2 decent blasts.
The movement necessary keeps us very busy, at least. Charge Storage requires we take damage, but enables us to shoot a 3-damage charge while keeping fully charged. This is done by releasing B in the moment you lose control, and pressing it the instant control is regained. We lose control thanks to dialog, so we get a free Charge Storage at the very start. Since we haven't been damaged yet, we walk forward to take a hit and repeat the glitch. After that, we generally walk back so we can fire our shot as early as possible, giving it some travel time before hitting the boss, and letting us charge our next shot sooner. The "doppler effect" I was talking about earlier.
Although Charge Storage lets us keep the 140 frames charge while shooting such lovely 3-damage shots, it takes 96 frames for our own invincibility to wear off, on top of the 16 frames of ouch animation to wait out, for 112 frames between shots. Sure, this is faster than 140 frames, but the doppler effect makes up for enough of the 140 frames that it still saves time, and lets us take a hit for Charge Storage without the 112 frames wait. Besides, too much damage, and we'd need a Heart Tank, costing 5 frames and is so much less stylish.
The 60 frames of 2-damage charged shots are used at the moments where it is most awkward to take damage for Charge Storage. Yes, there's even a bit of strategy to time the two we have available.

Stage 7 - Castle

A number of teams took this stage first (marked with !!), while we took it second. Without the laser or Arm Upgrade, times made by the teams that went here first are difficult to compare.
New# T4 T3 T7 T5 STT6 !!T11 !!T2 !!T1 !!Excuses
Seg 0 954 954 965 982 986 837 1011 994 1011 996ST still on fire
Seg 1 816 814 859 1035 1095 1174 1076 1047 1097 1099Going right early
Seg 2 573 501 509 565 554 461 554 551 561 551Waiting for flying foe
Seg 3 157 106 106 200 111 92 107 110 129 101All for Miniboss Skip
Seg 4 (mB) 69 236 253 69 275 244 830 793 867 550Miniboss Skip!
Seg 5 195 206 216 208 207 214 210 232 250 233
Seg 6 338 407 370 383 399 402 417 372 483 452
Seg 7 623 624 687 693 699 571 711 693 717 685ST is burnin'
Seg 8 190 190 205 236 347 285 220 238 260 266
Seg 9 355 356 370 403 430 373 397 406 431 416
Seg 10 355 354 367 363 352 372 362 361 355 3701 frame delayed for frame rule
Seg 11 1413 1411 1421 1569 1565 1663 3276 3276 3285 2360Dialog frame rule
Done 6038 6159 6329 6706 7020 6688 9171 9073 9446 8079
Big reason to come here is the leg upgrade. Stage 1 has a lot of flat ground to cover, so although Flame Charge can probably save time here in Stage 7, the ground dashing likely helps Stage 1 more. As much as 3 pixels/frame is an upgrade to 2, the Arm Upgrade's benefit against the first boss encountered, as well as the side benefits in Stage 7, overwhelms the advantage that dashing gives. The Secret Team is the only one who took Stage 1 without Leg Upgrade, and Stage 7 with both 1 & 8 already done, so their times made it easier to compare routes.
Team 4's frame warring continues through this stage, but they did miss a useful skip, so this run has an advantage over them.

s7 Segment 0

Right segment. Team 4's run.
This segment has a few acrobatics, which makes it a bit more interesting than just walk right for justice. Many enemies have 5 HP, so it helps to have a 4-damage laser shot to defeat them. There are a few hidden spike enemies along the way, if you're curious about our large jumps and awkward ledge landings.
The chamber of spikes is navigated by jumping through the middle platform. This works because the game is only looking at one pixel for horizontal collision, at the player's feet. Well, there is another pixel higher up that's used for walljump tiles, and it would also block us, but we jump late enough that we miss the walljump tiles. We also had to jump early enough so the back of our head didn't interact with solid or walljump tiles in order to jump as high as we did. And of course, don't jump too high, or else our feet gets embedded into solid tiles and we stop.

s7 Segment 1

Up segment. Team 4 used as base, end adjusted from Team 7's inspiration.
This is where the Leg Upgrade is. For some reason, we've assumed the long-term gains of fetching it outweighs the short-term gains of ignoring it. Note we used a charged laser on the capsule. Basically there's a special address (15F0) that gets written to whenever the game wants to lock the player control. Part of the laser's effects are to lock the player in place, and so does the capsule. Since these things don't really account for each other, once the laser object finishes, it unlocks us. We're free to move as we please. As a result, we steal the capsule glow, taking it with us. We have to switch weapons eventually, and the glow ends when we do, so we switch as late as we can.
We ascend. Mostly just copied Team 4's run straight over. They did frame war the snap out of this stage. Among their tricks included wall jumping from the "wrong side" of the walls, using the fact they can jump high enough into a number of the ceilings. The center platform is one example where a "failed" ceiling clip was done so they can reach the wall on the right, just high enough to grab on the non-locking portion of the ladder, saving from having to make an extra jump or waiting out the ladder climb.
The end of this segment is changed up from Team 4. Their route is to move the camera more to fight the miniboss. This route we're taking is to get the player to the right sooner, with no concern for the camera. Our Miniboss Skip set-up begins at this corner.

s7 Segment 2

Right segment. Inspired by Team 7.
Normally, we'd be further left relative to camera, as for most of the run, we're very concerned with getting the camera forward quickly, as it's the thing that triggers segments. This is a rare instance where the player's position is more important, because it means an important enemy moves in the right direction sooner. Until then, we manipulate more laser ammo. Fighting 5 HP enemies with only one laser shot left doesn't help, so of course we manipulate lots more ammo in a hurry.
Once we pass the flying enemy, our haste to the right no longer applies, as we're now waiting for something to drift into position. We have all this time, so charge a laser, drop into spikes, and fire it. It may look funny that we get bored and leave while the laser blast is still going, but doing this means we get Extended Invincibility. That address 15F0 is to blame again, with the damage freeing us first this time. Since we moved the laser off-screen, it didn't get a chance to finish and remove the invincibility it gave us before, so we enjoy the remainder of the stage with invincibility cheats this glitch protecting us.

s7 Segment 3

Save segment. Inspired by Team 7.
The process of setting up Extended Invincibility was still under the time it took to wait out the flying enemy, but I must note we didn't have a lot of frames left to spare. We still get there in time to skip the miniboss on the first frame possible.

s7 Segment 4

Miniboss segment. Inspired by Team 7.
Good job. All you get to see is us shooting a laser to the left, and explosions from out of nowhere. The game didn't get a chance to unload the enemy before we shot and destroyed it, and this apparently happened after the game set miniboss mode. And since we destroyed something in miniboss mode, it had to be the miniboss, so on we go. This miniboss was big, and green, had this dragon head, and turrets that didn't look right when viewed with my peripheral vision. I should know these things!

s7 Segment 5

Right segment. Team 4 used as base.
Well, we're invincible. We already start its abuse by going straight through enemies whose deaths cause lag. Might as well use the inexhaustable resource you've got to the fullest extent, by passing straight through enemies right away.

s7 Segment 6

Up segment. Team 4 used as base.
Team 4 sets up Extended Invincibility here, but that's because they had to fight the miniboss. Extended Invincibility ends the next time you use a charged laser, as then it would finally have a chance to remove the invincibility flag it set earlier. We skip the miniboss, so that's why we set it up earlier than they did, as we no longer need a charged laser at the miniboss.
There is one wall jump here that looks bad. When we jump on a middle platform to reach a ledge above, the highest jump delays us from making the wall jump, but hold that A button for just one fewer frame, and the mid jump doesn't even latch us onto the wall. It's just perfectly positioned to make us look bad, I tell you!
The final jumps require a particular pixel positioning to make sure we don't jump too high above that final ladder. Dashing early helps to save more time.

s7 Segment 7

Right segment. Team 4 used as base.
The big reason for Extended Invincibility. The floating spike balls here are decidedly in the way and would slow everyone down massively. Our invincibility cheats Extended Invincibility means we just pass right through unharmed.
Early in the segment, I manipulate the +5 Ammo like a number of previous attempts. It did not go well, the ammo went into the wrong spot by exactly one pixel. Come on, man! My laser isn't full! At least I'm able to refill just fine from later enemies, so it's all good. Not like I need every drop, so just show off an "unlucky" drop and continue on.
Flame Charge would definitely benefit this segment, as it is mostly open space with short pillars to jump on. Very little ground for dashing on. Whenever it would save a pixel, we do turnarounds on these pillars. I've set up my position to be pixel perfect so that the segment goes smoothly.

s7 Segment 8

Down segment. Team 4's run.
You know those Ledge Clips in Stage 8? You get to see more of those here. It may look kind of like Ghost Fall, with how we never land on anything, but we're not at the bottom of the camera. Perhaps a good thing, as there's no object platform down there, and we don't have Flame Charge yet.
We have to shoot a few things on the way. This is to stop the enemies from lagging up the place with more sprites. We still charge in time for an easy refill, at least.
We enter the next segment as far left as we go. It may not be Screen X position 80, but the spot we're in (91) still ain't bad.

s7 Segment 9

Right segment. Team 4 used as base.
Have I mentioned how nice Extended Invincibility is? It's still going, because there's no timer to shut it off. We also have an opportunity to destroy an enemy with our 3-damage charged shot and pick up an item drop. With all the timing changes in improvements, this particular enemy has always been compliant in giving +5 Ammo.
For the most part, this segment is just navigating the terrain optimally. We're invincible, so it's not like we care about enemies. Land on the save platform ahead for more dashing, which is still enough to make up for the 3 frames of lag.

s7 Segment 10

Save segment. Team 4 used as base.
Look at those spikes. They are pointy. We jump past them. Not that it matters, but Extended Invincibility gives no protection against terrain spikes. Otherwise, the Extended Invincibility wouldn't have worked to begin with, as taking damage is necessary to escape the laser while it's still going. Yeah, sorry about this idle chatter.
Our laser is so powerful, it breaks our control lock on the door! Like the capsule, we have multiple things messing with address 15F0, though this time it saves only a few frames by getting the first attack against the boss sooner. Not as though we have anything better to do with our laser ammo. Note that our Extended Invincibility ends here, because we just fired a charged laser, but it isn't needed for the boss.

s7 Segment 11

Boss segment. Team 4's run.
We turn off invincibility cheat before anyone gets suspicious. Actually, we lost the Extended Invincibilty when we lasered the door. While the point was to regain control to get up close to the boss, it also lets us take damage during dialog and regain control yet again. A frame of delay was inserted in the previous segment, before the door loaded, because otherwise the 4-frame animation cycle would have us take damage instantly, then we're locked again before the damage finishes and we're stuck waiting for that yappin' boss to finish talking.
Bosses have 11 main HP and each main HP has 5 sub-HP. Yes, this means 55 HP total. However, while the charged laser does 10 damage per hit, you can't remove more than one main HP on any hit. Still, the game keeps track of total damage dealt, and although the overflow damage can't actually remove more than one HP at a time, later hits will make use of the overflow damage and a weak attack or even the 0-damage Muzzle Flash will be able to remove one main HP on the next attack. Basically, the strategy boils down to doing enough damage up-front so that later attacks just need to make the hits rather than damage. You can't defeat bosses faster than 11 hits, no matter the damage.
For this particular battle, the only weapon we've picked up so far is the laser. We have observed getting two hits with the laser, but it is so difficult and unwieldy to do, we simply gave up the attempts and went with single hits. Even if it weren't for the lock break at the door, 11 ammo will not suffice for laser only, so we spend an Ammo Tank during the battle. Other than that, we made sure to get in hits whenever the invincibility timer runs out. Things the leading teams did, you know? We end with negative laser ammo thanks to Charge Storage.

Stage 1 - Gas Factory

New# T4 T3 T6 T7 T5 T11 T2 T1 STExcuses
Seg 0 965 965 977 974 995 973 976 1150 990 1221
Seg 1 584 584 583 604 588 620 625 664 634 614Fall cycle
Seg 2 97 96 99 97 108 97 108 106 104 132Lag from Shot Counter glitch
Seg 3 (mB) 184 210 210 210 242 270 302 515 303 782
Seg 4 760 760 758 794 818 812 860 943 789 948Lag for Shot Counter glitch
Seg 5 492 497 554 561 542 558 552 708 563 568
Seg 6 812 822 825 834 827 829 843 907 826 961
Seg 7 235 236 237 239 238 237 237 250 243 248
Seg 8 1418 1417 1423 1474 1497 1472 1477 1574 1479 3100
Done 5547 5587 5666 5787 5855 5868 5980 6817 5931 8574
Our third stage, we finally pick up the flame weapon. We need it to break auto-scrollers, and a number of sensible moving of right through the air. There's a lot of flat ground to dash on here, which the Leg Upgrade from Stage 7 helps us here more than Flame Charge helps in Stage 7. Apparently, most enemies have 2 or 3 HP here. Rather low compared to the 5 we frequently met in the first two stages we went to.
Note that this stage is where Team 4's serious frame war comes to an end. We did get a few frame rules out from under them, but then they lose their optimization edge once Flame Charge complicates routes a lot more.

s1 Segment 0

Right segment. Team 4 used as base.
Right from the start, repeated dashes are the way to go. Even with the jumps, there are a few optimizations here to do.
Dashing requires a double tap to, well, dash. When we jump out of a dash, we are stopped for one frame. The double tap has a 20 frame timer between taps, so we can tap once, do a really fast jump, then finish with our second tap. For a tap to work, we have to release left or right for a frame, which also delays us. By making a tap on the frame we jump out of a dash, we overlap some of the zero speed frames, so that it wastes less time. Then we only need to release for one more frame when we land, as opposed to needing the two taps then. This is done for short ledges, but higher ledges are too high and our 20 frame timer expires before we land.
The higher ones aren't perfectly straight-forward either. Sure, we have to jump higher, and we have to make the double tap to dash when we land. However, the important pixel the game uses when landing depends on our facing, always toward the back foot. The process of facing left requires us to move one frame in that direction, so although we lose 2 pixels, we can dash 3 frames earlier, for a net gain of 1 pixel.
We trigger the Shot Counter glitch in this segment. The laser apparently is supposed to erase itself after destroying a few enemies, but seems to use the wrong code for that, and using it to rapidly destroy a respawning off-screen enemy glitches the shot counter. This lets us shoot mulitple projectiles of things we should only shoot one of at a time, and also switch while they're out. The disadvantage here is that while the counter is negative, we can't switch weapons, requiring us to shoot to bring it up to zero to allow the switch. It doesn't save time now, but it will later.
At the spot where we take damage from a fire, there's another fire we managed to get past. Initially, it is faster to just shoot that short platform and keep dashing, making only one jump, but we took the path we did because otherwise our invincibility runs out a few frames too early and we take damage at the second fire. In fact, the timing is so tight our invincibillity wears off and we're relying on the fact our hitbox is disabled when we're on the invisible frames of the invincibility blinks, for just those last few frames.

s1 Segment 1

Down segment. Team 4 used as base.
We enter this segment by dashing straight off the ledge. Yes, I'm well aware of using jumps to give ourselves vertical momentum by the time we reach the edge, and is a common trick in many other games. Yes, I do those jumps on some ledges in this game, in fact. The reason we don't here is because the dash speed makes up for it in fall time, and jumping does not carry dash speed through it. If we were going to a left-side ledge, then I would have jumped, as ending a dash checks the right-side pixel for whether we're over air to begin our fall.
We earlier shot a glitched basic bullet to hit an enemy, but destoying it meant lag, and all we needed was to delay the enemy anyway, so it lives.
There is a plaform with a ladder in the way. We must take the ladder. We also tap left as we land, so to get a dash ready, and do a Ladder Dash after climbing down. It's a rather mundane use of our first Ladder Dash, as a convenient way to drop out of the ladder earlier, or without the upward bump from jumping off. Keep in mind the ladder locks us in climbing for part of the way.
Aside from that, it's just a straight fall down. There's a spot that needs a little precision and a turnaround to avoid hitting another platform, but otherwise, nothing stops gravity from doing its work. There really isn't anything we can do to speed up gravity.

s1 Segment 2

Save segment.
There is an enemy below us. Previously, we used a 3-damage charged shot from our basic buster, but 8-damage charged Spikeball allows us to move earlier to the right, and we can charge again immediately thanks to the Shot Counter glitch, good to go for the miniboss ahead.

s1 Segment 3

Miniboss segment. Unique stuff.
We fire our charged spikeball just before coming here. We shouldn't be able to swap weapons with it out, but we glitched our shot count so the game thinks we went from -2 to 0, and with "zero" projectiles, we can switch. We swap as soon as we do damage, as doing so earlier means we mess up the shot hitbox, and miss the boss. Attacking the miniboss like this, we are faster than the other teams!
Firing the charged laser fixes the shot counter, so it's back to zero with no projectiles out, as normal.

s1 Segment 4

Right segment. Team 4 used as base.
We don't plant ourselves on the right edge of the screen. Mostly this is because our new miniboss strat doesn't actually give us the time to do so, but this is fine anyway because of the timing of the flame obstacles ahead. Since they work based on what frame they spawn, being as far back here as we are relative to camera edge lets us dash through unimpeded.
For manipulation, we primarily use basic shots, but switching weapons with basic shots onscreen has a strange effect on their hitboxes, and also makes them look... uh, colorful. Equip the spikeball, and they are absolutely huge. Mutating these hitboxes like this makes it much easier to manipulate better ammo drops from enemies on the way. Equip laser, and the basic shots become piercing. Shame they still only deal 1 damage.
Shot Counter glitch was done here as well. This time, we go for -1 count. We end up with 2 lag from it this time around, however.

s1 Segment 5

Up segment. Team 4 used as base.
For the bats overhead, we use a regular spikeball. Thanks to the giltched shot counter, we are free to charge while it exists. After the bats, there is another enemy on the wall, and the only attack we've got that can hit it without slowing our 6 pixels/frame rise is the charged spikeball. We switch weapons and somehow glitch-erase a spikeball, probably has to do with animation timers, plus it keeps our shot counter at zero and ends the glitch.
There's a fairly open area with ladders above. Normally, we'd have to climb all the way up that ladder only to fall back down to the next platform. On the ground, we tap left to begin the Dash Ready timer, jump up to the ladder, catch on, then dash left from there before the timer ends. Our second Ladder Dash is a lot more glorious than the first, as now you see us fly through the air. Even nicer, this Ladder Dash lets us jump out of it, so we effectively get a mid-air jump from it, and it's enough to make the shortcut to the platform. Yes, it is glorious.
Not sure what's up with the last wall jump. Apparently I got better height from exact same input as Team 4. 4-frame animation rule? We use charged spike to swat another 2 HP enemy, and go down to 1 ammo left. We need spikes for boss, but at least manipulation for ammo is viable with mutating our basic bullets by simply swapping weapons.

s1 Segment 6

Right segment. Team 4 used as base.
First thing we do, we dash straight into the ledge ahead, then jump apparently rather late as we're blocked by it. This seemingly sub-optimal jump was to prevent a flame from spawning, and trust me, we can't avoid that flame if it spawned. Later, there's another flame which spawns just fine, so refer to that one to see how much trouble it would be to dodge it.
There's not a lot to this segment, really. Mostly just precision jumping, manipulating item drops with glitched basic bullets, and getting ideas on self-immolation by taking damage on the fires for when we finally get this stage's weapon. Once we start setting ourselves on fire with the actual weapon, it will be a whole lot more effective.

s1 Segment 7

Save segment.
Basically this really short segment starts after we pass the save platform. Like other such segments, I don't have much to say. Oh, the door didn't seem to spawn right away. Apparently, it does have special spawning code that spawns it outside the usual regions if it hasn't already spawned.
Charge Laser on door. Since this is the second time you're seeing it, I will remind you it's to break the lock on the door. No, it's not that the door refuses to open without a key, but rather that it locks our control, and we're breaking that. The Laser Lock Break is less interesting now that it is used almost exclusively to regain control on these doors for the rest of the run, but it's still frames to save.

s1 Segment 8

Boss segment.
We smack boss with charged Spikeballs before moving on to weaker weaponry. This is the strategy you will see for every boss for the remainder of the run. Charged Spikeball does 8 damage per hit, and usually gets in 2 hits with optimal timing. Charge Storage off of dialog, and we typically open with 3 or 4 hits for 24 or 32 damage right off the bat. It is effective. It also turns out we have exactly enough ammo without needing Charge Storage and going to negative ammo. If it's stylish to avoid all damage, then we are stylish here.

Stage 4 - Seafloor

New# T4 T3 T6 T7 T5 T11 T2 T1 STExcuses
Seg 0 231 232 234 232 234 233 233 239 215 246T1 took auto-scroller
Seg 1 1717 1741 1745 1859 1824 1773 1779 1942 4612 1889
Seg 2 (mB) 245 245 264 376 374 286 382 399 802 456
Seg 3 149 152 155 92 90 482 461 218 477 144Setting up Ghost Fall
Seg 4 189 205 190 479 471 425 449 579 588 583
Seg 5 323 325 334 327 361 350 384 399 453 394
Seg 6 924 958 959 1005 967 949 974 1043 2287 978
Seg 7 96 96 105 102 87 104 95 137 441 104Probably camera
Seg 8 149 140 128 158 171 175 173 194 196 180Camera positioning?
Seg 9 238 246 256 257 254 254 264 259 269 267
Seg 10 1498 1505 1505 1567 1583 1574 1568 1596 3187 1602
Done 5759 5845 5875 6454 6416 6605 6762 700513527 6843
This stage has an auto-scroller, which would waste thousands of frames scrolling slowly. Thanks to doing Stages 8 & 1 first, we can bypass all that. The weapon from Stage 4 gives us a barrier when charged, offering us the last major timesaver when we can mostly ignore enemies.
Team 4 still leads DTC6 here, but this time our advancement over them is general optimizations rather than any skips they didn't do. Our gap between this run and Team 4 is wider than the gap between Teams 4 & 3, the beginnings of that edge becoming lost.

s4 Segment 0

Right segment. Team 4 used as base.
Now that we have the flame weapon, the first thing we do is catch fire. In an underwater stage. We are not letting this self-immolation thing be stopped by common sense.
I've got things to explain. The stage starts off with the auto-scroller vehicle, which is supposed to be mandatory, but Flame Charge is enough to let us skip that. Flame Charge itself lasts around 64 frames, sends you forward through air (or fluids) at 3 pixels/frame, and has a few useful glitches. With the lack of terrain in some places, it is supposed to be impossible to traverse this stage normally, but that clearly didn't stop us.
We're faster than Team 4 due to the fact we triggered our Flame Charge with our dash counter at 39, not 40. When the Flame Charge ends, it continues whatever state we had, and the ground dash at 39 is just another frame of 3 pixels movement. The ground dash at 40 is a stopped frame. Team 4 missed this detail. Meaning I, FatRatKnight, should be embarrassed about it.

s4 Segment 1

Auto-scroller segment. At least, it's supposed to be. Team 4 used as base.
This is a long, long segment. Seriously, over 1700 frames with dashing and Flame Charge? That's longer than even most of our boss fights! Please, do not try to imagine what it's like at 1 pixel/frame, for when one does take the auto-scroller vehicle.
Also of note, this segment, and the other "auto-scroller" later in the stage, have broken slopes. Not seriously broken, just that most were misplaced one tile down. This is enough to stop us from just simply dashing on the slope and onto flat floor. If you're curious as to why the short jumps at the top of some slopes, this is the reason. In one case, the actual slope is backwards from what is seen there, and trying to walk on it in the visual downhill direction will have it look like the player is slowly rising to the air before suddenly snapping downward a bunch of pixels to the slope below, then rise again from there.
The first broken slope, a downhill, was taken just fine without a jump using a Flame Charge. This is because a Flame Charge interacting with a floor tile will snap the player to the top of the floor tile, and if this was done from the ground state, we'll continue moving forward. Jumps are slow, we like ground dashing more, and 5 damage is sure convenient for enemies in the way.
We have taken damage twice in this segment, and did a Charge Storage off them both times. The lack of decent ground to dash on generally meant the extra Flame Charge we got out of the deal probably makes up for the slow damage.
This segment is so long and complicated it's hard to come up with any other particular points to talk about. It's just not fun.

s4 Segment 2

Miniboss segment. Team 4's run.
Considering this miniboss was supposed to be fought in an auto-scroller vehicle, there is absolutely no floor below us. With no place to stand, we would surely fall to our deaths. It's a good thing this miniboss doesn't last long enough to make that a problem!
We've taken damage, intentionally, before meeting the miniboss, so that we would remain invincible until we fire the Laser, so that the 16 frames of ouch is spent moving us (slowly) rather than flatly wasted, and secondly to make the jump to the invisble terrain easier.
We enter with Flame Charge, with upward momentum from our recent jump. We timed it so the Flame Charge ends as soon as it dealt 5 damage. Switching to laser, we used its charged shot to blast the miniboss. Two hits, 10 damage each, plus the 5 from the Flame Charge, and down goes the miniboss! Then we land on what looks like nothing, and dash on our way.
The Charged Laser attack was oriented toward the left, in order to spawn more Laser sprites on screen, which causes it to last longer while the invincibility time of the miniboss remains unaffected. This allows to hit the miniboss twice just in time, though it generates many lag frames. With bootlegs, everything is possible.
Without this extra time of firing left, we would advance our movement too quickly and fall to our death; in that case, we would still advance to the next segment, on player respawn, but it would waste a lot of time.

s4 Segment 3

Save segment. Mix of Team 4 and Team 3.
Wondering about that invisible terrain? When we defeat the miniboss, we are moved straight into the next segment. Usually, the segments have their latest block coincide with the earliest block of the next one. As the game expected us to fight the miniboss in the auto-scroller vehicle, it would transition and look nice from there. Since we aren't, the standard routine of warping you to the start of the next segment is instead called, and these two segment blocks do not coincide. As a result, we actually have the terrain warp in around us. The terrain script shows this effect just fine, even if the game's graphics don't. We landed on the save platform here, as you can clearly not see.
Short segment, yet we've swapped between Team 4's and Team 3's strats. Team 4 miniboss kill, Team 3 save platform location, Team3's pixel perfect spot on ladder, Team 4's ladder headbonk. The pixel perfect spot is so we avoid a bullet later, by the way. In the meantime, we're starved for Flame ammo, and manipulate a whole bunch from a convenient 1 HP enemy.

s4 Segment 4

Down segment. Team 3 used as base.
Ghost Fall! Some teams used the Infinite Climb, which is where you climb on a ladder and misalign yourself with it, confusing the game into never finding a ladder tile and causing you to ascend or descend forever, with no respect for any terran. You only get out of it if there is another ladder on the way that's lined up with you, and thus a ladder tile is detected and you are free to move. We didn't do that this run, since it's only 2 pixels/frame, and Ghost Fall uses the falling speed of 4 pixels/frame with zero speed once every 9 frames. Triggering Ghost Fall on this ladder simply meant picking a particular camera position where traversing the thickness of the ladder is enough to trigger this segment.
Some shots were made early this segment to damage a few enemies. This is to reduce the object count as they don't fire bullets, and thus less lag. Flame shot was needed to destroy an enemy on the way, as otherwise we take damage. An enemy shoots a bullet with a rather nasty timing, needing us to be as far right as possible, one pixel short isn't enough. One more shot to an enemy so we can sneak around the right side of it damage free, and finally pick the left-most position to enter the next segment without causing an enemy to self-destruct and lag the game to pieces.
About that pixel perfect bullet dodge. When we say as far right as possible, we had to have an odd X position. An even position would not have worked, as we travel in steps of 2 pixels, and wall detection is all-or-nothing. We can't get to an odd position during a fall, so this had to be adjusted from a dash while in the previous segment.

s4 Segment 5

Right segment.
Our Flame Charge has us crashing into a wall and sticking there in an ugly fashion for a few frames. Yes, we would like to avoid that. No, we can't think of any useful way. Flame Charge checks our bottom pixel for horizontal collision, and a floor tile gets in the way. Yes, if we loaded this segment earlier and were a few pixels higher, we would continue straight forward, but if we fire it a frame early, we fail to load the segment and collide with camera edge. Yes, the camera would be free to go down if we were a few pixels higher relative to the camera, but then we don't get the Ghost Fall. Finally, we are falling to our death thanks to Ghost Fall, with the only hope of escaping is to Flame Charge. No, there is no way to cut a Flame Charge short. If only that floor ahead was just one tile down!
This segment simply is the lead-in to another auto-scroller. There's not much I can do about that damage. This spot is also fairly laggy. An earlier run did get through lag-free, but no such luck here. It is difficult to pin down the precise cause, so we have the lag here in this TAS.
There's the auto-scroller submarine. We Flame Charge right past it. The spot we jump is carefully picked to deal with enemies right after.

s4 Segment 6

Auto-scroller segment. At least, it's supposed to be.
This is another messy segment. It's long, difficult to find decent measurement points, and the need for ammo drops is high. We don't know how many miracles was needed to smoothly dash through without needing to pause for an Ammo Tank, but somehow we got enough miracles to make that happen.
First, the slopey start. The slopes are misaligned with the flat floors here, so we must jump every time we transition from slope to flat floor. Ground-based Flame Charge will also be stopped by these, as they are uphill, not downhill, otherwise we would just eschew jumps for Flame Charge right away.
We then have breakable blocks in the way, followed by lag bombs. The breakable blocks really get in the way, we can't just Flame Charge through. The jump may seem rather short to the wall, but if we get the maximum height, the game gets extremely laggy because of those bombs. This may look horribly slow, making the wall jump that low, but it's still better than any alternatives we looked at.
The rest isn't too notable, aside from ammo management and continuously jumping out of Flame Charges. The end of the segment (around the last submarine of the stage) needed a pixel-perfect spot to dash off of, the turnaround landing after the Flame Charge needed that for it to happen. This was difficult to find, taking ThunderAxe31's experimentation and FatRatKnight's optimization after DTC6 to find.

s4 Segment 7

Right segment.
This is supposed to be a separate segment meant to catch us after the auto-scroller, but since we broke that, it just looks like an extension of the previous segment.
There is a small bit we did try, but it's slower. The ceiling here is way, way too thick to clip through (9 tiles), but we can use a different wall. After wall jumping on the obvious wall near the ladder, we can Flame Charge back to the left and use the wall there to go up the rest of the way. The enemy in the way up there can be destroyed with a flame shot, and on we go. An interesting path, but due to camera issues and the fact Flame Charge does not end until its 64 frame timer says so, ultimately makes the route a slower one. .bk2 if you need it.

s4 Segment 8

Up segment.
We picked an exact spot for our Flame Charge so when we turn left, our head doesn't hit the solid tiles. Shame we end up taking damage on the floor at the top, not sure how to avoid it without wasting too much time staring at the pretty orb.

s4 Segment 9

Save segment.
We do a sneaky walljump. We jump with a carefully measured position so we go straight through the corner, not so high we stop ourselves from going right, and turn left to hook on to walljump tiles. This twisty choice lets us land after the save platform.
There is an alternative route where we land on the save platform. This is slower due to lag, but it does save two normal frames. If this is enough to meet a frame rule, this does beat the loss due to lag, but otherwise, we just ate 3 lag frames with nothing to show for it. We don't need the save platform, we're not that close to the dialog frame rule this time around.
Further details on handling the door are in this post, but essentially the door is on an animation frame rule based on when it spawns, and part of the trick was delaying the door longer than delaying our movement toward it, so that we can reach it in time. As it stands, we're now delayed 1 frame out of the 8-frame dialog rule. The save platform route would save time only if we would be delayed 6 or 7 frames here.

s4 Segment 10

Boss segment.
In a shocking twist, we defeat the boss with the same basic strategy as the previous boss! Opening with 32 damage in 4 hits from two charged Spikeballs leaves 23 damage to do in 7 hits. 4-damage weapons can do 28 in 7 hits, so it's rather trivial at this point.

Stage 5 - Space Station

New# T4 T3 T6 T7 T5 T11 T2 T1 STExcuses
Seg 0 733 761 763 794 760 776 788 736 798 826
Seg 1 476 477 477 477 716 477 477 579 477 493
Seg 2 307 309 321 318 324 310 318 320 330 340
Seg 3 123 119 91 122 108 110 122 105 115 102Miniboss skip set-up
Seg 4 (mB) 77 268 241 282 315 281 271 373 294 381
Seg 5 113 127 142 141 140 123 118 161 144 157
Seg 6 452 497 451 461 523 762 505 504 519 511Camera stuff. We only look bad
Seg 7 712 779 748 795 827 764 769 735 848 808
Seg 8 290 279 291 341 414 331 350 334 334 349Routing at start & finish
Seg 9 116 129 143 147 159 143 161 144 153 128
Seg 10 238 246 234 235 237 234 234 234 236 250Fixing camera
Seg 11 1406 1406 1408 1408 1544 1459 1468 1493 1462 1538
Done 5043 5397 5310 5571 6067 5770 5581 5736 5710 5883
Team 3 leads DTC6! About time Team 4 fell behind somewhere, but they still were very competent compared to other teams. Our advantage over them is the Miniboss Skip and spamming Charge Swap Bubble Barrier. From there, ThunderAxe31 messes with the Shot Counter to avoid pausing for the later two barriers.

s5 Segment 0

Right segment. Inspired by Team 2.
We activate invincibility cheats and ignore enemy attack. Actually, we use Charge Swap on our Bubble Barrier so that we get rid of the sprite and can still attack and change weapons. The barrier's just invisible. Get used to seeing it. Or not, it's invisible. Team 2 had the inspiration. You'll want a script to see the protection the barrier gives, because otherwise you'd think we have somehow encoded an invincibility cheat into the input file. It's not complete invincibility, the barrier itself has 6 HP.
We need to immediately activate the barrier, then immediately use a Flame Charge, with no break in between. This actually makes it important that we do Stage 5 before Stages 2 or 3, as we'd otherwise have a weapon in between flame and bubble, which will slow us down 2 frames to move the cursor an extra step. Since none of the remaining weapons are even worth the 2 frames, here I am, selecting Stage 5 after 4, and if those 2 frames get me a frame rule, it's more than any other route can give.
We're still not done with talking about the first frame of the stage. In addition to Bubble Barrier Charge Swap to Flame Charge, we also don't immediately dash. If we do, we're in Screen X Position 82. By walking two frames first, we can shift this to Screen X Position 80. This is yet another example of the importance of the camera, as it is that which loads segments, not our position. And it is vital at the end of this segment that the camera is in a better spot.
So, with the invincibility cheat Charge Swap Bubble Barrier, this gives more freedom to simply dash forward whenever the ground presents itself, and to Flame Charge in spots where I would do less ground dashing. We would smash enemies more, but lag issues mean some of them get to live.

s5 Segment 1

Down segment. Inspired by any team who did Ghost Fall.
Ghost Fall. We're sorry, but we can't convince gravity to pull us down any faster. The ladder, aside from its top tiles, doesn't interfere with our movement, so we can get into position to trigger the Ghost Fall easily enough. Most teams began falling at Screen X Position 82, but since we did so at X 80, we fell for a shorter time before triggering the segment. So we're on a different fall cycle when the camera begins moving down, and as a result, we manage to reach the next segment just before we hit the part of the fall cycle with zero speed. So, we do manage to fall faster than other teams, by a single frame.
It's time to refresh our barrier. Before our other barrier runs out, we fire a shot. Our shot counter is 1. The barrier ticks down its last HP, and resets the shot counter to zero. Switch to bubble weapon. The shot we fired goes off-screen, the shot counter decrements to -1. We make a barrier, shot counter at zero once more. All this to avoid a pause, as we can switch to another weapon freely now with the counter at exactly zero.

s5 Segment 2

Right segment. Team 4 used as base.
Remember that Screen X Position 80 we were talking about earlier? It hasn't finished giving us gifts. Because we got Ghost Fall after falling a shorter time, we're higher up relative to camera. Since the camera itself is needed to load segments, we're higher up when loading this segment. This additional height is just enough to reach the first ledge with a lower jump, and we can begin dashing earlier. After that, the screen position from the start of the stage is finally done helping us. Screen position and the camera is extremely important for optimizations!
Beyond that, we followed Team 4's route. Little else to really say.

s5 Segment 3

Save segment. Team 4 used as base.
This short segment is the spot just before the miniboss. Basically an extension of the right-going segment before this one. Not much to say.
We did try shooting the painfully slow bubbles to the right, but haven't had much success in getting it to destroy the missile at the right moment. Would have saved us from going left for a few more frames, but so it goes.

s5 Segment 4

Miniboss segment. New stuff here.
There really should be this huge, massive golden robot guardian here, we swear! You won't believe us because we skip it thanks to a missile we shot from the left.
Note that, although we instantly destroy the miniboss, this doesn't actually remove any enemies right away. The missile still exists, and we take a hit to our barrier. Managing barrier HP is pretty important right now, but every last one gets to see some use.

s5 Segment 5

Right segment. Mostly unique path here.
A short segment leading into the down segment ahead. We carefully pick our position for the Flame Charge here (Miniboss Skip makes that somewhat easy, but we still need to act quick), so that we can do our Ledge Clip. We're also carefully picking our X position so we're not too far right relative to camera, or else we don't load the next segment on our second Ledge Clip.
We can't Ghost Fall here. The lower platform just will not let us travel to the right when we Ledge Clip into it, so we can't move the camera to load the next segment. The open air we can move in is too far to the left, the camera won't pan enough to the right from there, no matter what crazy camera stuff we do, even outright cheating.

s5 Segment 6

Down segment. Team 4 used as base, more similar to Team 3.
Without Ghost Fall, we have to actually pay attention to the terrain. We manage to land on the ground exactly twice here, most of the time you see us passing through the ground like its air.
Our first landing has us on a ladder. We start a Dash Ready on its top on the same frame we climb down. After the auto-climb finishes, we climb down another 9 frames before using Ladder Dash to escape the ladder. These 9 frames, at a crawling rate of 1 pixel/frame (auto-climb is 2 pixels, fall is 4 pixels in 8 out of 9 frames), is necessary to change our fall cycle later on, so we can avoid a ledge.
After another two Ledge Clips, we fall past another ladder, then barely, just barely, fall past the floor below it. The fall cycle is simply that the falling animation loops every 9 frames, and 8 of those is falling 4 pixels, with 1 having 0 speed. Falling past the ladder, between the moment we can move to the right, and the moment we would land on the floor, there's enough time for 3 or 4 of these zero speed frames. When we say we just barely fall past, that's with the 4 frames of zero speed, and 3 frames doesn't give us enough time to move far enough right. The only way to change whether we get 4 frames or 3 is to adjust the height we begin our fall, so that's why the 9 frames of climbing down. All this, just so we avoid landing on the floor, and between the rather slow climb and skipping the landing, it's all for just 2 frames.
We need another barrier up. Chewing through barrier HP like mad, this stage. Like our last one, we fire a shot to get our shot counter up, run out of previous barrier before the shot goes away, and put up another barrier. This time, we need to get rid of the barrier sprite on the flame weapon, and we can't wipe off the sticky barrier residue on an enemy, as there aren't any convenient ones near our route. There is an animation timer that lets the game know what sprite to use next, so we wait until it would select sprite zero for the next flame animation frame. This gets rid of the sprite, which is good as otherwise we take a lot of lag just having it.
There is another floor we land on. It's just plain too far to reach its end before we fall to it. No Ledge Clip trickery above it we can take to go further right, and the flat floor doesn't allow for Ledge Clip on it. That bubble barrier we set up? We used the Muzzle Flash from it to delay the missile enemy to save one barrier HP. Our short dash gives us an opportunity to tweak our X position for odd-even position and a better camera.
Team 3 is reported faster by the SegmentCounter script. Some trick of the camera made them look faster (... I think?), but when it comes to the Flame Charge at the start of the next segment, we're actually a few frames ahead.

s5 Segment 7

Right segment.
Ledge Clip wouldn't help our Flame Charge entry to this segment (the floor tiles extend under that wall, as typical of most such walls of that height). Breakable walls past an enemy, but we use the piercing property of a basic shot we mutate by switching to laser. Saves us 15% or more on frustration.
Not too many details to talk about. The ground dashes between Flame Charges are pretty flexible with our timing, though that doesn't really help us get ammo drops. One flame charge has us begin Dash Ready before we jumped, then Flame Charge, then we get the dash after landing. This only worked because the 20 frame Dash Ready timer is frozen during Flame Charge (or any sort of player control lock).
At the second breakable blocks, we delay a frame or two. This is the damage we manage to avoid problems later, waiting long enough for that bullet to disappear into the floor. In addition, we walk far enough so that our dash ends from the edge of the platform instead of on its 40 frame timer, so we avoid a zero speed frame.
Finally, the transition to the next segment. Slowest would be to take the ladder on the right. Better would be to wall jump immediately, but we get strange sticky feet on the floor above since it's so close to the top of the camera. The best route is to simply continue right until the next segment loads, then turn around back to the wall.

s5 Segment 8

Up segment.
This segment is what happens when we're allowed to stay on the same wall for the entire climb. We ascend really, really fast.
If we need to save a barrier HP, we can use charged Spikeball on the enemy at this first ceiling, but we take one frame of lag. However, we have all the barrier HP we need, so we just take the damage here and avoid the lag.
Delaying our charge by switching weapons is done because it reduces lag.

s5 Segment 9

Right segment. Unique route.
We take the ladder route. An older route stays on the wall longer (every team did this), using its higher vertical speed to get to the floor sooner, but the ladder path gets us moving to the right sooner. We don't climb to the top of the ladder, but go further right to the wall for a Ceiling Clip. A single frame of delay on the ladder lets us avoid a hit (our barrier is gone now). I know, that bullet nearby us looks rather far when our Flame Charge ends, but trust us, when our charge ends, our invincibility is gone but we keep the massive hitbox for another few frames (0-3, but not at right timing for zero frames). That bullet would be inside that hitbox without the delay.

s5 Segment 10

Save segment.
Just the usual dash to the door and a lock break with our laser. We're at a bad screen position, 81, so we take a moment to fix it to 80 before moving on. Door transitions are a curious thing, they are very finicky about having the exact right position, and being one pixel off can waste several frames, so trust me, even though we reach the door later, the transition itself is faster by 4 frames. It is possible to pick a route earlier that gets us to 80 directly, but unfortunately, that takes us one pixel closer to a wall enemy, exactly within range for it to shoot and cause terrible lag.

s5 Segment 11

Boss segment.
Standard procedure: Spikeball first, hit every frame enemy becomes vulnerable using overflow damage. We hope you're used to seeing this since two bosses ago. There's about nothing here that's any problem.

Stage 3 - Volcano

New# T4 T3 T6 T7 T5 T11 T2 T1 STExcuses
Seg 0 516 532 519 548 524 520 525 602 550 538
Seg 1 679 718 797 760 745 821 856 829 758 818
Seg 2 707 738 737 762 732 758 772 799 751 756
Seg 3 105 89 100 110 106 102 100 109 99 107Miniboss Skip set-up
Seg 4 (mB) 61 199 210 216 61 215 263 355 333 220
Seg 5 134 138 136 136 178 188 136 200 137 144
Seg 6 333 333 333 333 350 333 333 469 333 556
Seg 7 1002 1034 1013 1052 1004 1063 1073 1067 1066 1053
Seg 8 122 124 128 152 205 136 175 211 199 183
Seg 9 121 124 123 121 111 121 117 99 110 133Camera optimization
Seg 10 234 234 234 234 296 235 244 262 266 236
Seg 11 1679 1676 1672 1698 1706 1698 1692 1787 1688 1694Frame rules
Done 5693 5939 6002 6122 6018 6190 6286 6789 6290 6438
This volcanic stage has a few breakables that require us to shoot to get through. There are also many inconvenient enemies in the way, so the barrier would be very helpful, if it weren't for those breakable blocks stopping us. Well, they would, except the Charge Swap lets us get around that restriction while still enjoying our ability to ignore stuff.

s3 Segment 0

Right segment. Team 3 used as base.

s3 Segment 1

Down segment. Team 4 used as base.
We're too lazy to reach the ladder on the far side, instead we'll just fall down past this ledge. We looked for ways to trigger Ghost Fall, but it is not happening this segment. We also make use of Charge Swap Bubble Barrier here, since there's a lot of enemies in the way, and there's a breakable block in the way as well. We get to ignore attacks and break through, the best of having a barrier and being able to attack freely. Since we're immediately stopped by flat ground, we need to take the ladder on the left. This segment basically snakes back and forth from there, with no uneven terrain to Ledge Clip through other than starting off this segment and leaving it again.
This segment is an excellent example of the asymmetry of left-side drops vs. right-side drops. We dash straight off ledges on the right, but prefer to jump on the left. This is because, whenever we stop our dash, the game only checks the right-side pixel. If that is over air, we fall. Since it's in a convenient position on the right side, we're closer to the ledge when we stop dashing, and we're in an ideal spot to turn around and go the other way. On the left side, we're stuck waiting until the right-side pixel is over the air. Then we're pretty far from the ledge when we do fall, and we're not in a good position to go back the other way.

s3 Segment 2

Right segment. Go for it, ThunderAxe31!
Oh, this is a complicated, messy segment. So few spots to get good ground dashes, and so many enemies in the way. Our Bubble Barrier will barely protect us until the end of the segment.

s3 Segment 3

Save segment. Team 7's inspiration.

s3 Segment 4

Miniboss segment. Team 7's inspiration.
We skip the miniboss. It would be some guy sitting in a drill vehicle. You did not need to see it anyway.
We do carefully tweak the camera, by the way. If we dash blindly, the CamX might be 15 or even 14, but with proper pixel positioning, we get it to 16. As for our screen position, we begin from 100, as that lets us Ledge Clip into a Ghost Fall readily enough.

s3 Segment 5

Right segment.
We ignore the floor by doing a Ledge Clip, then continue to ignore more floors with Ghost Fall later.
We've noticed rather firmly at this point that wall jumps actually have varying height, based on some frame rule. This has interfered with syncing any improvements repeatedly.

s3 Segment 6

Down segment.
We're falling as fast as we can. What? Is ignoring all terrain not good enough? Yeesh. Understandably, many teams have taken the same 333 frames on this segment.

s3 Segment 7

Left segment.

s3 Segment 8

Up segment.
There is a single enemy in the way that cannot be avoided or killed without wasting a lot of time. The only option left is to use Bubble Barrier, just for going past him only.
The only alternative would be to avoid losing one Barrier during Segment 2, and keep it until here. The problem is that in order to clear Segment 7 as fast as possible, we need to get hit once in order to use the Charge Storage trick. In the end, even if we would manage to make it in time, we would only save the lag frame generated when using the Charge Swap Bubble Barrier.

s3 Segment 9

Right segment.

s3 Segment 10

Save segment.

s3 Segment 11

Boss segment.
Charged Spikeball. Frame perfect hits. Easy, easy to do on 60 frames charging or 12 frames shot cooldown against 96 frames invinciblity.
It has been noted this boss acts based on when you clear the dialog, as opposed to when the boss loads. There's a distinction -- If we delay clearing the dialog, this one will act later, exactly matching the delay. Pointing this out because this boss has an invincibility move that takes a while, and there's no sneaking in a shot earlier by delaying the dialog or pause trickery and changing our first attack relative to this invincibility move.

Stage 6 - Forest

New# T4 T3 T6 T7 T5 T11 T2 T1 STExcuses
Seg 0 935 964 933 987 987 969 993 949 973 1082Segment transitions, mainly
Seg 1 892 870 925 966 989 1005 909 1007 970 915Team 4 took the left path
Seg 2 91 154 95 103 90 92 154 92 152 160Um, camera fixings?
Seg 3 (mB) 195 220 223 264 246 219 285 230 295 263
Seg 4 802 831 822 854 854 864 856 1009 845 903
Seg 5 751 791 780 828 801 866 836 964 852 835
Seg 6 225 242 248 244 239 254 240 228 240 293
Seg 7 259 268 254 247 299 254 273 296 293 294Fixing Zook's position
Seg 8 1699 1788 1785 1806 1815 1809 1807 1820 1818 1807
Done 5849 6128 6065 6299 6320 6332 6353 6595 6438 6552
Team 3 did a rather stellar job. Most of our stuff was based on copying their stuff then butchering their work. No, nothing against them for being so close to winning or anything. We just want the most optimal Zook Man ZX4 run so there's less of it to see.

s6 Segment 0

Right segment.

s6 Segment 1

Up segment.
We cheat some more- I mean, use Charge Swap Bubble Barrier again. Seriously, there's no visuals by the game itself why we're invincible, so I have to remind you of this. The leading teams use Bubble Barrier, but Charge Swap takes a few frames and in return frees our ability to attack, which is snapping useful.
There's a rather interesting spot here, that takes no fewer than three tricks in the span of a second to pull off. First, we land on the ledge below the ladder, and tap left to initiate Dash Ready. Then we jump onto the ladder, get ourselves to a pixel perfect hieght, and dash left before the Dash Ready expires. The pixel perfect height lets us go past the wall and later walljump up it on the wrong side. Finally, the walljumps allow us to rise through the ceiling in that awkward spot. All this so we can save having to climb a ladder only to fall back down.
Even before this segment is done, we call up another Bubble Barrier, but without having to do Charge Swap; we instead trigger Shot Counter glitch by having one of our bullets still on screen in the moment the last Barrier wears off.

s6 Segment 2

Save segment. Optimized by ThunderAxe31.

s6 Segment 3

Miniboss segment.
The Miniboss Skip can theoretically work here, but one set-up likely requires we first beat this stage, which is a lovely catch-22, or have us visit another miniboss and then leave its stage, which takes far too long. Beating this thing up normally, it is.
5 damage from Flame Charge as our opener, then two hits from Laser Charge for 10 damage each, totals 25 HP. Us > Miniboss.
We walk in with 6 barrier HP, and walk out with 2 remaining. Yes, the 3 HP was best spent on this one enemy. Would have been 4 HP, but we adjusted our position to have the laser last slightly longer, which is enough to keep us invincible that little bit longer, and avoid wasting that one extra barrier HP as now the miniboss disappears before the barrier timer runs out. The 2 HP is important in the next segment, as we'll be too busy with Flame Charge to have a chance to charge the barrier.
Trivia: After beating this miniboss, it is possible to almost soft-lock the game, very easily. Just charge up your bubble weapon and use the Bubble Barrier. There are no enemies before you are stopped by a breakable block. With a normal barrier up, you can't shoot, swap weapons, or pause. The barrier will never go away on its own. Good luck finding a way out! (Hint: Find a spot for Ledge Clip to escape)

s6 Segment 4

Right segment.
Zook's relative X position is close to the right edge of the screen, making approaching enemies life shorter aganist our pitiless attacks. In particular, there was a dragonfly enemy, close to the end of the segment, which required some efforts to be killed without generating lag. Some trial and error with weapon swapping was necessary.

s6 Segment 5

Up segment.
We trigger Shot Counter glitch again for casting another Bubble Barrier, we then do everything possible in order to keep at least 1 barrier HP for playing around with the boss.

s6 Segment 6

Right segment. Done by ThunderAxe31.
For some reasons, in this segment you can't get Zook's relative X position to the minimum of 80, but only down to 103. This would make the transition to the boss room much slower, but luckly this can be fixed in the next segment.

s6 Segment 7

Save segment.
After this segment has been reached, we walk to the left until the camera hits the segment's left edge, and Zook's relative X position will be enabled to get down to 80. Thanks to this trick, we get to save 2 dialog frame rules, that is 16 frames.

s6 Segment 8

Boss segment.
Before the actual fight starts, we're opening the menu two times. Normally, we're not supposed to be able to, but by getting hit during the dialog, we regain control on Zook. So, why we're doing this? The fact is that the dialog printing is ruled by the global timer, as opposed to enemies, bullets, etc. So while the menu is open, the dialog printing will continue progressing, while the boss timer will get paused. Thanks to this, we're able to delay the boss moves enough to hit him another time just before he is about to do his ninja teleporting. With this trick, we save 85 frames.
Otherwise, just standard hit boss stuff you've seen. Yep, totally standard. That glitchy stuff you see? Perfectly standard, no worries.

Stage 2 - Sky

New# T4 T3 T6 T7 T5 T11 T2 T1 STExcuses
Seg 0 224 224 224 224 220 224 224 183 184 224Don't take the autoscroller
Seg 1 1595 1595 1554 1660 1656 1653 1689 4101 4101 1619Setting up Miniboss Skip
Seg 2 (mB) 61 265 265 340 61 242 532 427 422 240
Seg 3 100 122 105 119 120 452 444 469 462 472
Seg 4 226 236 241 258 233 277 300 277 283 286
Seg 5 195 189 204 224 198 200 211 211 129 216T1 took the autoscroller again
Seg 6 769 792 795 802 909 835 820 850 2032 863
Seg 7 96 97 96 97 119 108 122 134 417 105
Seg 8 124 181 189 220 208 127 192 179 240 170
Seg 9 91 123 124 106 122 128 131 118 127 107
Seg 10 268 237 237 272 234 249 248 251 237 297Need to fix camera
Seg 11 1323 1402 1378 1468 1474 1450 1430 1490 1465 1477
Done 5074 5463 5412 5790 5554 5945 6343 869010099 6076
This is the other stage that contains an auto-scroller. We are still really glad there are segment triggers we can use beyond the auto-scroller vehicles.

s2 Segment 0

Right segment.
Dash straight off the platform into the wild blue yonder! Flame Charge into the open! I believe I can fly! Well, thanks to Flame Charge preserving upward momentum as well as allowing mid-air jumps, we can get pretty far, indeed. Not forever, but at least far enough to use floating platforms ahead to save ourselves. We don't take the auto-scroller vehicle, as auto-scrollers have no style.
Team 7 opts to use Flame Charge before landing on that little ledge up there, which is primarily why they're ahead on this segment by a few frames. This puts them in an awkward spot that, ultimately, loses them a few frames.

s2 Segment 1

Auto-scroller segment. At least, it's supposed to be.

s2 Segment 2

Miniboss segment. Inspired by Team 7.
Some kind of flying ship miniboss would be here. Well, it would be. Just take our word for it, it's yet another miniboss skipped.
Like with Stage 4, the game expects us in an auto-scroller, and there's no ground to stand on. This means we must use Flame Charge on our way in, or fall to our doom and soft-lock the game. The flying enemies we use for the skip pick a direction to go based on our position relative to where they spawn, so we just need to be far enough right on our ascent. With one flying to the right, it's simply a matter of using that wall above us to get enough height and timing our Flame Charge. It appears unlikely to be able to get a projectile out to hit the enemy with perfect timing as we Flame Charge, so the Flame Charge itself is used.

s2 Segment 3

Save segment.

s2 Segment 4

Up segment.

s2 Segment 5

Right segment.

s2 Segment 6

Auto-scroller segment. At least, it's supposed to be.

s2 Segment 7

Right segment.

s2 Segment 8

Up segment.
The trick for breaking the block from below was found during Dream Team Contest #6 by Lord Tom from Team 5.

s2 Segment 9

Right segment.

s2 Segment 10

Save segment.

s2 Segment 11

Boss segment. Inspired by Team 3.
At last, there's a small variation in our standard procedure. This boss starts in the air. We use another laser here, before the boss dialog starts, and break the lock there as well. It's all address 15F0, alright. This was because this lets us use Charged Spikeball on the earliest frame possible instead of waiting until we had a chance to jump up.
After that initial hit, standard procedure. Smack boss with enough overflow damage early, and lodge bullets in boss on frames that invincibility wears off. There is a moment the boss uses whirlwind attacks, and there's enough objects to lag us even if we stand still. If we take a hit, we skip the laggy damage detection code and can reduce lag. We use the barrier to hide the damage, of course.
The fact our shots look... odd... probably won't make you think this is standard procedure. Do enjoy this dance.
As for finishing the boss, we jump up the wall a little ways and hit the boss with the spikeball. The hit itself is delayed a few frames, and this was to bring the boss further up. We're on the wall to get higher up so the boss does not warp to its next position when it is hit. When the boss dies, it stays up there to explode. Far enough that the explosion particles instantly unload. As a result, we beam out earlier.

Final Stage - Boss Rush

New# T4 T3 T6 T7 T5 T11 T2 T1 STExcuses
s9 Seg0 560 561 558 573 580 582 574 586 604 587
s9 Boss 1351 1360 1357 1397 1415 1399 1393 1461 1414 1432
Transition 359 365 360 362 364 366 366 364 363 363
s10 Seg0 568 578 572 593 616 578 621 605 588 587
s10 Boss 178 1529 1503 1604 1574 1595 1556 1607 1577 1629
Transition 363 363 364 363 365 363 363 363 365 363
s11 Seg0 577 641 593 626 592 614 615 700 664 612
s11 Boss 1619 1626 1613 1642 1643 1637 1640 1732 1634 1661
Transition 355 356 358 356 354 357 356 357 355 357
s12 Seg0 120 124 119 117 112 130 117 117 117 125
s12 Seg1 55 73 72 76 92 84 75 78 76 75
s12 Seg2 400 399 420 400 431 376 420 413 412 431
s12 Boss 182 1493 1505 1558 1561 1550 1544 1607 1554 1602
Transition 344 346 346 346 346 344 348 345 346 343
s13 Seg0 141 155 141 149 143 144 157 159 171 166
s13 Seg1 82 108 86 107 100 96 143 96 74 103
s13 Seg2 412 425 380 418 447 420 404 426 445 441
s13 Boss 124 1468 1464 1549 1573 1538 1510 1599 1548 1570
Transition 351 353 351 351 352 350 352 354 352 351
s14 Seg0 631 613 610 625 606 620 631 635 668 653Boss Skip setup
s14 Boss 185 1661 1673 1685 1685 1685 1688 1881 1691 1876
Transition 337 337 335 337 337 338 336 336 338 336
s15 Seg0 597 639 618 598 645 628 665 639 617 691
s15 Boss 177 1660 1659 1718 1730 1702 1676 1725 1679 1681
Transition 356 356 358 358 357 357 356 357 355 357
s16 Seg0 131 114 126 115 115 127 126 114 127 124MurderBarrier setup
s16 Seg1 188 218 212 238 238 264 211 336 275 219
s16 Seg2 258 290 255 306 306 280 292 328 280 349
s16 Boss 192 2348 2349 1694 1877 1746 1713 1919 1754 1649
End Input 73545 83628 83826 87658 87664 89087 89125 95378 99315 90717Input file length
Done! 73752 85516 85711 88147 88238 89633 89664 95944 99892 90844Final transition out
This is a series of small stages that end in all the bosses you've already fought. After you've finished fighting the eight all over again... The game ends, and you didn't really get to see anything you haven't already. Bah.
Unlike the stage select, each transition does not refill ammo. Basically, you come in with full tanks of ammo on each of your weapons, and they had better last, as the only refills are from item drops off of enemies, and whatever ammo tanks you walked in with. If it's any consolation, you do get free health refills in the transitions.
Of our eight bosses, six of them are skipped. That leaves two we fight normally. This means 110 HP in 22 hits. Counting these HP and hits carefully would be important for our ammo reserves if we didn't skip so many bosses to start with. We even get double hits with our meteors, getting 20 damage in 2 hits on just 4 ammo, without added lag.

s9 stage

Single segment. Stage 1 aesthetics.
Well, we start with all weapons full, so the only item drop manipulation needed is to refill the flame weapon we're using to charge through.

s9 boss

So the game starts sending re-fights at us. The only thing that makes this slightly more interesting is that our ammo doesn't automatically refill when we move on to the next segment of the end stages.
We tried skipping this boss like we do later ones. We can spawn these normal enemies by the door, but they are exactly one pixel away from remaining in existence when the scrolling stops. We're not aware of any method to move these enemies one single pixel, but if you do get that one pixel, it will be enough to skip this boss.
Since we don't skip this boss, we do Standard Boss Fight Procedure. Before that, we break the dialog lock with a second charged laser so we can refill the laser freely with an ammo tank. Because text advances on an 8-frame rule, and pausing to use a tank takes 7 frames, there is an exact timing where we can refill without delaying the text. Overall, doing this gets us back only 4 ammo, but since it costs us zero frames, and it's not easy manipulating back laser ammo, we'll take that 4 ammo happily.

s10 stage

Single segment. Stage 2 aesthetics.

s10 boss

Oh great, another re-fight. Guess we'll- No, don't feel like fighting this boss. Hey, I can spawn and subsequently shoot this enemy! Let's see what happens when we do after the boss loads! So impressed the boss literally exploded. Please see my comments on the intro boss as to what meaning of 'literally' I'm actually using. I've spent my quota of rants today.
There will be five more of these. These Boss Skips work because we shoot an enemy while in boss mode, which attacks the boss HP, and in turn this is zero before the dialog finishes. Only in the end stages are there spawns in the segment as we scroll. Although it automatically scrolls the camera to the right, moving left will still trigger spawns. In order to move left, we have to use the charged laser to break ourselves out of the door lock. So laser at door, move left when it would spawn something close enough, shoot at it before the boss speaks. Charged Star weapon is basically the only weapon that will reach far enough off-screen.

s11 stage

Single segment. Stage 3 aesthetics. Team 3 inspiration.

s11 boss

The last boss we don't skip.

s12 stage

Three segments. Stage 4 aesthetics.
We cast the Bubble Barrier just for passing through a single enemy. This guy is waiting for us just under the only floor clip available... You may think that we could have gone through the ledge on the further right, but that would be impossible, due to a floor tile that would prevent use from falling in.
We don't like the lag below, but the only thing we can do is just delay the Flame Charge for the very last moment possible, for saving a very little amount of frames.

s12 boss

Skipped. No team did this.
This boss was also so impressed as to literally explode. Look, we've already told you before to look at our intro boss texts if you want to see rants about literally. Don't pester us about this!
Today's enemy we use is a fish. It begins far enough away that enough scrolling and it despawns. Thankfully, it moves toward us if we drop far enough. We need to jump while facing left so we can fall past the floor and have it happen soon enough, before the left edge removes the fish from existence. Once the fish has been triggered going right, it is moving fast, so we need to shoot it at least once to keep it from despawning off the right edge of the screen. We then fire an uncharged shot with our Basic Buster, and swap weapon at the right moment in order to make the bullet hitbox larger at the right frame. Take one look at the boss, what do you see?

s13 stage

Three segments. Stage 5 aesthetics. Done by Keylie.

s13 boss

Another skipped boss. No team did this.
This boss was difficult to impress, but when we did, he literally exploded! Don't be all like "yeah, yeah... Sure he did," we're telling you the boss flew apart in many fragments! You won't believe me because these fragments spawned off-screen and disappeared instantly.
This wasn't a simple boss to skip, as it was the last one we figured out a skip for. There is an enemy on the ground before the door, who bounces back and forth between the walls rather quick. It will continue to exist if it stays on the right wall, even as the boss loads, but keeping it there is difficult, as most projectiles won't even exist out there. The strategy here was simply to move back left after triggering the door, and use basic shots and Muzzle Flash to delay the enemy. When the boss segment loads, a chunk of the wall goes away, and the enemy can approach further. While it still won't let the enemy come all the way into the room, it is now close enough for our basic shots to continue the job. Careful timing consideration was needed, particularly around the ouch timer and door's animation frame rule, but at least we didn't need anything fancy like using Spikeball rebound sprites to leave behind 0-damage "land mines."

s14 stage

Single segment. Stage 6 aesthetics.

s14 boss

Skipped. No team did this.
Truly an impressed boss, so much so that he literally exploded. Don't tell us you had no intention of pestering me, we know you were thinking about it! We're just going to run off and accuse people of things they didn't do, why stop now?

s15 stage

Single segment. Stage 7 aesthetics.

s15 boss

Skipped. No team did this. Joys.
This boss also literally exploded after seeing us smash an enemy from off-screen. Don't worry, we understand how difficult it is to follow instructions, so we won't tell you to go refer to my intro boss texts for what we mean about literally. It's alright.

s16 stage

Three segments. Stage 8 aesthetics.
We finally get to show off MurderBarrier and end the run with some boss skippery.
Ah, the MurderBarrier. All we need is a Charge Swap Bubble Barrier into laser. It creates a strange laser thing that follows the player and erases anything it comes into contact with, instantly. It is used to reduce the intense lag around here. It has a few problems, though. It reduces the shot counter by 1 for every enemy it erases, quickly glitching it to negatives, and requiring a charged laser to clear it back to zero. The hitbox of this glitchy laser is very awkward, and some enemies are just too short to hit with it. Yes, when I say it erases anything, that includes the weakpoint of minibosses, and the bosses themselves. Unfortunately, it also erases the trigger that lets us actually advance the game, so it's no good against minibosses or bosses.
A shame, then, that the power to erase stuff out of existence was used only on enemies who ended up being invisible due to some inefficiencies in the game code.

s16 boss

Skipped. No team did this.
Our input ends before the boss loads. Technically, this segment is after our TAS is already done.
The Frozen Laser glitch was once used to dramatically shorten the input file. Now that the Boss Skip works on this guy, we don't have to wait until end of dialog. In fact, our input ends before the camera stops scrolling. There is still a difference between shortest input and shortest time to ending, as one could spend the extra time to wall jump and beam out faster.
Frozen Laser, by the way, is just Charge Swap by firing the laser and switching to most other weapons. It creates a permanent 10-damage sprite frozen in place. Will also freeze the player in place, but the dialog here can release control. Not as though it's important anyway, since we would have a permanent 10-damage object. But we skip the boss, so Frozen Laser lost its use.

Possible Improvements

Despite the collective effort, there's still probably a few scattered around. The game is very good at keeping sync every 32 frames, but whether times can be matched outside of that frame cycle depends on what ammo you can get to drop.
Note the route after Stage 4 is extremely flexible, except Stage 5 before 2 or 3 is needed because of weapon selection. It could well be a different order is necessary for a better 32-frame cycle on the individual stages, perhaps for reducing lag from items or making it easier to get ammo drops.

Intro improvements

There are rather few delays in this stage. Personally, your best shot at finding an optimization is the Boss Skip, handling the wall jumps better. Note that improvements can only really benefit in 4-frame chunks, thanks to frame rules.

s8 improvements

This stage is theoretically perfect, but then the theoretically perfect is proven to be beaten a few times. We met the dialog frame rule perfectly, so if there are more frames to save, we need another 8 to get any benefit. We have one frame delay at a ladder after the miniboss, due to some animation frame rule, but other than that, finding the other 7 frames should be difficult.

s7 improvements

Another early stage with some crazy optimizations. With Arm Upgrade, Leg Upgrade (early from this stage), and the laser, there's a lot more possibilities. There may be better navigation between the capsule and miniboss, nothing else really comes to mind. Note that improvements here could have us start the next stage in 4 frame increments, due to the boss invincibility attack being right at that point where it could delay us.

s1 improvements

Another stage tightly optimized. However, we have a pile of frames lost at the 8-frame dialog rule. Enough so that the path taken to speed up our climb after the miniboss is actually slower than an older route. Well, we save 4 *normal* frames at cost to 2 *lag* frames, and we lose all 4 *normal* frames to the frame rule, at -2 net. The laser used to glitch the shot count is laggy, so perhaps find a different enemy? Oh, and if we do find another 4 *normal* frames, even another 4 from out of Stage 7, then the laggy path will win out.

s4 improvements

Oh, geez. I don't like thinking about the long "auto-scroller but not really" parts. Flame Charge is used generously, partly due to the fact there aren't a lot of flat ground to cover, and somehow we got the right item drops to avoid a pause screen. Note that improving earlier stages means we lose sync with the 32 frame cycle, and I'm not sure it is possible to maintain the time we have without the timing of the frame cycle we're on now. The route is extremely sensitive to ammo drops, and a good number of them can't even adjust their kill timings.

s5 improvements

Rather tightly optimized, and we're currently delayed zero frames at the dialog frame rule. If there are 8 frames still in waiting, this would be surprising.

s3 improvements

Most of the stage is pretty straight-forward. Well, except for the right-going segment just before the miniboss. And the left-going segment on the fall after. Before I go on to a huge list of things we missed that makes the stage very much not straight-forward, also note that ammo drops are important as well, which is one major problem these segments have to deal with. The boss has an invincibility attack, but the dialog frame rule is in full force here, as the boss attacks based on when it is cleared, not when the boss appears on the screen.

s6 improvements

FatRatKnight was losing motivation around this point, and the horizontal segments are particularly unclear about the routing. Miniboss Skip was investigated here, but if there's some possibility we missed (don't say star weapon before Stage 6; this implies Stage 6 before Stage 6), the skip would save some time. There are 4 frames after this stage, lost at stage select because we wanted the remainder of the run to sync (32-frame item drop cycle).

s2 improvements

Like with Stage 4, there are rather long horizontal segments that are supposed to be auto-scrollers, but aren't thanks to flaming trickery. Once again, it's difficult to find convenient measurement points in short increments that can readily declare one route or another as best. At least the lack of ground may reduce the possibile useful routes, but there's still some possibilities we probably missed. FatRatKnight was also getting tired out, too.

End improvements

FatRatKnight got tired out from TASing, so this did not take careful analysis. It was looked over by a few others (lapogne36, Keylie, ThunderAxe31) for any signs of improvements.

Other improvements

There are some glitches which completely crash the game and usually cause a reset. Some teams put effort into researching these glitches to find memory corruptions or other exploits. It is not impossible these could save a bit of time or even cut out major parts of the run.

Special Thanks

We'd now like to thank everyone who contributed, directly and indirectly, in the creation of this Tool-Assisted Speedrun.
  • Vast Fame, for making the game
  • taizou, for dumping the ROM
  • endrift, for developing mGBA
  • Everyone who joined Dream Team Contest #6
  • Everyone who contributed post-contest
  • You, for watching this movie.

Authors' Final Thoughts

ThunderAxe31: I'd like to thank everyone, but most of all FatRatKnight, for his remarkable dedication and competence. With your work, not only you've demonstrated to possess top-tier TASing skills, but you've also made this run became the masterpiece it is. Thank you very much.
FatRatKnight: I continued working on this after DTC6, putting effort in stitching together the best of teams and working in new techniques. ThunderAxe31 there did a lot of the finishing work. When I was starting to fade off from this project, he picked up the pieces I left and gave it more effort, and I moved from leading it to supporting it then.
Masterjun: Hey it's me, the dude in Team 2. Speaking of Team 2, man that run sure was beautiful and very entertaining, though this submitted run comes pretty close. Anyways good job Noxxa for also helping with, well, uh, anyways, good job! Ah and also amazing work by ThunderAxe31 and FatRatKnight for creating this run at all.

Fog: Judging.
Fog: Crazy amount of effort put into this from everyone who participated in DTC6 up to the final submission.
The technical details of this run are outstanding, with well detailed submission notes explaining every aspect of the game. The audience reception was also universally positive.
Accepting for Moons!
feos: Pub.
Last Edited by adelikat on 10/23/2023 11:46 PM
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