Rockman & Forte: Mirai Kara no Chousensha "Forte" in 17:37.3 by Noxxa
Upon hearing of Rockman's quest to kill his future self for a second time, Forte jumped at the opportunity to take over Rockman's job of killing himself. He got sidetracked for a minute by his bolts-collecting addiction as well as getting stalled by a very annoying blob, but ran it close thanks to the ability to clip through various walls as well as drinking plenty of juice along the way. He ultimately lost the race to kill R-Shadow by just 18 seconds.
- Emulator used: BizHawk 2.2.2
- Aims for fastest time
- Forte any% (Forte is overall slower than Rockman)
- Heavy luck manipulation
- Takes damage to save time
About the game
Rockman & Forte: Mirai Kara no Chousensha (unofficial translation: Mega Man & Bass: Challenger of the Future) is a sequel to the Super Famicom title Rockman & Forte (official translation: Mega Man & Bass), which itself was known in development as Mega Man 8.5. Therefore, you can think of this game as Mega Man 8.75. It was released in 1999 exclusively for the Bandai WonderSwan, and therefore only hit the stores in Japan.
The game was developed by Layup Co., Ltd and published by Bandai, instead of by Capcom itself. Because of this, the game has several oddball quirks - the set of Robot Masters is more obscure than ever ("What's a Komuso?"), Dr. Wily plays no in-game role at all, the stage enemies more closely resemble Mechaniloids from the X series, shots can pass through screen transitions, weapons do not get refilled between stages at all, bosses have differing amounts of hit points, there are no boss refights, boss patterns are almost all completely fixed and they tend to get temporarily invincible a lot, boss weaknesses are not a thing as each weapon does set damage, there are only six or seven Robot Masters (depending on how you count the Clock Men), only four of which can be fought in a varying order, and Compas Man does not give any weapon at all.
Like the last time Capcom outsourced development for a handheld Mega Man game, the game involves time travel and one of the chief villains is a version of Mega Man from the future (called Rockman Shadow, or R-Shadow in short, this time around). This time around, R-Shadow and his band of misfit robots (calling themselves the "Dimensions") come from the future to ransack a city until Mega Man or Bass kill the lot. (No really, that's literally why R-Shadow went back in time according to the plot).
Before Mega Man or Bass go after R-Shadow, they need to face off against his six-and-a-half Dimensions first. Their names are Aircon Man, Konro Man, Dangan Man, Komuso Man, Clock Men (sic) and Compas Man (sic). After an intro stage, featuring the Grey Devil (which is just the Green Devil from Mega Man & Bass, but now in a greyscale handheld system), the first four of these bosses can be fought in any order. Following them, the Clock Men await, then Compas Man after that, then R-Shadow himself after that. That is just eight stages in total, fairly short for a Mega Man game.
As with Mega Man & Bass, the player can pick between Mega Man or Bass at the start of the game. And as with that game, Mega Man's advantages include having a slide to reach low areas and a charged shot to defeat tough enemies better, while Bass has a dash, a double jump to reach high areas and a weaker multi-directional shot to defeat annoyingly placed enemies better. The weapons that they get from defeating bosses are also different, but only half the time.
 Now that we've figured out that Rockman and Forte are called Mega Man and Bass in English, I'll use their English names from this point on
About the run
This run originally started in the middle of the Rockman run's production, aiming to see what kinds of interesting differences there would be in the runs between Mega Man and Bass. However, its progress got cancelled relatively early on because it turned out the first boss battle would be 40 seconds slower as Bass, already eliminating any hopes of Bass being the faster character of the run. His half-damage Forte Buster would also cause further slowdowns in the next few (mini-)bossfights as well, further cementing his relative slowness. However, this latter bit could be mitigated for the most part thanks to an item shop part that doubles Bass's buster damage, bringing it on par with Mega Man's buster (but without the charge). All that's needed is to get 300 bolts...or in other words, 30 large bolt drops...before the first Robot Master stage. It was not impossible, but even after figuring out the RNG's workings (more on that later), it was just not interesting to do, so the project was sidelined with about half of the intro stage done in the end.
Fast forward a few years, I decided to come back to this project to see what I could make of it anyway. Earlier this year I finished the intro stage, getting past that horrible 40 second loss and large bolt manipulation. The project then got stalled again in favor of other ventures, but recently I found the time to pick it up yet again, and this time, see it through the end fully.
The route (on a stage-by-stage level) is quite straightforward in this game. The intro stage is first of course, where Bass has to collect his 300 bolts in order to not lose massive time on the miniboss and boss of whatever the next stage is. Then, after the intro stage, the Super Buster part is bought in the shop. The first boss of choice is Aircon Man, for the same reason as Mega Man: his weapon (Forte Cyclone for Bass, which is identical to Mega Man's Barrier Wind) is enormously powerful and useful against other bosses. Komuso Man is next for Bass, as his Doppler Attack is highly useful in all stages from them on. Then both Konro Man and Dangan Man can be done in either order; neither stage has use for the other's weapon. Then the rest of the order is fixed with Clock Men, Compas Man and R-Shadow.
Tricks and notes
(Note: I say "Bass" here for convenience, but anything that doesn't depend on character-specific abilities will apply for both characters).
- Framerate notice: as this is a WonderSwan game, the game is actually just over 75 FPS, as opposed to the ~60 FPS of most other systems.
- Subpixel notes: The game maintains positions and velocities as 16ths of pixels. However, vertical subpixels are not conserved on landing, and almost all horizontal motion is in full pixel units (exception: moving platforms), so there is not a lot of subpixel movement or optimization.
- Horizontal motion notes: Walking and jumping go at 1 pixel/frame. Sliding goes at 2px/f. Slides last 25 frames and can be jump-cancelled but are otherwise not cancelable.
- Vertical motion notes: Initial jump velocity is just under 3 (47/16) px/f, and decreases by 2/16 px/f every frame. At the apex of a jump, velocity is set to 2/16 px/f and then accelerates by 2/16 px/f every frame. Terminal downwards velocity is 2 px/f. Ladder climbing goes both up and down at 1 px/f.
- Bosses and minibosses have 16 frames of invincibility after getting hit.
- Bosses and minibosses have varying hit points, from 56 (Grey Devil) to 120 (Aircon Man and R-Shadow). Miniboss hit points vary between 56 (Konro Man miniboss) and 96 (Clock Men miniboss).
- Every small bar on a boss life bar corresponds to 2 hit points.
- Weapons have set damage, with no weakness bonus for any weapon/boss combinations. For standard weapons, the Forte Buster does 1 damage, Mega Buster does 2 damage, and the charged Mega Buster does 8 damage.
- For special weapons, the Barrier Wind/Forte Cyclone does 10 damage per hit, Flame Shower/Flame Mixer does 4 damage per hit, Rockn Vulcan/Forte Vulcan does 8 damage per hit, and Doppel Crash does 10 damage per hit. Bass' Doppler Attack does 4 damage per hit.
- For the Bass Buster, four shots can be on screen at once. For all special weapons, only one shot can be on screen at once.
- Switching weapons takes around 160 frames, depending on how many frames it takes to select a certain weapon.
The RNG was already touched upon for the Rockman run, but it bears a special notice here. The RNG still functions the same, but for Bass it is far more important all throughout the run. This is both because he requires bolt drops to buy parts early on, and because he needs large weapon refills all over the place to keep his constant use of special weapons ongoing throughout the stages (weapons do not refill at all between any of the stages).
The RNG in this game runs once per frame. Other than that, it is completely unmanipulatable. This means that whenever a particular type of drop is needed, it just means having to kill an enemy on a particular frame. Due to random entropy, this means that getting a certain drop from a particular enemy could mean a delay of 0 frames, or a few frames, or in the worst cases, up to several dozen frames. Fortunately, it never actually comes down to giving up multiple dozen frames, as by that point it's better to find drop opportunities elsewhere instead, but still, there are plenty of cases where there is visible slowdown because it is just necessary to give up the frames for a required drop.
There is relatively little randomness in this game. The RNG only comes into play for item drops, and for a small few boss actions (for example, the spread of the bones of the R-Shadow miniboss). Almost all bosses have completely fixed patterns otherwise. R-Shadow has a varying pattern, but it depends on his hit points and on Bass's position, not on RNG.
Instant ladder climb
There is an odd trick involving climbing ladders, where if Bass stays at the top of a ladder (as high as possible without going up it) and waits for a certain amount of frames, pressing up will lift Bass up immediately, skipping the usual ladder-climb animation. This saves 5-10 frames on each ladder, depending on the delay required. The delay can be between 1 and 8 frames, depending on how many frames Bass has climbed the ladder for. For many ladders it was an interesting challenge to find the right number of frames to spend on the ladder, so that I could go up the ladder with only 1 frame of delay, or otherwise get up the ladder as soon as possible overall.
Instant ladder drop
Entering a ladder from the top from a certain state at the right positioning will cause Bass to immediately drop downwards by ~32 pixels. This can be done either by ending a slide or dash on top of the ladder (which requires very convenient timing), or more commonly by jumping on top of the ladder. This is used anywhere Bass needs to drop down a ladder.
Screen transition shooting
Unlike practically every other Mega Man game, enemies and projectiles are persistent and keep on moving whenever Bass goes through a screen transition. This means it is sometimes possible to kill enemies before Bass is even in the room yet, and it allows Bass to fire a few opening shots at a boss or mini-boss before the battle actually starts.
Note that when a boss is hit before his life bar is initialized, its hit points are already set, so it's not possible to quick-kill a boss like Mega Man 7. However, it will decrease the boss' hit points. If more than 8 points of damage are dealt, it will in fact reduce the maximum length of the lifebar when it is generated (and does so for every 8 points of damage). This gives the illusion that a charged shot does no damage, but it actually still does.
It should be noted that this does not work for every boss, as some bosses such as Grey Devil, Konro Man or Komuso Man, start out invincible during the boss introduction. It also does not work with every weapon, as for instance Forte Cyclone gets stuck into the boss corridor ceiling instead. In practice, this is only done with the Forte Buster.
This trick is significantly less useful with Bass than with Mega Man, because Bass doesn't have a charge shot, and his shots are faster, causing them to dissipate from screen faster, and making it impossible to get as many hits in as Mega Man could.
Opening up the menu screen will remove all of Mega Man's weapons from the screen, regardless of whether he changes weapon or not. This is useful to get more hits in with weapons such as Forte Cyclone, which sometimes may spend a lot of time floating around or stuck in a wall without hitting anything, so you can call another one faster. This is used extensively in RTAs of this game, but in a TAS setting, it is usually slower than just letting the projectile dissipate as soon as possible normally. It is only used in the R-Shadow fight, where it helps with manipulating R-Shadow's next attack pattern (which depends on his damage level).
No ontological inertia
In this game, every projectile is bound to its owner. If its owner ceases to exist, so does the projectile. This is used many times, for example with Metools which are destroyed as soon as possible so their projectile does not get in the way.
Weapons were already briefly touched upon, but for Bass they're more important than Mega Man, so they deserve some extra attention here.
Bass' standard buster weapon. It can fire in 7 directions (all cardinal and diagonal directions except straight down), and up to four shots can be on screen at a time. Bass's buster shots cannot pass through walls, unlike Mega Man (there's an upgrade for that, but it is not used). They do travel slightly faster than Mega Man's bullets. It is the weakest weapon in the game, doing only 1 point of damage per shot. The Super Buster upgrade brings it up to 2 damage per shot, but even then it cannot charge to do more damage like Mega Man's buster.
It's still a quite good weapon for traversing through typical stages and shooting regular enemies (and getting weapon drops to refill other weapons), but it doesn't allow some of the tricks other weapons have.
When getting a weapon refill drop while having Forte Buster on, the energy will go to the next weapon, prioritized by index order. This order is: Forte Vulcan, Flame Mixer, Forte Cyclone, Doppler Attack, Time Bomb. The game has an Energy Balancer item which changes priority to the weapon with the lowest energy, but when you already have this right away, what's the point of that?
Bass' equivalent of Mega Man's Barrier Wind, and it's completely identical in all but name. It still has the highest single-hit damage (10) of all weapons, still can do multiple hits against most boss enemies, and still is the weapon of choice against most bosses. However, it's less widely used than Barrier Wind because Bass has better alternative weapons for some (mini-)bosses or situations.
This weapon is obtained from Aircon Man.
This is quite possibly a contender for most broken/overpowered weapon in any Mega Man game, period. It's also one of the most unusual ones. When activated, Bass splits into four mini-clones in a square pattern. In this state, Bass is completely intangible. No enemy or weapon can touch or damage him, and Bass can freely traverse anywhere through the screen - through air, through floors, through walls, anything - as long as the weapon button is held. Touching enemies in this state also continuously damages them, dealing 4 damage per frame (or per 16 frames against mini-bosses or bosses), assuming they're not invincible.
The fact that Bass can use this weapon to go through walls/floors/ceilings means it can be used to render passing any sort of stage geometry trivial. If the level design forces Mega Man to go back and forth through corridors to progress, then Bass can just use Doppler Attack to go through the walls and just proceed in whatever the intended direction is, often saving quite a few seconds along the way. It also means not having to wait e.g. for moving platforms in Konro Man's stage. Also, Forte can even enter shortcuts he shouldn't be able to enter (like areas only reachable by slide). Simply put, if there's anything that prevents Bass from just moving forward in the direction he needs or wants to go, Doppler Attack can just send him directly towards it.
That said, Doppler Attack does have a few shortcomings.
- Its damage is only average for a boss weapon - Forte Cyclone and Forte Vulcan are both more effective at defeating bosses or mini-bosses, so those are preferred in almost all cases. It is highly effective for regular enemies though.
- It also has high ammo consumption - 4 units to activate it, followed by another 4 units for every 128 frames of use. This means a lot of refilling is required, but it doesn't help that defeating an enemy just to be able to get a drop requires 4 ammo in itself. This makes it required to manipulate for large drops that refill 8 units just to not lose out on ammo overall.
- Thirdly, Doppler Attack's movement is limited to walking speed, slower than dashing, jumping or falling. This makes it not worthwhile to use in any area where it doesn't actually allow Bass to skip past any geometry. It also means that just attacking any enemy (often needed for refills, or just passing them) costs frames.
- Lastly, exiting Doppler Attack while inside a wall will instantly kill Bass (with only a few pixels of leniency in any direction), so very careful use is required. (Not a problem for a TAS).
Ultimately, Doppler Attack sees a lot of use throughout every stage after it is obtained. Its ability to clip through geometry for shortcuts just is too useful in every stage.
This weapon is obtained from Komuso Man.
Forms a fire shield around Bass, consisting of 4 flames that rotate around him. Releasing the attack button makes the flames move upwards. It doesn't have the damage (4 per hit) or utility to match up with some of the other weapons, so it is never used. This weapon is obtained from Konro Man.
While Mega Man's Rockn Vulcan shoots three projectiles that arc in different directions, Bass' Forte Vulcan instead only sends out a single shot. It can be shot in 7 directions like Bass' buster shots, homes in on targets, and does 8 damage per shot. It is a very reliable weapon for its damage - it does only slightly less damage per hit than Forte Cyclone, but whenever that weapon is too impractical to hit with, this weapon is a very useful alternative.
A major downside of Forte Vulcan is its ammo usage. It costs 2 ammo per shot, and you can only get a single hit for that requirement. Most mini-bosses or bosses it is useful on will drain more than half of its ammo, which limits its potential use. That being said, it still sees a fair amount of use against quite a few mini-bosses, and against Compas Man.
This weapon is obtained from Dangan Man.
Identical to Mega Man's Time Switch. Freezes time for 240 frames, during which enemies don't move and don't do damage. Neat, but not worth using, especially when Doppler Attack exists for Bass. Never used.
This weapon is obtained from Clock Men.
- Extensive luck manipulation to get 300 bolts before the end of the stage. There are 30 enemies along the way in this stage which can drop a big bolt (worth 10 bolts) and one regular bolt pickup. One particularly out of the way enemy is skipped. Every single other enemy in the stage is manipulated to drop a big bolt. This leads to having exactly 300 bolts by the end of the stage, which is exactly enough to buy the Super Buster part after this stage. With the Super Buster, Forte's shots do 2 damage per shot instead of one.
- Grey Devil has 56 hit points. This is easily one of the worst boss design choices made in any Mega Man game. In typical Devil style, this boss is usually invulnerable, except when it pokes its eye out in between sliding across the screen. Mega Man can do up to 26 damage per cycle, so he can 3-cycle this boss without much issue. Bass can do up to only 4 damage, and therefore has to 13-cycle this boss in the best case. As a result, this boss battle takes well over a minute. Hopefully Bass could provide some entertaining dances for you.
- This is the only stage to use the WonderSwan's feature to be playable vertically. For the duration of the stage (but not the boss battle), the screen is vertical instead of horizontal.
- The miniboss in this stage has 80 hit points. Unlike Mega Man, who has to bounce his shots off the Metools, Bass can just fire directly upwards at the boss, making it easier to work around the moving platforms that block shots.
- Aircon Man has 120 hit points. Without Mega Man's charge shots, and with the ability to reach/aim at Aircon Man more easily, this battle is significantly more straightforward than with Mega Man.
- Komuso Man is done second because Doppler Attack is broken, pretty much. The reason Komuso Man is not done first instead is because not having a weapon to fight him would lose a ton of time.
- The miniboss has 64 hit points. The first four hit points are bustered off, the remaining sixty by three Forte Cyclones doing two hits of ten damage each.
- In the room after the miniboss, a Forte Cyclone is fired just to block a few bullets fired by a small moth enemy.
- Komuso Man has 112 hit points, and his boss pattern design is still absolutely ridiculous .At least Bass can actually avoid getting hit by Komuso Man, but taking damage is still faster anyway. Exactly the same strategy as Mega Man is used here.
- Konro Man's stage provides a few opportunities to show the newly obtained Doppler Attack's usefulness, bypassing some geometry as well as the moving platform sections.
- The fastest weapon against the mini-boss would be Forte Vulcan, but it's not worth switching back and forth from Doppler Attack to use it (also, I don't have Forte Vulcan yet), so this is the one time where Doppler Attack is used against a (mini-)boss. This mini-boss has 56 hit points, so it doesn't take too long to use Doppler Attack on it.
- The final vertical section is what makes Doppler Attack worthwhile for the second half of the stage.
- Konro Man has 104 hit points. Konro Man is a typical example of a boss that spends a fair bit of time being invincible, but then when it does get vulnerable, it goes down quickly. Konro Man stands so close to the wall that even when the Forte Cyclone is wedged inside the wall, it still continues to damage him. This allows me to keep damaging him practically constantly despite the slow fire rate of Forte Cyclone.
- The first half of this stage, done with just the plain buster, provides a good opportunity to get some much-needed refills for Forte Cyclone (which ran out at the end of the Konro Fight) and Doppler Attack.
- There would be an opportunity to use Doppler Attack to clip through the floor before the mini-boss, but since the mini-boss requires the buster anyway, it is not worth switching back and forth. Later on in the stage there are more opportunities to use Doppler Attack for clipping, so it gets used there instead.
- Dangan Man has 80 hit points. Mega Man can take 10 points off by pre-hitting, but Bass can't, so he can't save a hit for Forte Cyclone. This means one more Forte Cyclone is used for this battle. Besides that, the same strategy is used as with Mega Man.
- Lots of Doppler Attack clips around the beginning of the stage. Lots of weapon refill manipulation is required to keep up.
- Forte Vulcan is used against the mini-boss because it's faster to get shots in with than Forte Cyclone. The mini-boss has 96 hit points. One Forte Vulcan pre-shot is done before the start of the fight, and another 11 shots in the fight proper. Note how this already takes out three-fourths of Forte Vulcan ammo.
- Doppler Attack is used to pass into a shortcut that normally can only be accessed with sliding.
- The gravity-reversing section was one of the most complicated to route, as especially Bass has a lot of leeway with whether or not to touch a gravity switcher, and both the floor and ceiling have their benefits in various areas - and this was on top of deciding where to luck-manipulate for weapon drops.
- The Clock Men have 112 health, and share a lifebar although both count invincibility individually. Forte Cyclone is used, and mostly the same strategy as Mega Man, although Forte has the advantage of double jumping for easier reach. This makes his fight slightly faster than Mega Man's.
Compas Man (sic)
- The first part of this stage provides plenty of enemies for weapon ammo manipulation. Five large drops are manipulated before reaching the mini-boss, enough to refill every weapon at this stage.
- The mini-boss has 80 hit points. Mega Man used the buster for most of this fight, but Bass doesn't have charged shots, so Barrier Wind is used instead. Forte Vulcan would have been a slightly faster option, but it would be impossible to get enough weapon ammo for the Compas Man fight then.
- Bass has a shortcut of his own here to save time. Clipping through it with Doppler Attack (as well as clipping afterwards) saves even more time.
- Compas Man has 96 hit points. Using Barrier Wind didn't work for Mega Man, so he had to work with Doppel Crash instead. Bass doesn't have Doppel Crash, and Doppler Attack isn't nearly as useful here, but fortunately he has something even better: a nearly full stack of Forte Vulcans. Compas Man is quickly shot to pieces. Annoyingly, Forte Vulcan's homing capability actually works against Bass here, as it would usually swerve away from the weak point (often towards the invincible top half), so some careful positioning was needed.
- Compas Man still doesn't give a weapon. What a rip-off.
- At this point, 20 units of ammo of Forte Vulcan are needed for the miniboss fight (and the rest of the game), and Forte starts the stage with 4. One refill here brings it up to 12 (thanks to Forte Vulcan topping the index order for refills), before switching to Doppler Attack.
- This was one of the hardest stages with regard of ammo planning with Doppler Attack. Many times, the RNG was just in a bad position when drops were most needed, so there are some delays here and there.
- The last enemy before the mini-boss fight is defeated with Doppler Attack to drop a refill for Forte Vulcan, getting exactly the 20 ammo needed for the mini-boss.
- This mini-boss has 80 health. This is another instance where Mega Man had to faff around with precise yet not fully practical Barrier Wind shots, but Bass can just unload Forte Vulcan into it. Slight luck manipulation was required that the random bones wouldn't get in the way, but this only cost a single frame.
- Doppler Attack is again used for the last few rooms of the stage. Again, ammo drop manipulation was tight. Ideally one or two more drops could've saved a handful of frames near the end, but manipulating for it would have taken more time than just progressing this way. The last few enemies in the final room are done with Forte Cyclone instead.
- R-Shadow has 120 hit points. Exactly the same strategy as with Mega Man is used again here. This again includes one pause trick, manipulating R-Shadow to do a jump back by his hit points count. R-Shadow then is quickly finished off.
- R-Shadow dies. Again. RIP, the end, that's all folks!
Thanks for watching!
Memory: Claiming because it doesn't require me to figure out Linux.
Memory: Optimization looks great.
I really enjoyed the movie in spite of the first boss taking a while. The Doppler Attack being what it is was really amusing and the audience really liked it as well.
Accepting to Moons.