FDS The Mysterious Murasame Castle in 9:55.05 by Noxxa
In Edo period Japan, alien demons have taken over the titular Murasame Castle and corrupted the castle lords of four neighboring castles. Apprentice samurai Takamaru sets out to each castle to slice ninja to pieces, scorch castle lords with fireballs, and eradicate the aliens.
- Emulator used: BizHawk 2.3.1
- Aims for fastest time
- Manipulates luck
- Slices ninja
- Colors a castle
About the game
The Mysterious Murasame Castle, also known as its original Japanese release title Nazo no Murasamejou, is a Famicom Disk System game developed by Nintendo EAD and published in 1986, only two months after The Legend of Zelda which it bears some similarities to. Unlike that game, however, Murasame originally only was released in Japan and did not spawn any further games or a franchise. The game has seen some re-releases over time, including being released in the West in 2014 for the 3DS Virtual Console, and Takamaru has been making cameo appearances in a few other games, including multiple Super Smash Bros. games.
Gameplay is comparable to that of The Legend of Zelda, with Takamaru being controlled from an overhead perspective, traversing through screens, slicing through enemies, and shooting projectiles. Compared to Zelda, Murasame is focused more on action than on exploring - stages are traversed in a linear progression, and while the environments contain some variety in branches, routes, and general maze-like structure (as well as tons of hidden secrets and power-ups), they too have linear progression towards the exit (or boss) as a goal. The action is also notably faster paced and more challenging.
There are five locations visited in the game - these are, in order, Aosame Castle, Akasame Castle, Ryokusame Castle, Momosame Castle, and finally Murasame Castle. Each of the first four areas is divided into a town segment and a castle segment, while Murasame only consists of a castle segment. The town segments simply require Takamaru to reach the end screen, while the castle segments end on a bossfight against the castle lord (or alien inside Murasame castle).
The story takes place in Edo period Japan. The titular Murasame Castle is taken over by a mysterious alien creature, who extends its power to four other neighboring castles. The daimyō lords of each castle are each given an evil sphere of power, and they use this power to summon armies of ninja and monsters to terrorize the nearby villages. Shōgun Tokugawa Ietsuna sends out samurai apprentice Takamaru to investigate the castles, defeat each castle lord along the way, and stop the aliens.
- Takamaru moves at a speed of 1.25 pixels per frame by default. With the red sandal upgrade (gained shortly into the run), this is improved to 1.5 pixels per frame. Takamaru can only move in orthogonal directions, not diagonals.
- Any weapon action (sword swing, weapon throw) will pause Takamaru's movement for 1 frame. Therefore, it is important to minimize weapon actions whenever possible.
General weapon/sword actions
- Regular shuriken and fireballs can be thrown with two on screen at a time, with an upgrade (not collected in the run) that upgrades this to four. If one of the shōgi projectile powerups is collected, only one can be fired at once.
- The sword will automatically be triggered whenever an opponent is close enough when the button is pressed.
- The sword trigger is based on enemy position relative to the player's position and direction on the previous frame - this means it's possible to look at an enemy or projectile, then swing the sword the next frame in another direction. This is used in a few places to save time.
- The basic samurai enemies will try to hit Takamaru with their sword whenever he is in range, but there's a one pixel gap where they will try to swing, but will miss. This allows Takamaru to get alongside them (but not past them) without having to attack them. In a few cases, this is used to save a frame.
- Triggering an explosion (by defeating an exploding ninja) also triggers explosions of any mines that are on screen. This sometimes helps with bypassing mines by hitting a seemingly-unrelated enemy.
- In the third screen, I get a hidden blue sandal upgrade, which allows Takamaru to move as fast on water as on land. This is immediately useful for speeding up movement in the water-heavy upper route.
- At this point, there's a branching path. The upper route is faster than the lower route by a few seconds, mainly thanks to the blue sandal upgrade.
- Along the way on the upper route, a tanuki moves directly in the way. Tanuki are not enemies - they cannot hurt Takamaru, and drop valuable (predetermined) powerups if hit. This one in particular grants a fire powerup, which replaces Takamaru's shuriken with fireballs, which have less range but deal more damage.
- A few screens later, I get a hidden red sandal upgrade, which increases Takamaru's walk speed by 1.5x. This is the earliest available opportunity to get one, and naturally it's incredibly useful to have for the rest of the run.
- At the end of the town section, there's a bonus game where Takamaru can slash a tanuki statue to get powerups. Every time this happens, the rightmost one must be luck-manipulated to be empty, so that the game progresses to the next stage as soon as possible.
- Castles contain quite a few rooms with a locked door, where the door will only open once all samurai enemies in the room are defeated.
- They also contain multiple rooms where the castle's daimyō appears, but runs away leaving behind a group of troll enemies. Here, too, the enemies must be defeated before the stairs to the next room open. In these cases, it's instrumental to kill all enemies as fast as possible so there is minimal delay with being able to enter the stairs.
- The daimyō has 40 hit points. A fireball does 8 points of damage.
- Early on in the stage, I get a white crossbow upgrade, which increases projectile speed. This is not the first opportunity to pick one up, but it is close enough by, and the increased projectile speed is useful for saving time against various enemy types in the next couple of stages and beyond.
- In the same screen, there's a one-pixel gap between some bushes, providing a hidden (and probably unintentional) shortcut.
- The town is filled with ancient Edo-era land mines. These can often be bypassed with creative walking paths or abusing exploding ninja to trigger a chain explosion.
- In the penultimate room, I get a shōgi (Japanese chess) rook piece upgrade. With this upgrade, on throwing a projectile three instances of it will appear in a diagonal line pattern (but only one projectile can be fired at a time). This is a powerful technique as the three projectiles can be used to inflict multiple hits in one throw, making it especially useful for bossfights.
- In the room after that, I get a lightning technique from an invisible tanuki. This technique grants a screen-clearing move, although it can only be used 3 times before running out. This will be useful later.
- The daimyō has 40 hit points (again), with a fireball hit still doing 8 damage. The shōgi rook upgrade shows its use here, as the daimyō is now defeated with just two clean fireball throw hits.
- One of the summoned enemies is used to trigger a sword strike sooner while the daimyō is hit, allowing Takamaru to touch the orb earlier.
- In the second half of the stage, there are three possible routes. The middle route (down, then left) ended up being the fastest route by about 20 frames.
- This stage introduces fire wizards/shinobi, which are incredibly obnoxious enemies. They have small fireballs circling around themselves, which can only be walked through with pixel-perfect positioning (and only if it's a relatively wide gap - some of the smaller gaps between fireballs are not passable at all), which block shots, and the shinobi itself tends to be invulnerable during their opening few seconds as well for some reason. Generally, defeating or getting past them requires some very creative and tight movement to breach their fire circle and cut them to death.
- The daimyō has 40 hit points (again), with a fireball hit still doing 8 damage. This one uses three fake clones of itself. The four instances appear at random points along the top part of the map - this is luck-manipulated to have the real boss directly in front of the player, minimizing the time needed to throw fireballs at it.
- More ancient Edo-era land mines! Joyous. They're still easy enough to bypass in most cases, but throughout the stage there are a few instances where they simply cannot be bypassed without letting them detonate by themselves or by taking damage. This means I have to resort to the third option: clear them away with the lightning technique. This needs to be done once in the town section and twice in the forst section, but saves around 20 frames with each use.
- Aforementioned uses of lightning have drained out the three uses of the lightning technique, but conveniently in one of the sky screens there's an invisible Tanuki to get a new supply.
- There's one room with a locked door and a samurai that's so far out of the way that it's not worth the time to walk up to him and hit him (it's not possible to hit him with projectiles from afar, as his sword will block the shots). So, lightning is used instead. This saves a considerable amount of time.
- The daimyō has 40 hit points (again), with a fireball hit still doing 8 damage. He's relatively straightforward, being a single entity firing projectiles like the first two daimyō (except the projectile splits into 8 when exploding). It's just a matter of dodging the projectile and using two attacks to hit with 5 fireballs.
- The stage has three types of water - normal blue water, red poison water, and invisible black water - but none of those have any particular effect as long as the blue sandal upgrade is active.
- There are a few screens with drawbridges, which are unlocked by defeating demon enemies like in the other castle stages. However, actually reaching those takes way too long, so lightning is used in both cases.
- For the second drawbridge screen, I step 1 pixel onto the drawbridge zone, which causes Takamaru to be moved out of the way of the drawbridge, and partially into a wall. This in turn saves a slight bit of time by using this wall for a corner boost/mini-zip. This saves 3 frames here. In the other screen, this actually ended up being 1 frame slower due to loading time for the next room.
- The boss of this area has 30 hit points, with fire balls doing 5 damage. Six hits are needed to defeat it, which means two projectile launches (optimally) with all fireballs hitting. This requires a little bit of positioning (also to avoid the enemy's projectile), but as soon as the projectile is passed the boss goes down quickly.
- After the boss is defeated, a door opens to the final area inside the boss' body. A little bit of repositioning was required to enter this as soon as possible.
- The projectile traps here cannot be attacked or stopped while "charging", but they can be deflected with the sword when they start flying towards Takamaru.
- The final boss has 24 hit points, with fireballs doing 3 damage. Therefore, three salvos of fireballs are required.
- I make sure to hit the head with the first fireball as soon as possible when it becomes vulnerable, with the next two fireballs following afterwards as soon as possible. This must be done from a slight distance as well, to enable firing the next set of fireballs faster.
- Input is ended as soon as the last set of fireballs is fired towards the boss.
- Takamaru takes damage shortly after input is ended because of a projectile from the boss, but this does not have any bearing on the ending. Avoiding taking damage in this situation would have cost a few frames before the ending would start (although the input time would have been the same).
- After a game full of oriental-sounding tunes fitting to the samurai setting, the ending scene is accompanied by...a rendition of the Ode to Joy. Makes sense, right?
Thanks to hisatoki's 10:15 TAS from 2006 and the RTA speedrun community (WR 10:45 as of writing) for reference material.
Thanks for watching!
feos: Solid, fast-paced run, good feedback. I don't really have much to say other than Accepting to Moons.