Submission #7220: Ebbe's GC Spyro: A Hero's Tail in 33:44.52

Console Nintendo GameCube Emulator Dolphin 5.0-13603
Game Version USA Frame Count 1010980
ROM Filename Spyro - A Hero's Tail (USA).iso Frame Rate 499.36849134880066
Branch Rerecord Count 9890
Unknown Authors
(Additionally: Ebbe)
Game Spyro: A Hero's Tail
Submitted by EbbeBrinch on 9/27/2021 7:47:26 PM

Submission Comments
My own encode (1440p, HD HUD textures) can be viewed here. An encode with my commentary can be viewed here.
Suggested screenshot at frame 117120.
Suggested description: Spyro: A Hero's Tail (developed by Eurocom) is the fifth main-line game in the Spyro franchise, and this time around there's a new villain named Red, who threatens to take over the world. Over the past games in the series Spyro has grown tired of having to collect countless items to even get a chance at kicking the bad guys’ butts, so has decided to skip all that nonsense and confront Red and his henchmen right away. Y’know, like any sensible dragon would do.

Game Objectives

  • Beat the game in the fastest possible time
  • Utilize damage/death abuse and glitches to beat sections quicker
  • Hopefully enjoy watching cutscenes

Playback/Encoding Info

  • TASed on Dolphin 5.0-13603, game version is US NTSC GameCube
  • Memory card Slot A = GCI Folder (starts from empty folder)
  • Disable dual core
  • This TAS was created at native resolution, and Dolphin is known to have issues when playing input files back at different resolutions than they were created in. I’d advise playing the TAS back at native resolution if all else fails.
  • Disabling fog has no desync issues and is advised due to a broken underwater blur effect.
  • Enabling any hacks didn’t seem to affect syncing, but they should probably stay off for safety
PatchingNone
Checksum (SHA-1)718bd74c1345f23ebfeeff2f527d7dfb007fc531
Externally downloaded dsp_*.bin fileNo

General info

This TAS is a massive improvement to a previous one I made a few years ago. It was so bad that I didn't even bother submitting to TASVideos. It had lots of missing strats and terrible optimization, to the point that the world record RTA run was actually faster at certain points. Plus, it was super boring to watch. This new TAS aims to rectify all the issues of the old one, making it both faster and more entertaining. There is probably still room for improvement (especially in those darn swimming sections, those are a nightmare to TAS), but I'm still very pleased with the final result.
Specifically regarding strats the older TAS didn’t use, it didn’t do the faster skip to Gnasty, didn’t do enough damage abuses in Gnasty’s fight, didn’t use the death animation skip in Ineptune’s fight, didn’t do the cutscene skip when beginning Red’s fight, didn’t use the fast spin poles strat upon exiting Red, didn’t utilize lava walking enough, did a much slower version of Dark Mine skip and didn’t manipulate two enemies at once in the final phase of the Mecha Red fight. This all ended up with this new TAS saving roughly 2.5 minutes over the old one.
To my knowledge, I am the only one who has attempted making a full game TAS of this game at all, so the standards for this game are not super high. Still, I tried to outdo anything that’s been done before. Perhaps most of the time making this TAS was spent making it fun to look at - there’s a lot of downtime, especially in the bosses. The hardest part to TAS was probably the section right before the third boss. Not just because of the hard to optimize platforming, but because of the menu storage necessary to execute a cutscene skip in that section, which forced me to juggle between moving and jumping around and keeping a menu on screen at the same time.

General route overview

This game features 4 hub-worlds or "realms" to explore, and you must defeat the boss in each realm to progress, the game ending upon defeating realm 4’s boss. The first 3 realms start the player very close to the boss entrance, but it's blocked off until the player has destroyed enough Dark Gems in the realm. As it turns out though, you can relatively easily skip past these barriers and just go directly to the boss from the start of the Realm. The fourth realm works a little differently, as it's essentially a linear gauntlet of levels from the start of the realm to the final boss, and it pretty much makes up half of the run because of this. Still, using several glitches, you can skip past most of these levels.
The unfortunate side effect of the massive amount of skipped content, is that a large part of the TAS is spent staring at the numerous unskippable cutscenes. While I'm sure people absolutely adore these, an abridged edit of the encode, which skips these cutscenes, can be viewed here:

Glitches/tricks used (in semi-chronological order)

If you're familiar with this game, you probably expect the title screen to pop up after the company logos and legal text is gone. However, you can actually open the start menu and select "new game" long before the title screen appears. This makes it look like the TAS completely skips this part and just heads straight into the save file menu.
During the save menu, I have to move down two menu options to reach the one I want. We can save a whopping 1 frame by inputting down on the d-pad on one frame, and down on the analogue stick on the next, instead of just using the d-pad over the course of 3 frames. Incredible, I know.

Wall grinding (infinite jumping)

In Spyro’s universe, wings are merely a suggestion.
Wall grinding is a glitch that allows Spyro to ascend most walls in the game. It's possible to do both with and without the ability to double jump, however it is much, much harder to do without.
The sequence of actions goes like this: While in the air, you charge down a wall, which puts Spyro into a state of charging that cannot be stopped for around half a second. If you hold the left analogue stick neutral while this short charging period ends, there's a single frame where Spyro can jump, if the wall allows for it. Holding down the jump button before this frame will buffer the jump input, making this trick much easier to pull off RTA (and much easier to TAS, as well!).
Whether the wall allows for wall grinding or not seems to depend mostly on the angle. If it's a slope, wall grinding is easy. If it's an overhang, wall grinding is typically impossible. If it's a straight wall, it tends to be very inconsistent, but doable.
Sometimes, it helps to do a little "flick" just before charging to increase the chance of a successful wall grind, especially if you can't use double jump. A "flick" is done by charging while facing away from the wall, then immediately facing toward the wall again. If timed correctly, Spyro will do a very sharp turn while in the air, which (for a reason I don't understand), can make for a much better wall grind than if you had just faced the wall the entire time. This flicking technique is used for the infamous "double jump skip" trick in the beginning of RTA runs.
This is by far the most broken trick in the whole run, allowing the player to skip past pretty much any obstacle or barrier.

Gnasty Gnorc weird cutscene triggering

I cannot for the life of me figure out the exact reason why, but when you're far below the bridge in Gnasty's cave, the only way to trigger the cutscene and start the fight is to charge into a specific part of the wall. I tried many times to do it differently, and I just couldn't. This game has many strange quirks like this, I suppose.

Damage abuse in bosses

Bosses tend to feel really bad about hurting Spyro, and so will stop what they're doing immediately if you get hit by certain attacks. Of course, we abuse this to the max, basically getting hit by a lot of attacks if it means skipping them entirely.

Charge hopping

By keeping the charge button held while you start a single jump, Spyro will keep some of the speed from his charge into his jump. This extra speed is instantly lost if you let go of charge or exit the single jump state in any way (such as by double jumping). This trick is mostly used to jump farther, avoiding the need for double jumping, or just to speed up jumping over small gaps or ledges.

Weird cutscene trigger after Gnasty Gnorc

Normally the player exits the cave, and the professor greets Spyro, congratulating him on his unusually stylish fight with Gnasty. This cutscene is triggered in a very weird way however, that allows for it to start well before you actually reach the cave's exit. The trigger appears to be spherical, emitting from the teleporter, which means it leaks through the wall slightly. By jumping at a specific point on the wall and making sure to stay inside this sphere for long enough, we can activate this cutscene slightly faster. This is why the TAS exits Gnasty's Cave in such a strange way.

Realm 2 wall clip into boss

Right next to the barrier in front of the boss in the second realm is a bunch of rocks and trees. If Spyro is squeezed between these objects, and you charge with the right position and angle, he can eventually clip straight through the wall. This is used to skip past the barrier and directly to the boss.

Swimming in the air

Water in Spyro A Hero's Tail works like this: If Spyro touches the water surface or an area extending roughly 9 Spyro-heights below the surface, he will be put into his surface water state. If you charge, Spyro will enter his underwater state. If Spyro exits the water hitbox from the sides or bottom while in his surface water state, he will just fall out. However, if he's in his underwater state, he will not fall out and just keep swimming. The devs likely did this to prevent Spyro exiting the water in unintended areas, but it allows for Spyro to simply swim wherever he wants if you manage to get out of bounds.
Note: A water hitbox can be cancelled by another surface. For example, if there's a water surface within range above Spyro, but there's a floor between him and the surface, he will not interact with the water. Therefore there's often only a sliver of water out of bounds to actually touch, since the rest is likely cancelled by the bottom of the pool.
Swimming in the air obviously allows for skipping major parts of the levels, because we can simply swim past them without being bounded by that pesky gravity.

Ineptune fight: Cutscene skip

It’s quite a shame that we don’t get to see Ineptune’s introductory cutscene, but the frames must be saved. Basically, for whatever reason, if you simply directly enter the arena of the boss fight by skipping around the cutscene trigger (in this case by using swim in air), the fight will start immediately. None of the other bosses have this quirk, but that doesn't mean no more cutscenes can be skipped, as we'll see later with Red.

Ineptune fight: Death animation skip

This trick, sometimes called the "negative health glitch" (a misnomer, since Spyro's health can't actually go negative), allows us to skip more attacks by Ineptune.
The water in this fight is toxic, meaning Spyro will instantly lose all his health if he touches it, which usually results in the death animation playing right afterwards. However, by utilizing the rising laser platforms, Spyro can be put in his ground state before the death animation gets to play. This allows Spyro to continue to live, and the lasers will immediately retreat again, since we technically got hit. This allows us to use our 3 spare hitpoints to skip other attacks by Ineptune, before then performing this glitch to skip the laser attack.
Note: In this TAS I do this glitch twice per cycle just for fun, you only actually need to do it once.

Ineptune fight: Avoiding the toxic water while below it

I'm describing this glitch because it's amusing, it has no practical use whatsoever besides looking very cool in a TAS. This trick only works on the NTSC version of the game.
During certain animations where Spyro is expected to be grounded, he will not interact with water. One of these animations is the "breath attack while standing still" animation (abbreviated to "breath from standstill"). By doing some fancy movement, you can perform this animation while Spyro is falling into the water, which makes him fall straight through it. We then utilize the rising platform during the laser attack, to carry Spyro back up. The breath from standstill animation doesn't last long enough to cover the whole distance however, but that's no problem. As long as the platform is moving upward while Spyro is standing on it, he won't get hit by the water! Why? I don't actually know, but I have a theory: Since the platform is constantly lifting Spyro's position up, the surface of the platform might be slightly above his position the whole time, meaning it cancels the water hitbox (as mentioned before when describing the swim in air glitch). I could be wrong about that, though.
So why go through all this? Well, as with many, equally useless, but fun glitches in TASes... why not?

Jumping off water

This is also just purely for show. Basically, when Spyro walks off a ledge, but there's water a small distance below him, he'll act as if he's on the ground while he falls toward the water. In this fight, I abuse this quirk many times to make it seem like Spyro somehow jumps on the water and constantly dips in and out of danger.

Ineptune fight: Acid breath redirection

When Ineptune decides to unleash her disgusting vomit onto Spyro, she will always try to aim straight at him, but then stick to that angle when her breath begins. We can abuse this by tricking her into breathing to one side, but then quickly going the other way. This allows us to stand right next to her while she attacks and hit her as soon as she is vulnerable. We only do this trick while we have no health left, since normally we'd get hit by her breath to skip the attack entirely.

Water bonk clipping

I have no idea what to call this trick (terminology is difficult with this game), but it allows Spyro to clip through walls next to water, provided there are two walls that meet at a good angle. The goal is to have Spyro bonk his head while in his "diving out of the water" state. If this is done with the right positioning and timing at the corner, he will clip right through. This typically allows us to swim in air right afterwards, since most water surfaces leak out of bounds. Good thing the game developers often overcompensated with the water in this game!
This is a relatively new glitch, which allows us to keep a menu on-screen while we can still walk around and do stuff, which ultimately lets us skip the introductory cutscene for the boss fight with Red.
Basically, we enter two menus on the same frame (in this TAS's case, the teleporter menu and the pause menu, by hitting start and B on the same frame). This loads both menus at the same time. We then immediately exit one of them (in this case the teleporter menu). This makes the game unpause, but still leaves the other menu on-screen (in this case the pause menu). This makes it considerably more difficult to get to where we want, since we now have to juggle moving around and making sure we don't accidentally exit out of the menu at the same time. Luckily, the "Quit" option has an "Are you sure?" menu if you select it, which lets us pretty safely use it along with jumping.
Here comes the clever part, and the entire reason we create a save file on the memory card from the start (unlike my last TAS, where I simply continue without saving). You see: whether or not a cutscene has been triggered already is saved onto the memory card. This means that if we save the game right after a cutscene has triggered, then quit and reload the save, the cutscene will not play again! Normally this is impossible because you can't pause during cutscenes. However, using this pause glitch, we can! Since we still have to wait for saving and loading and all that jazz, it doesn't save an incredible amount of time, but it's undoubtedly one of the coolest cutscene skips in the TAS.
But can this be used on any other cutscenes? Well... technically yes, but the Red cutscene is the only one that actually saves time. For Gnasty Gnorc, you cannot open the teleporter menu, meaning you have to trigger the glitch using a shop pad, which simply takes far too long to get to. And for Ineptune... well, we already skip that cutscene, as explained earlier. You'd think it could be used for the final boss cutscene, but I simply couldn't get this to work for whatever reason. It's very strange and unfortunate, but I'm personally pretty happy that I managed to utilize this glitch at all in the TAS.

Learn double jump and pole spin with this one neat trick! (Dragon elders hate him!)

In our rush to beat the game as fast as possible, we completely skipped over having to learn two of Spyro's essential moves: double jump and pole spin. The developers fortunately made the strange decision to automatically give Spyro these abilities once you enter realm 3. Not sure why it only gives you these, and not any of the abilities from realm 2, but it does save us from a lot of trouble and makes this TAS significantly faster.

Red fight: Non-icy floor next to spikes

During the first two phases of the Red boss fight, there are spikes lining the edges of the arena. However, between the icy floor and the spikes, there's a tiny sliver of non-icy ground that you can stand on. You're prevented from double jumping or charging while on ice, so using this small bit of floor, we can do some stylin while we wait for Red to do his business.

Lava walk

There's a single frame of Spyro's gliding animation (likely the first frame), where he is invulnerable to lava. If we land on the lava on this exact frame, we can then walk around on it as much as we please.

Skipping to Mecha Red (Walls amirite?)

It would seem that Red's lair isn't quite as sturdily built as it first seemed, because there's a wall right before the barrier that you can simply walk through, as it has no collision. We use this to easily glide into the cutscene trigger and start the final fight of the game. How the developers missed this is beyond me.

Mecha Red fight: Dying to save time

Whenever you die in a boss, the game will make the fight slightly easier for you by spawning a butterfly on the stage, which gives you an extra hitpoint. Of course, we simply abuse this to take more damage to skip more of Mecha Red's attacks. This fight has no checkpoints, so we need all the health we can get.

Mecha Red fight: Activating electric switches early

For the second phase of the fight, you must activate a bunch of electric switches around Red to damage him. You can sometimes activate these early, since your electric breath reaches through the floor for whatever reason.

Mecha Red fight: Resetting enemy animation

In the final phase of the fight, a bunch of enemies are spawned on the stage, and you must hit a switch to make them fire at Red instead of you. By stunning them immediately after they fire, you'll reset their animation (or reboot their brain perhaps) and make them fire faster. This is abused to finish this phase much quicker.

Section by section description

Intro menus

A new game has begun. We create a save file on the memory card and start the game in file slot 1. Simple stuff.

Dragon Village to Gnasty’s Cave

Immediately after gaining control, we sprint to the wall behind the teleporter and begin a wall grind. We gain height until we are over the wall, and then glide into the loading trigger for Gnasty’s Cave. We then turn and glide over to where Gnasty’s cutscene can be triggered by charging into the wall.

Gnasty Gnorc

Bosses are mostly split into 3 phases, and there’s a checkpoint after each phase.
Phase 1: We mostly just mess about while skipping all three of his triple-slam attacks by jumping into his cane. We intentionally get hit an extra time to make sure we have no health by the second phase.
Phase 2: We immediately get hit and die to regain our health. This has the added bonus of skipping the triple-slam Gnasty starts out with. Gnasty adds an extra attack to his toolset, where he slams the ground to make rocks fall from the ceiling. This attack takes an awfully long time, so we really want to skip this. Unfortunately, we are one hitpoint short of being able to skip all the attacks, so we have to let one triple-slam play out (which takes less time than a rock fall attack).
Phase 3: Again, we immediately die to regain our health and skip the first triple-slam. Now Gnasty starts doing electricity attacks, which unfortunately can’t be skipped, so the TAS instead just makes it look as silly as possible. Since we get hit by two triple-slams, and there’s a butterfly on the arena due to dying, we end the boss on blue Sparx (one hitpoint short of full health).

Gnasty’s Cave to teleporter

We immediately switch on the moving platform, and mess around on it until it reaches far enough for us to jump to the other side. There is a way to skip the platform, but it only seems to be possible with double jump unfortunately. We do the weird cutscene trigger and teleport to the next realm.

Coastal Remains to Watery Tomb

After a looong cutscene, we ignore the Professor’s advice and head straight for the spot where we clip through the wall. On the way we have to slay a fodder creature, which releases a butterfly, because we need full health for the upcoming fight. We then clip through the wall and enter a body of water to swim in air. We then simply head straight for the arena, making sure to avoid the cutscene trigger, and the fight with Ineptune starts immediately.

Ineptune

Every phase of the Ineptune fight plays out the same, which means less writing for me, yay.
First, we wait for Ineptune’s breath attack and then get hit by it as fast as possible to skip it. After we’ve hit her once, she starts the laser attack. We get hit by that as soon as possible as well. We, yet again, skip Ineptune’s breath attack by getting hit. When the second round of lasers come up, we perform the death animation glitch to skip it. For the final breath attack, we redirect Ineptune so we can hit her as soon as possible, and the phase is done after we hit her for the third time. Upon starting the next phase, we immediately dive into the water to respawn and regain our health, and then we repeat the whole thing again.

Watery Tomb to teleporter

The water is habitable again, and we can safely swim over to a corner to perform the water bonk clipping glitch and swim directly to the teleporter. This is not only faster than going through the tunnels as intended, but remember that cutscene trigger we skipped? It’s still there, and we want to avoid it. We have to do a little precision swimming to load the area correctly, but after that it’s a straight shot for the teleporter.

Frostbite Village to Red’s Chamber

Immediately upon gaining control of Spyro, we activate menu storage and store the pause menu. We then do a few wall grinds to easily get over the wall into Red’s Chamber and head toward the boss, making sure to keep the menu on screen. We save right when the cutscene starts, then quit and reload to skip the cutscene.

Red

There isn’t much we can do until Red spawns the explosive boxes (why he even does that is up for debate), so we just have some fun while we wait. Once they spawn we try to push them into him as quickly as possible, making sure not to do it too quickly, or else it won’t damage him.
At the start of the second phase we get close enough to Red that he breathes fire at the player, which is quicker than him doing the stomp. Then it’s simply a case of waiting for the boxes again.
The final phase is by far the longest, since there’s a long barrage of attacks before the boxes appear. We can make it more interesting by doing some precision jumping on the edge of the ice platform and explore the outskirts of the arena while Red hopelessly throws all of his self-proclaimed “infinite power” at us. We jump back when the boxes appear and make quick work of Red.
Now that we’ve defeated Red, we receive what is objectively the best ability in the game, ice breath. This breath freezes most enemies into ice, where they’ll instantly die from charging into them. From now on, we can basically get rid of any enemies in our way by simply briefly breathing ice and just continuing to charge.

Red’s Chamber to teleporter

Pole spinning is very slow, so we’ll skip as many poles as we can to get out of Red’s Chamber as fast as possible. We do this mostly by wall grinding to gain height.

Stormy Beach to ball gadget

The first section of this realm involves a looong section of swimming out of bounds. We make sure to hit the necessary loading triggers while making our way to the next required objective, getting to the ball gadget in Magma Falls. Normally you’d take the elevator down to magma falls, but the game is perfectly fine with you simply swimming along the elevator shaft until you reach the level. I need to stick very close to the shaft to be able to hit the loading triggers properly, or else the section won’t load properly, or worse, not at all.
Note that there is a quicker way to enter the ball gadget, namely by going directly into the loading trigger below the station, but this will spawn you in the level without the ball. While it’s beatable with Spyro on his own, it’s not faster than simply going through the level normally.

Ball gadget minecart section

This section is incredibly straight forward, aside from some semi-precise jumps to avoid fireballs. Just keep the boost on the entire way, stick to the shortest paths and you’re golden. The only frame-perfect trick is jumping below the light gem toward the end of the stage, but this doesn’t cut or save time.

Magma Falls Bottom

At the very start of the level, we activate the lava walk glitch by jumping in a very specific way to land on the lava on the glitched animation frame. We then make our way over to a wall, where we can wall grind up to the next section, bypassing the dark gem. We then do another lava walk to skip some platforms.
On the connecting area to Dark Mine, we stay on the platforms just long enough to hit Dark Mine’s loading trigger and then head down to the lava to do yet another lava walk to skip the rest of the platforms. We get a checkpoint from Zoe and respawn to quickly make our way onto Dark Mine’s entrance.

Dark Mine

This level is remarkably well designed to be nearly completely skippable, having the end section just a single glide away from the very start.
Walls in this game can tend to have walkable collision on the top, and we abuse this by going out of bound by means of a wall grind, and then hopping from wall to wall and gliding to the very end of the level. There, we backtrack a little to hit a loading trigger, and then continue through the tunnels to the final level, Red’s Laboratory. The tunnels leading to the level has a part that requires wall kick, but we skip this using a simple wall grind.

Red’s Laboratory

Most of Red’s Laboratory is incredibly straightforward, as we’re essentially just making a mad dash to the final boss here. Some doors will only open when a certain enemy is defeated, which is why you’ll see me defeat some enemies that could’ve been faster to run past instead.
At some point we do a wall grind to skip a small platforming section, and then hit a button twice to unlock the door to the final boss. Once we reach the boss room, we dip through the oddly non-solid wall and glide directly to Mecha Red, beginning the cutscene.

Mecha Red

It’s time to put all the knowledge we didn’t learn throughout the game to the test. So, of course, we dive off the platform immediately and die. We do this to spawn a butterfly on the stage, which will be crucial to do optimal damage abuse strats.
Phase 1: Mecha Red really wants to spit mines everywhere. We can cut this short by just making him hit us immediately. Later, he does a laser attack, where we get hit by the laser as quickly as possible to skip that as well. We damage Red using the rockets and move onto phase 2.
Phase 2: We skip his mine-vomit entirely this time, since we can get close to him quickly. We activate all the electric nodes around him, activating the first one through the floor as soon as it spawns, and then move onto phase 3.
Phase 3: After the beginning attacks, we take a small detour to glitch out of bounds and visit the room the Professor is supposedly sitting in while we wait for Red to finish his nipple-rocket business. Then, a bunch of laser gnorcs will spawn, and we need to hit a switch to make them fire at Red instead of ourselves. We manipulate RNG slightly to make the switch spawn directly underneath us, and then we stun two of the laser gnorcs right after they fire to cancel their animation and make them fire immediately again. We repeat until no further input is needed to finish the fight.
End cutscene, roll credits. We saved the world! Probably.

feos: The route resembles that of the human record, but execution is more optimal and entertaining. Great work, accepting.
Zinfidel: Processing...

Last Edited by admin@tasvideos.org on 1/1/2022 6:14:08 PM
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