Many viewers will know of Sonic Spinball. It's not an uncommonly played game, and does have quite a few speedruns out there, and even a TAS on this site. However, that is not what I decided to focus on for this submission. Yes, I am playing Sonic Spinball, but not the commonly-known Genesis version. I decided to halve the bits and put together a TAS of the 8-bit, Game Gear version of Spinball, which is quite a bit different from the Genesis version.
- Emulator used: BizHawk 2.6.2 (x64)
- The goal is to complete this game as fast as possible. To get to the bosses in each stage, you must first collect the 3 or 5 emeralds in each stage to unlock the boss arena. In bonus stages, you can either wait out the timer (slow), or collect half of the rings in each segment to unlock the next segment. After 3 segments, you may exit the stage.
This TAS was a bit challenging to do. Going in, I didn't realize just how weird the game's physics truely were. We all know they were...something. It was worse than I had realized. Changing one single frame could make everything afterwards unusable, even in different stages. Doing unnecessary movement could add extra lag frames, thus losing time. You could do the same exact inputs in a section that you visit multiple times, and get completely different result. Due to these issues, when remaking a new version, I had to start from scratch and figure everything out again, using new sets of different inputs. I did learn more about the game by doing this, which was a goal of mine going in, as I had just started to learn to speedrun this game.
Stage by stage comments
This stage wasn't terrible to do. The most challenging part of this stage was the shots from the left and right tables to get to the wormhole leading to the middle table, where I can then access all the emeralds. The left side seems to be faster and easier to do, as I am able to land directly onto the flipper leading to the wormhole, but in all versions of the TAS, I was never able to do the same on the right side. However, due to weird physics (a common occurrence throughout this entire run), the right side is still slightly faster as I can avoid using a flipper to enter the tube to the right table. The boss was pretty simple to do, I was able to get all the hits very close to the end of his invincibility frames to get a quicker kill.
Bonus Stage 1
For bonus stages, you're required to get half of the rings in each segment in order to progress to the next segment, with 3 segments in each. Since each ring adds 5 frames of countdown at the end of the stages, I want to avoid unnecessary rings when possible. The easiest way to collect rings is to spindash up the left side, then hold right to get to the right side and enter the doorway. When able to, I used a bumper to fling me into the next segment quicker, however this did not always work out to be faster due either to where it would send Sonic, or the game would not let me hold left enough to hit a bumper. For the last segment of this bonus section, I was unable to find a path that would allow me into the doorway to the exit any faster than landing at the bottom and spindashing back up. Either I would fall past the door, or I wouldn't collect enough rings to open it up. Eventually I just settled for the spindash.
This stage felt the simplest out of all the regular stages to do. I first send Sonic to the top-left of the starting table to skip breaking through a door, and thus get placed in the top left table very early. For each of the side emeralds, my first shot bounces off the cork in order to send me back down to the flipper (and not fall into the very slow gun next to the cork), but the second shot sends me directly horizontally into the cork, which gets Sonic there faster and allows him to fall straight down into the steam tubes to get to the emeralds. I maneuver Sonic a bit at the bottom of those tubes to allow for faster re-entry into the center tube. For the boss, I decided to try a strategy where Sonic entered the boiler from the bottom instead of going around the sides into the top. I was able to have Sonic bounce between both heads to get all hits. For the last hit on the top head, I was able to find a strat to kill it quicker, however, since you lose control of Sonic until a bit after the head goes off the BOTTOM of the screen, and since the camera had Sonic higher up, this actually lost quite a few frames, and spending that extra time with the bounce before the last hit ended up saving time.
Bonus Stage 2
The first segment of this bonus stage is straightforward. The second segment has been one of the hardest to find an optimal route through, due to both ring count requirements, and bumper placements. While the segment looks slow, it allowed me to get the rings required, while not stopping until I land past the doorway. While most of the third segment is done normally, I did manage to slow Sonic down at the top right of the segment. This allows Sonic to move left enough to hit the bumper into the exit, and go offscreen quicker.
At the start of the machine, my goal is to go for the first emerald on the right. This emerald is tricky to get quickly, as Sonic's physics seemed to change here between every version of this TAS. I found what worked for this one and executed. I was very close to being able to find inputs that would let me fall straight down and bounce off the enemy into the emerald chamber, but it never quite lined up. Perhaps in another version, this idea works. Once the first emerald is acquired, I get to the top and fall into the second emerald, and the animal prison. This section is one of the worst in the TAS to figure out. I can't say that what I did is the fastest possible method, but after trying many different ideas, I went with this one, and it was faster than my prior TAS versions. Once the emerald is released from the cage, a timer starts. You cannot collect this emerald until it lands, so I use this falling time to collect the other two emeralds. This does mean that since we can't collect that falling emerald for a set amount of time, as long as you get to it before it lands, you do not lose time, so my movement during emeralds 3 & 4 was clean enough to get to the last emerald in time, but was not probably as clean as I could have made it. When I realized I'd beat the last emerald, I decided to not spend a ton of time trying different ideas. After all emeralds are collected, I'm able to take the wormhole and exit out the top rather than the lower sides, and get to the boss chamber.
The boss of the machine was the hardest boss for me to do quickly. Breaking the outer tubes was simple enough, but getting the 10 hits on the boss was challenging. The biggest issue I had is the lack of visible invincibility frames, for me to know when I am able to get those hits again. There was a lot of trial and error involved here, and I'm still not really content with what I went with. That being said, I think this isn't too far off from what can likely be done optimally.
Bonus Stage 3
All 3 segments were fairly straightforward. The biggest exception was the last segment. During many iterations, Sonic would just pass through 4 rings without collecting them, causing me to not have enough rings to pop the cork at the bottom to exit. Fortunately without any major changes, I did find a set of inputs that worked and got me through.
Out of all segments of this version, this is the segment I am most proud of. I was able to bring many new strats into this from my prior versions. At the start, I went to the right table with the goal of getting the first emerald on the top right. Here, my initial plan was to fall down into the table and get the second emerald normally, however thanks to a strat I had seen and implemented into my prior version on the other side of the stage, I decided to do a small bit of playing around on this side despite the map being different. This paid off and I was able to fall down to the next emerald without using the plunger on the right. This is not simple to pull off, and all the movement present was used to get the setup needed, involving Sonic walking slowly off the edge in order to retain some air control of Sonic and move over enough into the emerald. Once I got that emerald, I fell back to the center table and grabbed both emeralds on the left side rather quickly. The fourth emerald was collected in similar fashion to the second. After this, I went back to the center table and broke through to emerald 5, collecting it on the same trip that I broke through to it, which does not always happen. Instead of climbing up the center of the stage afterwards, I went to the right side and used the flipper there to bypass all of the flying springs, which ended up much faster than the prior path I used.
I was able to get through the climb very quickly using multiple flippers and some bumpers, and land on the first wheel. The one thing that did not work out with these wheels was jumping from the second wheel to the far right wheel. I was able to barely make it, but Sonic falls through it, making it not worth doing, so instead I jump onto the inner right wheel then onto the last wheel.
I would love to tell you that I fully understand the final boss, but I would be lying. From what I could understand, the visible invincibility frames are a lie on this boss, so I decided to hammer away and get as many hits as possible. The boss takes 10 hits, but based on what I could see visually and hear, I could not tell you which of my hits counted and which did not. That being said, doing this allowed me to get what appears to be 4 quick hits near the end as I killed the boss. I made some attempts at doing this for more hits earlier on, but none of them worked out and all would lose time. Of interesting note, you may notice on the final hit, there are a few inputs activating a flipper that I am not using. These were accidentally left in from a prior strat I was using that lost a few frames. When I went to remove them, removing the first set lost me 1 frame overall, and removing the second set of inputs actually causes Sonic to not hit the boss. I have zero idea why this happens, but that is why those inputs were left in.
When I started out, I didn't have a set goal in mind, but after a few revisions, I wanted to achieve a sub 9 minute time. This was barely accomplished. If you time from power on until final hit, I beat that goal time by 7 frames. Using SRC timing (Start on Title screen until final hit) this came in at 8 minutes, 52 seconds, and 32 frames.
There are a few parts that can be clearly improved. If I ever decide to do another version of this, I would likely try going to to the right table initially in Toxic Pools and see if I can save about a second doing that. Outside of that, the bosses in The Machine and Final Showdown can likely be improved, however this would take a lot more time to try many different iterations, and I don't care to spend that much time in this.
Of note, this is my first TAS submission, as well as first time completing a TAS (previous experience is just a few rounds of Sonic Eraser). While I believe I've followed all of the instructions, I apologize if I missed anything. Please do reach out if I need to provide more information. I did choose to include the credits, which more than doubled the movie length.
I want to thank those that either inspired me to work on this TAS, or provided motivational support. Argick, Mindez, AmberCyprian, huds601, Hibnotix, and anyone else I may have missed.
Memory: Replacing file with one that trims 32293 frames of blank input.
Samsara: Claiming for judging.
Samsara: Welcome to TASvideos!
What a wonderful first submission! I'm both a Sonic Spinball enjoyer and someone who owned a Game Gear as a kid and I never knew this version existed until now, and I gotta say this TAS makes it look as smooth and fun as the original. It's very well executed, especially under the limitations of the game, and any questions I had about the run were answered by the descriptive submission text. Fantastic work! I'm hoping to see more from you in the future!
One quick note about the YouTube video: This thread teaches a really easy way to make high quality encodes just using BizHawk features. Hope it helps your next submission c: