Submission #7654: Jiseed's SNES Arcana in 1:00:14.48

(Link to video)
Console Super NES Emulator Bizhawk 2.4.2
Game Version USA Frame Count 217226
ROM Filename Arcana (USA).sfc Frame Rate 60.0988138974405
Branch Rerecord Count 18368
PowerOn Authors Jiseed
Game Arcana
Submitted by Jiseed on 8/21/2022 2:51:49 AM

Submission Comments
Arcana takes place in the land of Elemen, where cards are everywhere despite there only being one "cardmaster" left and where hats are a very important fashion statement. Made by HAL, best known for their Kirby games (can you spot the Kirbys in the intro picture?) as well as everyone's favourite drunken party game series: Super Smash Brothers. Arcana is a 1st person dungeon crawler with some unique features, such as the elemental card system, unintentionally hilarious dialogue and the fact that if any human character dies the game ends!
After playing through this casually and investigating some real time applications for RNG manipulation I decided to dip my toes into the world of TASes again. I began this project back in the winter of 2021 and made good and fast progress up through to the final boss, where I was stone walled for many months with many separate attempts that all ended up with me ultimately giving up before trying again a few months later. I am not joking when I say I spent roughly 4x the amount of time on trying to rng manipulate my way through the final boss than I did creating the rest of the movie, including massive redos of entire chapters. However, I was eventually successful and here is the result.
Mechanics: RNG Manipulation: As opposed to many of the other games I worked on, the battle rng is not based on the frame when a command is inputted. It behaves more like a "Choose your own Adventure" book, in which doing different actions (attacking, healing, defending) will alter what happens next. Additionally, the presence of the different spirits will also affect the outcome, with having Sylph out then attacking sometimes having a different result than having Dao out and attacking. So essentially you have to find a path "through the book" that gives you as much damage as you can do without dying. Generally the most important part to manipulate out of boss fights are spells, as they do tons of damage and take lots of time. All RNG manipulation was done through trial and error by a human (me). Dungeon RNG is frame based, with delaying a frame or two before moving or turning allowing for encounters to be skipped. Additionally, initial battle RNG seeds are determined either from the frame when entering a fight, or are based on which frame closes the last dialogue window before initiating a battle.
Call Amulets: These have the POSSIBILITY to summon a weaker version of the summon elemental spells that Rooks learns later in the game. There are 3 possibilities: A tweety bird that damages only the party for a small amount, a bird that damages enemies AND the party for a small amount, and then actually summoning one of the 4 elementals. These are notoriously unreliable in real-time runs, and even in a TAS getting the proper spirit is extremely unlikely.
Elemental Weaknesses: Wind > Earth > Water > Fire > Wind. "Man" element just takes 100% from everything, however the elemental spirit party members can change the element of the human party members, which is rarely useful here since all the difficult bosses are "Man" type anyways.
Chapter Breakdown:
As a disclaimer, it has been a while since I did the chapters themselves so I'm probably missing some details.
Chapter 1: We're introduced to our main character Rooks, who sports a nice beret much like Steven Seagal in Out for Justice. As well as we meet the mysterious Teefa who impresses with her poofy pom ball hat. We are sent to a dungeon for whatever reason.
We buy the "card" items before heading to the dungeon, which by using a different amount (1-3) we can cast the various magic of that elemental. Generally 3x Wind Card is the best as the spell (Lightning 3) is pretty quick as well as it is the top card in the shop. However we buy 15x Water cards as well in order to be set up for the chapter 2 minibosses. It should be noted that all the card shopping for the first 2 chapters can be done here with the starting amount of gold, but you have to get top percentile damage rolls on the first boss with 3x Wind Card and 2x Wind Card without sacrificing more than a few seconds in manipulation. I realized this pretty late in making the TAS (at the final boss) and the manipulation never once showed up when I attempted to do it for an hour. I didnt want to remake the whole movie anyways to MAYBE save a few seconds (the fade in out of the card shop) so looking back I dont know why I tried.
The first dungeon is simple, all bosses are weak against wind so we use 15x of our wind cards with decent damage rolls and breeze through it. Sylph stays out of the action unless shes needed for RNG manipulation. We get stung by a bee and lose motor function due to an allergic reaction (I think). Teefa leaves the party and we wake up in Chapter 2.
Chapter 2: We're introduced to our new party member, Salah, who apparently took a break from helping Indiana Jones and decided to become an anime princess. Sporting a swanky hat you'd see at the Vatican, she is by far our most useless member!
I buy the rest of the cards needed to finish the chapter at the start. We were 10 gold short at the beginning from having all the cards we needed, how sad. Straight to the dungeon and we encounter "The Man" himself, who declines to join us. First miniboss is taken care of with the water cards we bought in chapter 1, and then afterwards "The Man" decides to join us. It turns out hes not "The Man" but "The Elf", and is named Darwin. The only hatless member of our party, who somewhat makes up for it with his pointy ears.
We grab the stat boost items out of the chests to sell in Chapter 3. 2nd miniboss is taken care of with water cards and assistance from a spell or two. Its actually one of the elemental spirit cards and Efreet joins the merry band! Through all the dialogue and we get to another core feature of the game, "solo" Rooks boss fights! These involve only Rooks and the elemental spirit party members. In these fights the most important thing is to manipulate the enemies to hit the spirits whenever possible. Again we use the wind cards to beat the boss and the ultimate humiliation occurs when Sylph kills the boss with an attack. On to Chapter 3.
Chapter 3: We have to go to the Ice Cave next. We sell the stat boost items and buy our first equipment of the run (Ice Sword and Scimitar), as well as a Return Ring and Medicine. This is where we start using Call Amulets as well, and spend the rest of the gold on them.
The ice cave is by far the worst dungeon in this game and a blatant attempt to artificially prolong the playtime of the game. On our way through we find our next party member, Axs, and unpetrify him using a spell we wont learn for 3 more levels. Sporting a stunning viking helmet, he is our 3rd most useful party member.
Just before the miniboss we equip Rooks with the Ice Sword and Axs with the Scimitar. I forgot to mention that party members don't actually join the party with equipment, you're expected to bring it for them. The fastest battle method for the next sections of the game is to mix attacks with call amulets when you can either crit with a weapon, or cant summon a good spirit with a call amulet. The mini boss goes down pretty easily, with a few Marid summons for extra damage. Speaking of Marid, Axs decides to give her to us afterwards, how nice.
The next solo boss fight is against Vega from Street Fighter(?). This is the first real hard boss of the game and the best possible RNG route I found actually had an elemental spirit die (its OK for them to die but not any humans).
Chapter 4: In the town we go to the card tent and revive our dead spirit, as well as fill up on call amulets. In Stavery tower we fight another miniboss who gives us Dao, the earth spirit. At the end of the road is a door we cant pass, so we use our return ring to go back to town and pick up Salah again. And climb the tower, again. On the way up we grab the Demon Axe for Axs (heh) and use it to great effect on the 2 boss miniboss fight due to its Earth element affinity. Continuing up we are pulled into a door and its revealed Teefa is the twin sister of Salah! Which totally wasn't revealed in the instruction book!
The next solo boss fight is against our good friend Ariel. He hits fairly hard but using the tried and true method we've used thus far he goes down. Rooks gets angry (...That Galneon!) and storms off up the rest of the tower alone. He encounters our friend Darwin again, hanging out with finches I think and they continue on together. The rococo armor is picked up to sell and our next boss fight is against Teefa. She can be annoying with the sleep spells but the manipulation here was pretty fast even with Darwin falling asleep. Special note, floor 12 has an ungodly high encounter rate, I believe its something like 5x the normal rate, and you have to do it solo - definitely bring fog cards in a normal playthrough.
Chapter 5: Using the money we get from selling the rococo armor we can buy a good weapon for both Darwin and Teefa. Additionally we buy a bunch of medicines for the final boss. The focus in battle shifts from a call amulet/attack mix to pure attacks, as the weapons we'll get in this chapter are very powerful and hit harder and take less time per attack than call amulets ever did. The first boss goes down pretty easily, you'll see cure spells used here mostly as part of RNG manipulation. In the aptly named "A Tunnel" we pick up the Grand Shield which originally was not going to be picked up, but more on that later. Before Galneon we give Rooks the Crystal Sword he received in the prior boss battle and go through both forms without having Galneon cast any spells. Of note here is we finally get some useful spells for our spirits which are sorely needed for the upcoming final boss.
After more deep dialogue we go through the secret side of Stavery tower, picking up the Grand Armor for Rooks. We (of course) lose our party members via scripted events and arrive at the final boss, Rimsala. Before entering the door the Grand Armor is equipped and we use the Medicine we bought in Chapter 3 to heal up.
Rimsala: The first form is extremely easy, she'll only attack and this part went really well with only needing to heal once, as well as a good supply of crits. Hilariously enough this part has the only glitch I found in the game. If you kill Rimsala's egg form without having an ALIVE spirit in the party there are 2 things that can happen. 1. When the 2nd form battle starts, the game will freeze. 2. Rimsala will attack the empty slot, which will make every spirit start the fight with 0hp and 0mp. I think this is due to the revive/heal that happens after the cutscene, and it "revives" the empty spirit slot causing all sorts of shenanigans. Of note you can actually heal the empty slot if Rooks goes first, neat!
Second form Rimsala is an absolute nightmare, even in a casual playthrough where Rooks is very strong she can surprise you with how difficult she is compared to the rest of the game. She has two attacks, a standard attack where her face gets all distorted and she laughs, and the spell attribute 11. Attribute 11 is effective against every element, so using the spirit's element change does absolutely nothing, as well as hits extremely hard. At the start of the fight I would say she has a 50/50 chance of doing either, and its not too bad to manipulate. However, once she reaches ~1500 health left this all changes, and it becomes attribute 11 city. I once did an attempt with maximum healing items, and she did 43 attribute 11s with only ONE normal attack after this threshold. The only reliable way to manipulate her here is to still have spirits left in order to upset the turn order or give her an additional target. Having spirits is also unbelievably important here because you can get caught in situations where your only option to escape 3-4 attribute 11s in a row (with no turn for you in between) is to sacrifice a spirit and hope it breaks the chain. Attribute 11 spam is the reason the Grand Shield and to a lesser degree the Grand Armor are grabbed, because it allows us to SOMETIMES survive two in a row successfully at our current stat levels. I tried all sorts of things to help further mitigate it, from leveling (which took WAY too much time, even with insta-death cards) to using intelligence fruit to raise magic defense. These didnt help all that much without really destroying the time, so I count myself fortunate I was able to brute force my way through eventually, and it was actually a pretty solid fight overall with a bunch of crits, and only used 13 medicines in a row at the end!
Once she dies the worlds laziest ending happens and peace returns, yay
Improvements: I mentioned some of these throughout the chapter text so I wont repeat those. By far the biggest improvement can be made by automating finding the best possible route for RNG in battles. A lot of these rng routes were pretty good in retrospect but there can absolutely be huge improvements, doing it manually like I did is bound to warrant some better results given enough time and experimentation but an automated bot or some such is definitely needed for the best results, not to mention sanity. Some small things that could possibly improve the run include: using the spirit sword against first form Rimsala if you can find a good RNG chain (it didn't eliminate the need to heal so its not THAT big of a save in this run, as well as duds for rng chains). Swapping some of the Cure magics for Medicines in chapter 5 (about 1 second faster per, even including buy time, ~5 seconds in this TAS). I tried to do this but it ended up destroying my manipulation after Galneon's first form for whatever reason, every action I took to sync it back up failed.
I was hoping for under an hour with this but quite frankly I've had enough of this game and its close enough. Additionally I had tons of problems using TAStudio while experimenting for the final boss, with it constantly making me go through the entire TAS again if I wanted to, for example, change the amount of medicines I bought right near the end so I'm a bit soured on going back to make changes. Its definitely a big time walking simulator, but the battles are close and exciting at times so hopefully people get some entertainment out of it!

Samsara: File replaced with a properly finished version.

slamo: Claiming for judging.
slamo: Good work, any possible improvements would be on the macro level and we can leave that to future generations. Accepting!

despoa: Processing...

Last Edited by despoa 13 days ago
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