Submission #8050: WarHippy's N64 Star Fox 64 "Expert, maximum score" in 50:50.42

(Link to video)
System Nintendo 64 Emulator BizHawk 2.7
Game Version USA v1.0 Frame Count 183025
ROM Filename Star Fox 64 (U) (V1.0) [!].z64 Frame Rate 60
Branch Expert, maximum score Rerecord Count 50159
! Sram Authors WarHippy
Game Star Fox 64
Submitted by WarHippy on 2/20/2023 4:37:25 PM

Submission Comments
The third game in the series and the one that pushed the brand to instant popularity.

Game objectives

  • Emulator used: BizHawk 2.7
  • Unlocks Expert Mode
  • Verification Movie
  • Aims for maximum score
  • Gets hit for score
  • Abuses death for score
  • Glory to the score


I waited for years for a Star Fox TAS to grace my existence. And then I kept waiting... For whatever reason it never even occurred to me to simply 'Search' for a Star Fox TAS (I can't tell you why the brain works they way it does). In the meantime I kept doing project after project; getting intimately familiar with BizHawk and a now second-nature workflow using TAStudio. I even entered the fully 3D world of Blast Corps (another favorite of mine whose TAS didn't exist). It was during this project that I realized the only person to make my dream come true was me, and I finally had the skill set to do it. So, with naught but a vision, I loaded up the game and fired my first shot.


  • Up - Down
  • Down - Up
  • Left - Left
  • Right - Right
  • A - Laser
  • B - Bomb
  • C Left - Boost
  • C Down - Break
  • R Trigger - Tilt Sideways to the Right
  • R Trigger (Twice) - Barrel Roll to the Right
  • Z Button - Tilt Sideways to the Left
  • Z Button (Twice) - Barrel Roll to the Left
  • Down + C Left - Somersault
  • Down + C Down - U-turn (All-Range mode only)
  • Hold A to Charge your laser
    • Keep holding to lock on to enemies
    • Press A to release
    • Press B instead to fire a locked on bomb
  • Holding Z Button and R Trigger will prevent lock on while charging laser

Game Mechanics

Charge Shot - The All-Star of this run
Any enemy body that doesn't get hit directly by a charge shot will give a +1 bonus point (whether it kills that enemy or not). With precise timing and aiming you can kill nearly every enemy in the game with the outer radius, effectively doubling the point value of each enemy. There can never be more than one shot on the screen at a time, but the game does allow you to fire a second shot one frame before the first one explodes. Doing so will cause the first one to not deal any damage.
Killing an enemy ship doesn't necessarily mean you get all the points right away. You'll get the bonus points up front, but you have to wait for the ships hull to crash into the ground (or be otherwise destroyed) before you can get the regular point for the kill. This becomes a problem when you kill any enemy close to you. If their ship goes to crash behind you and it despawns off screen, then you don't get that point.
You also don't get the point if anyone or anything kills the ship or its hull for you.
Discord - Any time you have a question about the game you can pause time and enter this separate reality. After creating my demo TAS I discovered the Hit+64 community. They definitely inspired me to keep going and helped out a ton along the way.

Stage by stage comments


And so, the journey of a 1000 corpses begins with the first kill. And what a treat it is, sending waves of nostalgia at the moment of first impact. I would hear that sound so many more times as I spent days getting past these ships and understanding just the basics. Once inside the city there are so many hidden places where enemies come out. With so many structures around it's relatively easy to get bonus points on all the enemies with the charge shot. I'm sure many are wondering why I crash and lose my wings at the first mech, and this was intentional because getting hit was the only way to slow down enough to get a 3rd charge shot off. There were some laser shots thrown my way during the top of the arc, but I was unable to get hit by one of them, so I had to run into the pillar instead. I only needed to get hit once, but I broke off the second wing for the sake of symmetry.
The checkpoint death took a long time to figure out. A locked on charge shot was the only way to reach those enemies, so a Hit+2 (for 5 points in total) was the best I could get. The problem is that those points don't count until the ship's hull is fully destroyed by either shooting it or having it crash into the ground. I had to throw a bomb the frame before lock-on so that it could destroy the hulls of the remaining 2 ships for the full 5 points before touching the checkpoint.
Where the path splits into the waterfall there are some moles that can be hit on the left side. I throw a locked on charge shot to hit a couple while they're invulnerable underground and then a second charge shot and a bomb to kill them all as I'm going through the passage. Here on this side we have more moles for a bunch of free points. Finally we come to the boss where I try to show a little flare. There's a visual glitch when that first hatch opens. This is an error in video recording and not any kind of lag. At the end of the fight you can see Fox clipping right through Slippy and then the whole team disappearing in the distance and suddenly re-appearing in formation behind fox.

Sector Y

Right off the bat I restart the level to get back up to 3 bombs. There are a bunch of tiny missiles trying to fly past you on the sides, and there's no way to charge shot them all, so a bomb clears out all of the extra ones. In the next part where all the ships are coming down from above it is again not possible to charge shot every group of enemies. The first bomb takes out 4 enemies including a missile that I couldn't hit otherwise, and the second bomb takes out another 4 enemies I couldn't get to in time. In the corridor afterwards I am able to kill all but one enemy before I have to dive down below to take out the other ships. I then do a somersault to kill the final enemy up top while making it back down below to kill the final three enemies just in time.
At the checkpoint I again take a death to respawn all the enemies I killed. Specifically, there are 5 ships on the left each carrying a missile along with the 4 ships up top and the 2 turrets below. All the rest are just your standard perfect shots for maximum points every time :)
The bosses of this level are generally more difficult to hit, so the developers decided it didn't matter what lasers you had. They all do the same damage, so it's just about the number of hits. I was pretty happy with killing the first two before their health bar even appeared.


Hoo boy! This level sure ramped up the difficulty of this run. I spent two months on this level (and it's still not optimal! but more on that later). There are some very notable changes in mechanics on this stage. First and foremost, charge shots do not exist. Instead, you get a torpedo by pressing the B button (normally reserved for bombs). This torpedo will lock on to a target the instant it's fired. There's a targeting cursor that shows exactly which enemy the torpedo will lock on to once it's fired. There's usually no way to avoid this lock on, but you can shoot at the ground or wait until there are other objects in the way. Once in a while there will be a couple frame window after killing an enemy before it finds a new target.
MASHING! The best part about the torpedo is that you can fire another one the frame after the first one explodes. You see it right away on the clams. They start opening after the first hit, but the enemy inside has an indestructible hitbox until the clam fully opens. Note that the clams with an item inside can only be hit once. And Then We Have The Columns. The crumbling part in the center can be hit by the explosion radius for 1 point each. If it gets even a little close, though, it will destroy the center. And boy howdy do I take advantage of that.
Another checkpoint death for just a single point this time as we get into the starfish section. If ever there was a time to hate the targeting cursor, this would be it. I feel like the creativity is off the charts with all the different methods it takes to get every single point in this section. I go through here at a snail's pace with all the braking I do utilizing every single bit of solid mass I can find; walls, mounds, coral, jellyfish, enemy husks, and distance shots.
At the very end I'm able to use the RNG fish to get a bunch of extra hits against the clams.


Right near the start we have a bunch of bird spawns from the right. The ones that appear closest to you are the ones that spawn last. There was no amount of boosting or braking to be able to get some of these birds with a distance shot, so I had to hit the whole group directly with a charge shot. The rest of the level is reasonably straight forward flying with long stretches of open space, so I use a bunch of boost to try and get through. The biggest thing about this level are the search lights. Missing one causes extra enemies to spawn for the rest of the level at the cost of reducing the light's point value from 3 to 1. After some testing it was confirmed that the light right before the tankers was the best one to get spotted by because there are only 4 lights left in the rest of the level and 27 extra enemies. If you pay close attention to the score counter at that light, you'll see that my bomb kills it for the full 3 points on the same frame that I'm spotted (which is also the same frame it despawns after going off-screen behind you). There's a point where Kat comes in and tries to take out some crates way ahead of you. I charge shot the first one and use a bomb to take out the second two before she can. I just had to make sure the explosion was far enough to the right to not kill anything else on that platform.


Bomb the train right away for a surprising number of points. The rock patterns coming up are affected by RNG, but no big deal. I manage to hit all 5 on the first frame they have hitboxes while they're still in the cart. One of the harder parts of this level was deciding who to hate on more, Slippy or Kat. Fortunately, there's plenty of time to do both, and YES that is the most proper way to greet a lady. For the bouncing rocks section you'll notice I do a bunch of small hovers and this is because the Landmaster cannot aim towards the ground... unless you're in the air. Another method of getting ground shots is by doing a barrel roll and firing while the turret is in the ground, but that maneuver isn't used because I would have to wait for the enemies to get close to me.
There are certain railcars with turrets on them that fire at rocky passes to cause more boulders to rain down in front of you. If you stall long enough they will fire at those passes a second time, but no more after that. I do a little stalling the first time and then a LOT the second time. I intentionally take damage on this section so that I can die asap after the checkpoint. For some reason some of the railcars that can be easily destroyed before the checkpoint are respawned after death for more points. After this it's just a matter of shooting the switches to move on to Area 6.

Area 6

And here I thought figuring out the falling enemies on Sector Y was rough. These mines at the start were a nightmare to optimize between objects disappearing if you're too far to one side and figuring out which ones to hit with charge shots and of course the precision bomb shots. There were several times where a charge shot was fired to take out mines for 2 points before the bomb's explosion reached them for 1 point.
This level is chock full of the good stuff with massive points to be had everywhere. All of the somersaults and braking are used for spacing so that the charge shots will hit at the end of their line. Rob's calls go unanswered because he will shoot down ships for you and steal your points. (Sorry Rob, but the fun is all mine today).
The 5 carrot missiles were weird to optimize. They are all based on a timer before exploding, so I can't simply slow down for more points. I get a few distance shots, and then I have to wait for them to get close enough and bunched in enough to start getting +1's. I fire a bomb at the last second to finish them off right before they explode. Up next is the corridor of infinite mashing where I had never been able to get all the satellites as a kid, but now that I play videogames on a higher level these were a breeze to hit. If you kill the butterfly enemies fast enough (i.e. when they're still off-screen) another one will spawn right behind it. This window of new spawns only lasts for a few seconds, and I use it to get an extra 4 butterflies. This little secret must have been known by the devs, though, because shooting a bomb to kill them the frame they appear will completely stop any more from spawning after the first (whereas this particular trick works in other levels that aren't in this run).
I don't miss the checkpoint just for swagger (although I'm happy with it), I need to get into position for the shot I take afterwards. I then have to wait for the line of 4 enemies to get far enough away to shoot. After that it's just mounds of points right up to the boss.

Venom 2

I'd been excited for this level since the beginning of the run. The ultimate climb to the highest score. The highest human record was 343 and even the highest tas was 357. I knew I wanted perfection, and I didn't stop until I got it. You can visibly see me getting better at strategies as the level progresses. I eventually thought that circling the perimeter of the level was the best way to keep team Star Wolf in formation. There are several points where one or more team members gets knocked off course and I have to boost or otherwise change my movement so that they fall back in line quickly.
Throughout the level you'll see the life bars of team Star Wolf getting lower and lower. This is not because of my charge shots. The team members are actually hitting themselves with lasers and ramming into each other while they're all bunched up behind me. This wasn't much of a problem until the very end when Wolf had 1 hit left. I constantly had to manipulate things to keep him alive, but on top of the already exhausting task of avoiding the barrage of lasers, it was getting to be too much. I waited until the end of the Hit+20 timeframe (and at a moment where he was flying way out of formation) and killed him; picking up a gold ring as a bonus.
Now with a score 976 we enter the final base. I don't need any items. I just grab the 1-UP and get right to it. For Andross's first phase you don't need to hit the eyes first in order to destroy the hands. In an early attempt I took out both hands right away, but he immediately went into his inhaling animation meaning he was completely invulnerable throughout the attack. I reverted to hitting the eyes first and took him out quickly. For the second phase it's again all about the eyes. I get 'em for good this time and destroy the brain, too.
With a simple mad dash out of the base, we break free and revel in the glory of the Lylat System saved.

Special Thanks

  • LylatR and Words for their strategy discussions
  • adamX0315 and safety_man for invaluable game knowledge
  • punk7890 - helped to identify and modify memory values so I could test new strategies
  • Olivia - Provided lua scripting and support
  • CMM1215, Ponko, and Caionintendo2 for their support throughout the process
  • The whole score running Hit+64 community -

Comparison Chart

Sector Y467549575
Area 6724819837
Venom 2343357999
Total Hits308534094191

Possible Improvements

Corneria - In my first iteration of this level I was able to hit the weird bouncing, hovering guy after the moles with two charge shots off the ground. You can only hit it at the lowest point of its chaotic bouncing pattern. For some reason it was no longer possible to hit with both shots after all of my improvements. I tried changing rng and the timing for entering the corridor, but nothing worked; and my movement and braking times were effectively set in stone to get all the points from the moles. I eventually gave up and settled for a bomb as the second shot; losing out on 1 point. The moles themselves might also be improved because I don't fully understand their mechanics. While typing up these notes it was discovered that I can get an extra 2 points on this section. The first charge shot I fire at this pillar does nothing because I fired the second one too early (making the first one do no damage). I fought with this exact problem all throughout the run, but of course one instance slipped past me as I was learning the game. The second point comes from delaying the third charge shot by two frames so that it hits the mech's base while still killing all 4 moths. -Edit- Updated Corneria video 409 hit. I fixed the mechs and focused on all the Hit+2's in the mole section.
Sector Y - Maybe another hit hiding out in the enemies falling from above without using the second bomb. I couldn't find a way to make it happen.
Aquas - Alright, so... with the extended health bar it's possible to clip into a couple other mounds to get max points on the two clams right before the pillars start. This wasn't known about until I was halfway through the RNG hell of Venom 2. I lose about 7 points for that. I also lose out on another 7 points because of version differences; the (J) version has an extra two icicles and another star fish in the middle of the level.
Zoness - Just MAYBE it might be possible to get 1 extra point out of the crates that Kat tries to destroy. I throw a bomb to take out the back two crates before she can shoot them, but I've seen video where she doesn't destroy one of them even though she damages it. I'm not sure if that was only on Normal mode, though.
MacBeth - None* (*In theory, because I hit every single enemy for max points)...BUT, Right before the checkpoint you can lob some bombs at the railcar way ahead of you. It's possible to destroy the outer shell (for no points), but even with 5 bombs it was not possible for me to destroy the whole thing before the checkpoint. There must be some kind of check the game makes to see how close/far you are. Hit boxes and bombs can be weird, though, so it might be possible to destroy that railcar for a few extra points.
It's theoretically possible to not hit all 8 switches or the track switcher at the end. This means that the train will keep on going... and going... and going. More enemies will spawn if you keep going long enough and it adds to 160-170 extra points. The downside is that you get forced to Bolse and Venom 1 instead of Area 6 and Venom 2
Area 6 - A better understanding of moth spawns in that corridor could lead to more hits. There could also be a couple more hits hiding in the mines at the beginning.
Venom 2 - None :)

Note to Encoders

There are frequent lines of garbage pixels that will appear in the emulator that need to be cropped out. Nine out of ten times it will be a line on the right side of the screen. On MacBeth there will be one along the bottom of the screen. There's also a much bigger one during the first phase of the Venom boss fight.
This game is Interlaced. During the first boss fight in Corneria the encode shows the game heavily lagging out as I'm firing at the closed hatch. I was able to make another encode of the newer Corneria video, and it was able to capture this section as intended with no changes in settings. I don't know why; it might just be that I started firing on a different frame.
Sync Notes: There's a desync that sometimes happens at frame 1300. The charge shot will hit the falling ship and not go past it to the two enemies behind. Just restart the movie from the beginning. I don't know why I couldn't fix it, but it should only take couple tries.

Suggested Screenshots

152058, 152148

feos: Claiming for judging.
feos: Linked a trimmed verification movie that generates the right SaveRAM as it ends.
feos: Great work! Accepting to standard as a save anchored max score branch, hence the compound label.

EZGames69: Processing...
feos: Forgot to trim blank input at the end.

Last Edited by feos 3 days ago
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