Adventure Island was developed by Hudson and released in the US in 1988 and in Europe in 1992. The game originates from an arcade game called Wonderboy, but is different in several ways due to licence issues. Master Higgins' girlfriend, Tina, has been kidnapped by the evil witch doctor and it's up to Higgins to rescue her. It's easy to see that the game in many ways is inspired by Super Mario Bros. However, anyone who plays Adventure Island will quickly realize that the difficulty was tuned up by a healthy dose. The difficulty is possibly what the game is the most known for. The Adventure Island franchise comprises games for several platforms, with the newest addition being "New Adventure Island" for the Wii.
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0:37:21 by Dag Cato.
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Important note about the run
I used a capture card when recording this run and unfortunately something went wrong resulting in a lot of inserted frames. Sadly, I didn't experience this while making the attempts leading up to this run (or I simply didn't pay enough attention). Anyways, this makes the video look choppy, which of course is not terrible for the viewing experience... Sorry about that. The good thing is that I haven't noticed any lost frames, so the timing should still be reliable in case someone else is interested in comparing themselves with this run.
This run is a bit different than many of the other runs that are submitted to speeddemosarchive. I have previously recorded a pal-run, which I thought would be my final speedrun for this game. When I finally managed to get hold of an ntsc-console (I live in Europe, so that's not a given) some time later, I decided to also pick up Adventure Island again. Since there are a few speedrun times for this game reported on the net, I thought it would be fun to put up a time that could be directly compared with other players (a luxury I was not spoiled with while being stuck with only a pal-console). My objective was quite simply to beat the fastest reported time (37:35, sda-timing), but not necessarily care too much about how it looked or spending time on optimizing the route. Especially the lag is very different between ntsc and pal for this game. Since I basically did nothing to compensate for the extra lag in the ntsc-version, I'm sure there is time to be gained by analyzing that further.
For all comments concerning the game mechanics etc, I refer to the run notes for my pal-run. There are also subtitles for the pal-run, showing how the speed manipulation works in practice. If you're not thrown away by the slower speed of the pal-version, I suggest you watch that run as well.
I will keep the run comments short. I think that most mistakes are fairly obvious, so I will not point them out. What I will do here is just to write down what has changed compared to my run for the pal-version (I will only list changes that save or cost time).
European version: 0:43:53 by Dag Cato.
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Techniques and general speedrun strategies
If there ever were a competition for the most linear game, Adventure Island would certainly be a top candidate. Most of what's seen in this video should therefore be straight forward to understand, but I'll use this section to fill in the gaps and add some more detail for those interested in that.
The fastest way to clear a level is to use the skateboard at "run speed", while shooting as few enemies as possible. Shooting and running use the same button (B), so shooting requires a momentary decrease of the speed. Playing on console, one can roughly say that one shot costs one frame. Another important aspect of each level is to finish with the life meter as low as possible as that reduces the countdown after each level (each 20 on the life bar costs a total of 2 frames of countdown). Every pellet in the life bar is worth 160 life, and lasts 5 seconds during the actual gameplay. The life bar can be increased by picking up "fruit" (I know some of them are not fruits, but I always call them fruits anyways):
- Bananas, apples - 80
- Tomatoes, carrots - 160
- Pineapples (gold bags?) - 240
In practice, running out of life is only an issue in a few stages, so most of the time it's just about avoiding fruit as much as possible. There are two ways to make the life bar decrease faster. The first is to pick up an eggplant (hidden in eggs in certain levels). The eggplant makes the timer run down five times faster than normal. It stays with Master Higgins until two pellets of the life bar remain. The other way is to trip on stones, which reduces the life bar by 320 (=32 frames of countdown). It also means a slower speed costing 16 frames, but the overall gain is still 16 frames.
Let's talk about Master Higgins' speed a bit. If we fire up this game on the emu of preference and put a watcher on RAM-address 05A4, we'll get to observe the horizontal speed. The acceleration/deceleration is 3 (subpixels/frame) when on the ground or when dropping from a ledge, 1 when jumping and 1 when subject to ice physics (whether on the ground or not). Interestingly enough, there are several stable max speeds (=no acceleration possible when at these or higher speeds):
- Skateboard (B) - 80, 81 and 82
- Skateboard (no B) - 73
- Foot (B) - 73, 74 and 75
- Foot (no B) - 49
If exceeding the max speed, such as getting a speed of 74 on skateboard (no B), the speed will begin to oscillate between 74 and 71 every other frame.
It goes without saying that one wants to go at max speed in a speedrun. When on the skateboard and shooting during a jump (a common situation), the speed will invariably end up at 80 (first deceleration to 7X something and then reacceleration by 1/frame until 80 is reached). This is a decrease of 2.5% of the speed compared to 82, which over the course of the run quickly adds up. However, if one lands without holding the B-button, the speed will always be 73, right? Pressing the B-button after landing will then accelerate to 76, 79 and... 82. This is very easy to perform, but the side effect is that part of the jump has to be performed without B-speed, thus being slow. I count that if I can go 82 for the length of roughly one screen, then it pays off to set it up. Especially in the later levels, the layout and enemy positions don't allow for much speed manipulation though. It should also be added that the jumps (length and height) are affected by the speed, which is also a factor when determining which is the most appropriate speed in each area.
Ok, now we have talked about the skateboard. Is it possible to manipulate the max speed on foot as well? Let's see... So we jump and shoot without repressing the B-button, which will set the speed to 49. Upon landing, press the B-button, which will change the speed to 52, 55, 58, 61, 64, 67, 70 and... 73. So here we always end up with the slower of the three valid max speeds... Unfortunately, it's therefore not possible to reliably manipulate the speed on foot to 75. However, it is possible to release the B-button just before landing and repress it right after. If done correctly, this will first slow down Higgins to a random speed between 49 and 73 and then reaccelerate by 3 until 73, 74 or 75 has been reached. While this is interesting to study and could possibly be used in one or two places to save a couple of frames, I chose not to use it because I prefer to know my speed at all time since it affects the jumps for example. Before moving on from this slightly technical section of the comments, we should keep in mind that since the start speed is 0, it's always possible to achieve 75 on foot at the start of a level, which will then be kept until shooting during a jump.
1-1 - A little known fact is that throwing an axe at an egg, stone or rolling boulder, will make the axe bounce off and that will trigger the next snake to spit fire at you. I hope that can help a casual player or two out there. :-)
1-2 - It's possible to jump over the bonus pot at full speed, which would save half a second to a second. It's risky though. (picking up a bonus pot makes the bonus countdown be done twice + some waiting -> instant run killer)
1-4 - I jump too early on the first jump and pick up an apple. At the first raccoon, I jump too late and pick up a tomato. This jump is admittedly pretty difficult though as jumping too early makes you land on the rock -> lose skateboard -> run over. The boss always takes 8 hits to kill, no matter whether it's axes or fireballs. Every subsequent boss takes an additional 2 hits to kill. I shoot three shots every jump. I've seen that the Japanese players shoot 4 per jump. I've tried to get that to work, but with no success. It's not about mashing (you can only have two shots on screen at the same time), but more about learning a good rhythm. While learning to do 4 shots per jump that consistently connect is possibly the biggest potential time saver over this run, it should be mentioned that the Japanese players miss more shots than I do. Still, the potential is there. Another thing worth mentioning is that it's possible to run after the boss once it flies away to exit at early as possible. However, this ends up wasting time (maybe 2-3 sec over the course of a run). The time it takes for the screen transition to the bonus counting depends on when the boss leaves the screen and not when Master Higgins leaves the screen. By running after the boss, the screen will scroll to the right making it longer for the boss to fly off the screen.
2-2 - I jump too late and pick up an apple in section three, at the rolling boulder.
2-3 - Interesting skip here. I lose the skateboard to reveal a hidden egg (not possible while riding the skateboard) to grab the key. This activates two of the platforms in the level that will now take you to a bonus area. When leaving a bonus area, the game will send you to the section after the one you were in when entering the bonus (this prevents an infinite loop). There are a couple of bonus areas in the game, but their location don't let you skip enough of the respective levels compared to the time wasted going there. What makes it special here (and in 7-3) is that the second platform (I jump over the first) is located so that Master Higgins can just barely trigger checkpoint four of the level before entering the bonus area (a checkpoint doesn't have to be passed, it just needs to be loaded to count). Upon exiting, Master Higgins is sent to the goal, skipping the whole section four.
3-4 - Missed a shot on the boss. One second lost.
4-2 - I miss a jump, which cost one second + picking up extra unintentional fruit costing half a second in extra countdown.
5-1 - The jump to the egg with the skateboard is possibly the hardest jump in the game.
5-2 - In section 1, I should have shot the bat after the bat+boulder instead of jumping over it and picking up an extra apple. The jumps over the moving platforms near the end are maybe a notch easier than the jumps in 5-1, but still major run killers.
5-3 - Could have avoided the banana in the last section, but I usually end up picking up one of the fruits there, so it was maybe to be expected.
6-1 - The first egg is an eggplant, but I haven't found a way to make use of it (I always run out of life). Neither the TAS nor the Japanese players use it, so I guess it's all good. I'd like to throw out a tip for the casual players. In the first section with all the octopus, just run at B-speed and they're all gonna be lined up perfectly without interfering with Higgins' path. Trying to dodge is just asking for trouble...
6-3 - The beginning is one of the hardest sections for me in a speedrun. I lost a second from a mistimed jump.
7-1 - I pick up an extra apple near the end, which turned out to be unnecessary (you can exit the level with 0 on the life bar). Since having failed an attempt or two from running out of life just before crossing the finish line, I tend to play it a bit safe.
7-2 - The TAS manages to get through the end on skateboard, which saves a couple of seconds in 7-3. However, I have never even been close doing it on console or emu. Not sure how much manipulation would be required, but it looks to me like a TAS-only trick.
7-3 - See the 2-3 description for how the skip works. Interesting to note is that section 4 of 7-3 was by far the section I had the most trouble with before this skip was found. Sometimes you're lucky, I guess. :-)
7-4 - A few missed shots on the boss, but I only had to make one extra jump (8 iso 7 to get the 20 hits), which is acceptable by my standards.
8-3 - My jumps get a bit misaligned in the beginning, but not much time is lost, I believe.
8-4 - I miss several shots on the last boss, but the time loss is fairly small as long as the last hit connects before the boss has reached the back wall (which it just did in this run). Landing the last hit earlier still requires him to moving the same distance back to the wall before falling down the pit.
Competition (as of writing - early 2013)
When I started speedrunning this game, I was (to my knowledge) the only western player doing so. Since then, the game has seen some race activity, but no serious effort has (to my knowledge) been done to get a good time. There has however been a bit of speedrun activity for this game in Japan. The record has been pushed down several times and now stands at 37:40 (37:35 sda-timing). The Japanese runners don't use the speed manipulation (at least not yet), but I know they are familiar with it. This means that their times will always be ~15-20 seconds from an optimal run by default. In my eyes, it also looks like they don't use very effective routes (which fruits to collect, which enemies to kill etc). For comparison, my time would be 36:59 (36:54 sda-timing) if the same gameplay had been performed on an ntsc-machine. Take that comparison as you will, but at least it shows that there should be lots of room for improvement in the ntsc-category. It should also be mentioned that my comparison does not take into account any differences caused by lag, which is bound have a negative impact on ntsc.
Despite a few imprecisions in the run, I'm quite happy with the end result. I don't intend to come back and improve this time. As a whole, there were some interesting discoveries, which made playing the game fun. However, I personally think it's too linear to be fun to speedrun from this point on. A good proportion of the attempts (possibly as many as 50%, but don't quote me on that) were actually ruined by finger fatigue from constantly holding right+B. Of all the challenges a speedrun presents you with, that's obviously not one of the more exciting ones. I guess the ntsc-version is better in that regard though since the levels go by slightly faster.
- SDA for publishing this run and for providing the community with a non-commercial platform for hosting speedrun videos.
- Anyone who has contributed to the development of Anri-chan. If a tool is so easy that even I can encode videos, then it must good!
- Macco and Takenoko (Japanese runners) for giving me a few new ideas that helped me improve my time (special thanks to Takenoko for having videos with the 2-3 and 7-3 skips).
- Randil for explaining about the max speeds.
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