Released in 1991 (Do not believe the copyright screen's lies), Magician was Eurocom's first developed game, and Taxan's last published one. It stars Paul, a young apprentice magician who suffers from a cripplingly hyperactive metabolism. He's on a quest to find food and water to satisfy his raging hunger and thirst. Along the way, he's also trying to destroy an evil wizard named Abadon.
Best time: Single-segment 0:13:45 by Marc J. Dziezynski on 2011-05-15.
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"You may be right,
'It's all a waste of time.'
I guess that's just a chance I'm prepared to take,
A danger I'm prepared to face.." -Rush, "Cut to the Chase"
I write these comments about four weeks after I got this run. Like most everyone who writes comments, I have no idea if I'm wasting my time or not, as I'm sending them in without knowing the verdict on the run. UNlike most everyone who writes comments, though, I'm sending these, and the run, in with a sense of fear. Fear that my best effort is no longer good enough for SDA. Fear that, at the ripe old age of 27, I'm an obsolete relic in the world of speedrunning. Fear that, in short, SDA and speedrunning in general have passed me by.
At this point, I know better than to go "This run is great, there are probably only X seconds of improvement to be made on it!" Every time I've done that, someone (Usually Arctic_Eagle, more recently Josh the Funkdoc) comes along and makes me look like an idiot. What I can say is that I worked very hard on this run, constantly tweaking the route and improving my execution to what you see here. There is actually one more tweak to the route I can make, plus some execution stuff to improve, but I'll leave that to someone other than me--it's been too long since I last played, and it would take me too long to shake off the rust, what with other things I have going on.
Enough self-pitying. You want to know about this game.
Magician is a unique game. It's rather deep in terms of resource management for an NES game. If I had to pick a game or series to compare it to, it reminds me most of early Sierra games. Like those games, Magician is sometimes obtuse, and it's very easy to screw yourself out of completing the game, with no feedback to that effect until you simply can't move on three levels later. That said, it's an easier game to speedrun than to play casually--the randomness is minimal, and it being a puzzle-type game at heart means you can develop a routine and muscle memory to get you through it a fair percentage of the time.
Let's look level-by-level at what I did and why.
I immediately go into the menu and learn the Jump spell. Each level 4 jumps saves a second (Actually 59 frames), and I jump a total of 14 times before I cycle off of the spell. Learning the spell takes about 5 seconds, so I gain a total of about 9 seconds doing this. This came from FatRatKnight's TAS, and he in turn took it from Slotermeyer's rejected TAS.
When talking to non-hostile people, one of three things will happen (Hostiles will always "ignore your words"): You'll talk to them (Good), they'll ignore your words (Bad luck), or they won't be able to hear you (Bad execution; that means you tried to talk to their back, which never works). Failure to immediately talk to the "have my gold" guy is an auto-reset, as his walking pattern means it would take me 5-10 seconds to get another chance to talk to him.
The key is for opening chests. Also, I get a "you feel more experienced!" point here. As I'm going for the best possible first-loop ending, I have to grab all of these save for one (Which I get anyway).
Note how I enter the door to the guy whose mail I agree to deliver near the left side. I try to make tiny optimizations like this throughout the run, although I don't always succeed. Delivering the mail gets me more experience and, thus, more mana, which is why I make the detour back.
I purchase two useful spells here because conjuring them takes Mana, which is at a premium this early in the run. Also, because I'm human and can't scroll through menus at TAS speed, buying the spells is a bit faster than conjuring them anyway.
I can jump a total of 14 times before I need to cast a different spell; any more than that, and I don't have enough mana for the Reveal/Wakey Wakey combination. I opt to save the last 2 jumps for here, though it doesn't really make a difference; I could've jumped 14 times in Town if I wanted to.
Not getting the egg and scroll is one of those ways you can screw yourself out of beating the game and never know it. You need the egg to get a charm in the Caverns; you in turn need that Charm to progress to the Dungeons.
You'll also note that I switch to the Water Flask when I set my spell to Reveal. In general, a speedrun of this game involves going to the menu as few times as possible, because each menu switch takes a second to a second and a half. As a result, when you do have to go to the menu, you want to make sure you're switching both items and spells in the same menu access as much as possible. I use the Flask several times while walking to the right in an effort to make it as exciting as I can (And because, you know, Paul needs water).
Not getting the first possible chance to talk to the second "have my gold" guy isn't a huge deal, especially in light of the fact that I have to walk right anyway.
The stuff I grab in the well is important to this run--the Mana Potion is used here and in the Lake, I give the Bread Crust to the beggar in the Forest, and the scroll of Fly is what lets me get out of the well, and the spell is needed at several other points besides.
Exorcise is the one spell that the game never tells you how to get (You can grab an item in the Caverns that gives you an unlimited level 1 version of it, but not the formula for the spell)--someone either brute-forced it or hacked the ROM to find the formula for it. if you can get "inside" an enemy and make all the shots hit consistently, it's the most efficient spell in terms of damage-to-mana ratio.
Using the Mana Potion in the Wilderness, because it was the last one (Well, the only one) I had, causes my item to revert to Pouch of Coins, saving me a menu switch to get back to it.
I get, and immediately use, some hidden coins in the bushes.
For some reason, talking to the guy whose mail you agree to deliver back in Town causes you to "forget" Jump when you scroll off of it, forcing you to re-learn it. I do that here.
The Mana Potion buying and use sequence was one of the more annoying ones to learn/memorize, because I had to be quick about not just the menu manipulations themselves, but also what I was doing between them. One little optimization that might otherwise go unnoticed is conjuring Pow Shield before Fire Shield; if I were to do that in reverse order, I would have to scroll back up through Fire Shield to get to Jump. Thinking about tiny things like this was a large part of planning this run, especially later on.
When I was younger, the platforming section was one of my favorite parts of the game. I have no idea why now; it's not a game for which platforming was designed. Worse, there's a bug with the Jump spell where you'll hear the jump sound, the game will take your mana...and you just won't jump. I had a couple runs actually end this way on this section.
Yes, you have to kill the gargoyle thing before you can finish the level.
You can actually see an example of the Jump bug near the ghosts after the evil mushroom.
The use of the Unknown Spell was what ended more runs than anything else. It has a small chance of healing you 20% and curing all Venom. It has a large chance of killing you instantly. As a result, I'm always a bit shocked when it doesn't kill me, but I manage to cover it up pretty well here.
Silly menu error as I switch off the Crust of Bread too quickly. For whatever reason, the stretch starting immediately after the Unknown Spell and continuing to the statue boss in the Caverns is my weakest part of the game.
I'm constantly going into and out of the menu while talking to the tree because I can't do anything that involves text scrolling (EG talking to the tree) until any previous text has finished scrolling. Going into the menu immediately finishes any text, which makes it a bit faster than waiting for it to draw itself out letter by letter. I do this a couple other times in the run as well. On an unrelated note, this is one of the more amusing "You feel more experienced!" points in the game. Talking to the tree does nothing. Talking to the tree TWICE, on the other hand... Also, since I'm going into the menu anyway, I take the time to set up the spells/items I'll need to start the next level.
I give the beggar the Crust of Bread to get the Experience. I already know the answer to the puzzle that he's helping me out with.
What you're supposed to do is use a Light spell to see your surroundings. What I do instead is crank the brightness on my TV, which lets me see enough that I don't need the spell (Although it may not be reflected in the video).
There's a tiny improvement that can be made in the item grabbing. If I grab the Ham from the first chest I open, I can use it while I'm setting up to cast Fly for the statue fight, saving myself a menu switch (Specifically the one after I solve the puzzle room; I'd swap back to the key when I switch to Lightning just before the statue).
There's an invisible timer at memory address 005a. This governs pretty much everything time-related, from how long your Fleetfoot and Fly spells last to how long you can stay on the bridge in the Castle until you get fried. I get kind of screwed on the first Fleetfoot after I hit the bottom of the cave.
You can't get inside the statue's face, so Lightning is the next best option.
This is the one absolutely mandatory puzzle room in the game. There are a few others that are theoretically mandatory on a first playthrough (One to get the Twin spell in the Dungeons, mainly), but this is the only one you must visit even with prior knowledge. Without the third Magic Charm, you can't beat the game.
The thirty-five second or so detour into the Maze of Doom pays off huge later on. The 1000 Mana (500 from the Mana Potion, 500 from talking to the wizard) is nice, but the real prize is the Refresh Potion (Or as people who have watched me play the game know it, "The Potion of GG"). Just the complete mana refill it gives me would be worth the time it takes to get, as it ensures I never have to go out of my way for mana again, but it does a bunch of other awesome stuff as well, like refilling your food and water, curing venom, and oh yeah, completely refilling your health.
Not a lot to say here. The Mana Potion I grabbed in the Caverns means I can just jump through this entire level.
I was trying to dodge the skeleton with my jump. I didn't do a very good job.
You have to nudge a bit closer to Mensim to talk to him; trying to do it from the door gives you "There's nobody nearby".
I swap to Fleetfoot here because I have the mana for it, and because it's quite a bit closer to Reveal in the menu than Jump is.
The one cringe-worthy thing to me in the run: I access the menu an extra time for no other reason than to see how much Mana I had after casting Twin. I was under the impression that it was a 100 Mana spell. As it turns out, it costs only 1 Mana to cast. This is doubly stupid when you realize I'll just be using the Refresh Potion at the start of the next level. Oops.
Gah, the menus, they're tough.
It is possible to get through the door without having to wait for the pendulum to swing. However, it's very difficult (A lower rate of success than the Unknown Spell easily), and since 80% of runs die at the Unknown Spell casting, I wasn't about to risk it.
The Castle is ordinarily a maze, but I obviously take the shortcut through it. Going the long way doesn't get you anything worth the trip, even in casual play. The shortcut gives no indication whatsoever that it's there (Unless you count "You feel more experienced!" as a hint, I guess), unlike everything else in the game, to the point that even a rejected TAS didn't use it back in 2006 or so.
Without Fire Shield, the flame bridge will instantly kill you. Even with Fire Shield, you only have a certain amount of time until you melt, so I switch to Fleetfoot while in midair so I can use it as soon as I land.
As you can see, I now have so much Mana that I don't care about being efficient with it. Level 4 spells from here on out, baby! Easy Mana Potion in a chest? Bah, don't need it!
Just a note that the first chamber I enter is my favorite "You feel more experienced!" point in the game. Paul becomes more experienced by entering an anti-gravity chamber with spikes on the ceiling. It's not the casting of Iron Boots to save him from being impaled on said ceiling that gets him the experience, no. Just entering the room is good enough.
I actually cast Fly twice upon exiting the anti-gravity chamber: Once to cancel Iron Boots, and again to actually fly.
The fountain is the one "You feel more experienced!" point you don't have to get for the "good" ending. However, it's a complete mana refill, so it's useful anyway.
Yes, it is worth it to cast Fire Ring just for this fight. It damages things really really fast. If I were a TAS, I'd just fly inside him and use Exorcise, but since I'm not, this is the next fastest thing (Thanks to DeceasedCrab's Let's Play for showing me this). The reasons I don't use it more often are that A. It's really inefficient in terms of damage-to-mana ratio, and B. the only other enemies it may be useful on have Fire Shield either equal to or more than any other shield (Physical or Power) they may have.
Trying to use the Ultimate Potion before the "chime" results in wasting it and being unable to beat Abadon.
You can change the ending in one of three ways.
A. You can actually kill non-hostile as well as hostile humans. Kill enough non-hostiles and you get no music, the village is deserted thanks to your murderous ways, and the game informs you that your efforts are wasted.
B. A much smaller change: Fail to end the game with 10000 max Mana (In other words, fail to grab all but the fountain "You feel more experienced!" point) and you don't get to see the final screen of Abadon slumping to his death.
C. Finally, as you can guess by the last screen, there are multiple loops through the game. Being each one gives you slightly different text on the last screen.
And that's it.
Thanks to the administration of SDA, past and present. I will happily mooch off of your site's popularity to get more views of my own. :P
Thanks to everyone who encouraged me to make this run. MercuryZelda, in particular, was amazingly encouraging despite not really knowing anything about the game.
Lastly, thanks to my wonderful wife Jessica (AKA "Silver"), who puts up with me being me, both inside and outside of the world of speedrunning.
For the further adventures of Emptyeye, check out my website at http://emptyeye.com. I can be reached at emptyeye (at) emptyeye (period) com.
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