Mega Man X: Command Mission, released in September 2004, departs from the conventions of the
Mega Man X series in favor of a more Final Fantasy-like, turn-based approach to
battles: there is no longer a choice about which Maverick to fight when, and lesser Mavericks
are encountered randomly throughout the stages. The game also featured new characters Spider,
Massimo, Marino and Cinnamon - and no Sigma!
Well, my first RPG speedrun project finally gets a serious makeover - more than two years later. It was 5 hours and 46 minutes in 20 segments. This one is a tidy 4 hours and 26 minutes (according to the game clear save at the end of the run) and took just one segment.
I should be regretting submitting my old run, right?
For without a run like that, we would not have this. Without a first run to show to people for ideas, the really good runs would never exist on SDA. However, most of the time, these first runs are only ever posted on the forums (or YouTube). So the casual viewer who does not visit the forums never sees the works in progress - and they only rarely see the concept I'm trying to describe.
As I promised in the comments for the last run, I WILL go into great detail about this one. But before I get started, these comments are more designed for someone who is NOT familiar with the game. People who are familiar with the game will know most of the stuff I'm saying, though they may not know the subtleties. Also, just because this beats my old run significantly, don't call my old run 'sucktastic' - while it may pale in comparison to this, my old time was somewhat acceptable for what I knew at the time I made it (even though it looks uglier and uglier each time I look at it now).
The first hint to me that something was wrong with my old run was something that occurred during the third iteration of the SDA Awards. For the uninitiated, Trihex (yes, the same Trihex that did the Yoshi's Island runs, the Sly Cooper run, and the Crash Bandicoot 2 and 3 runs) started the whole SDA Awards idea - basically people vote for what they think best fits into a bunch of categories (I can't list all the categories, but it's things like 'best speedrun', 'best in-run mistake', 'most unique trick', 'most entertaining commentary', and things like that, as well as a bunch of forum-specific categories), very similarly to more well-known awards shows. There's two phases of voting - the initial votes and then a 'finalist' set of votes with more restrictive choices. In the third iteration of SDA Awards, my old Megaman X Command Mission run was a finalist for 'Best in-run mistake' for revisiting the equipment screen too often and being slow in optimizing equipment.
The nail in the coffin came when early in December 2006, out of boredom, I decided to have another look at my old run. I was fairly appalled at my boss fights, especially the ones in Chapter 10, and I decided a revision was in order. Originally I was just going to add one more segment, in order to clear up the disgustingness that was Chapter 9 (although not everyone thinks the chapter was awful it seems).
In steps JagwarKnight, whose advice last run, while still helpful, came a bit too late for me to really change much. One thing that he talked about right away was using Massimo. I'll admit, I was not initially sold on the idea. I revisited the save file from the end of my last run, and took the time to build Massimo's Action Trigger (I'll explain this later), as well as checking out Ultimate X and Absolute Zero, the two secret Hyper Modes (another thing I'll explain later). Upon testing Massimo's fully-powered Action Trigger, I was blown away by the amount of damage done.
Further ideas were bounced back and forth, totaling about six pages of forum posts just between the two of us. And that was just the practice run, which embedded about 80% of the strategy necessary. Then a segmented run was completed on December 30th of 2006. THEN, after five months where I couldn't capture and was in no mood to label anything, I went back and discovered I lost a segment's footage entirely. Due to aggravation over this, I lost interest for a long time. That is, until Carcinogen pointed me toward a no-save speedplay of Final Fantasy X-2, seeing it on my speedruns-to-do list. I got inspiration to finish this game finally, and within five days I had done a 12-segment test run to apply what I learned long ago to this game. That learned stuff will be discussed later. I'm going to discuss the characters and how certain things about them affected my strategies, then talk about the deployment system, which was much more crucial in this run than last run.
Characters (in order of long-term appearance)
You start the game with X, and he's the only character who's with you every single chapter, so getting used to him is a must. He's pretty likable, though, with decent stats, an Action Trigger (a powerful action that can be done only if your character has 50 or more WE during their turn - hereafter this will be referred to as an AT) that can hit everything, and the ability to equip four Force Metals with decent immunity (which counteracts the erosion from Force Metals - if erosion exceeds immunity, you start getting penalties in battle). Unfortunately, his individual attacks are very weak, and his AT is reliant on Weapon Energy ('WE'), making it weak in some circumstances. X's attacks normally are all of the Shot-type, which can hit air targets well but is often deflected by some ground targets' defenses.
X's normal Hyper Mode, X Fire, trades out the buster for a very nasty claw (officially known as the X Collider). In this form, X's normal attacks are all of the Combat-type - his only ranged attack is the Shell Buster sub-weapon - and almost all of his attacks are Fire element. Plus, his defense is increased quite a bit, his Life Energy ('LE') is increased by 50%, and his WE per round is 25% more than in normal mode. His AT in this form, while also dependent on WE like his normal AT, is a much more powerful claw-spinning attack on one enemy called Charge Collider. The AT is the only non-elemental weapon in X Fire.
X's earnable Hyper Mode, Ultimate Armor, swaps the buster for some really scary-looking guns - a grenade launcher and a gatling gun, I believe. X's attacks are still Shot-type in this form, but he lacks an element even if his equipped weapon had one. X's defense in this form is pretty good, and although his LE does not change, his WE per round is 40% more than normal (for instance, if he had 50 per turn before Hyper Mode, he now gets 70). This form's AT, Nova Strike, works much like the Final Strike used to finish off enemies that are weakened significantly in one turn - and the power is nearly comparable, even with lower WE. I figure the AT is why so many people advocate getting this form - my original plan was to include it, but I just found Rafflesian (the secret boss you must fight to get the Ultimate Armor) too close to impossible at that point in a run.
Spider joins up at the end of Chapter 2 and sticks around until Chapter 6 is over, then you never get to use him again. Spider is actually pretty similar to X stat-wise, although he's quite a bit faster, his weapons (which are all Shot-type) don't grant nearly as much extra Power as X's can, and Spider also has the highest start-of-battle WE of everyone. Spider's selling point is that his weapons all have unique effects at 75+ WE: Heart cards boost experience on finishing blows, Diamond cards boost Zenny (the game's currency) on finishing blows, Club cards (the suit I actually use in this run) allow 2-hit attacks, and Spade cards hit every enemy at once. The Joker in Chapter 4 (which I skip this time, though I got it last time) has random effects chosen out of these 4, although it does those effects even without the 75 WE normally necessary. Spider's Hyper Mode, Trickstar, makes him invincible and at the very least doubles his attack power. Trouble is, it only gets two turns unless you up it through Build Hypers. Two turns isn't enough to lay the smack down on a boss, but I leave it that way because he's the only never-permanent character.
An explanation of Spider's AT, Fortune Card, really deserves its own subsection in any strategy guide that could be made for this game, but I'll try my best here. It works like Draw Poker, with each hand giving a different attack (note that higher WE gives you better starting hands):
- Fumble (no combination): This has an 80% chance of missing. If it hits, though, it's a guaranteed critical. I might try pairing this with the Hawkeye sub-weapon (which'll be explained later) one of these times and see if criticals are guaranteed that way.
- Pair: This is basically a 2-hit attack, like what the Club cards do.
- Two Pair: Similar to Pair, except I believe the hits have a higher chance of a critical.
- Tri Card (three of a kind): Attacks one enemy with three attacks, each of a different element. One of Spider's stronger attacks IMO, even against bosses with elements, who tend to absorb one attack.
- Straight: Five attacks in a row on a single enemy. I've heard that the last one is a guaranteed critical, but I know that not all attacks are guaranteed to hit. I usually want this result, as it's one of the most powerful hits-one-enemy attacks Spider can have.
- Flush: Hits all enemies at once and has a good chance of inflicting the 'blind' status effect. I've gotten this only once, and frankly, if I want all-hitting attacks, I'll get it from a weapon and not from this version of the AT.
- Death House (full house): Attacks all enemies. Also has a chance of inflicting the 'DOA' status effect. Not that handy on most bosses really.
- Four Penalty (four of a kind): Reduces all stats of all enemies by 25%. I hate this one, because it tends not to work on bosses, and those are who I would tend to get this effect against.
- Straight Flush: Hits all enemies 3 times, with the last hit being a guaranteed critical. I've gotten this fewer times than I've gotten RSF (in total; I was not lucky enough to get this effect in this run), but this is almost more desirable than RSF because it comes out faster and has the potential to do more aggregate damage.
- RSF (Royal Flush): I've only gotten this a few times (including a couple in this run), but oh, MAN, is it ever nasty. Hits everyone at triple power, and has a fairly high chance of DOA. There's only one hit to it though, which occasionally makes this result useless. (I saw this do just 300 damage on Silver Horn once, during the Liquid Coating portion of the fight.)
Massimo joins you in Chapter 3, and is always available after that. A lot of people bash Massimo, claiming that bad defense and a bad AT make him worthless. They are right about one thing - Massimo naturally takes 150% damage from all elemental sources. Another issue is that Massimo's stats are skewed toward Power while avoiding Speed - thankfully his HP is very high - and he only has two Force Metal slots, though with a fairly high immunity. Lastly, his AT, Berserk Charge, requires some skill to level up. Despite this, Berserk Charge, especially at higher levels, is a button-masher's dream come true, and you get more time to button-mash with higher WE. The two buttons of it you have at the start of the game increase the attack's base power and allow you to inflict every kind of status condition except for Freeze and DOA. Once you inflict 3000 damage with it for the first time, you get the third button, which increases the chances of a critical hit by as much as 80% (it feels like way more to me though, as I've only NOT gotten a critical a few times at maximum charge of this button). Once you inflict 10000 damage with the AT for the first time, you get the fourth button, which increases the number of hits the AT can do. The thing is, all hits past the first one deal about a tenth of the base damage of the first strike. Still, that pretty much doubles the attack's power.
Massimo's Hyper Mode, Glint Armor, doesn't do much for his elemental defense, but it increases his health and his WE per turn by 50% each. Additionally, like all Hyper Modes, it makes his attacks pretty powerful. Massimo's AT does not change in this form, but a fully-powered AT in this form is rivalled in terms of damage only by Ultimate X's Nova Strike and Absolute Zero's Calamitous Arts, and that's if you get good results on the latter two.
All of Massimo's normal attacks are Combat-type, which has reduced accuracy against air units, while his AT at any level is a Shot-type.
You first learn about Marino in Chapter 4, but she doesn't join up with you until near the end of that chapter. Marino's a variation of the stereotypical thief, and as you can imagine, her speed is fairly high. Marino's the only character who has access to both major kinds of damage through main weapons alone - she can deal Combat-type damage with beam weapons such as knives and chakrams, or deal Shot-type damage with a variety of elemental throwing star weapons. She gets access to three Force Metal slots, but she, along with Spider and Massimo at least, gets a unique FM - in her case Fat Slicer, which increases her dodging rate. Despite these facts and her AT (discussed below), I decided not to use Marino all that much in this run, as even with an item-dumping trick described by Suzaku during my last run, other characters generally deal more damage per turn. She does have her uses however.
Marino's Hyper Mode is really something else. It's called Quicksilver, and in addition to making her more powerful and increasing her LE, she goes so fast with it that oftentimes, she can expend her whole Hyper Mode without the enemy ever taking a turn. Usually my favorite use of this is to have her sub in for the healthiest character, heal the other two characters in at the time, then swap out for someone better capable.
Marino's AT is interesting - it's called Emotional Reel, and it works like a slot machine. If you don't get a winning result, you wind up with a weak physical attack, but line up three of the same icon and you suddenly get an attack with either a strange property or some real power. The AT changes slightly at various experience levels, and it goes slower with higher WE, but I seem to do better with this at higher speeds for some odd reason. Here's the results I know of:
- No match or three bars - Marino Stamp, a weak physical attack
- Three boots - Hyper Dive, a more powerful physical attack (the result I use the most)
- Three treasure chests - I'll Take That!, which is a guaranteed steal (I use this once)
- Three hearts - Your Life, Please!, which steals health from the enemy
- Three Grim Reapers - Scattered Flower, a dangerous attack with a decent chance of DOA
- Three Marino Faces - Mirage Dive, a very powerful all-hitting attack
These are all the ones I've seen. There may be more for all I know.
Cinnamon joins at the absolute end of Chapter 4, and is available at any time thereafter. Many people seem to like Cinnamon for her defense, although I'll admit I'm not a big fan of her. She does take 50% normal damage from elemental attacks, though, and if she had more offense I'd use her more frequently because of that. It's just that she's not a very attack-minded character unless you set her up a specific way. She's very good for setups however, having three Force Metal slots and HUGE amounts of Immunity (put it this way - she's the only character easily able to handle the Supra-Force Metal fragments that doesn't have four Force Metal slots). Plus, she gets access to a unique sub-weapon that increases allies' WE per turn by 10. I don't think I used her at all last run, and I don't use her much here either, though she does actually get use.
Cinnamon's AT is called Angelic Aide, and it allows you to heal, although to generate each heart - worth 10% LE - you must spin the controller's analog sticks in circles. Higher WE gives you more time for this, and higher levels allow higher maximums in LE restored. As far as Cinnamon's Hyper Mode? It's called Iron Maiden, and it does the standard things most Hyper Modes do - make her somewhat stronger. However, the real beauty of Iron Maiden is that it makes everyone else in the front line gain 25% more WE than normal - this includes allied WE gains from Energy Field, so that sub-weapon adds 13 WE (it's rounded up from 12.5) instead of 10. In fact, it's this gain in WE that gets her any use at all in this run.
You run across Axl in Chapter 5, and he'll be able to help for the rest of the game. I believe Capcom had been trying to come up with ways to reduce the number of comments about Axl being an awful addition to the Megaman X series. Their way of saying 'STFU' to the whiners? Make him better than he ever was in X7 or X8. (I like to vouch for new characters in a well-established series, but even I think Axl was lacking in both games.) Axl is actually a pretty decent addition to the team when you get him, and although he doesn't get quite as much use as he did last run, I still find it crucial to use him for those moments when I put him in the front line. His stats lean a bit toward speed, and he can equip a full set of four Force Metals, although his immunity is very low for this wide array. (I'm guessing this is tied in to his shapechanging abilities - maybe form changing makes him and other copy-capable Reploids unstable. It makes sense to me.) Also, save for an attack or two I'll mention later, all of his attacks are of the Shot-type. Finally, all of his weapons either allow multiple hits per attack or are specialized for fighting specific kinds of enemies. His Hyper Mode, Stealth Mode, works just like Spider's Hyper Mode - it makes him invincible (this is more abusable with Axl than with Spider because of when you have them) and increases his power pretty dramatically. One thing I noticed with both Spider's and Axl's Hyper Modes that I hadn't mentioned before is that the critical hit rate with normal attacks seems to go through the roof (well, they're invisible, so it makes sense to me). It also starts with only two turns, but I'm less shy about pumping this up because Axl stays long enough to make it worthwhile.
Axl's AT, DNA Change, is perhaps the most fun of all the ATs in the game. You get a grid of buttons, and at the other side are eight path endings with different bosses you've previously beaten (or question marks for those bosses you haven't beaten). What you need to do is hit a series of buttons to get to the other side, ending at the boss whose attack you want to use. Higher WE gives you more time to do this, although I've memorized the necessary combos, so I don't need high WE. I'll list the bosses, what they do, and their usefulness here, in order of where they appear on the grid:
- Wild Jango: This guy slams one enemy with a Rolling Assault. This Thunder attack is the only Combat-type attack I've seen with Axl, and it's a crucial boss killer, at least against Water bosses if nothing else.
- Mad Nautilus: This one shoots a Mad Cocktail of status effects at all enemies. Frankly, I think this one is useless, as I never use status effects deliberately.
- Incentas: Every enemy is hit twice with Asura Knuckle. One of the more useful results, this tends to be my crowd-clearer as soon as I get it.
- Rafflesian: Every enemy is slammed ten times with Sunburst. Unless the enemy has shielding, the total damage of this attack is 2000, regardless of anything else. Not all that useful in my opinion, although having set damage can really do something about those resistant enemies.
- Ninetails: No, this guy does not give 1000-year curses. However, the one enemy he targets may wish he was cursed after suffering a Nine Fragments assault for nearly 10000 damage regardless of defense. Axl's strongest attack. Unfortunately, Ninetails is not fightable until you beat the game and go through the entire remainder of the Tails clan - calling that 'a task in itself' really understates its difficulty. So you don't get to see the attack in this run or any actual speedrun of this game.
- Depth Dragoon: This is a rarely seen attack of his called Thunder Brigade - it hits everyone three times with thunder. Not too powerful, considering when I get it.
- Mach Jentra: Simply uses Flames of Gehenna on all enemies. Kind of a standard crowd-clearer, mostly useful against Thunder enemies, but eclipsed by the Incentas result. I still use it quite a bit in this run though, as it's a bit faster than Silver Horn's transformation.
- Silver Horn: Silver Horn uses a slight variation of Tidal Wave against all enemies. This was my main crowd-clearer last run prior to Incentas, but it only gets used a little this time.
You first get to use Zero in Chapter 1's boss fight. From there, you don't get to use him again until near the end of Chapter 5, and he leaves again at the start of Chapter 6. Finally, he permanently joins around the middle of Chapter 6. Zero strictly fights with saber-class weapons and has access to three Force Metal slots, although his immunity is somewhat iffy for a Maverick Hunter of his skill (Axl at least has a reason for low immunity). I guess Zero prefers to rely on experience to win his battles. Only other possibility I can think of is the incidents in Mega Man X5 (where he actually WENT Maverick depending on how a certain random event turned out). Regardless, Zero is quite powerful, especially with the multi-hit weapons, but as you've probably guessed, all of Zero's attacks deal Combat-type damage. However, Zero does get access to one extremely valuable sub-weapon that only he can use - Heat Haze, which gives an illusory double that deals another hit at reduced power. With the right setup, this can make an already nasty melee character a vicious and dangerous threat. Zero's AT, Command Arts, basically allows you to deal as many hits as commands you can enter in a set amount of time (as you may have guessed, higher WE grants more time). Zero starts off with three commands - a standard slash (Zero Slash), an armor piercing attack (Zero Breakthrough), and an anti-air attack (Zero Dragon Slash). Input a total of 300 commands over the course of the game and you get a variable power strike called Zero Wave Slash. Input 999 commands over the course of the game and you get Zero Skull Crusher, which supposedly guarantees critical hits. I barely got Zero Wave Slash last run, and I don't bother with either extra command in this run.
Zero's normal Hyper Mode, Black Zero, increases WE per turn by 25% and makes Zero quite a bit more powerful. He has the same AT in this mode as he did normally.
Zero's secret Hyper Mode, Absolute Zero, is kinda scary. Absolute Zero is all about Water-type attacks and has higher WE than normal (I don't remember just how much offhand). Absolute Zero's AT is called Calamitous Arts. Basically, it's similar to Command Arts except you don't get to pick what commands you do - they're given to you randomly and you have a set amount of time to input each one. If you miss, the game just moves on to the next command. I believe higher WE, in addition to giving more time, also allows for stronger attacks. I was not successful in getting this Hyper Mode because with low-level deployables, getting anything from Melda is just not feasible.
I mentioned some status effects earlier, and either I'll mention them again or they'll show up in some format during the run, so I might as well list those now:
- Virus: The afflicted character loses 5% of their LE on each and every turn they act. You can tell this by the skull and crossbones hovering over the afflictee, and if it's one of your characters, they'll act very dizzy. I tend to ignore this affliction when it happens.
- Blind: You're half as likely to hit, and enemies are twice as likely to hit you. Those estimates are somewhat figurative though, as I don't have a way of determining exact numbers. You can tell this by an image of a crossed-out eye alternating with a closed eye hovering over the character. I tend to cure this as soon as I'm in a situation where it can't easily be reinstated, as it's highly annoying.
- Berserk: You lose control of your character, generally until they get hit. Discernable by the fact the character tends to glow red. The status effect I despise the most, and sadly, it seems, the status effect I run across more than anything else.
- Bind: Your speed is reduced. You can tell this effect by the electricity clinging to the character. A minor annoyance in my opinion.
- Freeze: The afflicted character can't act, and takes double damage from the next hit (although it frees them from the affliction). The character looks like ice. I don't fret over this nearly as much as Berserk, although I still hate it.
- DOA: If this status effect kicks in, the character is killed. Instantly. Regardless of their remaining LE. You can tell this kicked in because the word 'Crash' will show up with the normal damage counter. This gets treated like a normal death - usually, I instantly heal the afflicted.
Note that going into Hyper Mode will cure Virus, Blind, and Bind (the three conditions where you still have control) immediately, and anyone in Hyper Mode is immune to status effects. Bosses are immune to them too, though.
I get enough deployables to field three full teams and that's all. I may not have even needed that many, in all honesty, but it's not a large enough time loss to be worth redoing the run over.
There are exactly two things I critically need from deployment - the Lagrano Key and the Generator. The former is more important, for it gives me a chance in an SS to power up Massimo's AT all the way (thanks to the Interceptor). Getting the latter, in Chapters 9 and 10, completes the combo that allows Massimo to unleash a once-charged Berserk Charge on every one of his turns.
Okay, now with that out of the way, I can finally get to covering the different parts of the run. I've separated the game's chapters into semi-arbitrary parts, based on the game's story and events, then tied a nickname to these parts. My explanations and opinions are listed after each nickname.
So without any further ado.......
Chapter 1, Part 1
Covers: From game start to when Zero joins
- First things first, I set text speed to Fast. I also set my L1 button to "Run", because that's what I'll be doing most in this run - escaping random encounters.
- My directives are as follows: Fight any Bat Bone groups, run from any fights that have Patrol Dogs, and make sure X is at level 5 at the end of the chapter. Why fight Bat Bones, you might ask? They drop in one turn, and they rarely drop Gain Hypers - a chance I'm willing to take considering how much they sell for.
- Because of my numerous failures, I stopped caring about mistakes in the beginning. Might be worth fixing in later runs if anyone tries to beat this.
- I used to use the Melt Missile to help Massimo with his Action Trigger, but now I just get it to sell for money. I need to collect lots and lots of money to afford the Interceptor ASAP.
- I took a chance on the Preon and got burned.
Chapter 1, Part 2
Covers: The Hippopressor fight and the rest of Chapter 1
- The delay at the start of this fight was not in the plan. I was getting a lot of glare from windows right onto the TV, and was using the loading time for the fight to close some curtains to reduce glare, expecting Hippopressor to go first as he always has for me. But for the first time in all my playing of this game, Zero got a turn before Hippopressor, so I was running back after I closed the blinds to get to the controller quickly.
- Shark Missile does a flat 500 damage. Ideally, Hippopressor would only have time to use it once. This time he did it twice.
- Something else that's never happened to me before happened here - Zero went down! Probably because I failed to deal enough damage during Command Arts thanks to screwing up the commands a few times. This has its good points though - X goes quite a ways into level 5, much farther than I usually get him in this chapter.
- Zero, for some reason, has a lot of trouble running away without an Exodus FM equipped on someone.
- Opening up the save menu was an accidental habit and reminded me not to do it again.
Chapter 2, Part 1
Covers: Start of Chapter 2 up to the shopping portion
- In this chapter, I run from everything I can - I need to conserve health, time, and Hyper Mode.
- I decided to try putting on my FMs and Build Power now, rather than later when I equip everything else.
- The Spider fight usually takes me three turns. This time it only took two. Don't ask me why, because I don't know.
- At this point I now have enough power to take out the normal white Preons in one blow, guaranteed.
Chapter 2, Part 2
"Save my Base!"
Covers: From the shopping portion to turning the alarm off
- I buy the Fire Buster, as many Power +1s as I can use, and as many Mega Fires as I can carry. Then I make sure to snag the Ultra Fire nearby.
- Fire attacks are best against Lightning enemies, like the red Preon I have to fight at the end of the path.
- I use the Ultra Fire against the Preon Bitmasters because it's the hands-down fastest way to eliminate them. Fighting them the real way would take a couple of minutes.
- After the last fight here, something unexpected happens. Until now, I have never reached level 7 at the end of Chapter 2 in a speedrun situation. This helps me a tad against Wild Jango.
Chapter 2, Part 3
Covers: The Wild Jango fight
- Again, Wild Jango has always gotten his first turn before me. Until now, when Spider gets the jump on him.
- Until I reach maximum power with either character, Mega Fires are the strongest attack I have. I could have X go Hyper right now, but matching damage that way means sacrificing the Charge Collider attack.
- Once each character reaches 100%, I have them use a Hypered Action Trigger. For Spider, I need to power down afterwards, but for X, it's better to stay in Hyper Mode.
- I usually expect to get a Pair or Two Pair with Spider, and hope for something like a Straight. I get RSF (after the draw) instead, which is pretty awesome.
- What X is 'blocking' when he gets hit by Shock Nail is the Virus effect. What the hell did Wild Jango soak his claws in before this fight anyway, if his nails can cause a virus?
- Shortest Wild Jango fight I've had.
Chapter 3, Part 1
Covers: Start of Chapter 3 to just past the special locked door
- I fill up on Mega Fires and Mega Thunders for the Silver Horn fight, get the Jack of Clubs for its special ability, and buy enough Power +1 FMs to fit everyone I have available for this chapter. I choose two WE +5 FMs as well so Spider can use his card's special ability on the first turn he gets, instead of waiting a turn.
- Meet Massimo, the guy I regret shunning last time. JagwarKnight pointed out this guy's extreme usefulness, but right now he's a bit of a pansy.
- I still must run from everything (and will keep doing so for the rest of the run unless I say otherwise), so Massimo's still at level 1 for the first forced fight. He earns a LOT of power from the forced fighting in this chapter. It kind of helps him that Spider buys it in the second forced fight.
Chapter 3, Part 2
Covers: The last full lift area
- Preon Pods unleash a freeze attack if allowed to charge their attack, so I have to take it out first. From there, I'm conserving Spider's Hyper Mode a bit.
- I used to change up the second order to unlock the other room, but decided to skip it on this attempt because I felt this Build Power wasn't worth it, timewise.
Chapter 3, Part 3
"The Steel Warrior"
Covers: The Silver Horn fight
- I've had a couple of runs fail at this fight, which has provided me some insight into how to go about my business here.
- Being the idiot I am, I forget Spider has only one turn left and go into Hyper Mode immediately. Have to waste a turn restoring Hyper Mode rounds after that.
- Mega Fires are used first - that way I save the more damaging Mega Thunders for when Silver Horn goes into Liquid Coating mode.
- I've tried going without X Fire right away. I've never gotten such tactics to work - that defense bonus is sizable.
- Held off on charging Massimo twice because I wanted to make sure I could use Berserk Charge right away. Turns out this was the right choice.
- I take a huge gamble using Fortune Card AFTER Silver Horn uses Liquid Coating. He defends against about 80% of all hits, and I've seen an RSF do only 300 damage, when he's in this state. My gamble pays off - I get a Straight. Even better, three hits pierced his defenses completely (not merely the two I originally told people), dealing nearly as much damage as three Mega Thunders.
- I NEED Massimo to get experience from this fight, so I revive him immediately when he falls.
- I take no chances right before what turns out to be Silver Horn's last turn, healing instead of dealing what would have been a deathblow. While I don't regret that decision at all, it is rather embarrassing.
Chapter 4, Part 1
Covers: Start of Chapter 4 to meeting Gaudile
- Now I can buy Power +3s, which are a bit helpful here. The Gain WE +5 is more important, however.
- That Build Hyper on Massimo puts him at a maximum of four turns. I find it comes in handy in these early fights, and occasionally in later ones too, because he unloads so many Berserk Charges.
- That near-disaster in deploying probably costs me later on, though I should note that the order of deployments throughout this run sets me up to get the Lagrano Key in Chapter 6, and should have set me up to get the Generator in Chapter 9 but didn't (I got the Generator in Chapter 10 instead, and manage without it for one chapter). Why do I say this with such confidence? For the most part, the deployment system is NOT random. You do the same deployments from the start in the same order, and you will get the same result (or close to it) every time. I will not discuss deployment itself for the rest of the run because of this - if you need explanations for my later-chapter deployments, re-reference this note.
- My original plan called for stealing an Exodus from the black Preons in two forced fights here. I didn't notice much difference from missing it.
- I wanted to go for 3000 damage in the first forced fight, but the Preon gunner had other plans. I use a more surefire method later.
- I need the Big Monkey to get another full team at the end of the chapter, as I don't know any better deployables in quick reach. So this detour is worth it.
- The last set of sensors is very hard to completely evade, so it's no surprise that I fail to accomplish it here. Not a big loss to run away.
Chapter 4, Part 2
Covers: Eternal Forest and the path before Dr. Psyche
- I go for the fastest path this time - none of this Joker nonsense.
- Why, you might ask, do I milk the first fight here for all it's worth? I can be very easily guaranteed to get 3000+ damage with a double-charged Berserk Charge against an enemy this weak, providing a reliable failsafe for getting the third level of Berserk Charge should my early attempts fail.
- I fight an extra battle to make certain Massimo gains another level, since gaining a level refills Hyper Mode turns.
- I swap Massimo out for Marino, since I need Massimo to be ready for Mad Nautilus and might as well leave him out of the Dr. Psyche fight.
- What Marino says when she runs away from a combat is "Gotta pick your battles". Confused me at first too.
Chapter 4, Part 3
"One Shell of a Situation"
Covers: Dr. Psyche and Mad Nautilus
- Those needles can be dangerous. I've seen them use Codebreaker before (and they use it here once), which can easily inflict DOA.
- X Fire is almost useless against Mad Nautilus (almost), so I use it well in the Dr. Psyche fight.
- Ah, Quicksilver. I believe I abused this last run, and it gets some use in this run, but not nearly as much.
- Notice how I'm a bit hesitant with Emotional Reel? This is because anything but a trio of the same icon is much weaker than the 3-boot result.
- 4th Dimension Slow does a lot of different things depending on what's thrown. I've seen it freeze, I've seen it strip stats, I've probably seen it do some other things.
- My luck runs a bit dry trying a Fortune Card here, as I only get a Pair. Considering my gamble, it could have been much worse. Why both hits manage to critical is beyond me.
- With Marino fresh out of Hyper Mode, I figure it's as good a time as any to send Massimo in.
- At the start of the Mad Nautilus fight, I take X and Spider out of Hyper Mode immediately to save it for when the time is right.
- Those Mega Fires and the Mega Thunder I saved from the Silver Horn fight come into play here, as they can bypass Mad Nautilus's insane defense whenever they please.
- The infliction of Berserk on Spider may seem bad, but it's a blessing in disguise. I have to prepare for that effect at the end of the game, and getting the effect before then means I can make a Berserk Block, which lets one character avoid it entirely. Besides, I easily wipe it away on X's next turn.
- My timing of the turns I have before Mad Nautilus opens up is designed to make everyone be ready to attack at once.
- When Mad Nautilus does open up, I'm prepared for him to spread out Mad Ecstasy. I did not plan on him saving it all for Spider.
- This is where X Fire actually becomes useful against Mad Nautilus. Charge Collider deals a number of strong hits, so even if many of them miss, I still deal sizable damage. It turns out to be just enough that I don't have to deal with a second round. Sorry Spider, no experience for you.
- Cinnamon and her limited usefulness now joins the party. I'll manage some uses for her - just not as much as most people would.
Chapter 5, Part 1
"Got it Memorized?"
Covers: Start of Chapter 5 to when Axl joins
- This time my purchases are just upgraded weapons. I wind up getting weapons for everyone but Cinnamon, who frankly doesn't need them for when I use her.
- While my menu management has improved greatly since last run, it still isn't perfect, as evidenced on the way back to HQ.
- Once in a while I'll get a delayed deployment. When I measured this particular one in testing, I found that the delay was enough that a trip to the Sky Room and back was possible. I take this time to switch the trailing flame effect on X (often known as his 'scarf') to blue instead of red, just for the sake of variety. (You can also unlock green, yellow, and purple effects, but of those only the green one is possible within a speedrun context, and that's gotten from Central Tower deployment).
- Unfortunately, I've been doing so well that my delay is longer than expected. So I do a little more walking around to kill time, and probably wound up wasting too much. Whatever, you can't plan for everything in SS.
- I find this first part very annoying - it basically boils down to "Green light! Red light! Green light! Red light!"
- Axl's still pretty valuable to this run, although he's not the prime character any more.
Chapter 5, Part 2
"The Belt Battle"
Covers: From when Axl joins to when Zero joins
- Ugh. I hate the conveyor belt sequence. Five battles and not a whole lot of ways you can speed them up. I need to conserve Spider's Hyper Mode while going fast here, and Axl's if I can. I do my best to abuse the fact that Hyper Mode turns are only deducted at the very start of the turn, not after an action. So if their turn doesn't come up again in that fight, they don't use up a turn of Hyper Mode.
- Preon Counters will resist Shot-type attacks, but are weak to Combat-type damage. In general Combat damage is the way to go.
- I allocate the Hawkeye to Zero because he's more valuable in the upcoming fights than Marino.
Chapter 5, Part 3
Covers: Mach Jentra and Duboar
- I realize at the beginning of the fight that I was stupid to take a WE +5 from Spider.
- My first move with Zero may seem suspicious, but the Preon I attacked has the potential to heal himself or, more importantly, Mach Jentra. So taking him out is fairly helpful in an SS.
- I was a bit stupid with my cards when using Spider's Action Trigger here - should have known I would never get a Straight.
- When Jentra locks up both Preon spots with enemies that can't heal, that's my cue that I can focus all efforts on Jentra.
- Because of my inattentiveness with Spider and Axl, I'm forced to improvise here. X can't do much against Jentra because of matching elements, so Marino gets the nod.
- I'm probably made to look like a tactical genius for getting a Final Strike here, but I regret putting Spider back in.
- The Duboar sequence is just four bouts one after another. I wait so long to switch out Zero because he's fine for the first part but X does better later. I attack Preon Hybrids quickly because hitting them makes them lose their Berserk status, and their first turn when not berserked is to divert all their defensive power to attack power, a technique called Break Shield. And I wish Spider would have gone while everyone in the last row was still on the field, so RSF would look more attractive.
Chapter 6, Part 1
"Dregs of Decency"
Covers: Chapter 6 up until Shadow
- Yes, I have to exit and re-enter the main room to get my deployment results.
- I head over to Lagrano immediately afterward to get my last deployment bot and the Interceptor, Massimo's strongest buyable weapon. I equip some weapons on the way because I want to make damn certain I don't sell them by accident. With the money I get in later chapters, purchasing the Interceptor officially marks the point where money management is no longer a problem.
- As I said. Menu management still isn't perfect.
- My pause right before entering the elevator in Gimialla is to switch DVDs. Pausing the game in this manner does not advance the game timer at all, much to my delight.
Chapter 6, Part 2
Covers: From the Shadow fight to the Incentas fight
- Notice how Shadow has no Final Strike bar when he's attacked in the first phase? That's because he's impossible to finish off. However, I have noticed that going fairly hard on him makes the fight end sooner.
- I didn't switch Axl out when he ran out of Hyper Mode because the third party member is automatically bumped out to let Zero in for the second phase.
- Not much I can say about the second fight, except that the finishing blow goes to show off the fact that Massimo is more dangerous than anyone else now.
- Cinnamon finally gets some time in the party, for reasons I'll explain when they become relevant.
- I got a bit confused, thought I'd managed to talk to the Degraver, and wound up losing track of what I was supposed to do. Cost me a full minute, and is hands down my worst blunder of the run. This kind of mistake midgame, however, pales in comparison to some of the ones I've had before - a few of which even made me end promising runs - and it also pales to the worst of the luck I get dealt in this run.
- I used to go through the whole sequence for Infinite Resist, which I'd sell. Not anymore.
- I need Cinnamon's abilities to add to ally WE recovery to make sure Massimo earns his WE fast enough to pull off a double-charged Berserk Charge. I have to do it twice though, due to not getting a critical the first time (fairly uncommon, though it does happen).
- I forgot to cover this before when I first put the fact to use, but using an item makes the next turn occur slower than if I just defended. Occasionally this comes in handy.
- I hit a five-digit damage figure to finish the first of the locked gate fights, which is what I wanted because now Massimo's Action Trigger is at full power. From here, milking a fight is no longer necessary. Nothing to say on the other two.
Chapter 6, Part 3
"The Demise of Spider"
Covers: The Incentas fight
- Incentas cycles through the elements in a specific order: Fire, Ice, Lightning. I can abuse this order and use Axl's Action Trigger on Ice rounds and (later) attacks from X Fire on Lightning rounds.
- I'd have loved it if Spider got one last RSF as a parting shot. Oh well, can't win them all.
- Don't get started on me taking Axl out of Hyper Mode. This was by far the smarter decision despite its aftermath, for I was able to save the last turn of it for when it mattered.
- I used a Backup thinking I still had to put up with another attack. I did not expect Axl to act right away, but seized the opportunity. Honestly, I thought that was it. Then I heard the shattering of the Final Strike bar. I guess the fat lady demanded I give her a cue to sing.
Chapter 7, Part 1
Covers: Start of Chapter 7 until the laser puzzle
- My new weapons here are going to last a couple of chapters.
- I examine the minimum number of beacons to trigger the next part. The reason I walk back to the jammer is because I missed the spot where the scene to get inside the building triggers. This whole desert sequence has actually ruined a run before, but it was more like the last in a string of aggravating errors.
- The only thing I really need in this maze is the Build Hyper. Massimo doesn't need any more of them, so Axl gets the rest.
Chapter 7, Part 2
"Shades of Sheldon"
Covers: The laser puzzle sequence
- Yeah, I have to shut down the first jammer before I can do any of the other puzzles.
- All of these puzzles are pretty damn simple - the order I switch paths in ensures that I do not trigger a battle on the way.
- The Preons I encounter here and in Chapter 9 are mostly special "Rebellion" Preons, derived in some way from the four Rebellion leaders - Botos, Ferham, Scarface, and Epsilon.
Chapter 7, Part 3
"Giga City Rhapsody"
Covers: The Botos fight
- The previous time I completed the run, I had a 4:41 for a final time. When I detailed how this particular fight went in that run, Axel_Ryman, the young (well, I don't entirely know THAT for sure) talent behind the Kingdom Hearts 2 single-segment run, insisted I try the run a few more times.
- Anyway, Axl's sole job is to destroy those little angel bits Botos summons. Massimo and Zero can thus focus all efforts on Botos.
- To ensure that Axl can destroy the bits swiftly, he has to power down after each time he sweeps the bits off.
- That's three final strikes against chapter bosses.
Chapter 8, Part 1
Covers: Start of Chapter 8 until entering the main missile silo
- You may be wondering what the heck this delay early on is about. Well, it was unplanned. Normally, my team from Gaudile Labs would be back by now (I don't care about the Gimialla team), but they took an extra two minutes to return. I spent this two minutes doing some random chatting with Gaudile (who really needs to stop wearing his protective eyewear eventually) and Cinnamon, as well as re-equipping the Red Scarf (disappointingly, even this Central Tower deployment fails to bring back the Green Scarf), because I feel it is actually improper to just stand completely still for a waiting period of two minutes in a speedrun unless the game warrants it. (For instance, it wouldn't be improper in one spot in Earthbound, and if you've played far enough you know why. If you have a forced waiting period in a game where the standing character animations are worth watching, that's also a decent situation to stand completely still.)
- At this point, I do a lot of time checking when I go into the menus - I'm doing time comparisons to track how well I'm doing.
- I don't know why I grabbed the Mini Battery. Bad habit of old I guess.
- I also don't know why the game forces a Botos battle here. The battle is just so... so... so pointless. A mere 700 damage should not entirely end a fight this late.
- I go left around the silo to ensure I get all relevant powerups in the two passes I must make.
Chapter 8, Part 2
"An Old Cartoon Escape"
Covers: Exiting the main missile silo to just before the Ferham fight
- Going the 'wrong' way at first on the second split path is deliberate. Fighting a fake Botos gives you Bait, in a much more sane method than forcing it from deployments to Vanallia Desert. Bait, in case you don't know, forces single-target attacks to go after a specific character - the right setup for this is to give it to Axl and make him use it in Hyper Mode. In a single-segment run, because of such devastating attacks as Epsilon's Metacrush and a few of Redips's attacks, I believe it is necessary (a segmented runner can try for impossible luck in both places, but a single-segment runner really has only one shot).
Chapter 8, Part 3
"Heatsink for a Heart"
Covers: The Ferham fight and remainder of the chapter
- While I can now use the Axl-Bait trick, I chose not to use it because the Wild Jango transformation does awesome damage against Ferham. Besides, she used a lot of area-effect attacks this time, which the Bait can't stop.
- Ferham's Crimson Shade is like having two Heat Hazes - it triples her attacks, but only really increases her attack damage by about 50%.
- Not much else to really cover in this chapter - this part is just tedious though.
Chapter 9, Part 1
Covers: The initial Scarface fight
- Can't get my deployment stuff until Scarface is dealt with, so I go take care of that now.
- X/Zero/Massimo was chosen due to sufficient range in combat and shot attacks. Axl's an option in place of Zero but that skews the field toward Shot, since the Wild Jango transformation's useless against Scarface (matching elements).
- Why is variety needed in attack types? Well, Scarface blocks and counters repeated attack types. So I have to alternate Shot, Combat, Shot, Combat, etc.
- I decide it's smarter to have X heal than attack in this iteration of the fight - until his third turn, where I cooldown so I switch the barrier to block Shot, giving Zero some extra punch. Not sure why I use a charge shot though.
- I now take the opportunity to buy/make a whole bunch of Force Metal. The status defense stuff I have Cinnamon make is all prep for the final battle, where freeze and berserk are my main concerns. Unfortunately, I forget to buy the Minus Metal -20s the first time and have to go into the shop again. Too many things to track at this stage of the game.
- At this stage, I felt powering Zero up was a low priority - X, Axl, and Massimo do just fine. I might have been smarter if I chose to buy X and Axl new weapons however - their damage output suffers a bit in the Scarface and Epsilon fights because I didn't.
Chapter 9, Part 2
"Beaming with Pride"
Covers: The beam rooms
- For some unexplained reason, I did not get the Generator from the Gaudile deployment this time, where I got it in my last practice run. Because of this I require an extra deployment and will not have the Generator for this chapter, which hurts the boss fights here because I can only do a normal Berserk Charge instead of a once-charged Berserk Charge each turn.
- I find that the only beam room that's marginally hard is the last one. You can run from all beam room battles, which is helpful.
Chapter 9, Part 3
"Around and Around"
Covers: The Revolver Room and Top Security Area
- I take this route in the Revolver Room to get a sorely-needed weapon upgrade for Zero, but more importantly, this is one of the fastest ways through the revolver room there is.
- Not much I can really say about the top security zone, except to note that this is the last pair of consoles that need to be activated in the entire game. The Epsilon-edition Preons also mark the first time in this run that I resort to the Axl-Bait strategy.
Chapter 9, Part 4
"Last Stand of the Rebellion"
Covers: The real Scarface fight and Epsilon
- First up, Scarface. This time Axl takes over for Zero, because Scarface is incredibly dangerous this time and I need as many characters in good shape for Epsilon as I can get (Cinnamon's too weak to risk putting in, so I only have five team members to work with as it is).
- In the Scarface fight I'm basically biding my time making sure Massimo can do his thing uninterrupted.
- Might have been able to fit in another Final Strike if I didn't use Shell Buster on X's last turn. Oh well, everyone levelled up, so all Hyper Modes are on full for Epsilon. And boy, will I ever need them.
- In the Epsilon fight, Axl taking the first Metacrush was not in the plan. I was intending to have X spend his first turn heal a Metacrush victim. But let me tell you, Axl could not earn his keep in this fight without the two extra turns of Hyper Mode that I had given him.
- Axl-Bait is pretty much necessary to handle Epsilon's bruising single-target attacks in a single-segment run.
- Looking back on this now, maybe I should have gotten better WE-boosting FMs for Axl. Might have helped him fill both roles better in this fight.
- When Epsilon's limiters go shooting off, it's time to tag in Marino to refill Hyper Mode for Axl and Massimo. Her job done, I tag in Zero (why do he and Marino share a battle quote?) so I can wait to call up X again in case something goes wrong.
- Because Epsilon layers on the Nova Impacts, I switch Zero out for X.
- Axl sure broke Epsilon's auto-heal ability (which doesn't stop until output has 'weakened further') at a good time....
- When Axl ran out of Hyper Mode, I put Zero back in and had him attack, thinking the team was fairly safe because two characters had full health. Big mistake - Zero went down, and I didn't feel in the mood to revive him, so he gets nothing from this battle. Worse, I can no longer track how Epsilon is faring (Final Strikes cannot be done with anything less than a full standing front line, and the bar doesn't show unless a Final Strike is an option).
- I sure ended that fight tensely, didn't I? Had Epsilon gotten one more round I may have lost the entire fight.
Chapter 10, Part 1
"Back for more Agony"
Covers: The five boss refights
- I get my Generator now, bringing Massimo to nearly the potential he'll have in this run. There's one more addition and that's not until the end of the chapter.
- I aim for highest possible Power with my final weapon choices, except for Marino, who I'm using in one specific fight for a special purpose. My choice of Fire Comet is for that fight alone. My last purchases are as many revival items as I can hold and some Cure Alls in case Great Redips still goes horribly wrong.
- I pause before Wild Jango to switch DVDs again.
- Wild Jango is, in my opinion, the hardest of all the boss refights. If you can take him on you can take any refight on. He dishes out a couple thousand to poor Massimo with Ultra Giga Thunder, and if I hadn't used Axl-Bait, there's no doubt X would also have gotten overwhelmed with such bruising attacks as Rolling Assault.
- I don't want to heal after every battle, but going all four of the remaining refights without healing is too tall an order for a single-segment run. I took one heal between the battles, and it was after Silver Horn, which is earlier than I had planned (I wanted to wait until after Incentas).
- Silver Horn is much, much easier because I give Massimo the Shock Lance Beta for this fight, which really lets me layer the damage thickly. I mean, come on, five digits for the first hit and high three-digit numbers for the others. He froze Massimo right away however, which means I have to go back into the Force Metal Generator to make Freeze Block for the final fight.
- Incentas is even more of a pushover because you can time any element to be insane against him. Just look at the numbers Massimo deals - four digits on the weaker hits! Unfortunately the Shock Lance Beta is weaker than the Interceptor for everything else, so I switch back after this fight.
- Mad Nautilus went pretty sloppy - I was forced to go two cycles before I could kill him, which is rather plain if you ask me. By using a Gain Hyper I don't need to go back to heal an extra time.
- Mach Jentra shows an example of really stretching one's limits. That battle might have warranted healing beforehand, but by not doing so I saved a little time.
Chapter 10, Part 2
"The Fish Rider"
Covers: Depth Dragoon
- Notice that I switched in Marino for X. Marino's being used to steal the Beast Lancer and then provide quick attacks as long as possible.
- The moment her job's done, X tags in because Depth Dragoon is Lightning-element.
- I heal after Thunder Brigade because I'm at the point in the run where I take absolutely no chances. I wasn't going to let him take out Massimo now.
- What's with all these Final Strikes against bosses?
- That green walker you see in a random encounter on the way to Redips is a Cannon Driver. They can drop the X-Buster Mark III, X's strongest weapon in terms of raw power. It's the rare drop though, so I don't chance it.
Chapter 10, Part 3
"More than Traitorous"
Covers: The original Redips
- Massimo now has the Beast Lancer, which sports a hefty Power boost over the Interceptor but has the tendency to cause recoil damage if Massimo attacks normally. Action Triggers do not suffer this problem.
- Excuse me? WHO'S the Maverick in this picture?
- Redips's Red Hubcaps are a problem not directly, but because when they're out, Redips is more likely to defend than anything else. So I have to do something about it. Probably should have used the Incentas transformation instead of the new Depth Dragoon one, but whatever.
- I now equip my status protection FMs, which hinders quite a bit of the team, but whatever. I also do one last menu entry to give a good 'last timer shown' point in case that's how this run's timed. (But I also kept the game clear save's time in the video as an alternative.)
Chapter 10, Part 4
"A Typical Close"
Covers: Great Redips
- First phase is all about inhibiting his metals and plugging away. I believe damage is once again the advancement trigger but I could be wrong.
- The second phase is the reason I have all those status-blocking FMs. Sadly, he did not use Memento Mori in the opening of that fight, thus making all my efforts on that front wasted.
- Once Marino gets a move, she finishes off the metal that Axl damaged, heals, and then swaps out for Massimo.
- All this becomes afterwards is a slugfest, a contest to determine who can endure the most pain.
- It all ends with a (near-)40k Final Strike, concluding the playable portion of the run and putting an exclamation point on my effort here.
Besides JagwarKnight and the people from last time, the one person I want to credit is Axel_Ryman (yes, THAT Axel_Ryman), who encouraged me to try again when I got a 4:41.
What's next for AquaTiger? There's three games I'm considering, all aiming for single-segment runs: Valkyrie Profile 2, Final Fantasy X-2, and Golden Axe 3. There's also one project I'm not letting on, although it is related somehow to one of the games I have mentioned.