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Solomon's Key was ported from the arcade to many platforms. The NES version was developed by Tecmo and released in 1987 in the US and in 1990 in Europe. As the wizard Dana, you must restore order back to the world by finding "Solomon's Key", a powerful book that can help seal away the demons that are causing chaos and darkness. Mixing puzzle and platforming action, the game consists of one-screen levels. Dana has to find the key to open up the door to the exit in order to advance to the next room. Filled with secret items (some of which contribute to give a better ending), a very summaric manual and complex solutions to many of the rooms, Solomon's Key has a reputation for pushing even the most seasoned players to their limits.

 

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0:12:57 by Dag Cato.

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SDA history
08-Feb-2014 - 0:13:26 by ktwo (http://archive.org/details/2014-05-28-SDA_Speed_Runs/ - quite interesting as a comparison of how much the room solutions have been improved)

For information about speedrunning Solomon's Key and to get a better understanding of what's going on in this run (including the name of tricks mentioned below), go to the sda knowledge base (referred to as sdakb in my comments below):
https://kb.speeddemosarchive.com/Solomon%27s_key

Background
While not making much progress with my best ending attempts, I felt the need to try something different for some time and started doing normal ending attempts instead. There was very little to improve on the execution in my previous normal ending run, but I had bad luck in one place, slightly conservative strats in a few places and I had come up with a few minor route improvements during the best ending attempts. Overall, I could save maybe 3-4 seconds in total. At that time, I thought my routes were close to optimal, because I had come up with only very minor stuff during my best ending attempts (many room solutions are identical or at least similar in the two categories). I therefore didn't have any big expectations with the normal ending attemps. However, in a fairly short time I came up with improvements in 13 of the 25 rooms. Some of them very significant as well.

Room comments
Here's some comments of what has changed since the last sda run, but also things that went good or bad. Room 5 - Good luck with the gargoyle spawns (if they start walking in the wrong direction, you can end up having to wait up to half a second extra for their fireballs to pass by).
Room 6 - New strat that saves just over a second. It's pretty difficult because the time window is small for reaching the floor level in time without colliding with the ghost. Unfortunately, Dana head-bumped for 9 lost frames.
Room 7 - New route that saves a little over 3 seconds. I usually lose a bit of time collecting the golden wing (the room is a bit laggy making that part difficult for some reason), but it went very well in this attempt.
Room 14 - It's easy to lose a few tenths of second because of "corner attraction", but this time it went very well.
Room 15 - New strat that saves maybe half a second. There is a faster way down after having collected the key (0.3 seconds). However, I arrived at the key a bit early, which put off my timing for the faster strat (see the sdakb for more details).
Room 21 - There is a faster way to clear this room, but it has very little room for error. It involves triggering the gargoyle to shoot earlier, which makes the demon heads drop down immediately and thus avoiding having to wait for them (see the sdakb). This would have saved one and a half second and was the biggest time loss in this run. When doing attempts, I decided to consider this as a bonus time gain and not reset if I didn't get it. Still sad to see that it didn't make it into this run.
Room 22 - New strat that doesn't pick up the super fireball here, but instead collects one in room 29. The way I did it in my old run relied on getting lucky with the gargoyle spawn in room 29 or losing a few seconds. The new method is easier and the luck factor in room 29 doesn't play a big role any more.
Room 29 - New strat that picks up the super fireball. The gargoyle can start walking either to the left or to the right (rng). It doesn't have a huge influence on the room solution though. I did get the worse spawn of the two and lost 0.2 seconds.
Room 30 - New strats in this room that save around 3 seconds. I pick up the hourglass earlier to exit the room with less life timer left. The upper right part is also new. Even if you know what to do, that section is very tricky and I can't really say that I'm consistent there.
Room 31 - New route that saves almost four and half seconds (corresponding to one enemy cycle faster). This was already a pretty difficult room, but it's even harder with the new strats. Because of the new route in room 22/29, I had a fireball to use at the end of this room for an addtional second saved.
Room 38 - The start is a bit different than last time. It's equally fast, but just a bit more consistent. The rest of the room is about a second faster than last time because of more edge jumps. However, I got "corner attraction" on the edge jump on the left side, losing 8-9 frames.
Room 39 - This is equally fast to the solution in the previous sda-run, but doesn't waste a fireball (used in room 46 instead).
Room 46 - Previously, I climbed the room to the left of the fix platforms, which only required a super fireball but no normal fireball. After finding the route in room 39, I freed up one normal fireball that I had to use elsewhere. That "elsewhere" had to be after room 22 (because of how the fireball inventory works in this game). The only place I could find use for that additional fireball (after quite a bit testing) was in room 46. It saves one and a half second over the previous solution. It came with the cost of added risk though. Unfortunately, I mistimed one of the jumps near the top by one frame (yes, one frame!), which triggered the Saramandor (red dragon) to stop and breath fire. Half a second wasted because of that and I'm also sad that it breaks the flow in an otherwise very cool-looking room solution.
Room 48 - A completely new concept for this room that saves almost 8 seconds. There is a backstory for this solution, which is worth mentioning. At the same time as I was making attempts, TheMexicanRunner played Solomon's Key in his "nesmania" challenge (beat all nes games). I knew it wouldn't be focused on speedrunning, but was still interested to see how he would do in this game, so I decided to check it out. In his attempts to just get through room 48 casually, he used the same core concept as seen here (completely unaware of its speedrun potential). In my opinion, a fairly awkward and difficult way to beat this room casually, but a blessing for me as a speedrunner. I'm amazed such a huge improvement was hiding in one of the rooms after all the time I've spent with this game. It should be mentioned that this solution is riskier than the previous one, but definitely worth it considering the huge time gain. I did get a "corner attraction" near the beginning wasting 9 frames and a "head bump" on one of the drops shortly after wasting another 9 frames.
Solomon's Room - This room is a bit weird. It seems like the enemy movements depend on how you arrived here (warp or no-warp route, if you died or not and some other unknown factors). The solution used in the previous sda-run didn't work with all the route changes. The new solution is a little over half a second faster though and seems to work with pretty much all enemy movement patterns observed so far.

Final thoughts
While this run is not quite as well executed as the previous sda-run, the difficulty of the new room solutions is much higher. At least three seconds could be cut with these room solutions by simply nailing everything and getting perfect luck. I'm still happy having managed to get all the new strats (except the one in room 21) into a run without any major mistakes, so I have currently no plans to work on a lower time.

Credits
- SDA for publishing this run and for providing the community with a non-commercial platform for hosting speedrun videos.
- TheMexicanRunner for planting the concept of how to improve room 48 in my head!

European version: 0:15:28 by Dag Cato.

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Author's comments:

For speedrun related information on Solomon's Key (speedrun techniques, item and enemy descriptions and information about the different endings), check out the sda knowledge base:
If you want to discuss or share information related to speedrunning this game (tricks, strategies, ...), use this thread:
https://forum.speeddemosarchive.com/post/solomons_key_nes_run.html
If you have questions or comments about the run, use the existing verification thread:
https://forum.speeddemosarchive.com/post/solomons_key__april_7th_2013.html

SDA history
08/28/2010 - 0:15:52 by ktwo (http://www.archive.org/details/2011-03-19-SDA_Speed_Runs)
01/30/2013 - 0:15:28 by ktwo

Room comments
Room 1 - The life timer is quite unreliable in this game, but usually only by 10 or 20. In room 1 however, the difference can be more than 400. Finishing with a timer of 8900 is pretty much as low as it can go, so it was close to optimal in this run. During countdown, each frame counts down 80, so it's 5 frames faster than the potentially slowest result. Meaningless details ftw. :-)
Room 22 - See the comments for the best ending run to get more background for this room. In a normal ending run, I take a different route in room 15, which nets me the required numbers of crystals of Rad to get enough reach of the fireball for taking out the last Saramandor in room 22. However, I remember having much worse statistics of it actually working (maybe only 25%) than in the best ending attempts (at least more than half of the time). Well, it worked this time, which is what counts...
Room 48 - The only real mistakes of the run appear in this room. I create an unnecessary block on the right side of the room. It might look a bit stupid, but many times I chain together inputs before they are actually visible on the tv. If one input is wrong, the rest will look messed up. A similar situation can be seen in room 20 of the best ending run, where I twice create a block in the wrong spot and then try to jump to the spot where the block was supposed to have been created. I also manage to bump the head during one of the drops before the room is to an end. In total, these mistakes cost around a second in total. If I were to revisit this category, I'd probably go for a running edge jump in the top left corner (before dropping the two blue flames), which would save one second.

Final thoughts
I would have liked to get a run without any visible execution mistakes (I guess that's what all speedrunners wish for), but alas this was not the run. Other than the mistakes, a little more time could be squeezed out by micro-optimizations and by implementing some more difficult techniques such as running edge jumps. However, I must say that while this is category has its right to exist, I do prefer the additional challenge that the best ending provides. So unless there are discoveries for several seconds that could easily be shaved off (and it would surprise me if there were), I don't really have any plans to come back to the normal ending.

Credits
- 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.

Best ending: 0:28:39 by 'ktwo'.

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Author's comments:

SDA history
25-Apr-2014 - 0:29:02 by ktwo (http://www.archive.org/download/2014-11-23-SDA_Speed_Runs/)

Speedrun information and a comment about the category
For information about speedrunning Solomon's Key and to get a better understanding of what's going on in this run (including the name of tricks mentioned below), go to the sda knowledge base (referred to as sdakb in my comments below): https://kb.speeddemosarchive.com/Solomon%27s_key

The fastest way to get the best ending is to use warp wings in room 23 (warp to 29) and in room 31 (warp to 37). The remaining room solutions remain identical with this run (except for a very minor detail - no need to pick up the super fireball in room 39 like I did in this run). Instead of using warps, it's possible to death abuse and save a few seconds in room 32 (and possibly half a second or so in room 36 - it depends on which room solution is used). I have chosen not to use deaths or warps. Personally, I think all the rooms in the game are somewhat unique and worth playing. The challenge is also considerably higher going through all the rooms deathless.

Room comments
Here are some comments of what has changed since the last sda run, but also things that went good or bad. Room 6 - Bumping the head meant I had to take the slow solution. 1.2 seconds lost. See the sdakb for how the faster solution looks like.
Room 10 - Very minor strat update. By creating a block under the key while in mid-air, you avoid a landing animation, which saves a few frames.
Room 12 - Half a second faster than in my previous run by a different setup, which requires one less block to be created and avoids turning around once.
Room 14 - A much safer method than last time (avoids a running edge jump). The new method is usually 0.2-0.3 seconds slower though.
Room 20 - I usually have trouble in this room (as can be seen in my previous submissions). I'm happy that it went flawlessly this time.
Room 24 - Missed jump near the blue flame (~0.7 seconds lost) because of an input that wasn't picked up by the game. For unknown reasons, inputs that are ignored by the game happen quite frequently around this exact area.
Room 28 - I tried a new strat that could have saved around a second. It's pretty risky though, but looks so neat that I'm willing to include it in the route. This backlashed heavily this time around. I failed and ended up losing 5 seconds. I think in most cases, this would have been an instant reset. However, I felt this attempt was possibly the last attempt for the session, so I decided to continue.
Room 30 - Compared to the old run, I picked up the hourglass earlier and used a new way of dealing with the upper right corner. Overall a time gain of around 3 seconds. This time gain came at the price of turning this room into one of the hardest though (from one of the easier).
Room 31 - There is a method shown in the sdakb that can clear the room one enemy cycle faster (4.5 seconds gained). My success rate was somewhere in the 10-20% range though. Considering the potential time gain, I did try the faster solution for a while, but I eventually decided to abandon it because of the low success rate. Instead, I used it as a backup strat for getting back some lost time if I was too far behind my goal splits (~4 seconds). In this run, I was ~7 seconds behind, which normally should have triggered this option to kick in. Because of relatively poor flow in this and in the previous gaming sessions, I decided to just do the safer solution in order to get a run going (lots of runs have ended in 30/31, so it's always nice getting attempts past that point).
Room 33 - New strat that saved almost 3 seconds. I actually came up with this one the day before this run! For some reason I remembered that there was an old thread on the sda-forum with links to Japanese speedruns on nico, including one for Solomon's Key. I decided to have a look to see if there was something worth picking up. It didn't look too promising to begin with as the room solutions were slow compared to the ones I was using. However, I immediately picked up there was some good intentions in room 33 in the Japanese run (by "kyu-u-yo"?). I developed the concept in that video further and came up with the solution seen in this run.
Room 35 - This room is a major bottleneck, but everything went fine until the last part. I knew I was badly positioned for the last edge jump and had to move closer to the edge. This has happened before and more than once have I pressed too hard on the d-pad and dropped down on the demon head instead of getting further out on the edge. I therefore played it safe and waited for the demon head to get out of the way in case that would happen. I lost a little over a second from playing it safe this time.
Room 38 - There is a slightly slower solution that picks up a fireball, which can then be used in room 46 for an overall time saver of ~1.5 seconds. However, I have never really become consistent at the solution in room 46 (which results in death if unsuccessful), so I always opt out of that. For more information, see the sdakb. However, the room 38 solution has still undergone some changes and is now ~2 seconds faster than in the previous run (offset by a missed edge jump on the left side in this run).
Room 39 - A new room solution that is around 1 second faster than in the previous run.
Room 42 - I planned to create one block less than in the previous run and do an edge jump instead. Missed opportunity though and I ended up losing time instead.
Room 44 - Several minor route improvements (lower left corner, right-hand side and the right upper corner). Overall for a time gain of a little less than a second. I had one head bump during a drop, but it was otherwise a very good room, considering its length and several tight tricks (I usually have a few execution mistakes in this room in attempts that reach this far).
Room 47 - New way of collecting the last Solomon's seal. This room is (and will probably always be) the most nerve-wrecking one in Solomon's Key.
Room 48 - The single biggest improvement over the previous run came in this room (almost 10 seconds). It's based on a concept first used by TheMexicanRunner (see the comments in the sdakb or for my normal ending run for some more details). There is a missed edge jump halfway through (but there was one missed jump in my previous run as well).
Prinsess Room - Almost perfect! The princess moves around randomly and with luck she can sometimes move over to the left just as you enter the inner confinement for an addtional half second saved. This time, she stayed in the middle, which is what usually happens. Anyways, this is a really tough room. Some of the movements need to be precise and because of how late in the game it is, it's easy to fumble. I messed up pretty badly in this room in my previous run and lost around 5 seconds.
Solmomon's Room - New solution that could have saved one second over the previous run. I slightly mistimed the jump in the lower right corner and lost that second again. Pretty tough room to end with. Especially creating the block on the other side of the last ghost has to be really precise and is a bit of a tense moment.

Final thoughts
Not long ago, I searched the sda forum to see when I made my first post about starting to speedrun Solomon's Key. Almost 5 years ago... I have played many different games between then and now, but I have also returned to Solomon's Key several times. It's probably the game I have played the most of all games. Each time has meant including new techniques, new room solutions and getting lower times. This year I also made the jump from pal to ntsc. The game physics in the pal-version are different, but I could still build on a lot of my experience from the pal-version when starting to play ntsc and developing the room solutions.

I'm happy with the route as things stand right now. Previously, I was mostly limited by not having found the fastest solutions. Now, I know of several faster solutions, but they have been excluded because of the difficulty. To me, that means I'm getting closer to my limit for real-time speedruns. It's now mostly an exercise in grinding enough attempts to pull off a run with good as few mistakes as possible, which brings me to my next point.

The execution could definitely have been improved by quite a lot. Without talking about minor frame improvements, I count around 13 seconds of mistakes. (7 - 1; 24 - 1; 28 - 5; 35 - 1.5; 38 - 1; 42 - 1.5; 48 - 1; Solomon - 1). That's in the upper end of what I consider acceptable (or even a few seconds above what I was aiming for). The problem is that just completing a deathless run is an achievement for me. The last completed run happened around half a year ago (and this is more or less the only game I have been playing this year). I've had one or two more completions before that (but with huge time-losses, so not really to be considered as speedrun material). The low number of completions has an influence on how much I can reset. I try to be fairly strict in the first half of the game, but past a certain point, I just need to take the run as it is or I would risk never getting any completed runs.

I have a feeling this might be my last Solomon's Key speedrun (but it's absolutely not a promise :-) ). Both the normal and best ending categories are now representative in terms of the fastest strats that I'm aware of. There are faster solutions, but they would increase the risk factor by a lot and it would require another level of dedication to include them. But if someone with interest in this game decides to try and push the times down further by less execution mistakes and/or including riskier strats, they have my support.

European version best ending: 0:33:41 by Dag Cato.

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Author's comments:

For speedrun related information on Solomon's Key (speedrun techniques, item and enemy descriptions and information about the different endings), check out the sda knowledge base:
https://kb.speeddemosarchive.com/Solomon%27s_key
If you want to discuss or share information related to speedrunning this game (tricks, strategies, ...), use this thread:
https://forum.speeddemosarchive.com/post/solomons_key_nes_run.html
If you have questions or comments about the run, use the existing verification thread:
https://forum.speeddemosarchive.com/post/solomons_key__april_7th_2013.html

SDA history
08/21/2010 - 0:35:07 by ktwo (http://www.archive.org/details/2011-03-19-SDA_Speed_Runs - interesting as a comparison of how much the room solutions have been improved and also contains audio commentary, if that's your thing)
02/22/2013 - 0:33:41 by ktwo

Room comments
Room 8 - If the key is picked up left of the room center, you can enter the one-height space behind the ghost be holding right the whole time. Not important, just trivia... :-)
Room 9 - One and a half seconds could be saved by re-creating the block the blue flame stood on and then make a running edge jump to the left. On top of the the risky edge jump, it's also inconsistent because the timing has to be nigh perfect in order to drop down to the key and still have the time to turn around and destroy the mid block before the demon heads pass to the right side.
Room 19 - Having the super fireball (I got an "upgrade jar" in room 15) saves a few tenths of seconds in this room. One very luck-dependent strat that would actually have worked out in this run would have been to pick a fireball in room 13 (from one of the blue diamonds above the exit), costing 1.5 sec. That fireball would then have been transformed into a super fireball here in room 19, making it possible to skip the super fireball in the up-left corner (5 sec saved). However, it's very rare to actually get two upgrade jars in the same run and I consider it crazy to go for in a run, even with the upside of a potential 3.5 sec gain.
Room 20 - First of all, this room is interesting because this solution is only possible on the pal-version. The jump mechanics are slightly floatier than in the ntsc-version allowing Dana to create the two blocks after picking up the key. Then to the actual execution of the room... It's best to create and destroy the block with the constellation icon, but it's pretty difficult and did not work this time. For some reason, the fairy rng seems to be dependent on this. If I don't manage to make the icon appear directly, the fairy often ends up in the way (like in this run). After that, I mess up the same block creation twice. In total, this room could have been 5 seconds faster. In most cases, that would have been an instant reset. However, I decided to hope for good luck in rooms 22 and 35 and try some risky strats in room 31. All of those worked out nicely.
Room 22 - It's important that the fireball connects with the last saramandor. This requires that at least three blue crystals of rad (or one orange) are collected that are not directly in the way. I pick up extra crystals in rooms 6, 14 (the one in the middle) and 16, but did not get any orange crystal drops. However, it's still not guaranteed that the last saramandor will be hit. Based on emu-practice, whether it hits or not seems to be determined when you enter the room and has nothing to do with when releasing the fireball (provided the reach is enough of course). I don't know what determines it though or whether it can be manipulated somehow. Based on experience, it works more often than not in the best ending run, but I had serious problems getting it when doing attempts for the normal ending.
Room 31 - Normally, I use a safer strat (still with several edge jumps) that is 3 sec slower, but decided to try for the strat you see since room 20 had gone so bad. Truth be told, this is first time I managed to successfully perform this strat in an actual run attempt.
Room 33 - Lost one second to what is probably the most stupid time loss in the run. The jump down to the exit is just as easy as it looks.
Room 35 - As the room begins, the grey gargoyles on the top can either start by walking towards the center or (like in this run) start by walking towards the walls. The former is more common, but is two seconds slower, so it was definitely good luck in this run.
Room 38 - Compared to the normal ending run, I use slightly safer strats here. I do one less edge jump and I avoid the drop to the 1-height space. Together they save maybe half a second, but they have both ruined attempts for me, so I usually play it safe.
Room 44 - The section around the red flame could be done faster (a little over a second) by using edge jumps (both passages). It's one of the edge jumps from the right that I have difficulties performing though, so I play it safe.
Room 46 - Some more trivia. If Dana's nose is covered by the white exit door border, it's safe to jump and pick up the Solomon's seal. If you can see the nose, using the block magic will create the block to the right.
Room 47 - I lost one second in the upper right corner, failing to collect the Solomon's seal the first time. There is a two frame window for destroying the block and then enter the 1-height space for the first drop. A two frame trick with a good visual cue (which is the case here - use the block magic just as Dana's feet are about to touch the bell), should be possible to be performed more often than not. With nerves that are present during an actual attempt, it's therefore very much about keeping the cool. There is then a second drop right after, slightly easier, but still tricky, because it has a different timing. Room 47 is definitely a big run killer (the few times runs get that far)...
Room 48 - One botched jump in the upper right corner (1 sec lost). My fingers were getting sweaty and I simply slipped on the D-pad, so I had to realign once (I know it looks ugly, sorry...).
Prinsess room - The drop on the left side is almost as nerve-wrecking as the drops in room 47. It's definitely possible to only break the lower of the two blocks, but breaking both of them makes it easier for me and the time loss is fairly small.
Solomon's room - One of the grey blocks surrounding Solomon's Key becomes breakable by using the block magic on the magic mirror.

Final thoughts
I'm not too happy with the execution in this run. I've had a few runs with cleaner execution that ended in the 40s. The lack of execution in this run was however compensated by good luck and risky strategies that paid off for a time that was better than comparable runs. To be honest, any run that gets through the ordeal of the last rooms (especially room 47) is a small miracle to me. Submitting this run means the end of me playing the game for this time. I won't rule out coming back for a run with cleaner execution, but that would probably require finding a few new time savers first.

Credits
- 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.
- Agwawaf, whose TAS gave me a few ideas on how to improve.

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