Best Time: 0:08:25 by Matthew Havoc on 2018-12-18
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August 19th, 2013 - 10:43
May 20th, 2014 - 9:03
December 18th, 2018 - 8:25
"There is a house in New Orleans
they call the rising sun
and it's been the ruin of many a poor boy
and me, oh God, I'm one..."
Thanks (in alphabetical order): AwesFox, BadBrakes, BeerfullofBelly, ccaakk, CheezCB, DJToneRI, Dragondarch, EmpatheticToast, GodOfWorst, Guyver403, Hisatoki, Inzult2, JeffSledge, Karma, Lady Havoc, Mr. Kelly R. Flewin, One Lady Owner, PJ, Schaaa, T_Fumanu, The Angry Panda, Whitman Price, Soad3821, and anyone else who contributed or cheered along the way. This is OUR run.
Back Story: My first encounter with this game occurred at roughly the age of 4. In some of my earliest memories, I fondly recall my childhood friend introducing me to the wonders of the Nintendo Entertainment System. While games like Milon's Secret Castle and Kid Icarus fascinated us, we were far too inept and stupid to figure out how to make any serious progress in these games. And thus, my brief introduction to Milon came to a disappointing end without even reaching the 2nd floor of the castle. Because I had barely seen any of the game before moving on, throughout the rest of my childhood and early adulthood, I never gave Milon's Secret Castle a second thought. Fast forward more than 15 years: I decided that this game would be the white whale which haunted my childhood no more. After several hours, a disgusting amount of deaths, and constant consultation with a game walkthrough, I was able to defeat the evil Maharito, rescue Queen Eliza, and put this game to rest permanently...or so I thought.
At some point in early 2013, I began to play this game once again. To this day, I don't recall what summoned me back to Castle Garland. I memorized where all of the items were, how much each of them cost, and I found myself being able to regularly complete the game (albeit, rather slowly). Several months later, I decided to learn to run this game. And so from June of 2013 until December of 2018, I grinded it out (with a few decent gaps of inactivity throughout). Through all of my trials and tribulations, I still hold the rather unpopular opinion that this is actually a pretty good game. While Japanese gamers as a whole have embraced Milon, such sentiments have never translated well into the western world. This game is confusing, challenging, and has controls which leave a lot to be desired. Ultimately, experience can and will overcome many of these initial struggles. Despite these rather inherent flaws, exploring Castle Garland and slaying Maharito has continued to be an entertaining challenge for me. Perhaps nostalgia has clouded my judgment, but this has become one of my favorite games in the NES library.
Part 1. Chasing the Run: My earliest (and unfortunately, now undocumented) runs in the spring of 2013 involved collecting enough money to buy the fire-proof vest in Room 2-2. After PJ showed me one of T_Fumanu's old 11ish minute runs, it became apparent that the well could be navigated without the vest. This incredible and initially frustrating revelation cut roughly a minute off of the run, bringing the time down to just under 12 minutes almost immediately.
In August of 2013, I achieved a time of 10:43. This ended up being the first of my 3 published Milon's Secret Castle runs on the site. While there were two runs with reportedly lower times out of Japan, video of both runs were unavailable at the time. And somewhat selfishly, because I wanted no doubt regarding the extent of my accomplishment, I decided to get back to work. It wasn't until November 18th of the same year that my run of 9:31 topped any of the best times on the Japanese leaderboard.
Part 2. House of the Rising Sun: After mostly stepping away from the game for a number of months, I began to see plenty of areas of improvement from my 9:31 run. Oddly enough, I achieved 3 more runs clocking in at 9:31 before a breakthrough finally occurred in early May, as I improved my time with a rather ugly and unsatisfying 9:25. Less than 2 weeks later, a run of 9:03 was finally achieved. This run would end up being my second published run of Milon's Secret Castle.
Shortly before my 9:03 run occurred, video of the previous record was finally made public by T_Fumanu, nearly 2 years after it occurred. Amazingly, our routes were nearly identical except for a few incredibly minor changes, particularly on the 1st floor. With the 9:03 run achieved in May of 2014, I considered this run dead and buried. If I only knew...
Part 3. End of Days: By mid-2016, I was largely burned out from speed-gaming. I more or less considered myself finished with the hobby except for the occasional nostalgia trip. Out of the blue, I decided to grind some attempts in April of 2017. By pure accident, all of the stars aligned and my run of 9:03, which had stood for nearly 3 years at this point, fell unexpectedly and without recording. And so regrettably, my 8:50 run, the first sub-9 minute run in the game's history, has no recording.
In September of 2017, I improved the time to 8:45 in a run which was on 8:24 pace entering the Kama fight at the end of the 3rd floor. It wasn't until July of 2018 that I began practicing and doing runs once more. In August of 2018, I achieved a run of 8:36. While the time of the run more than met my final expectations, the botched Shrine Jump, courtesy of jumping roughly a pixel earlier than required, ruined the entire run in my mind. I found it insufferable to go back and watch the run and found little pride in my accomplishment. Four days later, an even cleaner run (with a successful Shrine Jump) finished 4 seconds slower than my previous, courtesy of random slow cycles by Maharito, the final boss. Ultimately, this broke me and turned me away from the game for 3 months. I had always intended to return to the game and had a personal goal of burying it by the end of 2018. However, the thousands of impending resets that awaited only served to steer me from investing the time needed to achieve my goal.
In mid-November of 2018, with free-time suddenly becoming more and more available, I forced myself to return to Castle Garland, grinding boring practice sessions (mixed in with the occasional run attempts) until I felt that I was playing better than I ever had before. And on December 18th, 2018, 61 months to the day since my 9:31 run, it all came to an end at 4:35 AM on what I had already determined was my final attempt of a 4-hour session.
Challenges: I have one piece of advice for those who wish to run this game: Don't. While completing this game casually is problematic enough for most gamers, speedrunning Milon creates a plethora of challenges that even the most experienced gamers are unlikely to overcome. Throughout the roughly 5 and a half years since I began running this game, I pressed the reset button well over 25,000 times despite the incredibly short run-time of Milon's Secret Castle. I would like to briefly touch upon the two biggest challenges which this game presents:
By far, the most challenging part of running this game is that the boss projectiles are entirely (pseudo) random. And by that, I mean that they are one overly-long pattern with a random shot here or there thrown in to make sure that even the impossible task of memorizing said-pattern would not be beneficial. Additionally, the starting point of the boss' pattern will of course differ each time. I spent many a wasted hour trying to memorize and manipulate boss patterns to absolutely no avail. Instead, I began to memorize small chunks of the pattern, particularly on the earlier bosses, often allowing me to pre-emptively have a good idea of what was coming and whether I should jump high, short hop, backtrack, or attack. Generally speaking, I attack aggressively and with little concern against the bosses from the 1st and 2nd floors, hoping for some cooperation from my repetitive opponents. While the first 3 bosses are slow and weak enough to consistently attack in the same manner successfully, the bosses on the 3rd floor all shoot fireballs that are faster than Milon's rate of acceleration into running speed. Thus, they require a bit more strategic and defensive maneuvering. After all, quick boss fights don't really matter if you can't survive.
In addition to the frustration of the boss fights, the lack of health upgrades in this route is extremely daunting. Besides the 3 honeycombs collected in this route (extending Milon's health bar to 10 from the initial 7), I previously would allow myself a measly $5 which could be used to restore just 2 bars of health. The only other way to restore health in this run is to rely on heart drops from enemies. It appears that all enemies which can be killed by one bubble have approximately a 30% chance of dropping a heart. I have long-since abandoned the idea of collecting additional money to help me survive the run. Furthermore, the nefarious designers of Castle Garland opted to place no honeycomb in the fireplace room which, sadly enough, was one of the places where I could have used it the most. The other 6 "normal" rooms of Castle Garland all contain a honeycomb which fully restores Milon and extends his health bar by 1.
Breakdown: Throughout the game, the player can obtain 12 different items from Barnaby to increase Milon's abilities. I collect only the mandatory 5 items which are required to complete Milon's Secret Castle. Here's a quick breakdown of the 5 items:
Potion: allows Milon to shrink when he touches a glove. This is one of 2 items needed to make the first boss appear.
Spring Shoes: allows Milon to jump high on any spring platforms. Like the potion, this is also needed to make the first boss appear.
Hammer: this is needed to break open the wall on the first floor to obtain...
Saw: which is needed to access the window on the 2nd floor where the 3rd boss is found.
Water Pot: Without the water pot, the two Queen Crows will not take any damage. Both need to be killed in order to obtain the cane and crown. Without having both, Milon cannot access the 4th and final floor. Because of this, the Right Tower needs to be the first stop on the 3rd floor in a speedrun.
Here's a breakdown of the 7 items from Barnaby which are skipped in this route:
Lantern: The only purpose which the lantern serves is to light up the very first room of the well. Because this room is unbelievably short, contains no enemies, and can be navigated without light, the lantern serves no purpose.
Vest: When I first started running this game, I wasted several minutes each run by collecting the vest to significantly decrease the damage which Milon takes from fire in the well. Learning to skip the vest purchase reduced the time of this speedrun significantly.
Feather: This is an incredibly silly item. The feather allows Milon to access one optional elevator in a room which I skip in the speedrun anyway. Without the feather, Milon is too fat to ride the elevator and falls right through it...or something.
Blimp: One of my favorite items in the game, the blimp allows Milon to briefly glide and hover in the air at the end of a jump.
Sword: The ultimate item in Castle Garland, the sword doubles the damage of Milon's bubbles. Furthermore, Milon's projectiles become colorful orbs rather than clear bubbles. Obtaining this item would have made this run significantly easier, but at the cost of roughly 4 or 5 minutes required to obtain enough money for the purchase, navigate through the most obnoxious room in the Castle, and climb all the way back to the exit.
Paint-Can: The paint allows the invisible blocks in the two shrine areas to be seen. Because I have the location of the invisible blocks memorized, this item serves no purpose for me.
Jump Boots: The most expensive item in the game, the boots allow Milon to jump to incredible heights. However, the boots serve as a gigantic detriment, making it even harder to control Milon overall (particularly during boss fights).
In addition to all of these lovely items which I do not have at my disposal, I only collect 3 of the 9 honeycombs in this game, assuring that my maximum health bar will only reach 10 as opposed to the full 16. All 7 music boxes are skipped. The music boxes are used to access the bonus stage which serves as a chance to earn easy money. There's simply no time for that nonsense in a speedrun. I collect several Hudson Bees throughout the run, providing Milon with a small shield equivalent to 2 bars of health. Picking up an additional bee will increase Milon's shield to a maximum equivalent of 4 bars of health. Likewise, picking up an additional heart while at full health will also raise a small shield to a large shield.
I obtain a total of just $18 in this run, spent on the following:
Spring Shoes: $10
After making both purchases, I still need to collect $1 in Room 1-2 in order to make the key appear. The additional $2 collected late in this run is impossible to skip and serves no purpose in this run. Thus, I end the run with $3 which went unused. Don't spend it all in one place, Milon.
Umbrella Physics: A lot of misconceptions exist on umbrella drops in this game. Contrary to popular belief, they are not random at all. Umbrellas provide Milon with double-shot and triple-shot, much like in Castlevania. Throughout the run, I need to acquire 4 umbrellas at very specific spots. Briefly, I will go over the rules for umbrella drops:
-Starting from powering on or resetting the console, the 10th enemy killed will drop an umbrella.
-After an umbrella spawns, 14 additional enemies need to be killed to drop a 2nd umbrella.
-Entering a new area with non-boss enemies will remove any double or triple-shot previously acquired.
-The enemy kill-counter carries over between areas and even after dying.
-The only way to reset the counter to zero is to power off or reset the console.
-Defeating Red Homa in the Fireplace room OR Blue Doma in the Left Tower will grant Milon permanent double-shot.
-Defeating Kama in the 3rd Floor window will grant Milon permanent triple-shot.
-Any umbrella obtained while already possessing triple-shot serves as a heart.
And so, the umbrellas which I obtain are in the following locations each and every run:
2. Right Tower
3. Fireplace (Room 3-2)
4. Left Tower
Skipped Areas: There are a total of 20 areas in Castle Garland. Using this route, I visit 14 mandatory areas. I will quickly explain the 6 skipped areas:
Room 2-1: Contains a honeycomb and a music box, as well as the lantern which can be purchased for $15. Oddly enough, the lantern can also be purchased in room 1-2 for a ridiculous $50.
Room 2-2: Contains a honeycomb and a music box, as well as the vest which reduces damage from fire in the well. In addition, there is a secret shop in this room where Barnaby will generously give you $10 for free.
Room 3-1: Contains a honeycomb and a music box, as well as the feather.
Room 3-3: Contains a honeycomb and a music box, as well as the sword.
Health Shop: The paint-can is available for purchase here for $40. Milon can also spend $5 to restore 2 bars of health in this shop.
Cash Room: This room contains $15 for free which can be collected 3 different times. Once this money is collected 3 times, it will no longer appear. On top of that, this shop can be used to purchase the overpriced Jump Boots. Also, for $15, Milon can also restore all of his health here. Unfortunately, accessing this room is a gigantic time-waster.
Speed Tech: The only known glitch in the game involves spawning a violin from the Bonus Stage on the outside of the castle. This has absolutely no bearing on the run and takes quite a while to achieve. However, there are 5 "tricks" (and I use the word loosely here) that I use in the run. For this final run, I convinced myself it was necessary to nail all 5, primarily for aesthetic purposes.
-Spring Hop: The intended way to do the first room of the well is to go underneath the spring-block and back out the other side. Instead, with a somewhat precise jump, Milon is able to lightly bounce off of the spring and skip the underneath route. This saves an incredibly minimal amount of time. The Spring Hop can be found in the 1st room of the well.
-Swag Honeycomb: The 2nd of the 3 honeycombs I collect in this run is right before the 2nd boss (Doma). Rather than stopping to shoot all 3 blocks and then collect the honeycomb, with a running start, I am able to shoot out all 3 and jump into the honeycomb in one continuous motion. Again, this saves a minimal amount of time. The Swag Honeycomb can be found in the 3rd room of the well.
-Fire-Walk: One of the most difficult and random parts of the run (including the later boss fights) is the well escape. After defeating Doma and collecting the hammer, I choose to run through the flames to the available spring. The Medamaruge enemy which drops my escape balloon must then be killed on the 1st cycle before disappearing, as the amount of time and the location of his respawn is random. Additionally, running through the flames produces inconsistent moments of stun-lock damage to Milon. On top of all of this, any random and ill-placed projectile by the Medamaruge effectively kills Milon's momentum, as well as the run. The safer alternative used to involve working my way further up the well to kill the other Medamaruge which, even with an ideal spawn location and spawn time, was slower than an optimal Fire-Walk (and often killed runs due to random delays in the Medamaruge's initial spawn). Out of all 5 tricks in the run, this one is by far the biggest timesaver, saving several seconds over even the most ideal luck from the aforementioned method. The Fire-Walk can be found in the 3rd room of the well after defeating Doma.
-Shrine Jump: Perhaps the most "infamous" trick in the run, the Shrine Jump involves getting full momentum and running to the very edge of the middle pillar in the Cane Shrine after the Fireplace. With full momentum, Milon has a small window to perform a well-timed jump. If the player holds the A button for too long, Milon bonks off of the ceiling, falls down the chasm, and must then take the long way to the top of the left pillar. If the player doesn’t hold the A button for long enough, Milon will not get a long enough jump to clear the gap and will once again have to take the long route. This trick saves roughly 4 seconds over taking the slower route to the top. The Shrine Jump can be found in the Cane Shrine.
-Quick Escape: While this barely constitutes as a trick, the Quick Escape is mostly for aesthetics. At the end of the Left Tower, Milon must shoot out 3 blocks in the ceiling and jump through them to end the repeating maze and get to the bottom floor. Traditionally, the player would stop to shoot out all 3 blocks and then carefully jump into the gap where the blocks once were. Missing the jump restarts the maze. Although this trick saves virtually no time and is done primarily for style points, failing the Quick Escape restarts the maze and ends the run. The Quick Escape can be found in the Left Tower.
1-1: The goal of the first room is to collect 12 of the 16 dollars in this room. In order to make the key appear in the ideal location, I will also need to kill 5 enemies. My kill-counter needs to be at either 5 or 6 at the end of this room in each run attempt. Additionally, I reset any time that I exit the first room at 18 seconds. In this run, my kill counter was at 5 and I exited the room at the 16 second mark.
Potion Shop: This shop contains the first of my two purchases in the run. The shrinking potion is a mandatory item and it allows Milon to shrink in size whenever he touches a boxing glove. Don't ask.
1-2: In the 2nd room of the 1st floor, I need to get my kill counter to 9. Anything less than 9 leads to a potentially significant time loss in the well. Killing a 10th enemy will spawn an unwanted umbrella and prevent me from having double-shot on the 2nd and 3rd bosses. I also make my 2nd and final purchase of the run in the form of the spring shoes. Like the shrinking potion, this item is mandatory in order to make the 1st boss appear.
Window 1: The boss battle against Homa is the only one in the run in which I only have single-shot. This was pretty much the ideal fight, as Homa is defeated at the very end of his 1st cycle, and I get to leave the 1st floor with an absurd 6 bars of health (an incredibly rare occurrence). In the tens of thousands of attempts I've done over the years, this 1st floor was in my top 10 fastest completions.
Well: The well contains 3 of the 5 aforementioned Speed Tech tricks. In the 1st room, I'm able to execute an acceptable Spring Hop, skipping the slightly slower route of going underneath the blocks. In the 2nd room, I collect the 1st of only 3 honeycombs in the run. Upon entering the 3rd room, the first of my 2 kills gives me my first umbrella, assuring that I will have double-shot up until I enter the Right Tower. At the end of the room, I'm able to perform Swag Honeycomb, collecting the 2nd honeycomb of the run while opening the room's exit in one non-stop motion. Doma is killed in a relatively routine amount of time. Finally, after collecting the hammer, Milon is returned to the 3rd room of the well. At this point, I execute Fire-Walk, the toughest trick in the run. The Medamaruge is killed before disappearing and minimum damage is dealt to Milon from the flames.
Wall: I collect the saw here, allowing Milon to enter barred windows in the castle. The only consistent timesaver that I opted not to attempt during these final runs involves a nifty little jump from the lower ledge to the higher ledge where Milon enters the castle wall. This jump saves less than half a second and costs more than a full second if failed.
Window 2: Thanks to the Fire-Walk, virtually all runs that reach Barukama are tense moments, as Milon is left with little health for the 3rd boss battle. Despite this, I opted to forego taking a defensive stance. My aggressive assault paid off, although I am now facing the threat of impending death at the beginning of the Right Tower due to being left with 0 bars of health.
Right Tower: Because the bat spawns in the 1st room of the Right Tower are rather unpredictable, runs that reach the tower with 0 health occasionally die in the first few seconds. However, I was able to descend through the melting ice and collect the 3rd and final honeycomb of the run without any harassment. In the next room, my goal is to kill enough enemies to get the 2nd umbrella of the run, as Milon's double-shot expired the moment he entered the Right Tower. After collecting the umbrella and shield, I need to get my kill-counter to a minimum of 3 before entering the boss battle. The spark enemies cooperated with quick and generous spawns, allowing me to get my counter all the way to 8 (which serves as a timesaver later on in the run). In early attempts of this game, I used to collect 2 umbrellas here, giving Milon triple-shot for the incredibly difficult boss battle. However, I abandoned this strategy years ago, sacrificing safety for speed. Red Barukama, one of the most difficult boss battles in the game, goes surprisingly well. Leaving the Right Tower with 7 bars of health and on good pace is a pretty rare occurrence. After the fight, I collect the water pot. This serves as the 5th and final inventory item of the run and will allow Milon to kill the mini-bosses in the two shrines.
3-2: I collect my 3rd umbrella here, once again giving Milon double-shot. Because I always kill 7 enemies in this room, I have the potential to collect up to 6 hearts (since one of the kills is for the umbrella). I received a fairly typical 2 hearts and was able to descend into the Fireplace with virtually no trolling from the guardian, Fire (very creative name, Hudson). The Red Homa fight goes a little less than ideal, costing me a few seconds but just 3 bars of health.
Cane Shrine: The infamous Shrine Jump is the only reason I continued my attempts for 4 more months after achieving an 8:36 run. With my current setup, I was able to perform the trick, leaping all the way to the location of the 1st Crow mini-boss. After defeating it and collecting the cane, there's nothing left to do here but to leave.
Left Tower: Because I was able to get my kill-counter so high before leaving the Right Tower, I was only 4 kills away from my 4th and final umbrella at this point. Milon's task is to work his way through the repeating floors until he reaches the top of the tower. There, I execute Quick Escape, shooting out the 3 blocks in the ceiling and jumping through without stopping. This brings Milon to the bottom floor which serves as the entrance to the boss. The easiest of the 3rd floor bosses, Blue Doma, is quickly obliterated near the end of his 2nd cycle.
Crown Shrine: There's usually not too much that can go wrong in the Crown Shrine. Perhaps the only "significant" blunder in this run was that spawning the bee for my shield took 2 attempts, wasting a few seconds in the process. An untimely and random bat just so happened to block my initial attempt at making the shield appear. The 2nd Crow mini-boss, which is typically an easier and more spacious fight than the 1st, ends without any struggle. With both the cane and the crown, Milon can now battle the infamous Kama in his pursuit of the final floor.
Window 3: In a casual playthrough with all of the power-ups and honeycombs, Kama can still prove to be an extremely problematic opponent. With a maximum of 10 bars of health (of which I was fortunate to even have 9 and a small shield) the Kama battle can come to a swift and miserable end with one wrong step and a bit of bad luck. As such, fights with Kama normally have to be fought rather defensively with this route. Despite a string of battering projectiles near the end of the fight, the penultimate battle ends several seconds faster than expected, leaving Milon with no shield and on the brink of death.
4-1: By holding the start button as the console is powered on or reset at the beginning of a run, the real Maharito is guaranteed to be in the red chamber. The final room of the castle contains 4 nearly identical chambers, the only differences being the color of the room (red, blue, green, or yellow) and the location of the bee. The first crow at the bottom of the blue room has killed a handful of good runs in the past. With zero health, I have to carefully maneuver past him (and get a little bit lucky), collect the bee so that I'm shielded, and make it to the top of the room to the boxing glove. With a well-timed leap, I'm able to jump over the next crow enemy and reach the glove. With a now shrunken Milon, I enter the final room and kill Maharito in 3 cycles (my previous 2 submissions of this game both contained 4-cycle kills). Maharito can only be damaged when he opens his arms, leaving a significant luck factor and potentially big swings (mostly negative swings) in my final time. Fortunately, Maharito cooperated much faster than in a typical run. After a standard 1st cycle, Maharito gives me a slow cycle. However, the 3rd and final cycle was fast, allowing Milon to end Maharito's reign of tyranny over Castle Garland.
And with that, it's all over. Milon is left with $3 for his 505 seconds of work.
Personal Best History:
(since beginning record-keeping after skipping the vest)
August 10th, 2013 11:54
August 12th, 2013 11:32
August 13th, 2013 11:11
August 19th, 2013 10:43 (1st SDA Submission)
October 25th, 2013 10:25
October 29th, 2013 10:07
November 7th, 2013 9:50
November 18th, 2013 9:31 (1st World Record)
May 7th, 2014 9:25
May 20th, 2014 9:03 (2nd SDA Submission)
April 10th, 2017 8:50
September 27th, 2017 8:45
August 22nd, 2018 8:36
December 18th, 2018 8:25 (3rd SDA Submission)
Additional Milon Content:
Milon Any% - https://www.twitch.tv/videos/351183210 (with splits)
Milon 100% - https://www.twitch.tv/videos/72526187
Bonus Stage: 68 Notes - https://www.twitch.tv/videos/6084757
Boss Stuck on wall - https://www.twitch.tv/videos/49564132
Last Call - https://www.twitch.tv/videos/49137646 (after "quitting" Milon in May of 2014)
2nd Loop Ending - https://www.twitch.tv/videos/299983292
Violin Glitch - https://www.twitch.tv/videos/301945838
"Oh mother tell your children
Not to do what I have done
Spend your lives in sin and misery
In the house of the Rising Sun."
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