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Released in June 2004, Sonic and those annoying buddies you wish never existed return in another fast-paced sidescroller. Eggman has a partner too, although since he was too lazy to build his pal Gemerl from scratch, this comes back to bite him in the ending. Two of the Sonic & Friends crew must team up, with each team using different abilities, to collect all the Chaos Emeralds and destroy Eggman's latest threat for good.


Best 100% time: Single-segment 1:20:24 by Mike 'mike89' McKenzie on 2011-03-18.

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Author's comments:

Thanks go out to:
mikwuyma, Breakdown, dex – the SDA crew, keeping things awesome!
Nate – for the wealth of work he has put into ensuring SDA is the home of not only quality runs, but quality videos

The Sonic Center – – Still the most comprehensive resource on competitive Sonic gameplay anywhere.
Quartz – The grand master of this game, he taught me just about everything I know, as well as, in the formative stages of this run, providing me with videos showing the locations of all 70 Chao in the game
nitsuja – For an outstanding TAS of this game which opened my eyes to a lot of new tricks, some of which I used myself.

This is another one of those runs that's been a long time coming from me. I've had plans to do this run since about 2006, but there always seemed to be something in the way. For much of that time it was just the lack of a Game Boy Player, but once I got one I got stuck into Vectorman and that project took me months to complete. Finally I picked it up again, and after about two months of attempts on and off, came up with a run at 1:25:59, which was soundly rejected (more by Mike than the actual verifiers).

I didn't really know where to go from there because I felt that the luck that I had received in the run kinda balanced out my level of execution, and I was unlikely to beat my time by all that much in the future. That I beat that run by five and a half minutes (!) is largely due to significantly mitigating that luck factor: where last time I required a 50/50 key drop on three occasions, I was able to change the route in two of those levels such that I had guaranteed drops, leaving just one level down to chance. That, in turn, inspired me to work harder on my execution, because with less of the run being down to chance, the skill factor would show more prominently in the final time.

Anyway, for those of you who haven't played Sonic Advance 3, firstly, do so! Of all the Sonic games released since Sonic and Knuckles (that's a 16 year timespan, folks), this one is most worthy of the name. It features levels that actually flow, a simple to execute and yet incredibly varied partner system, and something a little bit different in a more momentum-based movement style. Unlike in Sonic 2 and 3, where on many occasions you're better off stopping and spindashing rather than continuing to run, Sonic Advance 3 rewards consistent, fluent motion, without the surprise traps that other games in the series throw at you without warning.

Perhaps the biggest factor in running this game is your character selection. You start the game with just Sonic and Tails, so you have only two combinations there, but by the end of the game you have a whopping 20 character combinations to choose from, all of which are unique in their own way. There are certain patterns, like Tails and Cream can always fly and Amy always has her hammer attack, but some teams change the game entirely, such as Knuckles + Amy being able to grab and spindash up walls (!!). This leads to, at the individual act level, much playtesting and strategising to work out the best team for any given level. At the speedrun level, this doesn't apply quite so much, because there's a number of restrictions:
* Firstly, aforementioned strategies are often really, really hard, and with the momentum-based physics you don't have to be out by much to miss a jump entirely and die.
* Secondly, playing the game for 100% completion as I have requires collecting all the Chao in the levels, which means that your path is basically set, and is often entirely different from the speedrun path.
* Thirdly, and most importantly in certain parts of the game, you don't have all the characters to start with. In order to unlock the characters, Sonic must be the leader in each of Sunset Hill 3, Toy Kingdom 3 and Cyber Track 3.
* Finally, the way that the levels are built, with the overworld system, and having to return to the start of each overworld map to switch characters, heavily discourages switching for even a moderately large advantage in an upcoming act, with the run being timed in real time.

The end result of all this is that I use the very versatile Sonic+Tails team for most of the game, only switching to correct some deficiency that they have. Here are each of the teams that I use, in order of appearance:

A: Regular spin-jump
B: Slide attack
R: Tails tag action – on ground, high jump; in air, flight
Can activate Boost mode (the after-images behind your main character, need to either run for an extended distance, hit a boost panel, or use a Sonic tag action to activate)
Can trick off springs
Can not break strong walls

A: Regular spin-jump
B: Punch attack
R: Tails tag action – on ground, high jump; in air, flight
Can break strong walls
Can not activate Boost mode
Can not trick off springs
Special move: attacks upwards at the start of a glide, faster than regular wall climbing

A: Regular spin-jump
B: Punch attack
R: Sonic tag action – immediate Boost mode
Can break strong walls
Can activate Boost mode
Can not trick off springs

A: non-spinning jump, hitting B corrects this
B: Hammer attack
R: Amy tag action – on ground, high jump, non spinning; in air, smaller high jump, spinning
Can not activate Boost mode
Can not trick off springs
Special move: Walldash, hold right and tap A like a regular spindash, much faster than regular wall climbing

A: Regular spin-jump
B: Long, protracted slide
R: Knuckles tag action – practically useless
Can activate Boost mode
Can not trick off springs
Special move: Upper attack, up+B while jumping sends Sonic straight upwards

Something else I should address before starting is what the 100% definition is for this game. At the purest level, completing the game 100% means beating the extra stage, Nonaggression. In order to unlock this stage, the following events must occur:
* You unlock all the characters
* You collect all seven Chaos Emeralds
* You beat the game once(ending at Altar Emerald)
* You return to Altar Emerald with Sonic as the leader, and defeat it again

Unlocking all the characters has already been addressed, you must have Sonic as the leader in each of three specific acts.

Collecting all the Chaos Emeralds, while not a focal point of the story like in other modern Sonic games, is nevertheless very different from collecting them in the classics. Each level's overworld has a spring that takes you to that level's Special Stage. You will notice, however, if you find it straight away, you can't use it. You will also notice a key icon at the top left while you're in the overworld, with a 0 next to it. You need one of these keys to enter the Special Stage, but before you can get one, you have to collect all ten Chao in the level.
Chao are always in preset positions, which, in most levels, means your route is planned out for you (a very compelling reason why I chose this run over an any%!). Additionally, most levels also have one Chao on the overworld map, which is actually very important for a reason I'm about to detail.
Special Keys appear when the 10th and final Chao is collected. There are a varying number of key locations in each level (about ten, at a guess) but only half of them are loaded at any one time. The two halves are distinct, though, so if there are two keys between the last Chao and the finish you will always get one or the other. This is great when that does occur, but not so great when you only have one chance. In Twinkle Snow 3 you simply have to gamble on the special key appearing in the right place and hope for the best. The reason this makes the overworld Chao important is that you simply cannot grab it last. If you do, you have to enter an act (that you've already completed!) and complete it again, adding a minute or more to your time, which when the routes are as set as they are, is a massive blow.

On to actual analysis of the run, then!

<<ROUTE 99>>
Chao collection: 3-M-2-1 (M standing for the map chao)
Team: Sonic+Tails

This is probably the level that required the most thought in team selection. At this stage the levels are short enough that there is no way known that one team will be so much faster that it is worthwhile to go back to the Factory Ring and switch to them (and switch back later for unlocking a character!). However, you don't lose any time by leading with Tails+Sonic, and if you went with them for the whole zone, you would only have to switch once, so you'd only lose time on that one switch. However, Route 99 2 is a very vertical level in terms of the path you have to take, and there's enough timed elements in all three that you wouldn't gain a great deal of time with Boost mode, and you'd lose more time on the switch.

The special key issue is the major reason for the route planning. In both acts 3 and (especially)  2, the last Chao in the act is too close to the end to allow there to be two key locations that spawn at opposite times, to give you a 100% chance of walking out of the level with a key. Act 1, however, has two locations between the third Chao and the end, and you don't even have to do anything other than complete the level normally. So I work through starting from act 3, and go backwards after each (the position the game drops you in after each act makes this really convenient). Guaranteed key after act 1, and you're right next to the special stage after that. Easy!

ROUTE 99 3 (1'06"58) [-0"79 compared to rejected run]
I'm including these comparisons just so you can see just how much I've improved since the last run.
[0'02] Momentum takes a little bit of getting used to in this game. I guess I'd liken it to P-speed in Mario 3; once you've been running a certain length of time you get boost mode, but there's actually two different speeds at which this can occur. It's very much a feel thing to work out which one of these speeds you're at at any given time, but of course you always start at the lower speed. Jumping off this rail (or jumping during any long stretch, actually) will cause you to move to the higher speed and go just that little bit faster.
[0'14] It would actually be slightly quicker to jump off the upside-down run just as it starts to curve, and roll through the 10 ring box and the Chao. What normally happens with that, though, is you bounce off the 10 ring box and miss the Chao, which is an automatic restart.
[0'53] Neat little trick here: you can jump out of the corkscrews, which saves having to tag action up to the pulley.
[1'03] Tricking off this spring causes you to enter boost mode very quickly on the home stretch. I'm not entirely sure why it's this quick, but I'll take it.

ROUTE 99 2 (1'02"35) [-0"35]
[0'03] I'm using the three rings as my guide here. I try and tag action from the second ring, that way I don't have to hold anything at all on the way up.
[0'11] I have to wait for the platform I just triggered to come down, release R really quickly after landing on that platform, so that I just have enough height to hit the spring. Then since I'm hitting it from underneath, I don't have the height to get on the next platform, so I trick upwards to gain the additional height.
[0'17] I'm supposed to slide to the right, obviously, but messed up. I'm in a really tight race with a timed object later in the level, so this actually matters quite a bit.
[0'31] Those spikes over there. If you get here about half a second quicker then the spikes are down and you can jump straight through and tag up to the top path for the end. However, I didn't even get my jump off anyway, I accidentally hit B instead! It worked out really well though because then the spikes were down again and I had a fully charged tag, but it did mean I was down a couple of seconds.
[0'39] This platform here lets me make up much of my lost time – if I get here early I spend more time flying up to the platform so the gain isn't as big.
[0'51] Missed Boost mode... since I don't get it before this first spring, I don't get it until about halfway down the slope. This causes Sonic to move further right on the screen, which makes it harder to gauge the jump to the last Chao.

ROUTE 99 1 (1'00"37) [-9"58]
[0'03] This jump is kinda tricky, it needs to be slightly off the ramp but not too much so, otherwise you clear the corner and fly over the top of the Chao, which is even worse than it initially appears because you need to use the next platform to spindash. If it goes too low you obviously can't do that.
[0'49] Argh, so close! I would have gained about a second and a half if I had tricked just a few frames later...
[0'58] If the game had given me the other key, this is where I would have picked it up: right next to the spring at the end.

Stupidly easy. 240 is max, I used to go for as few rings as possible here, but after I lost a run due to being too fancy I went back to basics and collected everything. These stages are similar to Sonic 2's special stages, they're mostly on a fixed timer, but there is one way you can speed them up: those blue boost loops that you fly through. However, even on the later levels, they're all really easy to get, so it's more a case of losing time if you miss one. You should always get them all.

ROUTE 99 BOSS (1'02"60) [+0"13]
[0'08] I started timing my hits with the music on this boss, it seems to help with getting the timing right.
[0'28] I don't know why the game is stupid enough to allow this strategy to work. Tails hits the boss from underneath, as it attempts to crush you. If you have one ring, it will always fall to the left, and if you're facing right you'll always fall to the left, so as long as you face right every time you get hit, you'll do this boss no problem, just as quickly as I did here.

This is one of my better starts; my real time after Route 99 was 7:57. 7:55 I consider to be basically a dream start, so I'm going pretty well in the early stages.

Chao collection: 1-M-3-2
Team: Sonic+Tails

The team is non-negotiable here, you need Sonic as leader to unlock Knuckles, and even if you didn't need to unlock all the characters, Knuckles is absolutely required in Ocean Base for a 100%.

SUNSET HILL 1 (0'48"08) [+0"40]
[0'04] This looks really slow, but it's a risk hedging strategy. Sometimes what will happen here is Sonic will simply run over the top of the switch and run straight off the loop, which is no good to me at all. So I slide to make sure that I both hit the switch and am able to get back to the spring in quick time.
[0'05] And then this time it didn't work! I was slightly too far away for a slide to hit the spring.
[0'36] Again, I'm in a race with these timed objects. I just managed to pull this off, but the ideal case is that you catch the first platform at the bottom and tag straight off it onto the rail.

SUNSET HILL 3 (1'09"13) [+0"98]
Lots of tag actions in this one. If it weren't for that damn third Chao it would be possible to take a much quicker route here... oh well.

[0'14] Because of the position of this moving platform in its cycle, it might actually be slower to do the first 14 seconds as quickly as I do. If it's not in the way you can just jump straight into the next corridor and hit the Chao at a low 16.
[0'29] This jump is just so I can see where the wall ends and where I should use the tag.

Knuckles unlocked!

The tag on the way to act 2 is pretty much just showoffery. It looks really neat when you pick up Tails just before the edge, and get the tag action off before falling off the edge (which would result in flying instead). I do a similar jump from act 2 to the special stage, too!

SUNSET HILL 2 (0'57"22) [-0"61]
Worth noting that I beat my time in the rejected run despite...
[0'32] Route change! I discovered a second key location up at the top of the level here. I've worked out that it costs about 8 seconds to take this path, but it's worth it for the consistency.
[0'41] And the key was up here, too, so if I had been playing my old route the run would be over at this point.

SUNSET HILL BOSS (0'44"80) [-2"85]
This guy kills so many more runs than he should. He's slightly unpredictable: after you hit him he'll roll back in the other direction, either fast or slow. You have to be prepared for both, and you also have to be prepared for the platform in the middle to get in the way and completely ruin you. I was really lucky here, he rolled back fast almost every time. Fast is better than slow because if he does more than two slow rollbacks he ends up on the left wall, and if he gets high enough that you can't see him then it makes landing a hit very difficult.
[0'26] Like what happened here on hit 8. It doesn't really matter though since I can reach him again before my invincibility period runs out. Hit 8 is always the same: Robotnik rolls around the screen in one direction at a fixed pace.

The final time depends a lot on luck: both in how easy it is to get the 8 hits on him and in how quickly Robotnik leaves the arena. This was about average overall.

Chao collection: 1-2-3
Team: Knuckles+Tails

Mandated switch to Knuckles here because he has to collect one particular Chao in Ocean Base 1 (behind a breakable wall that only Knuckles can break). Knuckles+Sonic can't glide (he does a headbutt attack instead) which leaves Knuckles+Tails as the only viable option for act 1 (not to mention 2!). And the way this level is set up, there is absolutely no way that going back to the Factory Ring and switching makes any sense, so it's K+T all the way!

OCEAN BASE 1 (1'35"38) [+0"55]
I highly recommend taking a look at the map of this level to make sense of the route: . You'll have to zoom in a bit to see the Chao, because they're quite small. There's four in all, and if you use the run as well as the map you should be able to find them all. There's a very conveniently placed chute between the first Chao I pick up and the third, but it takes far too long to scale, and the alternative, dropping down and scaling the level a second time, also takes too long. So the fastest route is actually what I do here: collect the first, backtrack, collect the second, backtrack, collect the third, backtrack. After that it's pretty straightforward.

[0'21] The first five seconds after collecting the first Chao are kinda slow, but it doesn't make the slightest bit of difference because I'm waiting on another timed object late in the level.
[0'58] This block is the timed object in question. It ends up being practically in the perfect place.
[1'23] This looks like a mistake, falling down to the bottom without stopping seems intuitively faster. However, the game won't let me start charging another tag until I hit the ground, so by stopping midway I can get out almost straight away.
[1'26] This, on the other hand, is a mistake. Taking the hit was intentional, but I was meant to move a bit further right – the knockback would then have put me on the platform, from which I can make my way to the end very quickly. Ended up losing six seconds to that.

OCEAN BASE 2 (1'49"30) [-7"55]
[0'00] I actually thought I was starting Ocean Base 3 for the first second or so... I'm meant to jump after my spindash.
[0'23] Now, this annoyed me. I was a little bit behind my usual time here because of the screwups at the start, so I decided that I wouldn't risk going past the block on the immediate cycle that I got to it. But it turned out I could have comfortably got through. :(
[1'35] This isn't a mistake, I hit this enemy on purpose. I got sick of losing runs because the crusher was in the worst possible position and crushed me just as I ran through, so I decided to take the hit here so I could have a look at where it was.
[1'39] Again, slightly missed my damage boost. This one isn't as big a deal though.

OCEAN BASE 3 (1'09"07) [+0"60]
[0'26] This might look like a mistake, given I do nothing for about half a second, but I'm waiting for that enemy to fire his shot downwards. If I jump straight away all I'll do is run straight into it.
[1'02] Another route change, this one only very slight. Turns out there's a second key location just above the surface of the water! I got the later one in this run but it only costs about two seconds to check for the other one.

On my way to the boss, after the Special Stage, I do a neat trick with the tag action. You will lose your tag action if you go up too steep a slope, but on a shallow enough slope you gain just enough height to reach that ledge. This has one more use in the run, in a couple of minutes.

OCEAN BASE BOSS (0'59"48) [+8"00]
The time for this boss is heavily luck-based, based on both what attack he does and where he does it.The previous run had the best attack twice, and the second time he attacked at the far right edge of the screen, which explains the discrepancy.

[0'15] Got unlucky here with the boss tucking his legs under. I discovered though, that even if he does this you can still get two hits, thanks to the K+T additional height before starting a glide.
[0'26] Wasn't expecting him to drop so soon and therefore got hit. The time lost from that is the difference between hit 7 and hit 8, a bit over two seconds.

Chao collection: 3-M-2-1
Team: Sonic+Tails

Back to the old standby here. Once again, Sonic needs to be out front to unlock Amy.

TOY KINGDOM 3 (1'28"17) [-17"68]
Massive improvements start here. In Toy Kingdom in particular, I made a real effort to learn the positions of all the timed objects, so that I knew exactly how much risk I had to take in any given area. This is the scariest zone in the entire run, because you can be killed by just about any rising/falling block.
[0'46] Here's the other place where I use that trick. I hit slightly too high on the ramp though, so I lost my tag and had to charge it again. Thankfully I still had enough time to land on the falling block and make the jump across.

TOY KINGDOM 2 (1'21"52) [-21"68]
This level comes in even better than what I estimated to be a perfect time when I started this attempt!
[0'02] Hitting those balloons resets my tag, so I can recharge it quicker.
[0'10] This is why the level is so fast. Normally I just fly under the block and wait for it to go down and back up, but I decided on the fly that I had loads of time and would try to pass under the block using the rotating grip thing on the side.
[0'30] Have to be really careful around these sections, because the physics can be really glitchy around moving blocks. As an example, if the block is at the bottom position and is rising as you reach it, the block stops you, as it should. But as it moves up, once there's enough room for Sonic to go through, the game still thinks Sonic's moving right... and crushes him between the block and the ground. In this particular instance I'd never got to this area at this exact time before, so I wasn't exactly sure where the blocks would be. However, I knew the basic principle behind them, which is that you have to wait about six seconds for it to reach the same point in its cycle, and I knew that when taking the safer route you normally jump on the block ahead at 37. So I aimed to get there at 31 and it worked a treat.
[0'49] Similarly, I knew I had to reach this one at about 50 seconds to get onto this block in time, which I did comfortably.
[1'11] This block, on the other hand, has a four-second cycle time, not six. I knew that if I was one cycle behind this I would really have to rush to catch this one in time, so by being one cycle ahead I knew I had plenty of leeway and just took it easy.

TOY KINGDOM 1 (1'10"87) [-22"76]
[0'06] Went straight past the Chao here, this is all luck whether it lets you in or not. Makes no difference, because I'm waiting on a platform anyway... as long as you get it on the way down. If you miss on the way down too, you lose a whole cycle.
[0'20] Whoops, tricked too soon. Again, doesn't really make a difference, because of timed objects coming up.
[0'48] Glitchy physics at their finest! Jumping from a high platform like this occasionally makes you come to a dead stop. In this case it wasn't too costly, thankfully.
[1'06] Rolling down the slope like this isn't faster in the short run, but because taking the cup all the way to the other side only takes you to the nearest part of the final platform, it's faster overall. There's three different speeds that this ramp can launch you at: it will either land you just in front of the goal ring, right on top of it (!!) or over the top, as it did in this run.

TOY KINGDOM BOSS (2'05"55) [+4"18]
Oh boy. Random boss time! Each time you attack this boss, it does one of three attacks in response: launches a jack-in-the-box (best, takes 4"67 to become vulnerable again), launches a wrecking ball (10"32), or launches G-mel out as a bomb (worst, 12"47). There's absolutely no rhyme or reason to his attacks, except that the jack in the box becomes less likely the longer the fight goes on, to the point where on the last three hits it's not possible to get at all. 2 minutes isn't bad here, I've had runs with really bad luck blow out past 2'20, and runs with good luck go as low as 1'45, and there's nothing you can do about it.

Chao collection: 1-M-2-3
Team: Sonic+Tails, Knuckles+Sonic

More on the team selection a bit later. If you can't think of an obvious point at which to switch teams, well, don't think about it too hard, just watch.

TWINKLE SNOW 1 (1'16"65) [-3"98]
[0'16] My initial jump was too small so I had to tag up to the Chao to save it. Didn't lose much time though actually.
[0'42] Just missed this jump, but that's not too bad a result really. The ideal case if you jump off at just the right angle takes you straight to the booster up ahead.
[0'50] Completing charging a tag action will cause you to fall through a rail, just like this. In instances like this where you need to use it just underneath a rail, this is the quickest way to do it, it's just a case of learning the timing. If you charge the tag action too early, it will begin charging from scratch once you hit the rail, which costs a lot of time.

TWINKLE SNOW 2 (1'29"83) [-7"12]
[0'21] Nope, too far up the slope. Costs maybe two seconds.
[0'29] And then tagged too early, costing another two seconds. I should have just used the weight instead to get me up there quicker...
[0'52] Another route change! This route much more closely resembles the any% route, going up through all the boosters and then down through the rails to the bottom.
[1'06] If you go into any of these scripted events while charging your tag (or fully charged, as shown here), when you jump out, your tag will charge much faster. I think it's a 1 second charge versus a 1.5 second charge.
[1'27] I used to trick across to this second spring, but charging and releasing an aerial tag is much safer and doesn't cost you any speed. Basically when you release the aerial tag Tails moves into the position Sonic was occupying and it places Sonic directly below Tails. However, if there's a solid floor underneath you, the game can't put Sonic below Tails and it just drops him instead. It's a completely different story if there's a sprite underneath you, though... see Cyber Track 3.

TWINKLE SNOW 3 (1'11"97) [-1"00]
With the route improvements I have made to the run, this is now the only level that requires a 50/50 shot at a key. And it comes 45 minutes into the run. Tension!
[0'35] The margin for error on this trick is much bigger than it must appear from what you see here.
[0'37] It's actually possible, if you're really, really fast and make absolutely no mistakes, to catch this platform at a low enough point that you can squeeze under it with a spindash. However, I tried this on a previous run and instead of passing through, I got crushed... so I like to just play it safe.
[1'06] And the key is there! If it's not there I have to kill myself off at this one enemy and respawn at the previous checkpoint, which costs over 20 seconds. And then there's no guarantee it'll appear the next time...

Now, after the special stage, I drop right next to the Factory Ring! Here is where I make the switch. This makes the overworld section through to the boss much quicker. You will also notice a trick here. Discovered by nitsuja in the making of the TAS, if you release R while Sonic is charged up, and press A on the same frame, you will jump as you boost. Even if you're in mid-air! And how can you guarantee that you'll release R and press A on the same frame? Simply release A and hold R, then pause, release R and hold A, and the trick will always work!

I do pause longer in this run than in my older run, though. This is due to a hardware change: I started using a classic GBA instead of a GBA SP, because the SP had a nasty habit of turning itself off at really key moments in runs, for no reason at all. But the classic GBA's pause button is in a really awkward spot, such that I actually have to change my grip on the controller to hold A and the direction I want to go, and unpause.

TWINKLE SNOW BOSS (0'44"32) [+0"33]
This boss has killed runs before. He really shouldn't, because it's one of the few bosses in the game (the other exception probably being Route 99) that isn't a complete random-fest. What the trouble is though, is that you move around so quickly with momentum that you really don't spend long on one platform before you have to jump off it again. Jump just a little bit early and you're in big trouble. Really measured jumping clears this with no problem. It is possible to get all eight hits without him turning around and using the spikeball, but it only saves four seconds and it's a much riskier strategy, so I avoid it.

Chao collection: 1-M-2-3
Team: Knuckles+Sonic, Sonic+Tails

Okay, going back over the timing, it takes about 14 seconds to switch to Knuckles+Sonic. It's going to take even longer to switch back because I'm coming from further away. That's 30 seconds I have to make up in this level and the Twinkle Snow overworld, because it is demonstrable that the Twinkle Snow boss doesn't go faster no matter who you use. Now I can only make up 15 seconds on this level... so why switch? Two reasons, firstly I liked the variety, and wanted to show off the double jump and boost trick. The second reason concerns a run of this game I made on an emulator a number of years ago while testing. In this version of the game (unlike every other game I own, this is the European version of the game, as indicated by the serial code. I bought it from a brick and mortar store on release day... they must have imported copies) I can collect the third Chao in Cyber Track 1 without a power character. In the emulated run I did, which is presumably using the US version of the game, I did require a power character. An interesting anomaly, and one I decided to circumvent so a good-intentioned, yet ill-informed verifier didn't call me out on it.

Of course, now I've written that, I think that the wall would have taken more hits to break if it required power, so it would be different anyway. Oh well.

CYBER TRACK 1 (0'48"23) [-8"55]
[0'08] Third and final use of the pausing trick. Now I don't have to worry about it any more.
[0'29] It's actually this wall, on the right hand side, that a Sonic+Tails team (or any other team) could sneak through and grab the Chao in. That actually makes for quite an interesting route through the level, because I think you pick it up with reverse gravity.

CYBER TRACK 2 (0'53"57) [-15"60]
[0'07] Again, I touched the ramp too high up so I lost my tag. But again, it doesn't really matter.
[0'19] And I tricked way too early on this spring, whoops.
[0'49] But going any faster doesn't make a difference because I have to wait for this block to get out of my way anyway.

CYBER TRACK 3 (2'01"08) [-7"35]
This level is full of really awesome tricks.
[0'14] Missed the blind tag up to the Chao, so had to use an extra tag.
[0'30] These sections aren't really great at determining which way you're supposed to go... the triggers to switch you to reverse gravity and to switch back to normal gravity aren't in the same place, so you can trick the game into sending you upwards, then go through and switch back to normal gravity and pick up the last Chao.
[0'42] There's a key just after these three rings here... but it's not there. Which means I need to go and get the other one, which is only a couple of seconds off route.
[0'51] Except I completely forgot to jump over the obstacles here.
[1'10] Tricky move here. The way this works is: when you unleash the flying tag action, Tails takes the place of Sonic, and pushes Sonic down below him. In this case, if you unleash close enough to the ground, it pushes Sonic straight into the teleporter from the wrong direction! Took me three attempts to land.
[1'19] I've had attempts get this far where I will fall straight through this rail and die. If you pass through a rail at a very specific angle sometimes you just fall straight through it – this is actually beneficial in some places, but certainly not here! Using just a one tap spindash changes the angle you land at, so you'll never fall through the rail this way.
[1'30] And using the same trick to get up to the boss room.
[1'48] Really lucky fight, normally G-mel uses much more time consuming attacks. However, unlike any other form, in his Cyber Track form he's invincible while standing still.
The high jump up to the boss room here saves me jumping in the teleporter and going slowly around that way.

CYBER TRACK BOSS (1'24"02) [-21"98]
I love the design of this boss, I really do. I just hate that I have to face it after an hour of non-stop platforming! Basically what's going on is that for each hit you get, the interval between shots gets smaller. What this means is that if you got every hit at the first attempt, you would be able to determine a pattern for where all the shots you want are going to come from. Miss just one, though (which is very easy with the poor hit/angle detection, not to mention Tails stealing hits from you), and the whole thing goes to shit. You'll notice me using both jumps and slides, and you'll also notice that neither gives me anything resembling a reliable angle of deflection.

[0'09] I got a really bad angle on this hit, but I knew that it would go on to hit Robotnik eventually, so I just let it run its course. Hits are hard enough to come by on this boss... and I really only know where to stand for the first three hits anyway. The rest is just improvising.

Chao collection: 1-2-M-3
Team: Sonic+Tails, Knuckles+Amy

Knuckles+Amy is for Chaos Angel 3. They're not the only team that can skip the platforms and beat the level fast, but they're by far the safest. I particularly like having a safe strategy with less than ten minutes to go in a run that's already been in progress for over an hour.

Also, in retrospect, 2-1-3 is probably a shade faster...

CHAOS ANGEL 1 (2'16"03) [-6"19]
[1'03] Whoops, tagged just a little bit too early here.
[1'14] This loop is really finicky about whether it lets you in with a tag action or not. I have no idea what causes it to reliably work, I've never managed to find anything.
[1'24] Slightly too late on the jump here, have to fly up slowly instead.
[1'59] Holy shit! Holding left as you're approaching a landing like this is a VERY BAD IDEA. I actually wanted to land on the moving platform instead, which was why I was doing that in the first place. Thankfully I was holding R all the way (because you have to charge a tag for the next part) and saved myself before I fell too far. Lost something like 15 seconds though...

Now, the jump just after I leave CA1 is why I'm thinking 2 first might be quicker. I'm not convinced it's actually possible to make this jump; the game doesn't give you back control for a split second after you return to the map. So you have to tag your way back up and then go up the regular path. On the other hand, instead, you could charge a tag as soon as you enter CA, go up the small hole in the ceiling towards act 2, pick up the map Chao on the way down and then do act 1. Then when you fall in the hole you would just spindash left and use the spring to get out.

CHAOS ANGEL 2 (2'14"93) [-3"89]
[0'09] No idea how this happened. I'm positive I was holding up.
[1'10] Really careful around here because I've fallen in that pit before, and it takes a lot of time and effort to get back up, which you have to do because there's a Chao coming up on this path.
[1'43] Jumped off this ramp for some reason... no idea what I was thinking.
[2'05] This is another place where I've lost runs... my visual cue is that third pole in the background, if I land near that I know I'm safe.

After this I grab the map Chao and switch to Knuckles+Amy.

CHAOS ANGEL 3 (1'06"33) [-21"66]
[0'02] A very short jump and glide at the start here guarantees landing at a particular spot on the wall which makes the next jump much easier than it might otherwise be.
[0'09] But I made the jump a lot lower than I wanted to... now it becomes really close with the upcoming spikes. Just made it though!
[0'42] I could have spindashed off here but I'm hopeful that there'll be a key in open space just ahead, and I don't want to jump clear over it. It was there too, which saves a good ten seconds. The other key is on the last platform ride and you have to sit on it for quite a while.

Now the game takes me straight up to the Chaos Angel boss so who am I to deny it? I don't need all the Chaos Emeralds right now, just when I go back the second time.

CHAOS ANGEL BOSS (0'47"82) [-15"60]
[0'04] Waiting on this side of the platform because otherwise, Robotnik will simply turn around straight away. Hammer attacks are safest for the first four hits.
[0'14] I told Quartz I was having issues with this boss, and within one attempt he came up with this. Simply hanging onto a wall puts you out of range of any of his attacks!
[0'34] This was perfect, except at the end I turned around to face left. All that means is that I have to turn around before I spindash though, so it hardly matters. It might have been quicker to let him keep moving right for a second or so so he would be in a better position when he died, but sometimes the boss will switch sides of the main platform and then you're screwed.

ALTAR EMERALD (1'00"40) [-15"65]
[0'08] I have no idea why this attack didn't work. Straight after this the game proceeds to screw me even further by not giving me a ring. I ended up fluking the third hit, thankfully.
[0'31] Worst luck possible – both hands go down the middle and take out the middle two platforms. This makes it really hard to continue to get hits, though I should have got that third one, no idea how I missed. I play it safe after that and don't mess around while the hands are in the way, getting hit pretty much equals death.
[0'44] Once again, I get hit and can't pick up a ring. Given I have no idea how these things hit you, the next ten seconds are really, -really- tense. But I got by it! Somehow!

So, after that, my time was 1:08:55, which I knew put me within range of sub 1:20.


Team: Sonic+Knuckles

Now, curiously, the game puts me back in Route 99! Were either of Route 99 2 or 3 kinder with their keys, I would actually save this emerald for this trip, since it's quite close to the Factory Ring. But there's not much point saving it when you're already right there the first time around.

Return to Chaos Angel, and pick up the seventh Chaos Emerald without incident. The jumps and dashes up to the Altar Emerald ring are quite finicky, you need to dash from the absolute height of the jump, and be right next to the platform, which is why I spend a second lining the first one up.

Now for the final boss rush...

I didn't include the death from the rejected run in the time comparison, which is roughly 70 seconds of real time saved. Same goes for Cyber Track 3 (except that the time saved there is much smaller).
[0'16] I actually stand deliberately in this position for this exact reason. This attack is designed to be a surprise attack, but if you're ready for it it's the easiest to deal damage on. Except in the first fight in this run, apparently.
[0'33] And the left hand moves away from the middle! This fight is a gimmie now.
[0'42] If it looks like I'm delaying my shot a bit here, it's because the shield actually applies much longer than it looks like it does.

Super Sonic!

NONAGGRESSION (1'23"99) [-11"93]
This is the stupidest final boss name ever. Just thought you should all know that. Anyway, I've got my timer running alongside me and I work out that I need to hit about a 58 second time to sub 1:20. Based on my previous runs, it's going to be touch and go.
[0'02] And then I miss my first attack... My cue here is the first set of four rings, after I see the fourth one I'm supposed to hold down and then fire the shot. I fired slightly too early though, so I got hit at the same time, leaving me not enough time to get the hit in.
[0'06] And then I dropped Robotnik too early. Guess we can write it off now...
[0'38] It's actually possible to get a hit in here while he's moving his hands into position to fire the laser, but I got the positioning all wrong.
[0'51] And another miss! I have eight hits right now, I should have 11, or maybe even 12 if I had managed the laser hit.
[1'16] Once you have ten hits the smaller laser attack starts rotating around like this. It always makes about a rotation and a half, so once you skip past it once you're free to charge up again.

Looking back, it seems pretty ridiculous that I even accepted a run that was five full minutes slower than this one. I simply did not know the levels well enough, and it showed. Before I even started recording attempts on this one, I had been practicing on my train ride to work (my commute is about 90 minutes, so it conveniently fit a run of this length in) and I was consistently beating my old run, still with a number of deaths. But it was the consistency that I built up by playing this way that made an improvement of this magnitude possible – I would accept whatever mistakes I made and just continue to play through to the finish. I think there's a lot to be said for practicing the later stages of a game in your early practice sessions, and that's the lesson I take from this run.

I hope you enjoyed this run, and if you felt so inclined, I hope you enjoyed reading my 8000-word commentary too!

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