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Released in December 1989, Capcom's Willow was an extreme anomaly in its day (and a rarity even now) — a movie-to-game translation that not only didn't suck, but ended up arguably more memorable than the movie it was based on. Taking control of Willow Ufgood, it's your task to uncurse Fin Raziel, the Messenger of Earth, and defeat the evil Bavmorda, Messenger of the Skies.


Best time: Single-segment 1:18:27 by Jeff Feasel on 2013-06-18.

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Author's comments:

Willow is a lovely game. Sort of a crude but charming pre-cursor to ALTTP. Planning the route was a fun project, and once I got past the usual bad-RNG issues I was able to get a pretty solid run that you see here. I made a couple menu and movement mistakes but they didn't cost much time overall, so I'm willing to live with them given how well everything else went.

Most of the movement optimization is pretty straight-forward. There's barely any fighting in this run (besides bosses and the XP grind in the towers). I think I only kill a couple optional enemies to earn some MP drops. Most of the challenge in this game comes from route planning, logistical issues (how much XP/HP/MP do I need where), a couple tricky boss fights, and a lot of damage boosting.

The damage boosting is really the big thing -- you're going to take damage; it's unavoidable. And it is almost always faster to damage boost than to fight. As long as you have budgeted enough HP/MP for each section you'll be fine, but you need to develop techniques for doing the boosts in as few hits as possible. The wildcard factor in all of this is the monster spawn RNG. On each screen there is only one possible monster set, but it is random whether you get monsters or nothing at all (based on the frame you enter each screen - so essentially unmanipulatable). Best case, you get no encouters. Worst case, you get so many encounters with unavoidable damage that it's impossible to get through the game using the speedrun route. I lost quite a few runs simply due to too many random encounters.

I planned the route from scratch before looking at other videos. I figured out what all the advancement triggers are and tried everything with the minimal equipment set. Turns out this game is extremely linear, and all speedrun routes are going to be very similar. The only way in which runs might differ is how they earn their XP (you must be level 13 to beat the game) and which of the optional equipment they get. I got some ideas from Emptyeye's SDA run and Portal_of_Rain's TAS, though I eventually settled on a route that is somewhere in between the two.

Things that I did differently from the previous WR run:
* Skipping the Ring. The Ring increases attack power, making the boss fights safer and faster, but ultimately not worth the time to pick up.
* Skipping the Scale, Dragon Sword, and Dragon Shield. The shield makes the cactus boss fight extremely easy and fast, but the overall cost of obtaining it is not worth it.
* Farming the yellow bubbles that multiply in the tower in order to earn XP. More than twice as fast as the old technique of killing the faces on the way to Nockmaar. It also allows me to do the Death Moutain / Two Caves areas at a much higher level, so I can be more reckless in those difficult sections.
* Fighting Kael before visiting Fin Raziel. This lets me use the 8000 XP from that boss towards the 40000ish that I need to reach level 13. It involves having to make an extra trip in to Nockmaar, but that is still far quicker than grinding 8000 XP from enemies.
* Making fewer visits to the healers. This is just a result of better HP/MP management.

Things I could have done, but didn't:
* Death warps. If someone wants to do a run with deaths I'd be happy to help you plan it, but my intention here is to do the game in a single life. I would probably suggest that death-warps be considered a separate category since the route would be quite different.
* Skipping the Long Sword and delaying the Wooden Shield and Healmace until after Bogarda. Because you can't level up to 2 before doing the Gold Statue area, you are foreced to do TWO frame-perfect damage boosts to get through the two snakemen. Though I can do the boost occassionally, the chances of gettting both boosts in a run seemed too low to attempt. It's not impossible, though, so maybe we'll see it one day.
* Using the TAS method of grinding. Manipulating those dividing enemies near Nockmaar so you can kill 8 of them and pick up all their MP drops simultaneously right at the edge of the screen (which is what allows the MP-innaccuracy glitch to be used) is a lot harder than it looks.
* Maybe a faster strat on the cactus boss? This fight takes forever without the Dragon equipment. Anything that can be done to speed it up is worth considering. I didn't find anything faster than this method that doesn't involve insane close-range spike dodging (similar to what the TAS does).

Gold Statue and Bogarda Cave:
Pretty much went as planned. You've got to hope you get slimes to spawn in that first screen because otherwise earning 150 XP before the 2nd town is pretty slow. 150 XP is needed because you have to be level 2 to use the healmace and to have 40 HP to boost through the two snakemen. The boss fight was not great. I played it a bit safer than usual -- even at level 2 with no Ring you should be able to do this boss about twice as fast.

Blue Cave:
I got turned to a pig. What a fantastic waste of 10 seconds. It happens at random, and I typically reset if I get pigged more than once in a run (which didn't happen this time). On the way back I take an alternative route to avoid this room, but on the way in I have to go this way because that's where the flame sword is. Everyting else in this section goes as planned.

Waste Of Time:
That's what I call this section because there is almost nothing of any speedrun value in it. The purpose of this part of the game is to make you wander all over the place talking to people just to find the series of triggers that unlocks the Wakka seed, which you need to get past the lake. This is where you pick up the Devil Eye Sword, which is the only weapon that will harm certain enemies (which are worth way more XP than regular enemies and also drop MP refills). I'll be switching on and off the Devil Eye Sword throughout the run. Also I make a brief navigational error near where you pick up the Key -- all these screens look alike. A few seconds lost. Sadly I'm only human.

Water Cave:
Good section overall. I strike the Pig-Wizard-Zombies even though they aren't in my way because it seems to reduce the likelyhood that they'll turn you into a pig. In fact I think if you strike them quickly enough after entering the screen it will guarantee you won't get pigged. The cactus boss is the hardest fight in the game besides Bavmorda (if you don't have Dragon Shield). The dodging strategy I use here is pretty reliable once you get the hang of it. There may be a better strategy out there, but don't forget that for every hit you inflict the boss will shoot a set of 8 spikes (during which time he's invincible). So if you hit him N times he'll shoot 8*N spikes with only a brief moment of vulnerability between sets. So any sort of strategy that inflicts hits at a much faster rate than what I'm doing here is going to have to deal with the fact he will never stop firing and you'll have to spend the entire fight dodging spikes at close range.

Towers and XP Grind:
Lots of walking with very little gameplay content (a phrase that describes about half of this game). The only thing of note in this section is the XP grinding. The yellow bubbles are worth 90 XP each. You can't have more than 4 of them on the screen at once or else they'll all run away. To set up the grind method I get one of the bubbles to divide then I manipulate the 2 of them into stacking directly on top of each other. After that they'll divide into 2 groups of 2 automatically every 5 seconds, and I just kill one of the two groups (for 180 XP) each iteration. It's just a matter of keeping them stacked and not losing control. The manipulation to stack the slimes requires taking a good deal of damage (coupled with the fact that you will be drained of MP every time they divide), so the real trick to the setup is just making sure you come in with enough MP. I grind up to 26000 since I'll be able to make 5000 and 8000 from the next two bosses (and the remaining 9XX from a few odd enemies that I'll kill for MP refills).

Death Mountain and Red/Purple Caves
This is by far the hardest section of the game. Getting too many encounters will usually kill you since pretty much every encounter here is forced damage when you're using speed strats. Visiting the Bar to heal at the start is optional, however if you skip it you will mostly likely have to visit the healer in the middle of death mountain instead (who gives you Thunder). The healer's dialog is a lot longer than the Bar's dialog (and I don't need Thunder anyway), so I just visit the Bar and skip the healer. The area between the Red and Purple caves is pretty terrible. The rocks and the red skeletons do an incredible amount of damage, and I have to pass through this corridor 3 times since it's necessary to backtrack in order to trigger advancement. I normally kill 3 enemies here for MP drops (which allows me 2 extra heals) but I took such a massive amount of damage that I had to waste a few seconds farming 2 more MP drops just to heal an extra time in case I got terrible spawns on the final bridge (which fortunately didn't happen).

Tir Asleen Vicinity
The old lady on the mountain is a trigger to enter Tir Asleen castle. The castle is necessary because you need the Dust you get after the boss (plus the road to Nockmaar is blocked off until Tir Asleen is done). The castle and boss are easy. The old-lady section just before the castle and the Green Cave just after the castle are both full of powerful monsters, however with 2 uses of Specter you can breeze past all of it. Regrettably I lost a few seconds in front of the castle because I thought for a moment that I'd forgotten something. Ugly, but I'm not about to throw away the run over it.

The ascent into Nockmaar is really quick with 2 casts of Specter. With enough HP, you could potentially skip visiting the healer before ascending and just kill the red bubbles for MP, but I'm not sure that works out to be faster. I enter Nockmaar 3 times. The first time is for the bird-guy, who is a trigger for obtaining the key to the lower floors of Nockmaar. The second time is to kill Kael, who gives you enough XP to reach level 13. Then after powering up the Cane magic (needed for Bavmorda), you come back to defeat the final boss. Bavmorda's first form is pretty dangerous. You have just enough MP to defeat her if you don't miss any shots with the Cane. However she drops these stationary fireballs that absorb your projectiles, and she will often chose to drop the fireball right in front of your face without warning, thus wasting a Cane shot and ending your run. I leave myself a little bit of space between Willow and the wall so that I'll have room to back up if she does this and I notice it in time. First form went flawlessly, but the second form was pretty dicey. There is a rhythm you must maintain to keep her locked. However I botched that rhythm pretty early on and just decided to mash it out and hope she died before I did. A pretty wild ending to a run that was otherwise very much according-to-script.

I hope you enjoy the run. This was a fun project and an interesting break from my usual work.

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