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News from April through June, 2017. [Newer | Older]

Monday, May 22, 2017 by LotBlind

The Stragglers

Daylight had broken. Almost. The last fading embers, transformed from a youthful, pale birch into gaudy, poignant shades of the upper tiers of rainbows; sizzling in the extreme, a devilish red; now softening ang graying like the twilight of man; committed their nightly act of untroubling, lay unstirred, eagerly prepared an un-ceremony for a final self-effaced donation to that which remained. Here took the nightwatch measured sips of sanguine vintage, reflecting on how much bogus philosophy was actually warranted by eighteen "cartfuls" of runs, laden three abreast and issued four times a fortnight, but deciding that like the wine, the night's accomplishments deserved to be relished a tad longer. Switching sides, the man peered leaned a benumbed foot against the age-rounded crenelations of a castle built on swampy grounds, and slowly swept along a merlon as swept his tongue against those in its cave. Unsure how much of the illuminating scene was allegorical, how much of it sheer bogus, eyes shifted from the open terrain down towards the moat and the drawbridge, whence emanated the familiar creaking of the windlass as one last trolley was being released on its dusty way.

Then he died or something. Look, it's not like the mood wasn't about to get trampled flat anyway by the final batch runs from 2017's Big PushTM where dreams became reality. Very select ones at least. If you squinted while rapidly flicking the lights on an off. One of the runs has a JRPG-type vaguely olden times high fantasy setting but the other two, by Jove!, could hardly be pneumatically compressed into an artefact of the pre-Renaissance.

I don't even know where to begin. I'd best get Steve 'Elipsis' Barrios's offering of The Typing of the Dead: Overkill's Bitch difficulty premier (in 1:17:27) out of the way first. Sega published the fifth House of the Dead in 2009. I hadn't even heard there'd been a fourth one at any point, but that's because the fourth never got home-ported until 2012. The year after there was Typing: Overkill, a kind of conjoined head where the mutants (don't say the Z-word!) wear nametags that you type on your portable keyboard to put them down. The dev team for this one was founded by two virtual entertainment luminaires and Fellows of the Royal Society of Arts, the Oliver Twins... except their company filed for bankruptcy before they were finished; Sega, however, granted a continuation licence and funded the new team called Headstrong Games which then rounded the second Typing game off. The art direction was defined by a new wave 2007 exploitation film called Planet Terror which itself imitated the 70's Grindhouse B-theater tradition. The grotesque, the shocking, the repugnant were the order of the day. One of the boss fights is against a semi-decayed ton-and-a-half mutated stripper still wearing, barely, her old "uniform". Bare-ly. The original rail shooter and its edumicative twin are anathema to all things right and priggish in their use of language as well: they shared with the South Park movie the Guinness record for most swearing in its medium for some time until dethroned by Mafia II. And there's a very handy link to...

The original Mafia from 2002, many a "Patsy's" favorite of the series. A taxi driver called Tommy Angelo, law-abiding shuttle for law-abiding fare between the districts of Lost Heaven – a combination of the Frisco and the Windy City of the 1930's – runs into a couple of mobsters fleeing from thugs serving a competing family. After tearing them to a safe turf, he's fed some dough and offered work on the basis of his skills at the wheel, but he's scared of the thought and declines. Not long after, Tommy finds the same goons on his tail and turns to his new-made friends for protection. Thus begins his ill-omened allegiance with the dark side of society. It's a pretty poignant story with a typical arc and familiar characters but what the game really nailed was its mimesis. Despite being pretty leisurely most of the time starting from a languid cinematic intro set to the dramatic orchestral main theme, the environment, the people roving the streets, the bootleg unlicenced copies of the authentic "boilers" of the era (a T-Ford by any other name is still a T-Ford), and the accent we've grown to expect, all make the joyride a titillating one. A joyride, in fact, is something you might not oppose to taking a few times between missions just to see what you've missed.

Even in a speedrun, a lot of that atmosphere is kept listening to the car radio and the guys "beating their gums" as they plan how they're going to send a hapless louse's mother flowers, but achtung! It's in German today. Handling many missions with more elegance, showcasing a few new discoveries, and further distilling car RNG some, 'Chris-X' puts the run to its "big sleep" 13:17 faster than the previous segmented record in 2:42:43. This, by my count, would make the fourth such SDA run, the first having been aired in 2005. That was ALSO by a German runner by some coincidence. I'll leave reading things into that to our home audience.

Wait a second. This is by a German TOO. A guy called...  Chris-X? Where have I heard that before? If I tell you this used to be the longest run (Dune 2000's run times are erroneously added together to make it longer in the per-length listing), would you be able to guess that it's a JRPG? I would. Grandia. It's Grandia. It's a large oven-heated pizza that comes in three different styles, and don't you dare just slap it in the microwave cause it leaves it soggy and anyway it's your responsibility. Seriously though, the name evokes the exact right image: it's a super-buffed traditional PS1 sample from 1997 and it goes on and on and on... There's typically a lot of fighting so if you don't like that, or if you're actually paying the writing that's adequate on the macro scale but ear-rendingly cringy on the micro (as was par for the course in earlier translations between Jap-Eng and actually also Eng-Jap) any heed, here's your exit now! Run! Run while you can, from this biblical 10:25:05 behemoth. A run like this can contain major detouring or grinding that all pays off in the end, but there was just the one really obvious one. It's pretty good if you wanted to treat it as a let's play, a massive 3:06:57 faster than before. That's what it was for me when I did the Pre-Release Check for it: I couldn't find it in me to finish the game but now I'm entitled to have opinions about it. ;)

So the Push comes to a close... Lastly, I would like to announce a new section of our Knowledge Base created by the industrious Greenalink: a comprehensive guide to getting imported, ostensibly incompatible cartridges and discs to run on Western versions of their consoles. He's put in lots of effort, and so I wanted to wait until this update so more people are likely to catch the news. You can see the link for this directly on the Knowledge Base front page with a neat picture to boot. Right next to it, there's another guide to hacking the console for better/different A/V output formats, in the works, being compiled by the same benefactor. It's like Christmas come late! (I got nothing! *futile fist-shake*)

Updates will resume their normal pace in a few weeks' time. Until now and then! Cause that's the normal pace. Every now and then. It was funny before I wrote it.

Friday, May 19, 2017 by LotBlind

Quest for Glololollololory

I've long since unofficially dubbed (and will officially, once elected Head of Enough Many Things) the less monotone version of Robin Hood from the Quest for Glories "Trollface". It's cuz of that win screen... I say less monotone because of the clothing but also for the blank sheet of a perfectly malleable RPG character. I've written on the series before so I'll just summarily summarize it as: choose class, choose skills, build skills, apply skills, win the day. The writing each time became more vivacious and deep. In Shadows of Darkness' story, a Lovecraftian summoning ritual is undergoing preparations in a remote, secluded land of Mordavia. Trollface is striving to machinate a good outcome pressed between two powerful wizards. He will meet strange fantasy creatures specifically from Slavonic myths this time. The fighting also made progressively more sense game by game. By the time we got to Quest for Glory: Shadows of Darkness that was meant to be the 3rd game but was ultimately deemed too arduous an ordeal for the protagonist at that phase of his character development (no joke!), we had a significantly less arcane system of sliders (like a manager sim) for marking out just the general strategy for each fight.

Not partial to one or the other, Paul 'The Reverend' Miller tackles the adherents of Chernobog as every one of the four classes. All but the Paladin have existing entries; however continuing the high-percents streak from a few updates back, we collect all the "you're doing it right" -points along the way, which are given for completing a set of side quests that is unique for each class. This extends the standard Mordavian tour to:

0:43:05 for the Thief (stealing your time),
0:38:44 for the Wiz Kid (the antwerp maze is like a pinball machine)
0:38:09 for the Paladdin (one of Aladdin's pals)
and 0:43:11 for the Fighter, whose karmic onus for being boooriiing is a kill bill encompassing the entire bestiary, including monsters only encountered at random.

Just so we're not overwhelmed by Trollface's noticeable but ultimately narcissistic chivalry, we might as well hark back to the kind of games he's remembered for in 'Gametown' (Spielburg of Quest for Glory: So You Want to Be a Hero): Bribing a bear with sweeties that are certain to induce cavities (that's why they live in "caves", which is cognate); dismissing one of his own troll kin twice (no piety!); eavesdropping like a real bitch; running around with a dagger in his pocket, roguishly; "confuse-a-catting" a minotaur; trespassing, vandalism, inflicting injuries, and being generally suspicious for allocating so many points into "stealth". And that all happens before the popcorn even has popped if your microwave is old, in 0:03:43. The 31 seconds are saved in dealing with the minotaur and in better execution. The minotaur skip was actually first discovered in the EGA version of the same game, whose major-skips time is suddenly down to 0:01:35, which is before that old microwave's done more than spin the bag three or four times. Again, we wave goodbye to another 34 seconds playing as the magic user.

Lori and Corey Cole's new title, Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption, is not long from release according to their blog. Last chances for those pre-order discounts!

Monday, May 15, 2017 by theseawolf1

Tactical Espionage Action... in plain sight.

Some believe it is a point of pride to remain anonymous while causing change, to be in the shadows unseen while molding the fate of the world. The ninja, the commando, the guy who decides every few years that eggs are good for you, then bad for you, then good again…

But there comes a level of ability in the world of subterfuge that you can literally overflow into bold and brazen action and still be successful. I think back to the first video game heroes of this concept: the White and Orange ninja of the Ninja Gaiden prologue. They simply don’t care about the sneaking portion of being a ninja because they are so good at all the other aspects of the art. I present to you four runs filled with blatant acts of “infiltration”.

First up is Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, wherein Sean Conn… I mean Big Bo… no wait, Venom Snake is trying to exact revenge on the ones responsible for his near death in the previous game. Despite the subtitle of “Tactical Espionage Operations”, it seems that the 9 year coma that held Venom Snake led to him becoming… impatient. Horses of fire, air strikes, dragging people away with balloons and running headlong into walls while riding a bipedal war machine might not be subtle, but they certainly are quick (so quick, in fact, a mission ends before Miller can detail it to you, resulting in rather funny dialogue as his intel team corrects him). 'Tigger77' navigates Kojima’s winding story in the New Game + category (rather unsportingly I might add) in 1:48:20, then he retreats to the shadows to prep for Metal Gear 1. I think. Maybe. I dunno. Kojima.

:HIDEO screen pops up, whilst I prepare the next material:

What happens in Vegas, usually stays in Vegas. In the case of our next 2 games there’s a lot of media coverage, betrayal and explosions, so word gets around about Tom Clancy’s terror-fighting regiment. Back in the original game the Rainbow Six team could not jump because, as per the manual, “once you were in midair, you no longer had control over your next actions, therefore jumping was too risky and not allowed by operatives”. Physics engines have evolved a bit in Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas, and thus Tim 'Judgy' Kedge gets to lead people who jump from helicopters, jump into buildings and jump into action! All the tangos get taken down on Normal difficulty in 1:09:02, but will there be a resolution to this novel story? Speaking of novels, read Judgy’s notes. Holy Gonzo.

:Pulls a slot machine while waiting for his next flash bang to go off… and hey its 7-7-7. Guess I know what’s next…:

The Six team loved Vegas so much that the rest of the crew went back for another go in Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas 2! The 7th installment set in the land of 777 has a few improvements from 'Tigger77'. The team’s normal loadout is mocked by the protagonist, as he skips the full body flak armor for a beret, tank top and more grenades than bullets. He’s also as subtle as a rhino: chucking flash bangs everywhere, throwing smoke grenades in all the non-smoking areas and running around manically with a pistol to accomplish the goals of the Rainbow Squadron. Tigger chops off some IL times on Casual difficulty, his gambling on not being shot to death while running to and fro bringing it down to 1:11:51.

:This slot machine has a mini game on it… wait, there’s people in there. I’d better go save them:

More than a few games had the “trapped in a video game” theme, and Kid Chameleon does it on a grand scale with 103 levels of transmogrifying madness, tiki heads of doom and stylin’ shades. A game noted for multiple paths, constant platforming and enough of a fan base that is was rereleased on several consoles, it’s a staple of the old “Genesis doing what Nintendont”. A plethora of attempts and optimization (the warp zone might have helped, too) by 'TheWinslinator' leads to a STAGGERINGLY short time of 0:01:32. Man that boss always freaks me out.

:Exits stage left, cape over face. Sneakily. (So sneaky):

Wednesday, May 10, 2017 by LotBlind

A Secret Splinter Update

For the record, the Mega Man X run from last update wasn't the WR (an error that owes to differences in timing), but the latest WR is held by the same person anyway.

We know James Earl Jones is not Lord Vader's body, just his voice, and so the rest of the cast had to keep a straight face playing off David Prowse's angry West Country farr-mer in filming. We've all seen hilarious footage of Andy Serkis loping about making faces in a costume befitting an asylum-dweller to give filmgoers a credible Gollum. It's the end result that matters, right? I feel this is a necessary preamble (you'll understand) before letting loose a slew of inductees all from the same cloak-and-dagger series by Ubisoft. At first they would pay Tom Clancy royalties for team-based tactical simulators titled Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon. After testing the waters some more with another splinter line of games called Splinter Cell, the company had by 2008 been convinced (by all the massive skrilla, perhaps) that they should just buy Clancy's name outright for use in all future entries out to eternity. And Mr. Clancy, who died five years following, agreed.

It is indeed games from the last of the three series that appealed to today's runners the most. In Splinter Cell you act out the will of a hush-hush arm of the real but probably not quite as exciting National Security Agency. It's all gadgetry and stealth, stealth and gadgetry from start to finish. The series' icon, the three-lensed visor, bestows thermal and night-time vision on Sam Fisher, the man of the hour. 2005's Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory introduced a third view mode in which players could scout around for sources of electromagnetism, along with numerous other enhancements, including lethal options which have earned it, and every one of its successors, an M-rating. Stealth-oriented games' runs have in common the dynamics of minimizing the stealth side of it – an especially salient dilemma when playing on Expert and dunking that 100% like Michael 'CotySA' is doing here. 0:58:26 makes it faster than the any% run by Tigger77, however that one's in ILs and so foregoes the benefits of segmentation. The 100% means not only avoiding all alarms, but also completing all kinds of extra objectives so it's a pretty creamy soup from Coty.

Where it's your highest imperative to stay unnoticed, doesn't seem someone called "'Deleted User'" could be of much help, but these code names are designed to deceive after all. The man's kept busy with Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Double Agent, a game with a split personality (or maybe it's a double agent itself and one of them's just a cover identity). These runs I've seen and they certainly tie in with the whole mimicry idea I opened this with: when you see Fisher lurching around, shrouded in gas from a grenade that's behind the wall, you can't help thinking every guard is having the same difficulties as the cast of Star Wars pretending they can't see him or hear him talking to his transmitter. It's like this is the behind-the-scenes footage before they've done another CGI pass on Fisher's black suit that's going to turn him completely invisible. Or give the guards blinkers that cover almost the whole face. Or fashion said face with that vacant George W. Bush expression with a goofy "huh?" every time they think they've heard something. There's two runs for the Shanghai version, both getting the good ending with the usual Hard difficulty and 100% stealth. The PC finishes a minute and nine seconds faster at 1:33:33. The Xbox 360 – a whole nine minutes and six seconds at 1:36:29.

Ubisoft's Montreal team, responsible for Chaos Theory as well, are the progenitors of the Xbox version of the same game. Except not quite the same: the plot branches out with a slightly different set and order of missions. It's not even built on the same engine actually. You're still a Princess Peach -tier professional two-timer, your pretense at ethics wearing thinner and thinner with every passing compromise to not be compromised yourself. It is not the single-segment campaign I should be talking about though: 'Deleted User' & 'Tangibility' makes two guys. SDA doesn't host "two-players-one-controller" schenanigans so we must be looking at the co-op storyline instead. In a different take on "double agent" two spies acting together, but independently of Fisher, perform covert actions in the same locations as the big chief. In one mission, for instance, they blow up the geothermal facility after Sam's just been extracted. Because we're all perfectionists (percentionists) here, the pair still scores all one hundred of 'em in 1:01:56, with stamps of approval from both Judgy and me. Trust our Judge-me-'nd.

Saturday, May 6, 2017 by LotBlind

There's a semi-clever pun in here somewhere that's not in my hand

The Teen provides versatility as a video game character: there isn't much a teenager couldn't conceivably effect in the world of material objects and their interactions – as an adventure game – yet possessing the better (worse?) half of his naivete so as to lend a subject to silly slapstick and floundering failure. You'll recall Ron Gilliam's Threepwood was one at a more-or-less canonical 17 years of age. There's typically a contradictory relationship between the teen and his environment, those ingrained into their social functions or hierarchic standings, which results in an easy conjuration of motives as the teen strives to establish himself and his rightfulness in a more or less direct mimicry of the natural scenario. Yet nothing bars a teen from pursuing romantic interests instead, as is the case with "Guy.brush". The teen is even fully capable of provocative double-entendre and plain audacious amorality (Simon the Sorcerer springs to mind), leaving a window open for this aspect of comedic writing.

...or so I have been told. With this introductory note in the limitless vacancy of our pockets, we may recognize much of the same in the voyage of Mark Hopper, the "Teenagent", through the straits and narrows of immaculate object allocation, spotless spotting of clues, and communication efficient enough to please the office 4G router. The development team, Metropolis Software, cut this 0:11:09 some 20 minutes shorter just by throwing at prospective runners, the Trilby-and-Final-Fight guy 'Soulless' for one, the succulent tibia of "make everything about five times faster". Well, evidently that's just three times so if maths are to be relied on, but when are they ever? If you wanted to be so meta as to slow it down again by a factor of one-and-a-half, you'd have the essence of a Let's Play but with a mellower soundtrack, and I think you'd appreciate the Polish humor this thing is bathed in. There's a scene where Mark cooks a hunk of meat by placing a burning piece of paper inside a refrigerator. Because it's a GAS FRIDGE! Or then I give up.

Mega Man X has often been lauded for its design. The first level I've seen brought up as the perfect tutorial, seamlessly integrating story, establishing characters, and plying its tutoring trade without fungi-post-precipitation text boxes. Like with Super Mario 64, the players had more abilities to gain mastery of, making movement a treat. There's even this Satchbag's Goods comparison between those very games despite varying dimentionality – indeed it attempts to encapsulate what went wrong with 3D Mega Man later down the line. But hey, I'm not just idly musing on the topic: we've been fired an extra-powerful dash'd bullet at and I don't know what kind of job we've done in catching it. 0:31:12 only makes this the bleedin' WR, which no-one bothered to point out in verification. Shows how jaded we've become to record-setting running apparently. Playing X1, runners like D.J. 'Akiteru' Rideout are not quite safe from the gusts and squalls of RNG... but count your blessings I suppose. That's the way I feel about having any commentary to accompany this 1:45 improvement. Speaks for itself?

The notion of the passing of memories, by one of multiple definitions, from generations past to generations future has had some wind blown in its sails in recent times. There are two forms of memory-relaying given the psychological interpretation: non-specific and subconscious, and specific memories that can under some circumstances be recalled by the conscious mind. While the former has (based on a very brief review of some Wikipedia articles) some credence seeing as e.g. traumatic events can produce a similar response in one's offspring by epigenetic means (i.e. not inherited through genes), the latter holds no broad purchase in modern science. It has been toyed with in some works of fiction though, and popularized by the Assassin's Creed series that saw daylight in 2007. In it, the main character straps themselves into the Animus: an amplifier of some sort that facilitates the review of lifelike memories (like VR really) of the occupant's direct ancestry. In a tapestry of Dan Brown -esque blown-up myths and conspiracies, along with many strains from historically accurate Renaissance Italy, Assassin's Creed II delivered a to-date unparallelled simulation of the life of a (fictional) assassin, Ezio, concerned with things like upholding family honor and vying against the power-hungry Knights Templar.

Runs for the open-worlded titles of the franchise are lengthy, even without the total synchronization of memories – the game's version of the 100%. François 'Fed981' Federspiel, known for engrossing in these far-reaching reveries across four different AC games for the PC, finds 41:47 worth of additional short-cuts in leading the story to its incomplete completion at the 5:10:31 mark. That's using the not entirely accurate in-game timing but seeing how much of the game is cutscenes, it's a pretty healthy amount! Fed has left a 5-minute showreel of his works right at the portico-nestled front doors of his YouTube channel complete with an obnoxious Euro-trance soundtrack that probably constitutes an unacceptably major desync in in-game terms (read: he's clearly godmoding it).

Sunday, April 30, 2017 by LotBlind

One Big, Tasty Oddysee Laced with Adventure and a Side Dish of Questing (Level-Ups Not Included)

Two years after the release of the groundbreaking survival horror adventure Alone in the Dark and one year after storming out of Infogrames' stuffy offices, Frederic Raynal – here refused pesky diacriticals – went two for two having formed, with old workmates, Adeline Software, still based in the same merry city of Lyon. Their new 1994 action-adventure was called Little Big Adventure, evocative of small beginnings evolving into something epic, which is appropriate enough. Still, Activision felt Relentless: Twinsen's Adventure was better for marketing the game outside of Europe. Some frustration aside, it was a delightful experience that succeeded brilliantly in framing a grand struggle against an omnipresent, hegemonic oppressor, Dr. FunFrock, whose admittedly quite droll name could well be derived from his favored outer garment and the thing he's good at killing. It's not, though, because he wears an evil labcoat instead, and the strange capitalization notwithstanding, Funfrock is an actual Germanic name. The French mind shelters no censors, squeezing every bit of juice out of la liberté d'expression as you can tell.

Of our two LBA runs neither can stand tall next to this newcomer's fresh 0:53:40. 'FreemanQC' avails of many novelties in tricks and routing. Of the four modes of action (similar to how Alone did it), "aggressive" is probably the most descriptive of the run that was recorded on the French floppy version in a single segment but ousts our segmented record as well, by well over 20 minutes. Bon travail!

I'm wondering if the advertised novelty of Oddworld Inhabitants' to-date latest product, Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty!, is starting to wear out already. Sounds like they improved the recipe (is it being conceded it didn't USE to be tasty?) but so long as it's still slave-flavored, Sam 'Samtastic' Locke will continue putting the stuff away like an amoral suction pipe. I see it is in the Oddworld company's plan to remake the second game next, release slated for this very year. What New and Tasty did to OddyseeSoulstorm surely will to Exoddus: difficulty settings (the original was felt too trial-and-errory, checkpoints too sparse), an augmented dialog system, and threefold multiplied mudokons to prattle with to boot. To prattle with and to boot. From existence. Leaderboards are another likely addition, but they did increase AI randomness for N 'n' T to work the runners some. Hard to tell if there's an impact on the 0:21:37 being played on the "old and bland" hard difficulty, rife with both deaths and resets: Sam likes to abuse anything and everything, including mudokon compatriots if he can as we've established by now. 39 real-time seconds off with a spatter of new strategies all around.

If you think that's looking nice in your downloads queue, here's that side dish now! Having not one, nor three, but two Oddworld runs in one update means it is all too convenient to see the differences with your own eyes. Yes, Sam's second submission around the same time was for the aforementioned Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee. However, you could really only side-by-side them for so long until this one, single-segment but no major skips, is the only one left rolling. 56:42 turns into 0:43:36 in Sam's able hands which have borrowed from TASes [for] this time.

For an extra $15, I'll tell you what game the last run is for. Thanks! It's DLC Quest. No, that doesn't include the run itself. Etc. etc. etc. This minute pastiche was built to mock, among other things, those bottomless corporate pockets behind all the season passes, pre-order exclusives*, and insinuated microtransactions... but perhaps we should counterweight that with a source like The Know illuminating the modern industry and why it's so prone to grinding out extra income through such villainous means. Not that you shouldn't scorn Capcom for selling a game's "true ending" as an afterthought, EA for what they did with Dungeon Keeper, or Squeenix for All the Bravest (a digital toy, not a game, so no italics). It's everyone's loss that games are chopped up in a way that makes even the narrative itself dependent on which DLC you got – this is why you have to appreciate the less cynical efforts at balancing economics with artistic intergrity. And why you shouldn't ignore the indie scene.

Aside from calculated routing, the 0:07:34 run is infused with a compulsive and exhaustive collection of coins. Reminds of the last time the TAXMAN CAME TO VISIT! Yes I live in the Middle Ages. 'StiWii Rage', the model consumer, dishes out the dough to unlock everything starting from leftwards motion, SFX, and the option to save. And do I need to mention the achievements? I want to see the low% for some game defined by getting the least count of them. Could it be yours? It could work if the game only came out on Steam or so... do bring it up first though.


*I'm not entirely sure what the difference between these and Kickstarting is except for who's doing it. Which is difference enough.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017 by Worn_Traveler

PJ Wins and Loses (Part 2)

Welcome back my friends to the PJ update express! It's time to see what other games have received the PJ treatment.

First, let's take a look at Hyperzone. PJ gave us a run of this game a few years ago and his time has been improved by 'AggroSky'. The improvement in this run comes from manipulating the scoring system to skip certain ship upgrades throughout the game, which means that there are less cutscenes to watch. The time for this game has gone from 0:23:51 to 0:23:27. The PJ tradition of commentary continues as AggroSky provides a commentary track to help us better understand and enjoy the run even more.

Patrick 'PJ' DiCesare currently has the Solstice: The Quest for the Staff of Demnos page to himself. He has now added a low% run in 0:06:38 to go along with his any% and 100% runs. If you haven't seen the runs for the various categories, I suggest watching them all to get a good idea of just how much planning and execution have to go into runs for this game. Do not be fooled by the short lengths of the runs. Solstice is an isometric maze and it's easy to lose your bearings. PJ acts as a tour guide with a commentary track for this low% trek.

Sabrewulf has found his way here to SDA in his adventure Knight Lore. Like Solstice, Knight Lore is a tricky maze-like game which involves collecting specific items. PJ walks Sabrewulf through a werewolf-troubled adventure in 0:12:58 on the Rare Replay version of the game. Knight Lore contains some pretty neat features including a day/night cycle. Check this one out along with the commentary track.

Thursday, April 20, 2017 by LotBlind

Losing Track of Time and Cats Exhilarated

The most obvious of International Track and Field 2's differential characteristics is it's difficult to track it down, because it was fielded under five different names including one that's the same as the first one's, International Track and Field, but with its sponsor (network called ESPN) tacked on the front. A clever trick for when you've secured publishers for more ports than before was, until the turn of the millenium, to call it FooBar 2000, which still makes it sound like it might be the second entry without scaring away new customers either. You don't believe me? Try Dune 2000 (that was actually the 2½th entry) or SimCity 2000 (whose ports were less numerous than SimCity's)... Hey, it's just a theory! A lame theory! That's why I need your help in formulating one for why the breaststroke was an event better suited for the N64 while the charms of canoeing could only faithfully be transmitted by the PS1, the console on whose circuitry 'Chris-X''s inputs for these two games were being processed. Those inputs resulted in 0:08:21 for IT&F and 0:16:46 for IT&F2, both self-improvements on existing runs deleting 0:10 and 1:16 worth of footage respectively. I call anabolic steroids at minimum.

One of the most well-received Sonic re-leases itself received an itself well-received re-release that we can call Sonic the Hedgehog CD 2011. That sentence is too dope to change it even if it causes someone to trip up on it. Speaking of tripping, how about taking a trip through time? Most normative individuals choose to set the dials on their DeLorean, Tardis, Epoch, or umm... Chron-o-John to whenever rough shit was still manageable, weeding the Wilys and Wicked Witches of the West when they were still little and armed with nothing more imposing than a fresh Ph.D. in robotics or a small regiment of flying squirrels as each respective case. Speaking of doctors with a knack for assembling machines of evil, there's Doctor Robotnik... and if you wish him to be undone, you set those Chron-o-John dials to very much yesterday, when love was such an easy game to play. I see Nelson 'Sonikkustar' Martinez waving at me. He's asking if it should count against his final time even if he's dismantling the robo-replicators in the past, not the present. Well, dear Sonikkustar, according to SDA rules it still should! Ah, he's just handing me over an unsympathizing 0:11:46.75 screw-u% as Tails (which he still feels is "perhaps the single best speed run [he has] ever done"). Maybe that's his way of en-act-ing revenge over those score screens specially designed to punish speedrunners for being fast.

I think the way the top is the bottom in the world of Sonic – and the left side the right side – is a practical cosmological demonstration. Just imagine the size of the level canvas increasing as you abuse the idiosyncratic code so each wrap-around takes longer and longer, that's precisely how space expands into "nothing" and how it can have no bounds. Also, in the rerelease, some of the purple UFOs in the bonus stages got a fresh coat of blue on them. I'm pinning it on the Happy Happyists from Earthbound.

Speaking of Earthbound, you should know by the fact I didn't link that that the last run is not for it, sorry to say... but think about the cats in Earthbound. They only exist in a few places and none of them seem to have anything to say. This is the polar opposite of Cat Planet, and I'll be darned if I could do this game justice. I've introduced it once before (look for 2015-10-10) and so I should be able to get away without that today. 'liopoil' is playing the angel again. Obsoleting the obsoletee by 11 seconds who I presume to be a American Indian 100%'s the game page. They also rescue (?) 100% of the cats... from an eternity of mute social isolation maybe: they're just cat heads, you see, and were only granted very limited mobility in the form of stationary bouncing while gyrating. Which is a good kind of bouncing to be fair. Good bouncing seems indeed the bees knees here as collisions are perfectly elastic and walls all around. This gives the 0:04:14 run an extra dimension of precision compared to the likes of VVVVVV (which looks wrong in cursive), and gives you more than enough reason to make its acquaintance. I think we can safely say more planning went into the run than there is evidence for concerning the dadaistic game itself.

Monday, April 17, 2017 by ktwo

NES part 2

As hinted in my previous update, there would be a follow-up on the NES theme!

Let's kick things off with first-time submitter Steve '8-Bit Steve' Lynn. He's been on a bit of a frenzy lately and now adds speedruns for two new games to the archives. First out is Kung Fu Heroes, which is based around a generic "save the princess captured by the bad guys" theme. Luckily, the developers focused on the gameplay instead of the story and this has resulted in a fun and action packed beat-em' up well worth the attention of more NES-gamers.  Progress through the game is made by defeating 12 enemies in each room or by using warps. By careful item planning and solid execution, the 14 rooms are navigated in 0:07:47.

The other game plown through by 8bitSteve is Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom. It's a text adventure game for the NES revolving around a political plot in the vegetable kingdom. I assume the list of vegetables ran out when naming the characters, because there are also some scattered fruits to be found in the game. By a combination of a well-memorized route and good fortune in the rock-paper-scissor boss battles, 8bitSteve unfolds the political conspiracy and saves the princess in 0:40:33.

Next up is a 4 second improvement in the any% category of Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers over feasel's run from 2011. If you know your NES, this game hardly needs an introduction. For the rest of you, this is a classic 2D-platformer from the mold, but a damn good one. 'philosoraptor42' has set the new bar at 0:10:09, which also means he's now the author of both the available categories for this game.

Last out is a run done by myself, 'ktwo'. Solomon's Key is a game I started playing in 2009 and that has regularly drawn me back into it. It's a challenging puzzle-platformer with rich game mechanics that allow for many options on how to clear the rooms. In this latest iteration of the any% category (which involves warps and only achieving the normal ending), I've implemented a few new time savers and thereby managed to cut my old time by 7 seconds down to 0:12:50.

Friday, April 14, 2017 by LotBlind

Frame by Frame I'll Knock You Out!

We somehow always end up talking cinema here on Awesome Front Page Updates Written in a Moderately Timely Fashion don't we? I'm not even particularly fanatic about it, just the licence games keep packing in, or there's some obvious connection to draw between a game and its influences. The discerning may discern that "splatter" is a slightly different pigeonhole to that which most comfortably nestles the bones and sinew of the not-that-gorey* Virtual Console port of Splatterhouse, but it's difficult to tell whether we should be calling it a slasher (the mask and blade), supernatural horror (ghosts, possessed furniture), gothic horror (Baroque-style music sometimes echoing inside august, 19th century halls, including one track that tries oh-so-hard not to be the Air on the G-String) or whether we should follow the stage three boss' example of double-wielding chainsaws and tear indiscriminately through the cacophonous, grubby rack liberating the doves from their compartmentalized state altogether and having simply way more fun in the process. I'm sure bursting all those bubbles in stage six has some metaphorical overtone to it.

If you can't make out, Zack 'Zallard1' Allard isn't taking things all that seriously, seeming warming the protagonist up for a Cossack dance routine which is what the college boy, no doubt, hurries off to perform at the Homecoming halftime show after the credits are through. Although Zallard is best-known for doling out merciless coups de grâce inside whatever boxing rings he's still admitted to (audiences get jaded), on his off days he may be spotted excising a handful of not-strictly-vital tissues, roundabout 5 seconds' worth, off his other records and catgutting together a 0:13:46 that somehow still kicks and screams (signs of life!). Don't be fooled, though, because such Sunday efforts, while not completely unheard-of, really are the exceptions that prove the rule all the harder. Here's what he normally gets down to:

But wait! If you just so knew what the exact SDA Individual Levels time for the Wii game was, a bewildered cry may be about to escape your lips: "Where did another 0.94 seconds go? I want answers. goddammit!" Can you hear a mischievous chuckle from within the challengers' loge (shut up I know how boxing matches work okay?!) emanating from the exercised bellows of a defiant, lithe silhouette? "Those features... that voice... no, not a clue who it is." Well, it's someone whose name doubles as their preferred level of precision in planning and execution of fights: 'FrameByFrame'. That's who. Here's something to help you remember:

Things are heating up! How many more records are up for grabs until they're all indistinguishable from their TAS counterparts? Hmm... I should advertise our spiritually linked sister site for a change, in case someone's too gnu-bee to know about TASing yet.


*Apparently, censorship was applied when porting to home consoles.

Sunday, April 9, 2017 by LotBlind

The New World's All Razzle-Dazzle

After seeing the first game tonight seems to be about stories FROM it, or getting away FROM it, I had to suss out why stories about the trip TO the "New World" are not that pervasive in western/any culture: nothing happened! They just kinda went "Effit", hoisted a few sails and quickly found out I spy isn't a terribly enduring pastime at sea. That's whether you see "them" as Columbus et al or those good ole chip-shouldered Puritans. While the context of a fantasy JRPG leaves open the possibility of another new world altogether (the cover art suggests they've discovered either Heaven, an island beset by a billowy fog, or somewhere too avalanchey for safe downhill skiing), the mundane interpretation is ascertained soon after having sent the disc whirring into the PS2 "funcepticle". Or, more conveniently for most of us, by setting eyes on what Kenneth 'Tide' Cheung has graced us with here: Shadow Hearts: From the New World in a slightly less commonplace single-segmented 3:50:43.

Those who've felt traditional turn-based fighting in JRPGs can't comprise quite enough high-pressure execution are in for disillusionment. The "Judgment Ring", the "Stock" system, Sanity Points, Stellar Charts, and Fusioning are all part of a kaleidoscopic landscape of the routing and decision-making in this run. You'll believe Tide telling you this is a competed enough title when you watch him nailing an ungodly percentage of the narrowest margin attacks, even blind ones, and calling it a requirement! I'm not lying either to say I thought it was segmented at first... Anyway, I hope you'll appreciate this, the very first SDA run for a Shadow Hearts series game.

On the theme of discovery, here's the ostensible discovery of the joys of reading by Macaulay Culkin in a role that was one of three embarrassments that same year that somehow narrowly failed to win him a Razzle. Now if that hasn't made you skip ahead a few paragraphs, allow me to fill in some details: Do you remember a half-animated, half-live-action kids' movie from 1994 that united a cast suspiciously saturated with Star Trek, including Patrick Stewart, Whoopi Goldberg, Christopher Lloyd, and Leonard Nemoy, aside from the rugrat at the center of attention? Ironically enough, one of the critics perceived The Pagemaster's moral as "books can be almost as much fun as TV cartoons and video arcade games"... which is something our second runner Michael 'arglefumph' Gray must have taken to heart.

You couldn't mount flashy multimedia on humble home consoles, so they received plain platformers, whereas the PC bunch could relive Culkin's journey into three realms of juvenile interest - adventure, mythology, and horror - in a slender approximation of the "real thing". In the pointy and clicky, arglefumph's main enemy was a random quiz show and getting people to stop talking (we've been there). Viewers of the single-sitting 0:35:17 are adviced to wear professional grade pun-proof earmuffs: something like the +10 Sonic Nullifiers from Knights of the Old Republic should do.

Revolving around discovery more than ever, Starflight is a seminal epic describing the thrifty early renaissance of a secluded colony of disaster survivors (in the hip-shot year 4620) peering into a region of space rendered alien by generations of roaching underground... and by the aliens themselves, durr. As a budding starship captain, your adventures bring you across hundreds of unexplored worlds that you must visit in order to keep a supply of fuel, lifeforms for scientific study, and minerals for upgrades. Sometimes you might even run across a fully inhabitable world enabling humans to set up a boutique. If you cross ways with one of those other sentient races, you won't know what kinds of dealings they'll be open to having with you; if nothing else, a bit of a space spar can always be resorted to.

Starflight was absolutely astonishing for the time in 1986 - the technology (built on Assembly and a language called FORTH that's incidentally also been used for programming actual spacecrafts) made it as much a marvel of software engineering as it impressed as a game. It was really the boundless, procedurally generated universe and the seamless marriage of all these finely honed elements within its allotted 128KB of RAM that made even copies of Elite from two years prior start gathering some dust. You're given a tasklist that contains, but is not limited to, all the stuff I mentioned above and also just plain brazenly venturing where no peep's ventured to date, something the cast of The Pagemaster might be able to give you a little primer on. There are still those who find things Starflight did better than the equally epic and perhaps even more famous Star Control II - a game you'll mistake for a graphical overhaul at first glance.

Tony 'ZenicReverie' Foster does away with frittering time and space, going straight for the cosmic jugular - that's 0:04:29 of undermining my high anthem of a game you're supposed to get hopelessly lost in, completed on the Genesis version... from 1991! Think how popular the game must have been to warrant a five-years-later conversion like that.

Thursday, April 6, 2017 by LotBlind

moo-D Tourists Fighting For 64 Gran' Concept "Mos"

Just today I saw someone selling their Nintendo 64 (a semi-translucent "icy blue" edition) with a couple of games attached. I've got an old TV that has those yellow and white sockets and so the purchase of a good ol' console of some description - for research purposes that is! - is on the cards someday. However, I've felt that the N64 specifically has a pretty casual/for kids kind of aura. Looking at the relatively modest library, scanning names and drawing from a rather muddy pool, or puddle really, of information, I think most of the really gritty or mature titles were ports or new entries for series having established themselves on other platforms, and pressed developers to find external publishers (to do what Nintenwon't!). Just today I happened to pick up a copy of the psychological-horror-themed Shadow Man, which will serve as a counter-example having seen release on the N64 and multiple other platforms simultaneously.

In this exact bulgy pulsating vein, we kick off today's update with a heaping helping of Doom 64 guts and spillings. Try mapping the numpad to camera controls in a PC FPS: gives you an appreciation of why console FPS runs tend to have jagged edges in the area of movement. The same guy what done dem easy mode run last April now done done hard mode run in 0:48:40. Runner name is Phillip 'ZELLLOOO' Shanklin. Me and ktwo were both mighty impressed with the vastness of the runner's ken (not a muddy puddle) what regards out-of-the-way medkits and other forms of emergency munitions - you're Doom'd to need 64 of them during this run! See what I did there? No wait, I've got more runs!

Gran Turismo is insanely popular. Two releases, the first and third, finished top two in that order amongst realistic driving games on and number one with its five years in full-out hardcore heart-failure-inducing Japanese "Ganbatte kudasai!" development* has the most sales out of anything on the PS1. Maybe everyone else knew this?

Given this spectacular, roaring success of the series as a whole, despite its inferior scores, it is Gran Turismo Concept: 2001 Tokyo's unassailable birthright to be brought slippers to in the morning or early afternoon, whenever it feels like alighting off its sumptuous Hastens Lenoria king-sized bed; Slippers in which it can drift down the stately manor's elliptical foyer staircase and out the oaken double doors directly into its brand new state-of-the-art... pod car? I was expecting something like the "Castrol Tom's Supra" (who's Castrol Tom?) Toyota actually auctioned a real-life reproduction of once. This is the car speeding 'adeyblue' through most of the races and trials, barring those requiring good dirt handling, where he "slips" into something more suitable. Going about this pulls the tarp off each of the typically rather numerous extra automobiles and brings the game to 100% completion. Minimal mistakes, maximal speed, single-segment, 1:21:38. The best part is opting for the pace car so you can bump off it to optimize one turn before becoming ITS pace car instead, which might be considered swag by some...

Of the four characters selectable in Fighting Force, Mace is the most appropriately named. She doesn't wield a medieval wrecking ball though, nor does she flourish a caustic aerosol can. Furthermore, ain't no-one "shaving their face in the dark" with some either. That leaves us with only one logical conclusion: it's that she embodies either maces, the swingy kind, and/or Mace, the chemical compound, originally consisting of "CN", phenacyl chloride, in hydrocarbon solvents but more recently replaced in common usage by pepper spray, "OC", and often found in a three-part solution that also has the OC with some ultraviolet dye for easy spotting of the fended-off aggressor (LotBlind Trivia FlashTM). I'm willing to bet, seeing as the rest of the troupe bear names less inviting of dissection, that this incredibly appropriate nomination symbolizing female empowerment was fortuitous - that or taken from somewhere else.

All the enemy types keep to more run-of-the-mill appellations that someone hammered out on their keyboard between arriving at work and the first copy machine jam. How do we know them though when verbality is at an all-time low? Is there supposed to be a news crew behind the action cam with a reporter making sure to catch everyone's names? If you've been waiting for a chance to level accusations of "being too dog-dang clever for his own dog", here's where you'll notice getting furiously winked at. As for 'Soulless' (the Trilby guy), he likes to keep to a deft double high kicks and a low roundhouse kick most of the time (of 0:27:59) in this reportedly quite shoddy PC port, played on Easy.

*Producer Kazunori Yamauchi "I would wake up at work, go to sleep at work. It was getting cold, so I knew it must be winter. I estimate I was home only four days a year." And yes, [death by] overworking genuinely is one of Japan's social issues: this aspect of the culture is reflected in the dad in Earthbound never being at home even though they're in America.

Sunday, April 2, 2017 by ktwo

What does Lyon make you think of?

Well, if you've had the opportunity to go there or hear about the city, you might answer "many cultural highlights", "(a now defunct) silk industry", "l'OL, one of Europe's best soccer teams", "gastronomy" or "the Canut mural". Apparently it's also staked a claim in the gaming industry and that of course is what we'll focus on here.

One of the Lyon game developers was Infogrames. According to Wikipedia, one of the founders explained their choice of logo (an armadillo) like this: "This dinosaur [sic] is our symbol. The armadillo has always survived changes to its environment, from the melting of glaciers to the worst of heat waves." Little did he know that his company would suffer the same fate as the dinosaurs, instead of showing the armadillo's resilience. The history of Infogrames turned out to more resemble the logo's silhouette. After a period of growth from many acquisitions (among others, Atari), the success didn't last and Infogrames ceased to exist as a brand in 2009. In the 25 or so years it existed, it developed and published a wide range of video games for many different platforms. At least for the French-speaking audience, it has managed to earn a bit of a reputation through Joueur du Grenier for its many games based on francophone comic book characters. In short, they have been of shifting quality and for a time, Infogrames was a recurring bashing object for JdG.

Lucky Luke: On the Daltons' Trail (PC) follows in the footsteps of Infogrames' other comic book adaptations. However, this has not scared off 'wesen'. After having submitted one improvement after the other, he finally settled for this 0:44:28. Regardless of whether this is a quality game or not, the speedrun is of a high quality and at least makes the game look both good and fun.

Coincidence or not, the next game from 'wesen' also comes from a Lyon-based developer. Pink Panther Pinkadelic Pursuit (PC) was developed by Etranges Libellules. It's a neat and fast-paced platformer where you're trying to recover a hidden treasure in a mansion left behind by a deceased relative of the Pink Panther's. There was for a time period regular improvements submitted by 'wesen' in the any% category after continuously finding new routes and tricks. The end result is a tight 0:14:23 (self-improvement from 18:04), which includes a number of new shortcuts and sequence breaks. Before calling it a day, he also completed an IL table with a total time of 0:12:36. Both are well worth a watch!

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