Well, quitting this game doesn't last long, does it?
Back in December I decided that I'd make a run of Sonic 3 & Knuckles my last. I wasn't really enjoying speedrunning and wasn't really able to stream, so I thought it'd be better if I focused on other things in my life instead. Well, six months later and I feel in a much better space with all of those things, so the conditions were right for me to come back. I just needed a catalyst. And it came from a rather unlikely source.
A Sonic 1 runner by the name of srakso99 had started streaming attempts on Twitch, and even though we'd picked up some of his older runs as TASes, I thought I'd see how he was going. As it turned out, he was making levels I often had trouble doing consistently fast look really easy! On top of that, when I started practicing these levels, I found out the zips weren't too hard either, and I'd just been overstating their difficulty for years. Many of them still are frame perfect, but a bit of practice and you can get them with at least a little consistency. And since most of them are in Marble, you can get through a lot of attempts quickly. In the end, this only took about a month to put together, although I did have a lot of experience with the game beforehand.
Notable times for this game over the years:
17/11/06 - 18:09(PAL) - mike89
11/6/07 - 17:52 - stanski
1/8/08 - 15:05 - Miles
1/11/12 - 13:03 - TeeNTee314 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9kOAdhUlkt0) - if you've ever seen a run of Sonic 1 before, this is probably it
16/12/14 - 12:33 - TeeNTee314 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6U4q4ygLGJw)
2/7/15 - 12:02 - mike89
8/8/15 - 11:57 - Tenebrae101 (http://www.twitch.tv/tenebrae101/v/10154723)
19/8/15 - 11:40 - mike89
(note: TeeNTee's runs are on emulator, specifically Kega Fusion - we've had reason to be very skeptical of emulator runs over the years, but that's mostly because they tend to be on Gens. TeeNTee is a trusted runner though, and Fusion doesn't have TASing capabilities)
Tenebrae101's run in particular has had a major effect on the community for this game: while he's been a very proficient speedrunner of other games, he had no experience with Sonic games, and took my 12:02 down in about a month. I think this opened up some eyes about the relative difficulty of this game not being quite as high as we'd first thought (for which I am probably somewhat responsible - sorry!) and it brought new runners into the game. I hope this continues!
On to the levels:
Green Hill 1 [0:25]
The gold standard.
Green Hill 2 [0:19]
Pretty much all the jump placements here are thanks to a Sonic 1 runner by the name of srakso99, who I saw getting 19s on this stage very consistently, something I'd never been able to do myself. Most runners of Sonic games will attest, of course, that using flat ground for your jumps is always preferable for consistency!
I'm forgoing a five second improvement by doing a level wrap here, but let's be honest - that's not really worth going for. That would just result in hours of being trapped in Green Hill and that's not fun for anyone.
Green Hill 3 [0:35]
Finally started going for this one! It's still really difficult though because you have to hold left for about a third of a second in order to a) land on the first bug and b) slow yourself down enough to land on the invincibility up ahead. If you hit the invincibility just right, though, the next two buzzbombers should be perfectly lined up for you to bounce all the way over to the boss. Here I was just too far right - I actually thought I had done it correctly (the aim is to hit the left half of the invincibility box) but I just overshot. If this happens you can, of course, play the rest of the stage as you would on the lower route and still comfortably get 35, but getting the bounces across the top saves three seconds if done perfectly.
Marble 1 [0:32]
It's a good thing nobody likes Marble Zone, because it barely exists any more. The zip in this stage is the most precise of the lot, requiring you to stand two pixels to the right of the far left edge, and tap left for one frame as the platform moves about a third of the way up the gap between the two bricks in the wall you're standing in, then jump right after that single frame. Got all that? Then add the fact that it's subpixel dependent...
Tenebrae101 helped out with consistency here by realising that you actually have two chances at this zip per cycle - both on the way up and on the way down, so each attempt isn't quite as costly.
Marble 2 [0:17]
This one is similar to Marble 1, but there's an easier timing for the zip: you want to tap right once the bottom of Sonic's shoe is in line with the brick. It's not strictly necessary but I pause for this one, I just find it more consistent this way. To do the zip with the pause, you press Start as you push right, to try and get a one-frame push of right, then press Start and a jump button on the same frame to get the jump off.
Didn't quite get into the right position first time here, so I had to line it up again, costing six seconds. If I had tried to line it up from the bottom, I would be pushed out of the wall, which is why I can get two attempts per cycle at Marble 1, but not this one.
Marble 3 [0:29]
And finally, this one. This is the most lenient of the three but after having to do two very quick inputs for the first two acts, there's a tendency to loosen up too much for the third one. Didn't happen here, though.
The boss is slightly improved on prior runs - the most difficult part is jumping underneath Robotnik after the second hit. If you hold jump too long and connect with him on the way up, you're dead, no questions asked.
Spring Yard 1 [0:25]
Decided not to try and hit the gap cleanly and just land on the box instead. At most you lose half a second, which in the grand scheme of things isn't worth the risk of losing another three every time you get bounced back up.
I used to use the upslope at 0:15 to clear the obstacles up ahead, but it turns out jumping off the sliding platforms isn't really that hard! You just have to roll your fingers over the jump buttons at the height of the jump and you should be on top of them ready to jump again. This also means you are guaranteed to keep your momentum all the way through the next part, which makes timing the jump over the spiked enemy much easier.
Spring Yard 2 [0:32]
I've always really hated this level, but I think that's just because I was never any good at it. It really flows when you can do it well!
I used to try and clear the pit at the end of the stage, but after watching Tenebrae do it this way there was just no reason to go for the more difficult jump. It would be lucky to save half a second and it costs an awful lot more than that to miss it, either early or late.
The end was kind of funny, I didn't hit the ramp with any sort of speed so just went straight to the bottom path. Really only cost me a second.
Spring Yard 3 [0:56]
This series of clips and zips is really strange. First you have to give yourself enough time to scroll the screen all the way down on that top right block so you don't get crushed, then when you get to the door, you have to hold off pressing right until you've almost hit the ground, which, considering where you end up, is very unintuitive. If you go too early you'll be stuck too high in the wall and have to just jump out and go the normal route.
Once in the long stretch of wall, I'm aiming to be just underneath the left side of the large brown panel that you see me fumble with a couple of times, and from there, pressing right for one frame and jumping drops you to the lower level, then simply hold left for about a second and a half to rejoin the route.
Labyrinth 1 [0:49]
Just little mistakes here and there adding up here - I've gotten this as good as 46 in attempts before. If this is one of the more disappointing levels, though, the run went pretty damn well!
Labyrinth 2 [0:30]
Clean stage. It's possible to set up the zip in a faster way but the timing's a lot tighter to get back on the platform, so this method is nice and safe in comparison.
Labyrinth 3 [1:29]
The rings are really only for safety. You can go without them, but I tended to only do that if my pace wasn't very good.
I did change one thing: after hitting the second switch, I jumped up and back out of the water, adding a couple of seconds to my underwater timer later on. This didn't really cost any time and guaranteed me enough time to get a bubble when I needed it.
Star Light 1 [0:25]
Missed this level wrap once because of the damn bomb, but got it second go. This wrap only works if you have subpixels on the "left" side of the pixel, so once I line up with the pixel I tend to tap left one more time to increase my odds of being in the right range. It worked pretty well for me here!
Star Light 2 [0:15]
Started going for this one too - this is one of the two big route improvements over my 12:02. The input is kind of difficult to get used to, because normally when you're doing a zip like this, you would expect to either a) release the direction as soon as you press the button, or b) hold the direction the whole time. In this case, you have to jump, and then hold right for about 3 frames afterwards before releasing it. It's kind of tricky to get your head around if you're used to doing zips a certain way. But here I got it second go, and all is well!
Star Light 3 [0:56]
Shoutouts to Tee-N-Tee for putting me on to this path. Not sure how I ever missed it in the past! Jumping out of the loop lets me switch to running and activate the speed cap, letting me hit the gap in the floor as quickly as possible.
This is the quickest method for the boss I can do consistently. The tricky hits are 5 and 6: you have to jump off the right seesaw early enough that Robotnik will then drop a spike ball, but late enough that you will land back on the platform after it lands. If you miss, the entire timing of the fight is gone and you have to just salvage it as best you can. Thankfully, in this case that meant I had JUST enough time to get back on the seesaw and get back into the pattern of hits. This actually ended up being my fastest ever time on the stage!
Scrap Brain 1 [0:44]
The disappearing platforms appear consistently at a high 24 seconds if you do the stage correctly up to that point, and it just so happens that doing a full jump off the top spinning platform just as it is about to start spinning again will land you on it just as it appears. It looks kind of scary though!
Scrap Brain 2 [0:39]
Pretty poor stage exacerbated by my incomplete understanding of the spikeball cycles. I've just recently found out, though, that you can pretty consistently get 31 by doing the start a certain way. Sigh...
Scrap Brain 3 [0:10]
Tee-N-Tee does it again! Looking up on the moving platform makes it disappear, and as long as the second jump (the one off the ramp) occurs within two frames of hitting the ground, it doesn't reappear, and you get what's known as the slope glitch: Sonic continues on the angle of the last ground he was on, in this case the slope, allowing him to run right up into the ceiling! At which point Sonic runs into a wall and the zipping physics take over, allowing you to go straight to the loading zone!
Final Zone [1:13]
Could have picked up an extra second here, I suppose, but I think these particular pauses look ugly. But try telling that to Marble 2!
Total time: 11:40
I think about 11:10 might be the limit of reasonable with these strats, but uh, good luck. :) Alternatively, there's some more ridiculous stuff you can start to throw in: Green Hill 2 level wrap (saves five seconds), Star Light 3 level wrap (~15 seconds), Scrap Brain 1 floor zip (~5 seconds, with unavoidable time over if you miss), Scrap Brain 2 cog level wrap (~15 seconds)... Let's just say I made the choice to preserve my sanity. Who knows, though, maybe one day those will be expected of a record-level Sonic 1 run!
Thanks to Sonic 1 runners past and present, including, but not limited to: stanski, Miles, Naegleria, TimpZ, Tenebrae101, and especially TeeNTee (for being the true final boss of this game) and srakso99 (for giving me the spark!).
Enjoy the run!