This run represents a minute time save over the previous SDA publication, and includes some routing changes that produced some new timesave opportunities.
Some general notes about running this game:
On the expert difficulty, which is also the any% for this game, there are 5 opponents who must be defeated three times each. By and large the huge timesaves in this run come from employing _assassination strats_. This means that races can be ended early by reducing the opponents' boat's hitpoints to 0. This is primarily done by jumping on them with your boat, though there are other objects that can damage both boats.
Each race has multiple legs, the number of which is indicated at the top or bottom of the UI by dashes. The first leg is always the starting line, and everything else is either a chase cam or overhead cam section. With one notable exception, these always alternate. Most of the time saves are worked in during the overhead legs. There are three types of overhead legs in descending order of awesomeness as far as damage dealing opportunities
1. Ocean section
2. Swamp Section
3. River section
There are also two types of chase sections
1. Swamp section (only appears later)
2. Standard (ocean?) section
Unlike the overhead sections which are completely static, the chase sections are very RNG heavy. I did some TAS work for this game and discovered that both the nitro and log generation are inconsistent from game to game, and change wildly based on player inputs. Of these the two types, the later swamp sections seem to afford better RNG, which really just means more logs (which are maybe also alligators?)
Boat destruction is a bit of a fine art. There are 6 graphical states that tell you how damaged a boat is. This correspond to 0 through 5 bars of the boat's damage repair stat in drydock. However, hitting a boat with 0 repair points left will NOT sink it. Instead, it will reduce one of the other four permanent stats mid-race. It is not until ALL of these other stats have reached 0 that an additional hit sinks the boat. You do NOT always want to sink an opponent as soon as possible. This is because when they sink, they automatically come back to the next race with two bars in every stat. However, if you can allow them to finish a race with NO stats remaining, they will potentially be much more sinkable early in the next race. Part of the challenge of routing this game was determining which races one should go for an assassination on.
There are two gotchas to be aware of that needlessly waste time. The first is a false start, which happens if you accelerate too early. It is fastest to win the first leg of the race straight off the line, but it is second fastest to let the opponent win as soon as possible so as to not prolong the first leg any further than necessary. Mistiming a start will cause you to be fined $2000 and will restart the race for a four second time loss. The second thing to be aware of is a slow-mo finish (I thought these were the coolest thing ever when I was little and would cause them intentionally), but in a speed run it's just an 8 second time waste. They occur when you finish the race narrowly ahead or behind your opponent and are unskippable. While a slow-mo finish is still better than losing the race, they are to be avoided if at all possible.
Surfer Bob 1 - This is the only race where it's absolutely imperative to win off the line. I reset right away if I don't get it because I want to be in a position to grab the first nitros and use the fantastic ocean course layout to start applying damage over and over again. This first race is one of the hardest to deal with because you have no stats at all and the starting boat handles like a bathtub. In this run I managed to get quite a bit of damage in on the second leg, and was gifted in the third and final chase leg with some additional logs. Surfer Bob's boat ends the race three hits away from sinking here. A perfectly optimal race would have included two additional hits, but it's still a very good setup for the next race.
Surfer Bob 2 - I always advocate steering as the first stat to maximimze in this game. The cost of the upgrade is relatively cheap, and the handling benefit produces a much easier time in dealing damage in the overhead legs. Furthermore, steering upgrades give "push power" in the chase section, which allows for controlling nitros and an occasional opportunity to push the opponent into the concrete buoys. The setup from Surfer Bob 1 allows us a very aggresive and early kill into the third leg of Surfer Bob 2.
Surfer Bob 3 - The kill here is the standard timesave, happening very early into the fourth leg. The best kill possible is in the second leg, but due to the unpredictability of chase cam sections - it is much more common for this to happen in the fourth.
Weird Willy 1 - I used to play this similarly to Surfer Bob 1, but the new route calls for a sinking as quickly as possible in the second leg here. This timesave is a tradeoff, because it takes away the option of a Weird Willy 2 kill (but also opens the door for a Weird Willy 3 kill).
Weird Willy 2 - Because we opted to go for a Weird Willy 1 kill, Weird Willy comes back with too many stats to effectively sink in this race. Instead, we're going to use the old Weird Willy 1 strat and apply damage without finishing the job in preparation for a Weird Willy 3 quick kill.
Weird Willy 3 - The old strategy was to finish this race normally, since a quick kill was not reasonable with the old route which gave Weird Willy the repaired boat stats coming into this race. Instead, we now have the opportunity for another quick kill in the third leg of this race. While this is another time save, the downside is that the course that we're (mostly) skipping was formerly used to refill nitros. The bottom line is that this timesave makes Mangler Mike 1 more challenging.
Manger Mike 1 - This is one of the scariest races of the run, now exacerbated by the fact that I blew threw all of my safety nitros going for the Weird Willy 3 quick kill. Fortunately, the second leg of this race is another great opportunity to collect nitros. I still want to be doing damage here in preparation for a Mangler Mike 3 quick kill, so it's a bit of a balance. This time, I came into the last leg of the race having aggressively used all of my nitros, but this run shows a really textbook example of how that situation can be reversed by controlling the stage and using nitros to get more nitros.
Mangler Mike 2 - Lots more long chasecam legs to this race. Note the small timesave of allowing Mangler Mike to win off the line. The only other thing to point out is that I did a better than average job in the very brief third leg getting some damage in.
Mangler Mike 3 - We always go into the race with a stronger Mangler Mike than I am hoping for, but the strategy regardless calls for a quick kill, and the course's third leg is the one and only time to do that effectively. While he requires a lot of hits, there is much opportunity to deliver those hits... and I did quite a fine job capitalizing on that opportunity here.
Veronica Alabaster 1 - Veronica Alabaster stands as proof that distinct AI personalities were coded into this game. She starts with 6 nitros and cannot stand when you are in front of her. She will usually burn through them immediately when you get ahead of her. My primary function in this race is to get that number down to 0 as soon as possible. This is much more of a problem on the chase sections where she will nitro to the front and get more nitros as a result. I was able to run her out of nitros without getting much damage in, although she unfortunately picked up two randomly at the very end of the last leg of the race. This presented a bit of a problem going into the Veronica Alabaster 2.
Veronica Alabaster 2 - There are two possible routes here and one must adapt during the race to determine which one will be best for an individual run. Route A calls for a super aggressive and very early quick kill, but it is not always feasible. In this particular run, the two Nitros from the last race set off a chain reaction that caused her to fly ahead and get more nitros (and then fly ahead and get more nitros...) By the third leg we were both entirely drained of Nitros, which forced me to transition this to a Route B run. Route B calls for exactly 25 hits on Veronica Alabaster, the perfect setup for a Veronica Alabaster 3 kill. This can be a little bit difficult due to the unpredictability of the chasecam sections, and she has known to sink herself at very inopportune times. In this rase, I was able to get my hitcount exactly as desired, leading to the perfect setup for the next race.
Veronica Alabaster 3 - Other than the two points of steering which she purchases in drydock, Veronica Alabaster is devoid of stats going into the game's first Swamp chase section. Here, I'm counting on good RNG to deliver her up to alligators (formerly logs?) quickly and often. If it doesn't go well, we end up in the third leg of this race to finish the job... but everything went exactly as intended here. Veronica Alabaster is the biggest timesave of the run, and here we avoid the lengthy five leg race by sinking her relatively early into the second leg.
Disaster Don 1 - This strategy is a total change of gears from the other four opponents. Disaster Don does not take damage like a normal opponent, and often times just ignores it entirely. Even when the game indicates that he has taken damage, his boat doesn't go as slowly as a damaged boat is supposed to. He's the boss of the game, and he cheats. Assassination strats go out the window here because near as I can tell he simply cannot be sunk, even in this monstrously long eight leg race. You really just want to do two things - finish the race as quickly as possible, and don't take damage yourself.
Disaster Don 2 - Not a lot to talk about here. There is some minor timesaving by always letting him win these races off of the line. This course ends with a very easy overhead section, so unless something catastrophic happens I'm pretty safe here.
Disaster Don 3 - The last race of the game features a special double chase cam finish (both the seventh and eighth legs). Unless you run out of nitros or sink yourself, it's a pretty straightforward win.
Total run time 29:25 RTA.
I'm really happy with this run as it demonstrates the new routing changes and continues a fine tradition of 0 false starts and 0 slow-mo finishes in my SDA publications. There are further timesaves possible (current sum of best is sub 29 minutes) if I could manage to squeeze a second leg Surfer Bob 3 kill and Route A with Veronica Alabaster - but getting every opponent to cooperate in the same run is a bit of a grind. As always I want to encourage others to pick up this game, as I have taken the time to document plenty of information about how to run this game in the SDA forums. I would also like to shout out to The Entire Elminator Boat Duel Community - which is an awesome guy named LackAttack24. It was an honor to run this game in the Best of NES Marathon this year and finally show it to a larger audience, and Lack deserves thanks for both cocommentating my run as well as finally making my world record in this game contested. ;)