Wednesday, January 4, 2012

My Top 10 TAS Videos of 2011

Top 10 TAS Videos of the Year

I knew I had to make this post as soon as I started really investing into my theory that 2011 would somehow end up being the best year for pretty much every medium of entertainment. At the same time, despite wanting to do this from very early on, I still don't really have a very good idea of what exactly the list should contain. Okay yeah my ten favorite tool-assisted replays from video games sure but there's some ambiguity there. Should this just be actual “runs” (I eventually decided yes) or could they contain short demos and such too, and if so, was there really anything in the latter that I wanted to include? Sure maybe some of wak's tool-assisted Melee matches have the most “thrills per second” of anything I've watched, but can they compare to the impressiveness of a full run? But wait is impressiveness the word I want? Or does that lean too hard towards “difficulty to make” and not “fun to watch”? And moving on from that, what should the policy be regarding movies that are slight improvements on older movies, if it's like, just a few frames faster and more awesome than a legendary older movie, then it's obviously that much more legendary and amazing, but is a list like this better suited to things that had really never even been imagined before that particular run? Oh and should I preference stuff that's actually entertaining from a sheer visceral level over glitched out runs where you can't even tell what's happening? Or is the latter even more entertaining? And how much does my enjoyment of game elements out of the TASer's control factor in, like, the music and graphics and stuff? Really I think this is why's award-show style is so much better but oh well I like lists I do lists.

I decided not to really go hard on policies and just choose stuff that I really liked watching, that I'd go back and watch again and again. All the factors I mentioned played into this, but not in any strict way.


Honorable Mentions

I decided not to include the new Super Mario World any%. Even though sub-10 is amazing, the sub-5 or whatever that the new run using the credits glitch will be even better. It's the same situation with Super Mario 64 DS – sure, 8-star is cool, but 1-star will be cooler. Seiken Densetsu III and Secret of Mana both had hugely impressive runs, but I think I'd have to be a bit more intimately familiar with them to really enjoy it. Same with the amazing 8-hour Final Fantasy VIII run. The fact that Super Metroid any% had an improvement is bananas, but I opted for an even more fun Super Metroid run instead. A few other games with improvements like this – Super Mario Bros. 2, some Sonics, Mega Mans, Goldeneye, etc. - all deserve huge applause for their efforts, but I dunno, I just think they didn't have enough substance overall to keep me coming back. The Super Mario Bros. 2 warpless almost made the list and maybe I ought have just done top 20. No because then I'd spend hours getting the order right argh. Anyways uh also shoutouts to wak and brasterd and everyone else doing that's amazing Super Smash Bros. Melee videos, all of Mugg's insane glitched runs, that great butunoptimized Sunshine run from nicovideo, and tons and tons of other ones I've forgotten.

10. Ivy the Kiwi? “100%” in 15:23.86
Nintendo DS
by Ryuto

This might seem like an odd choice after talking about the noninclusion of so many great runs for famous (for a reason) games. Ivy the Kiwi? is a cute enough game with a clever concept but it didn't get a whole lot of attention. I bet it would have if playing it was actually anything like this movie. Ryuto proves himself to be the master of touch-screen TASing again by twisting a Lemmings/Canvas Curse style platformer into a chaotic bullet-steering simulation. Watching the bird navigate increasingly intricate courses at non-stop break-neck speeds brings back the simplest joys of TAS. It might sound repetitive on paper, but watching the run never gets old.

9. Pokemon Blue “Gotta Catch 'Em All!” in 3:20:46.17
Super Gameboy
by p4wn3r and Mukki

One of the beautiful things about video games is how, due to their predictable logic and wide range of possibilities, the previously unimaginable can quickly become the hypothetical. Any question you can ask of a game, like, “what would happen if I got out of Kokiri Forest without beating the Deku Tree?”, you can come up with a reasonable answer for just through knowledge of the game. The beauty of TASing is how the then hypothetical becomes the real. When I saw people on the TASVideos forums discussing a run that would catch all 151 Pokemon of the first generation as quickly as possible, I wrote it off as an exercise in hypothesis. I honestly never believed I'd someday have over three hours of Pokemon-catching action in front of me, but that's TASing for you. Now, when I say action, I may be generous. The fast forward button was made for this sort of thing, I admit. And although the variety of and glitches is pretty vast and the blatant disregard for the supposed rules of the game is hilarious, this is really a run you go back and watch bits of occasionally instead of sitting down with a bowl of popcorn for the duration. But don't get me wrong, those brief visits won't fail to leave you with an undeniable sense of awe at all the brilliant creative work put into route-planning (and probably a strong case of “nostalgia sickness”). The players simply go to work on this game. Never have I seen what should be the unfeasible ultimate goal of a huge game like Pokemon deconstructed and solved with such ruthless efficiency. And yet, there's some undeniable charm in what really boils down to the adventures of the luckiest Pokemon trainer hypothetically possible.

8. Super Mario World “small only” in 1:18:23.22
by PangaeaPanga

This is a category that might not sound good initially – without Yoshi or powerups, Mario's options are pretty limited. But when you look at the number of exits this run manages to clear without these luxuries, you'll quickly realize that what few tricks Mario still has will be pushed to their absolute limits. Level clearing aside, speed optimization becomes a whole new game when flying isn't an option, and some of the tricks used to eke out a few frames are mind-boggling. Super Mario World nails that miraculous instance where the fastest thing is usually the coolest looking.

7. Super Mario 64 “0-Star” in 5:03.73
Nintendo 64
by Kyman, sonicpacker, Nahoc, Molotov and SilentSlayers
Improvement not contained in that encode:

I went back and forth about including this a few times. If you had asked me a year ago if I'd call like 2 seconds of improvement over the course of a year a “revolution” in Super Mario 64, I probably would have, well, uh, I probably would have said “yes”. But if you asked a random person that, I kinda doubt they would have. But honestly, the 0-star team continues to leave me in total shock and awe over the most seemingly minor improvements. I mean, wall-jumping up the BitFS towers? It's so simple, so elegant, and yet, you really feel the bleeding-edge sense of pushing the envelope you might get in an extremely fast new car. If I can make a weirder sort of comment here, I really feel like Mario 64, like the good sciences, is moving through periods of innovation and weirdness towards a universal, celestial perfection that we will know through its beauty and simplicity. Weird thing to seriously think, sure, but look at the final backwards long jump in that new version of BitS, doesn't that just look... right? If I can someday watch a 120-star run that is all that beautiful, I'll die a happy man.

6. Super Mario Bros. 1, 2, 2 (USA) and 3 in 10:39.75
by agwawaf

It was only a matter of time before the multi-game, single-input challenge that Mega Man fans flocked to came to Mario. Want a new favorite way to get a headache that doesn't involve binge drinking? You've found it. Iconic sound effects highlight the synchronization and the feeling of three Marios “waiting” on the last to do some trick is hilarious. The best part is, more than just the combination being very clever and entertaining, each run, although not as great as it would be solo, is still an exciting classic on its own right. These sorts of exhibitions, challenges unimaginable to an unassisted player, really prove the worth of TASing as a creative and enjoyable art form.

5. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island “any%” in 1:33:40.18
by Carl Sagan

Most TASing comes from within the community, that is, someone who makes a TAS of a given game is more likely to be an experienced TASer rather than an experienced player of that game. This is a notable exception, and it shows. Carl Sagan is a name well known to uh, fans of science. Sorry. That will be my only reference to the player's internet handle. Carl Sagan is also a name known for different reasons to fans of Yoshi's Island, as well, as an extremely talented unassisted speedrunner. Watching his unassisted runs feels like watching a TAS – not just because of the preciseness and inhuman speed, but because of the crazy tricks and shenanigans he manages to squeeze in. It's a full celebration of the game, born out of a love that hasn't diminished through expertise. So when he actually TASes, this same attitude blooms even further. Autoscrollers becomes circuses of juggling. Enemies become platforms. Doors become warps. One of the fundamental aspects contributing to the joy of playing Nintendo platformers is that few things slow you down when you do them. In Yoshi's Island, this is especially true, and in a TAS, it's especially doable. Give all these possibilities and tools to someone with a proven dedication and appreciation to the game and the result is something beautiful. Can't wait for the 100%!

4. Mega Man & Bass “100 CDs” in 38:07.60
Super Famicom
by sparky, parrot14green and woabclf

Mega Man is an incredibly difficult series to TAS, I'd imagine. With an arsenal of weapons and tricks to add platforms or little boosts – each of them with limited ammunition – the amount of options in each room can be head-spinning, especially when you consider the many speedy TAS-only zipping glitches that end up being possible in the weirdest of places. Add to that the ability to choose stages and thus unlock weapons in an order of your choosing, creating a challenging “traveling salesman” problem, and you get a puzzle with a solution that would induce migraines in all but the most veteran TASers. Luckily for viewers, these same challenges create one of the most beautifully busted and varied series to watch. For my money, there's no run that provides better Mega Man hijinks than this full exploration of one of the series' best games. Sure, the NES-era might be more thoroughly annihilated through glitches, and even if skips of that magnitude were possible here, the requirement to hunt down all the CDs would prevent them, but when the gameplay is this entertaining, I'm glad we have to actually make it through the whole stage. The sheer number of glitches, movement tricks and clever small skips required makes for a seriously varied run, and anything unnecessary is shown off during the periodic bits of downtime while waiting for Rush to dig up a CD or a boss to cycle back into vulnerability. The players here show a serious commitment to milking every frame to maximum energy, and the result makes an hour pass like a minute.

3. Super Metroid “Reverse Boss Order” in 48:08.58
by Taco, Kriole and Hero of the Day

For a detailed explanation of why this run is amazing, you'd be better to ask my roommate or one of the other members of the cult of Super Metroid. My mental encyclopedia for the game is hardly comprehensive, the limits being something like “wow I didn't know you could do that there and wow how does he do that when that's still aaaaaaaaghehgbfelfph”, like someone who has only seen a tire rolling down a hill and then is shown the Autobahn. Reverse Boss Order, which, as it sounds, has you fighting the major bosses of the game in reverse before finishing off Mother Brain, seems like a bit arbitrary, like someone running out of other things to do, but watching it should make it clear that this is a route that is just riddled with cool stuff. Well, cool stuff doesn't really begin to explain it. Cool stuff is a bit of an understatement. Just watch it. Even if you somehow have had some childhood of Kafkaesque tragedy where you never got to play Super Metroid, just watch it.

2. Cave Story in 50:10.30
by nitsuja

If you've played Cave Story and you've watched TASes, I don't need to sell this to you. It's simple. Running and gunning doesn't get much more fun than this, and seeing it done perfect is pure joy. Cave Story was on the shortest of short lists of games I eagerly looked forward to seeing TASed, and the result meets and exceeds my expectations. Again, I shouldn't have to sell this if you're at all familiar with what you're about to watch. Enjoy.

1. The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 1:29.32
Nintendo 64
by MrGrunz

It should come at no surprise to anyone that MrGrunz's masterpiece of TASery is my favorite run of the year. It's probably my favorite TAS of all time. The 2-year history of the creation of this run could make for an entertaining movie itself: full of controversy and intrigue, tantalizing previews and bitter disputes, false starts and false ends, dates promised then missed, and the payoff, oh man, the payoff in the end. The any% route for Majora's Mask is like a gift from the Gods of video gaming, varied and exciting, glitched-out and wacky without seeming unsatisfyingly broken. We're further treated to an execution of this route where more ground is covered through explosion-propelled slides and jumps than any conventional means. Trips back to the bomb shop might be one of the few tedious parts of the run, but you'll appreciate the break and savor the anticipation it serves, as not a single explosive is used in any case where your jaw doesn't end up dropping. There's like a million ways to speed yourself up a bit in this game, and Grunz does all of them, often all at once. The excitement is heightened by expert camera work – you can tell he had a very clear picture of not only what the run should contain, but the coolest way to display it. The result is positively cinematic – pulling back for big jumps or arcing overhead to emphasize the chasm crossed, oh, and the entirety of the isometric view in the Deku Palace... but if I start naming highlights we'll be here for days. The whole run is a highlight. It plays like a highlight reel of the coolest parts of thousands of other hypothetical runs for lesser games. There's something said about the quality of Majora's Mask too when you consider all the amazing things you're thankful that he can't manage to skip. Such an amazing game deserves nothing less than this wonderful string of inputs.

So that's the list!

I hope you enjoyed it. Come back for more “best of 2011” pointless retrospecting soon. Oh but first a quick bonus:

My top 10 anticipated TAS runs for 2012!

(Note that at best I just hope these will come out in 2012. Some I am fairly confident in, others not so much, but I do know there is at least some work being done on them. I think.)

10. Metal Gear Solid
9. Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door
8. Super Mario 64 DS “1 star”
7. Super Mario World “glitched any%”
6. Super Mario World “96 exits”
5. Final Fantasy VII
4. Final Fantasy IX
3. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island “100%”
2. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time “Medallions, Stones and Trials”
1. Super Mario 64 120 stars

Even if half of these actually come out it should be a great year. Look forward to it!

Special last minute addition!

So I wrote this a couple of days before the year actually ended and I just knew somehow it would come back to bite me. And I also knew that if it did, it would be because of a good thing – another fantastic run cropping up. And here it is!

Super Mario World “glitched any%” in 2:36.40
by Masterjun

I'm not sure if I would have included this on the top 10 list or not. It's certainly pretty entertaining, and quite mind-boggling, and the research that lead to the discovery of the credits glitch is fascinating, but really, there isn't a whole lot of content to the run. Still, amazing beyond all recognition.


Anonymous said...

is that really a proper use of "kafkaesque" though

Keatsta said...

I'd say the misery of a Super Metroid-less childhood qualifies as an environment created by conspiring higher parties beyond one's comprehension. Maybe uh not though I just wanted to use the word. Probably Dickensian would be better.

earthwormchuck163 said...

Top anticipated tas of 2012: Our wind waker run

Keatsta said...

HOW COULD I FORGET. Three hours of appeasing a boat and then zombie hovering to the final boss in ten minutes.