Final Fantasy II (SNES) - 3:56 - Kevin Juang
Speed run of Final Fantasy II in 38 segments completed on December 19 2005. Available in low quality only, video quality is poor when moving in the overworld. Timing note: Game's timer is referenced at its last visible point, then real time from then to final damage numbers appearing is added. Resulting time is rounded up to the next whole minute since the game timer could've have been :59 seconds at the last visible moment.
First, I would like to thank my friend Kyle for lending me his working cart, Persona and Radix for hosting, Ben Siron (Wizard201) for his now 11-year-old algorithms FAQ, and Peter Tiernan for his previous run, which gave me the necessary motivation. I've wanted to do this for years now, and I made my goal sub 4 hours without really knowing if it could be done. Peter's 4:15 looked really good, and I only gained more respect for it as I was trying to beat it. My main speed advantage, along with better luck manipulation, is that I avoid leveling almost the entire game, only fighting two regular enemy fights. This makes for some very tense boss fights, with new strategies for most of them. It's amazing to note how perfectly the stars have to align for this minimalist run to even be possible. Kain needs to have enemy übergear, Rydia needs to have Warp for early dark crystal, and FuSoYa needs to have Lunarian übergear. Incidentally, the point about minimizing leveling was stressed in my original post, but I certainly don't blame Peter for his leveling, as I'm sure it was much less annoying that way.
There are two main innovations that I came up with for speedrunning FF2. Unfortunately, for both of them, I know of no other game where they work so well:
1) At minimal levels and equipment, the run hits a roadblock at Valvalis, who just attacks too fast, for too much damage. I developed a "tanking" strategy, where I remove all of Kain's newly issued armor and give it all to Cecil. When someone dies, all they get is a Life1 and no more healing. Eventually I abuse Cecil's auto-cover to the point where he is taking all the hits for the entire team with his inflated defense.
2) Harvesting enemies is somewhat of an RPG tradition, but usually harvesting top-of-the-line enemies is not feasible because they are too dangerous and take too long to kill. By using FuSoYa's Weak, however, I level the playing field and earn 26-27 levels each for Rosa and Cecil, fighting two Dragon Machine fights in the Giant.
Now for some comments on mistakes:
1) I only have one working controller, and it rattles and is breaking down, so if I screw up while moving the cursor to the beat or pause slightly while walking in a straight line or seem to let go while running away or something like that, you can blame it on the controller. I estimate all this only adds up to several seconds anyway, but it might look stupid. I actually do kinda suck at button mashing though. =p
2) I make three blatant mistakes, all dealing with items. I save just enough money to buy a Tent in Fabul, but somehow I just don't buy it and I didn't notice until I kinda needed one later after Magus Sisters. I also unnecessarily used a Cabin before fighting the Elements. Both of these waste about 15 seconds. Also, the Calbrena & Golbez segment that went the best was also the one where I forgot to sort my inventory before the battles. This costs between 5-10 seconds. Fortunately, since I make it at the tail end of 3:55, I think the final time would have been the same. Combine this with better button mashing and control from #1, as well as some miscellaneous junk, and it all adds up to 3:54.
3) My biggest regret, while it doesn't waste any time, is actually not switching lead characters nearly enough. I have no explanation; I mean, I do this while normally playing, but I guess I was preoccupied, heh.
For the curious but lazy, here are the items I get:
- some items like Cure1, Ether1, Ether2, Tent, Cabin, 2 Elixirs, Ninja star, etc
- I buy a bunch of items (in Fabul, then Baron, then Dwarf Castle) like Cure1, Cure2, Life, Heal, Cabin, etc
- Kain and FuSoYa's EQ
- Darkness sword
- Fire sword
- Earth hammer
- Blizzard spear
- Dragoon EQ
- Protect ring
- White robe
- Crystal sword
Now on to the segment comments, with a short FAQ section afterwards! I'll try not to make fun of the plot too much, as it has enough plotholes and dei ex machinis to feed a third world nation. But I really do admire the simple, heartfelt purity of the story. Really.
1) Just some story stuff, including the "crossing the bridge" sequence. We get to see the dummied items that confused American gamers for years!
2) Mist Dragon fight went well. Sorry about your mom, Rydia! =(
3) I guess the trauma made Rydia forget how to summon Titan, which is pretty lame. Cecil serves some Soldier beatdown and then makes sure to talk to Rosa reeeal slowly so that she doesn't talk twice.
4) When I get Tellah, I temporarily get a Cecil with Tellah colors walking around. This looks pretty neat, and is obviously also a secret cheat that doubles my powers of awesome. Oh yes, I have been asked several times, wouldn't it be better to level Rydia up some with Tellah's Lit1? Although this might seem to make sense, I have extensively tested and it really is better not to level at all. Rydia's extra levels are only really useful to Lit1 Octomamm, as during Antlion and Mombomb, she uses Chocobo and has enough MP.
5) Rydia just parries against Octomamm and gets a Life1 from Tellah near the end. I could use Chocobo or Rod, but her damage is not nearly as time-efficient as Cecil or Tellah, who are both able to exploit elemental weaknesses. Besides, I actually need that one extra Chocobo against Antlion.
6) Edward is such a pansy. Also a spoony bard! I personally think Tellah is so focused on the delivery of this killer insult, that he forgets to hit Edward during the fight.
7) "Worry not. Antlion is tame." I love that. Anyway, using Ether1 and Cure1 on Rydia and being Operation Human Shield is as useful as Edward will ever be in a fight. Taking 2 damage and dying while at 2 HP will also not be on his highlight reel.
8) What will be on his highlight reel, however, is the time he singlehandedly took down the mighty Water Hag! Ok, not really singlehandedly... he needed the loving encouragement of his dead girlfriend. At least he doesn't die in this fight; I think I've had that happen before. My brother tried to rag on me while watching for parking the hovercraft suboptimally outside Kaipo, but if you keep on watching, I get the last laugh! In other news, if I was Rydia, the first thing I would do after learning Fire1 is cast it on Cecil. This is, of course, in lieu of the Titan that she previously forgot.
9) I make the safe play and Cure1 Cecil after Mombomb explodes. Rydia usually doesn't survive as long as she does after that. I could have tried to make Edward survive the Explode (I think this is actually as close as he ever got), but since I want the Bombs to be exploding and not falling asleep, it's actually better this way. I considered just parrying with Edward, but sadly his 40-50 total damage here usually makes the difference in Rydia being able to Chocobo immediately after Explode.
10) When the King of Fabul asks the women to stay behind to help nurse, I always get confused why Edward doesn't go with them. ;) But seriously, look how much he just gets in the way during the fighting. It would have been better if he had just died so I wouldn't have to keep controlling his hidden self. And at the end, he even trips on the carpet and falls flat on his face, resulting in an extra fight! What a pansy. Oh and I really wish it was possible to cast Warp here; that Dark Elf cave later on is pretty stupid.
11) Cecil would have been suspicious of the twins' ulterior motive, but then Palom said "I can't stop thinking about dark knights! They're cool... and by cool, I mean totally sweet." POW! If you notice, I was really channeling Winston Churchill while walking to Mt Ordeal.
12) I need to get Comet, then two Flares to make the first Milon fight go quick. He counters everything with Lit1, and it's all about Twin, so Tellah is best served mostly healing.
13) I need at least two out of three Flares against Milon Z. Again, it's all about Twin. I also tried sneaking in some offensive Cure2's, but I couldn't ever win with only two Twin's, even both being Flare. Oh, and Porom and especially Palom need all the EXP they can get, in order to learn Cure2 and Lit2 respectively, right before Kainazzo. What I don't understand is why Milon has to throw himself off the cliff like that. Doesn't death only make him stronger? He'd be pretty unstoppable after a while, if you ask me.
14) This is when people typically level up Cecil. The effect it has on later characters is usually overstated. The difference in Yang's level based on a level 1 Cecil and a level 9 Cecil? 13 and 14.
15) Our intrepid heroes totally run right over that little girl in the inn.
16) Palom and Porom must have known that Baigan was an imposter by the fact that the party would have had six people! Knowing this, they later turn themselves to stone once you get Cid. (Maybe the Enterprise only seats five.) All jokes aside, this segment is extremely difficult. Flare is reflected by Wall, so I need Comet against Baigan. I also need to time the second Ice3 correctly so that it goes off right after his Wall wears off. Cecil promptly celebrates by gaining seven levels. Against Kainazzo, I need Palom's Lit2 to get in there or else I can't win. It would have been nice to have Porom survive Wave, but in the end this fight is all about Tellah, and Cecil and Yang know this. After the fight, we witness the debut of Convenient Cid. I call him this because, well, he conveniently decides to come to the rescue right after the two difficult fights.
17) I love how semantically, the metal paralysis bit is completely inconsequential. Say hi to the Wizards from FF1. Astos himself is impressively buff before Edward's music turns him into just another GameFAQs poster with bad grammar and poor netiquette. Speaking of which, I love how Edward's crowning achievement in this game is walking four whole steps without his attendants. In retrospect, I think the Dark Elf would like to take a mulligan on that "ME CHANGE!" bit. Hmm, the Eight Clerics really do seem naÃ¯ve letting Cecil just take the crystal away like that. But how could they really stop him anyway? They're just clerics; the best they could do is to threaten to not heal him or something.
18) Now I know why Kain betrays Cecil. He couldn't resist the opportunity to get his own sweet airship ride! And yes, that really is the best way to fight the Flame Dog.
19) Do you ever wonder how much more dangerous the opposition would be if they ever taught Revive to more than one person in a party? The traditional thing to do versus the Magus Sisters is to bounce magic off your Wall, but I eschew that and just go with good timing. You would think that the post-Cindy part of the fight might go a bit quicker if Tellah never casts anything but Ice3 and so gets an extra one, but somehow when I tried it that way several times, it was actually slower due to chance and everyone else having to use Cure1 and Life1 more instead of attacking. I do think it's better in theory, but what can you do other than keep the fastest segment? Anyway, this is supposed to be a tough fight even at normal levels, so after this embarrassment, the Magus Sisters decide to turn themselves into giant insects. It's true!
20) If only Tellah had 9 more MP, I could smash through this game. Good thing I'm speedrunning, or Rosa would have been crushed! I love how, even though she knows Valvalis is around, Rosa doesn't bother casting Exit ASAP and waits until the tower is about to collapse. This costs me around seven minutes. Actually, Rosa could have just cast Exit in the first place. Maybe making out with Cecil restored her MP! Anyway, I've heard of not sharing the remote, but this is beyond ridiculous.
21) During the crossfire, it's interesting to note that both sides must consider the Enterprise as an "Enemy Airship." It warms my heart to know that Do Make Say Think must have been big fans of FF2. Oh, and I know he's a main character, but Cecil really needs to work on his waking up skills.
22) Another set of two very difficult boss fights. We know what that means! It's time for Convenient Cid to exit the house, although he could have just, you know, used that remote control he was just bragging about. I've been asked before, so I'll mention that I need to kill the dolls this way so that Calbrena doesn't form, which is an unwinnable fight. If you notice, at the end of the fight, I parry with Cecil. This is to get him to stop tanking, since I need Cecil to have close to full HP to have any sort of chance against Golbez. People have a hard time believing this, but it really is impossible to get Kain into the air versus Golbez at low levels. You know, I think it'd be pretty useful if Rydia had a Shadow Dragon of her own to summon. I'm not sure why I hesitate using Cure2 with Rydia, since you NEED Lit3 to hit Cecil and might as well reset if it doesn't happen. I actually win with one final hit from Cecil on the way, which I didn't think was possible. Speaking of not thinking something was possible, I'll just assume there's a secret entrance to the locked crystal room I don't know about. I know seeing a dismembered hand might be a little freaky, but Cecil really needs to work on his reaction time. But that's ok. Warp! Rydia, I love you. =)
23) You might wonder why I get the Catclaw, as it only seems to raise Yang's attack by 1. However, it also gives STR+5 and AGI+5. This is just enough to increase his attack multiplier by 1 each. (And no, the additional STR+5 of the Bandanna I pass up does not make a difference.) So in actuality, Yang's base attack goes from 129 to 220. By my calculations, it wasn't worth picking up the Charm claw (AGI+3) or the Poison claw (STR+3) earlier. But it is possible based on the random nature of stat increases at level-ups that it could have been worth picking up either one or the other, and then rerolling after boss fights for good stat-ups. That's a level of insanity that should be reserved only for Famitsu Wave (GameWave) DVD.
24) Long story short, this really is the fastest way for me to do Lugae and Balnab. At least Rydia's spells are optimized. I like how Yang's sad music lasts for all of five seconds before the next random encounter happens and it goes away. Ooh, there's Convenient Cid again. Good thing we don't actually have to fight Golbez this time, or he might not have come at all! Hmm, two apparent kamikaze suicides in one segment. That must be some sort of record.
25) By the 15th consecutive time I saw the airship remodeling sequence, I really wish I'd done it in the previous segment. And you think I'm kidding.
26) I guess Glare could be considered a kind of Flame. Here's a fun game: every PC in FF2 has one specific plot moment where they and they alone can allow the party to proceed. A lot of them are hard to come up with, but perhaps none are as unmemorable as Edge's. "Watch! (me bust through the wall)" I'm a little miffed that the segment I kept wasn't one of the ones where I got surprised by an Egg. That's always good times.
27) My brother informed me that moving to the music during Edge's parents' farewell scene was a bit tasteless. Oh well. I don't know exactly how fiery rage would draw out Edge's hidden power of Flood, but I'll take it. More fun with timing. Cecil can't attack because Rubicant counters with AOE, and he can't parry because he needs to be tanking. So he is relegated to item use. Man, the Chamberlain and Company must be decently leveled to breeze through this dungeon that the legendary heroes just had a tough time with. Every time I see this scene I want to beat him up and steal his sprint shoes. They also show up just in time to not be able to help out against Rubicant. The Chamberlain must have been taking lessions from Convenient Cid! Hmm, if the good guys had thought of building pitfalls at the entrances of their crystal rooms, that would have made things a lot easier. I remember when I was a little kid, I tried casting Float upon entering the room. It didn't work because, you know, that would actually make sense. Skipping past a bad Iron Man joke, I absolutely love Rydia and Rosa's comments at the Falcon: "It's not yours!" "Isn't this a trap or something?" Good thing Edge doesn't subscribe to morals or reason. I could imagine the rest of the party just sitting there for days.
28) I shouldn't have disequipped the Blizzard spear here; I thought I would be able to Dart it later for some reason. Another poor soul gets run over, this time a black mage in Mysidia. Wait, I think he's that bastard that casts Piggy on you. Justice is served! After all the theatrics, I know I can't possibly be the only one who was let down by the Big Whale hype train the first time. I would have thought it would have looked more big and more whale-like and less like, say, a Hummer H3 with tail fins.
29) Those Lunarians sure would be useful to have at raves, what with their bright flashing colors and all. I wonder if we are really supposed to believe that this is Earth, in the Milky Way galaxy. Maybe FuSoYa was still feeling the effects of all that ecstasy.
30) Yes, it's true that the Giant of Babel would have destroyed the entire world. FuSoYa just neglected to mention that at that rate, it would have taken roughly 10,000 years. Just like Rydia, I take every opportunity to actually say "Screeeam!" It's great fun; you should try it.
31) It almost certainly wasn't worth the couple of seconds to swap the Diamond ring. I level up Rosa first so that she can get Cure3 for the second Dragon Machine fight.
32) The mass suicide part of the fight goes a lot better this time. As well as mass suicides can be expected to go, at any rate.
33) Wow, I get some massive framedropping during this segment. The highly dangerous part of this fight is that even if she's waiting for it, Rosa isn't fast enough at this level to be able to heal after Storm before Valvalis can attack to kill someone. Because of this, I try to cast Cure4 in the dark, anticipating Storm. I don't know how it worked this time really. Let's just say the unnecessary Life2 of Cecil was due to an unpleasant experience I had once, walking back with FuSoYa.
34) My original strategy for this fight was to Meteo, use the last Ether1 on FuSoYa, and Meteo again for the win. Let's just say this led to many angry fist pounds as the CPU refused to Globe199 the correct people. Then I discovered that the CPU's Wall wears off around the Globe199 stage. Well, that was easier. Oh, I don't think Edge knows that it isn't possible to "get rid of" hypnotized Kain in one-on-one combat; he will just cheat and kick your ass with aimbot. Cecil's idea at the end is extremely arbitrary and dumb, but at least the women vote themselves back on the island. I wouldn't want all that powerleveling to go to waste.
35) What a short segment, that could have went with the previous one. And with semi-respectable levels, there's not even any danger of wiping this time!
36) I really hated redoing this segment so many times. It didn't help that twice the power went out when I was having insanely good luck. Then the power went out again. For five whole days. Then I had to continue doing this segment over again after all of that.
37) I am so glad there's a save point right there, because Mega Nuke is almost never that cooperative.
38) Of course, the opposite of that is this segment. Sad that this fight is mostly boring attrition, but then again, Zeromus was never really the life of the party.
ending) I will allow the writers just a small truckload of sappiness.
Q: Why does it look so blurry when you walk around? You should have done this on VCR and sent it to Nate or something!
A: Honestly, I wouldn't have even attempted this on a VCR; it terrifies me just thinking about it. Using my capture card, it takes about 5-10 seconds of downtime between failed segments. And my hard drive doesn't have enough space to encode all the different SDA flavors or even hold all the Huffyuv originals. The videos probably could have stood to use some more kbps, but it looks more than fine to me, and that's the bottom line. I offer you my deepest apologies if it truly bothers you though.
Q: Why so many segments?
A: To put it simply, usually to minimize random encounter time. Bosses are obviously no joke, either. All that optimization adds up.
Q: I can't believe you made these little mistakes! Shouldn't you have redone all of those segments?
A: I need to stress that I actually recorded most of these segments 20-30 times, keeping the best one. Strangely enough, the first time I won many battles was eventually the one I had to keep. You need to remember that damage varies wildly in this game, and in a segment in which I might make a mistake which costs a couple seconds, the battle might go extremely well, saving much more time. Incidentally, the wildly varying damage is why sometimes it might appear like I'm unnecessarily healing. I do overheal some, but probably not more than five or so specific instances in the entire run.
Q: Any ideas for improvements?
A: Well, besides flawless play and even better luck manipulation, there are a couple things. One is gaining a few less levels, and offloading some of the level gain (some leveling is needed to beat the Elements) to harvesting Attacker and Defender using Quake. I didn't do the former because retrying Zeromus 50+ times didn't sound like my idea of fun, and I didn't do the latter because it is too difficult without emulator help to safely comprehend. The other possible improvement is more interesting. My test runs made me settle on getting the equipment I did as optimal. However, I now believe that it would be better to buy 4 Headbands after fighting Yang in Baron and to take a quick trip to Rydia's house to pick up the Change rod and Tiara after getting the Enterprise. The STR+5 of the Headbands would allow the fighters to hit their next attack multiplier a little earlier, and the combined WIS+15 of Rydia's gear increases her magic multiplier by 4. I know the tendency is usually to try to pick up too much, but in this case, I'm pretty sure this is correct, despite the extra time that it takes.
Q: What about future work?
A: Well, because of all the work involved, I don't anticipate ever doing this again myself, and maybe my talk of all these retries will scare off everyone else. I will estimate, however, that it would be possible to approach 3:45 with absolutely perfect play and a GameWave level of masochistic dedication, and probably 3:20 with a TAS. However, I am more than satisfied with 3:55.
Q: Why was this writeup so damn long?
A: I'm sorry.