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Speedrun Spotlight - Super Mario RPG featuring Pidgezero_one

Updated: Aug 6, 2020

Welcome to the my newest series: Speedrun Spotlight.  Here we will focus on some of my favorite games and talk to some of the people who speedrun them.  To start the series, I got a hold of Pidgezero_one to talk about Super Mario RPG Legend of the Seven Stars for the Super Nintendo.

When someone speedruns a game, they challenge themselves to beat it as fast as possible.  There are many categories and rules specific to each game, but a standard style would be an "Any%" run.  Any% is to complete the game at the earliest possible time.  It often means running the game with less resources than most players get, forgoing valuable upgrades, and certainly makes it more difficult.  Their mastery of the game allows them to seemingly overcome these obstacles with ease, but it is more apt to attribute it to the skills they have honed over their time in the game.  Runs may require a series of lightning-quick button presses; feats programmed into the run that takes dedication and practice.  The entirety of a speedrun can last only a few minutes, or up to several hours, depending on the game.  Precise control, intimate knowledge of the game, and a desire to beat the odds push players to race each other for the fastest times, and for world records. 

Super Mario RPG came out in 1996, when I was only 7 years old.  I remember going to the local rental store with my mom and seeing it on the shelf.  The box art had these big, bright, 3D models of Mario, Peach, and Bowser.  Up until now I had only seen them in 2D Mario games, and this blew me away before I even got to play it.  It was too big for me to beat in one rental period so I kept going back again and again to rent.   It became one of my favorite games and I continue to revisit it and enjoy what it has to offer.  I played through Super Mario RPG a handful of times.  I took pride in how thoroughly I had beaten it, how I had finished off bosses I knew so well.  Ran through segments I had memorized in a flash.  Grabbed some secret items that some might not know about.  Finish the final boss.  I don't even consider to time myself, or to challenge myself to play it as fast as I could. 

"I got Super Mario RPG for my 7th birthday, the year it came out, and it's always been my favorite game of all time," says Pidge.  She had gone back to beat it so many times that she ended up making challenges for herself: Beat it with no weapons equipped, no armor, no accessories, and no level grinding.  Around 2015, deciding to stream this self-imposed challenge run, a Super Mario RPG speedrunner, Millnium, happened upon her twitch channel.  Millnium suggested to Pidge to try speedrunning the game, instead of only playing casually.  Pidge responded "2016 my new year's resolution I'm going to learn the speedrun, I'm going to do one completed run, and I'm going to post it to the leaderboard."   In May of 2016 she clocked in at over 5 hours.  She currently sits at number 10 on the Any% leaderboard with a time of 2:53:18.  Super Mario RPG is unique in some of it's speedrun characteristics.  The way the game is designed allows for a very specific and measured playthrough.  "All damage calculations, unless you're attacking with an equipped weapon, are deterministic.  There's no randomness at all, " says Pidge.  This allows them to plan out their character's experience exactly, to complete boss battles as fast as they can without fighting extra enemies.  There is a bit of chance as to what will happen during the battles.  "The randomness comes from what attack the enemy does, so we're able to flowchart fights."  This allows runners to make sure they are exactly on pace and not have to worry about being blindsided.  They just have to execute.  It is also different due to using very few exploits.  "The Any% speedrun only uses two glitches," Pidge tells me. One boss is skipped out of 26 boss fights, and a skill swap is performed.  The boss is only the third boss in the game, and they skip it to save time.  The skill swap is more in-depth.  As mentioned before, the experience the characters receive is calculated exactly.  If you swap character positions in the menu when you get a level up from a super star, one character will learn the other's skills.  This allows for Peach to use strong magic spells with better stats, for stronger damage against bosses.  All of this makes Super Mario RPG a really solid speedrun.  "It's better to be good than to be lucky," remarks Pidge.  Focusing on the game in a competitive or serious nature doesn't detract from her enjoyment of it.  "It's like a casual playthrough, but faster."  In fact, she runs a category titled "Most of the stuff", which is basically 100% completion.  "It brought back all the stuff I love about Super Mario RPG, but with the speed format."

Speedrunning events really put a highlight on the community surrounding certain games.  Runners will have people on a couch with them while they play their run, and those people tend to be very well-versed in the game themselves.  People are competing for top times, but in many speedrunning communities, the competition is friendly.  They share strategies, work together to overcome problems or barriers, and discuss the best routing options for the fastest times.  In Pidge's case, a fellow runner offered to make a video on the spot showing her how to perform a trick properly.  It is a camaraderie born from having a shared hobby. I had been watching speedruns for several years now, since I stumbled upon AGDQ in 2013, but I had never thought to check for Super Mario RPG.  I had suspected it was long and without spectacle. RPGs don't typically have repetitive skill exhibitions like a platformer would.  The difference between watching a sprint or a marathon.  It was eye opening when I watched Pidge's couch commentary during Justin-Credible's 2019 AGDQ run.  I was stunned by the talent on display, and the knowledge of the game's inner workings.  This community togetherness was on full display with a prominent router of the game, Claude, and a former world record holder, Verniy, accompanying Pidge on the couch.  Pidge had encyclopedic knowledge of the game on demand, making the run beyond enjoyable.  The run goes for about 3 hours total, but I found myself attentive from start to finish, enthralled by the comprehensive performance.  Every battle was mapped, each fight and trick done with pinpoint accuracy, and each step of the way the commentators would step in and tell you just why and how something was happening.  Speedrunning isn't Pidge's most dedicated passion.  She mainly runs Super Mario RPG 100% category now, and while she told me she doesn't do many runs competitively against others, she is more concerned with competing with herself.  A new personal best means more than outplacing someone on the leaderboards.  She also is on the development team for the Super Mario RPG Randomizer,  TOs events for the Super Smash Bros. 64 and Brawl community,  and streams video game content on Twitch. 

Check out PidgeZero_One



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