Some gamers rush through games to see the credits as quickly as possible. Then there’s a group that wants to squeeze out as much gameplay as possible by doing all the optional side quests and taking on a game’s most difficult setting. On the way end of the hardcore spectrum are “speedrunners”, a group of gamers that show off their skills by beating a game from beginning to end in record time. Mike Uyama is one of the core speed runners and he pushes himself to the limit to shave off each second of playtime. He mastered most of the Metal Slug series, blew through Gunstar Heroes and achieved a perfect “S” ranking in a single sitting with Mega Man Zero 2. Read on to hear what Mike had to say about his work and check out some clips of his speed runs below.
As you would expect completing speedruns is a lot of work. When completing Mega Man Zero 2, one Mike’s most challenging runs he spent two and a half months on that game alone. “For Zero 2 I tried to get an S-rank on each stage my first time through. Needless to say I ended up retrying each stage constantly, at least 40-50 attempts for some of the stages. After I got an S-rank going through the game on my first playthrough [I] started practicing each stage on an emulator.” While Mike uses an emulator to practice his speed runs, none of the final movies are tool assisted, “I play on an actual console, but practicing on an emulator makes the practicing much easier since retrying is only a save state away.” After the practicing is over the real challenge begins. Mike completes the games from start to finish, “It’s a single-segment run, which means no in-game saves are used. It is all done in one attempt.” Since everything is done in a single sit you can only imagine how many times it takes to successfully record a perfect run. “If you’re wondering how many attempts Zero 2 took me I’m guessing in the high hundreds maybe even around 1000.”
Out of all of his speed runs Metal Slug 4 is one his personal favorites, “I spent a lot of time planning the route and movement and I do think the route and movement is well-optimized.” Planning routes is part of the pre-run phase. By figuring out an optimal route Mike can knock down even more time in his final run. “My execution was really tight on that run too I don’t think I made over 20-25 seconds worth of mistakes.” Besides Metal Slug 4, Mike has completed speed runs for Metal Slug 1 and five. Metal Slug 3 has been a real challenge. “I have been working on Metal Slug 3 on and off for about a year now, mostly off though. There’s a lot of randomness, especially when it comes to the boss fights. There’s also the fact that the game is relentless when it comes to throwing enemies at you.” After all of this work a Metal Slug 3 run should come soon. When asked about the progress of the run Mike said “I have come very close to completing a run.”
In the minds of many retro gamers Gunstar Heroes is one of the most challenging games on the Sega Genesis. The Treasure developed title can give players a headache when they are just trying to beat the game without using continues. Also the random factor can cause problems. “It is the most random game out of all of the games I have run. Many of the bosses don’t follow a reliable pattern and the dice palace needs no further explanation.” In the dice palace players roll a 1, 2 or 3 and move that many squares on the board. Some squares have power up items, others have enemies to fight, but the real problem comes at the end where you can possibly step on a square and have to start the palace over again. Mike makes an interesting choice when selecting weapons for Gunstar Heroes. He opts for the fire chaser, a weapon that you can manually control by spinning the D-pad around. “I remember trying out the fire chaser after reading an faq about hard/expert on gamefaqs. The faq writer himself didn’t use the weapon, but someone suggested using the weapon. I decided to try it out one day lo and behold I discover it does the most damage out of all of the weapons in the game (tied with fire+lightning) and it nullifies bullets.” By spinning the flame in circles around bosses Mike manages to eliminate bullets and cause constant damage. “The constant rotation of the flame is simply a result of playing games too much over the last 15 years. It doesn’t hurt to control the flame for long periods of time, unless I’m making tiny circles like the ones in my seven force battle. You might notice me letting go of the flame at the very end of the seven force battle, that’s because my thumb was in so much pain I thought it might cramp.”
So why put all of the work into making speedruns? Just what is the inspiration to do this? “Hmmm the inspiration… Well I guess my inspiration also has to do with the origins of my speedrunning. I always thought I was good at video games, but I could never seem to be other people’s high score records. Nor was I very good at competitive games. So, speedrunning was a way of proving that I am good at games.” For those getting into speed Mike has a tip for you, “If you’re simply practicing for the game, don’t be afraid to try out risky/new tricks. It’s not like anyone is judging you if you’re only practicing so just try stuff out. You might fail 99% of the time discovering new stuff, but that 1% might be a big discovery allowing you to skip a big part of a stage, or even the game itself.” While playing Mega Man X3 Mike made one of those big discoveries, “Discovering how to jump out of an air dash with the beam saber was a complete accident in X3.” To do the trick “make sure you have the beam saber readied (as in fire off a charged shot and make sure you’re flashing). Then jump up in the air and perform an air dash (it can be either vertical or horizontal). Right as the air dash is about to end jump straight up (make sure you’re not hitting any directions), then almost immediately after you hit jump, press the shoot button. You should jump while slashing your beam saber after air dashing. The trick allows you to gain more height than what is normally possible with air dashing.”
You’ve got to see the work to believe it so we’ve taken some clips from his Mega Man Zero 2 run and his Gunstar Heroes run. Both of these are short examples, if you want to see the full videos check out the Speed Demos Archive.