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Comix Zone
Released in January 1995, Comix Zone follows Sketch Turner as he brawls his way through the pages and panels of his own comic book creation to defeat the villain Mortus, a character of the same comic, who has come to life. Sketch must use combos, powerups, and his problem-solving abilities to become the protagonist hero the comic book once lacked... and save the damsel Alissa Cyan, if the case may be.

 

Run: 0:17:41 by Elliott Feiertag

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This is a single segment, no-death run of the Sega Genesis title, Comix Zone, performed by my brother, Elliott. I am writing the comments on his behalf, but he is adding in some things here and there.

If you're just interested in comments relevant to the speedrun, you may skip this mini-review (and probably the next FEW paragraphs, for that matter). But, it's somewhat obligatory that one kisses a game's ass before one kicks it, so here it is for all those interested.

Comix Zone has always been an underrated title, even though its reputation has been steadily rising since its debut. Featuring addictive gameplay, competitive graphics, and a notably memorable soundtrack, it's not surprising to see the game resurrected by rental companies and by virtual arcade projects like the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console. The game progresses via comic panels and hosts a blend of brawling and puzzle-solving game styles. The game would have certainly benefited from a few extra levels, but it tries to compensate with excess difficulty. In any case, it's a worthwhile addition to any Genesis connoisseur's library, and hopefully my brother's speedrun does the game justice.

I'm aware of a recent TAS performed on this game which I believe clocks in around ten or eleven minutes; in either case, it beats my brother's single segment by several minutes. However, my brother's run showcases extraordinary skill and, again, no deaths, which are intensely difficult to achieve simultaneously without the assistance of save states and other tools. While I'm far from a Comix Zone veteran, myself, I believe Elliott delivered an absolutely applaudable record, which will certainly stand as a tremendous first entry for the game, if nothing else.

The biggest differences between the TAS and my brother's effort are the routes and abilities utilized. I've had trouble locating a seeder for the TAS, so I cannot directly comment on specifics; however, I know in some instances (based on the previous TAS) that it differed from my brother's in one or two instances where Sketch must choose between two different panels, and the TAS also used the paper-airplane technique on several occasions while my brother never does. I don't believe the differences in routes, if I remember correctly, were anything particularly significant as far as time-saving goes, but I'm sure Elliott would've appreciated the paper-airplane attack move, which kills virtually everything on screen. Unfortunately, the move leeches an outrageous amount of health, so it didn't seem realistically applicable for a legitimate speedrun (notice how remarkably close to death Elliott comes already in this run). As well, Elliott does make a couple blatant mistakes in the run, but I'll get to that later. Luckily, I don't think they account for more than maybe 15 to 20 seconds, but they're definitely there.

The Run:

Right off the back, you'll notice Elliott switches control schemes. He chooses Auto-blocking and Shaolin Kicks, in case you didn't catch it. Elliott just favors the Shaolin Kick as a finishing move.

The first level begins pretty self-explanatorily, although you should know Elliott disposes of the knife almost immediately in order to secure an inventory slot for RoadkillÖ that's the rodent.

In the first pane, Elliott encounters the first enemy of the game. This creature poses a simple, "Hey, how ya doin," to which Elliott responds by kicking him square in the face. Gotta' love Elliott's go get 'em attitude. Anyway, after defeating another of the obnoxiously hearty oafs, he jumps a panel, kills another, and then drops down a pane. Here, he collects Roadkill, depresses the device, and drops down a pane. Then, he hits a switch and drops down another pane. Next, Elliott kicks open some barrels, kills what for all I know is a Harpy, and then finally heads left across the "page." Ironically, it seems the further south Stretch travels across the page, the deeper into the landscape's surface he goes. Clever.

In the next pane, Elliott contends with what I'm going to call a Gonzales. Why? Because it sounds like he's constantly saying, "Andale." I think the evidence speaks for itself.

Elliott then jumps to the next pane, instinctively uses Newton's third law of motion to push the crate from the wall and drop it on the other-thing-that-explodes below in the next panel. Okay, so maybe it wasn't that complicated a puzzle. And man, talk about fighting fire with fire.

Then, Elliott bursts through a sewer grate and charges at the unexpecting oaf with unparalleled ferocity, kicking his surely bewildered butt across the next two panes before he has the faintest idea what hit him. After a final sneaker-to-the-chin, our oaf takes a tumble into the abyss, and Elliott eradicates the final lingering harpies before he reaches the end. Sketch transforms into a superhero, and then Elliott makes Sketch do a little workout with a crazy uppercut dance for the next level. You gotta' keep those biceps in shape, Sketch!

Okay, level two. Elliott's immediately forced to kick open a door; this is a prime example of how EVERYTHING in this game hurts, even puzzle solving. In the next scene, he releases good ole Roadkill to disengage the fans, and then kicks the ink out of those threeÖ ughÖ cocoon appendages? We'll just call those purplies. Then, YAY, another Gonzales! This one even comes equipped with accent-saturated dialogue! You'll notice Elliott kicks him several times into the fan; this helps, because it uses Gonzales's spine instead of Sketch's foot to wear the fan down. Elliott finishes off the fan and jumps down a panel. Another crate. Another explosion. Another dead fan.

Here, Elliott takes the grenade from a crate, kills two more harpies, and then cuts right. The next two panels are merely gauntlets of purply appendages. He kills them all and grenade-ifies the responsible oaf. Panel left.

Using the switch, Elliott aligns the rotating whatsitwhosits and drops down into a room which would last for HOURS were it not for his skill in fighting. When I was younger, I would typically stop playing here, because those little rhinocermantises just kept coming and wouldn't start dying. Elliott uses the Power Glove to quickly dispose of the scorpions, and then personally delivers a mouthful of fist to each of the green bastards as they mold. Stupid rhinocermantises.

But wait! A hive-mother dragon-rhinocermantis in the next panel!? Now who saw THAT coming? Now, you might be wondering why Elliott didn't save any powerups for this monstrosity, but you'll see it can be quite easily defeated with adequate timing and five shaolin kicks. Can you believe that? It only takes five shaolin kicks to defeat the first colossal creature in the game. Sheesh. They just don't make monsters like they used to.

End episode two. Sketch does the superhero. And then Elliott makes him do the uppercut dance. A trademark of brilliance.

Just like the previous level, this one really doesn't seem to have an explainable transition from the last scene. Ah well.

Elliott enters the next panel and humiliates two Bojutsu Bills. What are they really called? Ahh, that's not important. Jumping right, Elliott uses his finely honed uppercut dance to retrieve the drinking potion, drops down to the fourth frame, uses some more awesome third-law to retrieve a boulder and push it over the Harpy hole, which will generate those things infinitely until covered. Note: Harpies are terribly misunderstood creatures; they just want to know if, "Kreep?" Poor little guys.

He shatters the stones with Sketch's feetÖ seriously, ouchÖ drops down a panel, uncovers another stone, and third-law's it over to what I guess is a thirteenth century trash compactor. And, behind that compactor, he finds another lurking Gonzales. Needless to say, he leaves said lurking Gonzales dead on the ground.

Elliott then dropped down a scene into a hidden fighting arena, I guess. At the exploding powerup (gotta love those), Elliott yelled, "F*ck, OW" and continued. In the next panel, Elliott did another work out. ìI just wanted to pump a little iron,î Elliott explains. He does this to pass the time, while some inane banter proceeds between Sketch and some kind of demon mantel.

After the workout, Elliott Power Slams the next two Gonzales's, and then pummels an oaf. After trouncing another Bojutsu Bill, he then kills newcomer femme fatale. Here, Elliott reaches minimum healthbar level, which luckily stops decreasing per sweep kick at this point.

Elliott drops down a pane again, and somehow, after having dropped down to enter the Kung Fung arena, is back outside. Well, maybe he's on the other side of the world, now. After several seconds, Elliott yells, ìGod, would you SHUT UP!?î and tosses the grenade which Roadkill finds and disposes of another Gonzales. He flips into the next pane and dangles his way across a tightrope, which happens to be plagued by Harpies. He death-defyingly manages past them and the Bojutsu Bill. What's with everyone shooting fire, all of a sudden?? Anyway, Elliott discovered that merely dropping down to Bojutsu Bill causes him to regain his sense of morality and make a sudden leap to his death in penitence for his wrongdoings. He will be missed.

Elliott finishes off the remaining seven Harpies, and again makes Sketch perform his Uppercut Mania. Haha. You know, we always thought it looked funny when we were kids, and it still does. Good times.

At the start of level four, Elliott quickly trumps a couple harpies, and then hangs on the random-scaffolding to open the door. God knows why. He then rolls through the gate, jumps into the next panel and lets Roadkill open a secret.

Now, here Elliott picks up another Power Glove, which is the source of his one mistake: he doesn't use it. I assume this error accounts for about five to ten seconds because it could have easily been used on the boss, whose rounds in attacks take roughly that much time, and, presumably, one round could have been skipped with this weapon. Well, we're not actually sure on that, but it's worth considering. But anyway.

After dousing another Bill with a serving of knockout, Elliott takes some much needed health and drops down. Here, he femme fatale's his way through the next three panels, drops down, throws a grenade at another Gonzales, opens the crate, swipes the dynamite, jumps to the right panel, drops the dynamite to disarm the trap at the bottom, and then lowers down on the hangbar, kicking tonguelings on his way. Roadkill helps out by finding a knife, and then Elliott heads to the left pane.

This next scene gives me the Willies. Goosebumps, that is. He must kick his way through some seemingly petrified boxing bags, avoid the incoming fireballs, and then kill another Bojutsu Bill all without taking damage. Yikes. Luckily, Elliott knew what he was doing, as can be seen. He then drops down, takes and drinks the health (which at this point I think is fair to say a little scarce), lets Roadkill raise the device, and hops right.

Okay, so we're at the boss, right? Now, Elliott does pretty damn well against this guy, although he takes a couple of consecutive shots from him. Would the Super Fist have helped, here? I'm guessing it would have, but I'm not sure how much. I can't see it possibly helping by more than a maximum of fifteen seconds, but even that seems a bit on the high side, from my own personal opinion. Obviously, the REAL way to exact substantial damage on this guy is to propel him towards his own fingernails, which at times become implanted in the surrounding walls. I think regular attacks do hurt him, but they probably don't do particularly significant damage. The knife, which Elliott uses here for instance, only appears to cause damage in that it instantly sends him against the walls, where his nails are. So, would the Glove have helped tremendously? I can't say for sure, but we're probably only looking at a loss of a few seconds, realistically. In any case, end level four.

We're reunited with Roadkill now, at the beginning of level five, and from here Elliott tangles with some frustratingly resilient rhinocermantises. See how aggravating they are? If only they would've carried the damn Super Fist over to this scene! This pane may have been responsible for another five-ten second loss, if only because rhinocermantises don't know how to die.

In the pane to the right, Elliott kills another rhinocermantis while Roadkill gives rabies to the lizard god. (Hey, if you have a more reasonable explanation for what happens in this scene, then be my guest!) Elliott and I never knew what to do here when first playing the game, especially since those rhinocermantises kept regenerating until he finally figured out that Roadkill was the solution. Some things are so bizarre, that only guess-and-check can help, you know? You can, of course, kick the beast to its death, but that wastes plenty of healthbar, and none of us want that.

Elliott takes Roadkill and the dynamite and drops down. Here, he uses the patented explosion-cancelling technique, kills a harpy and a femme fatale, takes her potion, and grabs the Super Fist which Roadkill finds. Seriously, that rat rules. Next panel.

Yes! Elliott third-law's the box down from the top platform and pushes it to the bottom one, where it promptly kills something. Roadkill finds a shortcut to another panel placed suspiciously near Sketch's crotch (I knew it all along), and Elliott drops down. In case you're wondering, I have no idea what that skipped switch does.

Elliott risks taking a question mark power-up (since they can sometimes explode), but he gets lucky with a grenade. Elliott then drops down, grenades a Slinky gargoyle, and lets a Gonzales detonate himself with a landmine, it being apparently unaware of the danger that big, spiky, explosive things present. Elliott then unleashes super kickassery on the next two Gonzales's with the help of the Power Glove, takes the grenade, and goes to the panel on the right.

After decimating another rhinocermantis, he again enlists the help of Roadkill to circumvent some more spiky, peg-shaped contraptions. End scene.

Well, certainly a far-eastern temple scene would lead to a western-European ghostship graveyard scene, so we must be getting near the end. Elliott drops from the tightrope but still manages to hit an exploding question mark pickup. He swears that those ones always explode. But anyway, Elliott goes down a frame instead of right (which I believe is a point of difference between his run and the TAS), takes a potion, third-law's yet another exploding crate out of the way, and heads right.

In the next pane, Elliott destroys another three cocoon-type appendages and drops down. Elliott here tosses a grenade at the oaf guarding the breakable door, seriously damaging them both. Then, he uses the lever to drop the bomb, which is notably hovering around just over people's heads on an indoor magnet, which then terminates both the oaf and the blocking door. Though, the brute doesn't exactly die when the ball is dropped; he kind of just disappears, entirely. Elliott insightfully asksÖ ìWhat the hell?î Anyway. Scene left.

In the next room, Elliott orchestrates the magnet into relocating the offending mine, and then drops down. The next room defies all logic. Here, Sketch must KICK some WARHEADS until they EXPLODE so he can proceed. Oddly enough, it all goes according to plan. Then, he kills some more Gonzales's. Elliott would just like me to add that he REALLY freaking hates those guys. There you go; straight from my brother, himself. Those guys suck. South a pane, again.

Here, Roadkill finds ANOTHER powerup hidden by Sketch's crotch, and then Elliott kicks an oaf into a more modern trash compactorÖ which destroys it. After Elliott finishes off the oaf plus two others with the help of the knife, he progresses right. In this scene, Elliott kills a straggling harpy (which, just for the record, the lazy writers of the manual call, "flying creatures") and takes a huge risk by collecting the random powerup hidden in the box. Luckily, it's a grenade. Jumps right to final scene.

Here, after some interference from both good and bad forces, Elliott's destined to defeat Mortus while what's-her-face nears drowning in who-knows-what. Since Elliott makes such quick work of the guy, I'm not entirely convinced he should've bothered picking up the powerup in the room before, but Elliott says the game will NOT let him continue unless he does so, so go figure. However, Elliott's pretty damn lucky he wasn't killed by the harpies after he defeated Mortus, so maybe Sega was hoping we'd all be habitually pursuing more health potions and forced us to get another. In any case, Elliott does indeed defeat Mortus; needless to say, doing such is laughably easy if you know what to do. Lure him to the bottom; hit the switch. Repeat. Then, you just kill the harpies and hit the other switch. Game over, run finished.

Enjoy the text-defined ending. Guh.

After writing these comments, I think I appreciate even more how well Elliott performed this run. Again, I'm not sure where the discrepancy arose between this and the TAS; the addressed mistakes didn't seem to account for all that much. I don't think using other attack moves would particularly help much, either. Most of it I think derives from unrealistic risk-taking and other tool-afforded luxuries like the paper airplane move, though route differences and what not may have in fact contributed to the TAS time despite what my logic tells me.

I sincerely hope everyone enjoyed my brother's terrific run, and, to a lesser extent, these comments. I hope they weren't so long they didn't warrant a reading, and I also hope they weren't too comical (either successfully or ineffectively) to detract from the run.

And check the game out sometime, if you have a chance; it's pretty cool. I'm quite glad Elliott did.

-Adrian Feiertag/InsipidMuckyWater and Elliott Feiertag.

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