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Willow
Released in December 1989, Capcom's Willow was an extreme anomaly in its day (and a rarity even now) — a movie-to-game translation that not only didn't suck, but ended up arguably more memorable than the movie it was based on. Taking control of Willow Ufgood, it's your task to uncurse Fin Raziel, the Messenger of Earth, and defeat the evil Bavmorda, Messenger of the Skies.

 

Run (Single Segment): 1:34:13 by Marc J. 'Emptyeye' Dziezynski

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Thanks once again to Radix, Nate, DJGrenola and Mike Uyama (Not necessarily in that order) for keeping the site going. You have the gratitude of myself, the other runners, and the audience.

Thanks also to the following people:

-Breakdown, for the leveling method I used.

-BZero at GameFAQs, whose FAQ told me a Level 13 completion was possible.

-Everyone who posted in the Willow topic on SDA, whether offering hints or just to say "Go Emptyeye!" I appreciate it more than you guys know, and hope I've done the game and your memories of it justice.

Tales of Dreams and Imagination...

Willow was a fairly big deal back in its day, as evidenced by two issues of coverage in Nintendo Power. Based on a George Lucas between-Star-Wars-trilogies project movie, the game is very reminiscent of Zelda, but with more emphasis placed on overworld exploration and tactical swordfighting. Today, the game is somewhat forgotten, which is really too bad. It's great fun, with a typically classic Capcom soundtrack. It also contains some questionable English at times--while there's nothing to compete with some of the all-time greats in this area--Zero Wing, Ghosts N' Goblins, Rygar for NES--you'll find a lot of strange punctuation and a misspelling or two if you pay close attention.

What Willow is NOT is particularly helpful in explaining where to go or what to do next. "Non-linear" isn't exactly the right phrase--the sequence of events is pretty well-defined and rigid--but it is quite frustrating trying to figure out what triggers what what for advancement. Everyone whose first Adventure/RPG experience was 32-bit-plus era games, look out, you're about to get a lesson in old-school trial-and-error!

Let's begin! These times are actual run times, so they'll probably be a bit off from what your player of choice says.

0:00- My sequence omission begins right away, as I skip talking to Willow's family (On the starting screen) and the High Aldwin (One screen to the right) to go right for Vohnkar and the Long Sword. If you're curious, the family is merely a healing point, while the High Aldwin gives you Magic Acorns (Which temporarily turn enemies to stone) and refills your magic.

0:53- Here's the first spot where luck plays a part in the run. This first screen doesn't always contain enemies. I basically need it to in order to quickly level to 2 before I get to Dew (If it doesn't, I have a couple other options, notably the five skulls a few screens later, but that's slower, and IT isn't always there). I restart if it's not here.

2:26- The Wood Shield is pretty much useless, and I really only get it because it's a trigger for the Chief of Dew revealing his story and giving you the Healmace. The Healmace is one of my main tools for speeding through the game, as we'll see soon.

4:03- This was actually the first time I used this particular strategy for getting to Level 3. Previous to this, I had (Incorrectly) thought that the snakes were too big to walk through--that is, I'd get repelled before I got all the way through them. This wasn't the case, and using this information was responsible for most of the improvement from my last unsubmitted attempt to this.

6:27- This fly just always hits me, seemingly no matter what I do.

7:06- The Ring is one of the few optional items I grab. Its power boost, while not raising my attack level over 9000 (In fact, it only raises it to 18), does effectively give me a free Sword upgrade, which is huge against Bogarda.

7:34- Here's the first enemy that I'll call "Pig dudes". These guys can turn you into a pig, and as long as you're a pig, you can't attack, nor can you leave the screen--you just have to dodge their attacks. Quite annoying. The time you remain a pig is pretty short here, but gets longer later in the game as their colors change; at Nockmaar Castle, if you get piggied, you stay that way long enough to basically kill a speed run.

7:58- And here's another Sword upgrade, which is also a great help here.

8:56- Witness how a low level, which means Willow wields the Battle Sword very slowly, actually HELPS me in the fight against Bogarda. The swing is so slow that it actually hits Bogarda multiple times; a higher level and faster swing speed only hits once per swing.

11:43- On an "evolution of the run" note, this skeleton was, I believe, the first enemy I ever walked through to save time. Actually fighting skeletons is pretty difficult from a tactical perspective due to their shields, so I try to avoid that whenever possible.

12:25- This particular fly always divebombs in the same way, so I can just run from him.

12:32- The fairy-looking thing is actually Franjean and Rool. Another example of sequence omission moreso than sequence breaking per se; they don't actually trigger anything (Though not talking to them makes some later dialogue somewhat amusing).

13:56- This is an excellent example of how useless the Wood Shield really is. As I understand it, when they hit your shield, attacks do (Base damage-defense of equipped shield) damage. If that equation works out to less than zero, you take no damage and the shield "absorbs" the attack. Obviously, the Wood Shield doesn't even come close here.

15:11- This chest contains a Flame Sword. I skip it because it wouldn't be used enough between now and the next Sword upgrade (In fact, I don't think I fight a relevant battle at all between now and then).

16:47- I don't honestly know if getting Po is necessary, but he's VERY useful throughout this run, as we'll see later.

18:00- Visiting Matanda the Dragon and getting the Bracelet is the trigger for opening the rest of the cave. Okay, this makes sense so far...

18:43- I take this route to avoid a potential pig dude. I got lucky on the way to the Flame Sword to not run into one; I usually have to exit and reenter the screen a couple times before that happens.

19:57- Getting to Lake Cheef effectively marks the end of "Part 1" of the run.

21:02- I <3 the Devileye Sword. It's very strong, but works on only a very limited number of enemies (It's also the ONLY sword that hurts these enemies..I'll call these guys "Devileye enemies" from here on out). These are generally the enemies that give the most experience, so if I run into them, I'm generally trying to kill them throughout the run.

22:38- The Key unlocks Madmartigan's handcuffs. Rescuing him is a trigger for advancement, though the Necklace he gives you serves no purpose in and of itself.

23:15- Visiting the bar after rescuing Madmartigan is the trigger for getting the Nail Clan to appear and give you the Wakka Seed.

24:34- Note that he says "We meet again" even though I didn't talk to him the first time I met him. Also note that he's in what I'd call a mountain, NOT a "forest" like he says if you talk to him the first time you meet him. I have no clue how you're supposed to figure this out besides brute-force exploration.

24:51- I walk up before using the Ocarina because the "Oh Willow..." screen appears when he meets you on the screen, and he always flies in from the top.

25:19- The Dragon equipment is indeed magnificent--I'll use the Dragon Shield for the rest of the game; there are a total of TWO enemies whose attacks it doesn't completely repel. See if you can figure out what they are. The Dragon Sword doesn't quite have that utility, but I do use it as my primary "normal" sword until Tir Asleen. Incidentally, if you come here after beating Bogarda but before getting the Dragon Scale, this guy does tell you he's a blacksmith and would like to see a Scale. One of the few times the game is actually upfront about where to go.

26:23- If I try walking through here without the Wakka Seed, my HP rapidly drains and I die long before I get to the other side.

~26:40- Willow, disco king? Not quite, but those were some nice moves I put on to dodge the crabs. Yes, they're crabs.

27:15- This is the first of three times in the run where I can get turned into a pig and there's nothing I can do about it--the enemies are always on these squares, and I can't get off the screen or kill them before they decide to act. The only thing I can hope for is that they opt to teleport instead of pigging me, which this one, thankfully, does.

27:43- A key to survival in this run is taking advantage of free magic refills when you get a new spell. Also, menu manipulation is not my strong suit. If this didn't show in my Scheherazade run, it sure does here.

29:13- Well that sucks. Oink oink....1 out of 3 is definitely not bad, though.

29:50- I need the Flute to be able to defeat Muzh; he has infinite health otherwise. There's actually another way to get back to the first cave, but I opt to go back the way I came--pig dude and all--because it was a one way path. Whether it's actually quicker or not, I don't know, but it was less of a headache at this point. Also, the way Fleet works is to spit you out where you "came in" to the cave, which is why I have to walk all the way back.

31:03- Muzh's attack pattern prevents me from being hyper-aggressive toward him--I can barely get off one sword "swing" between his attacks.

~34:00- I pull some moves here because I don't feel like losing half my life walking through him.

~34:25- Well, that whole "loss of half my life" thing seems kind of silly now...

35:09- Good thing the Two Towers apparently qualify as "confusing caves" despite being one-way. And, you know, not caves.

36:18- I fight the various Devileye enemies here for experience.

38:41- This marks the end of Part 2 of the run. Here's a fun quote from the Willow topic for you: "43-44 minutes is probably ideal for [Getting to this point]." -Me, April 2, 2007. Heh.

39:37- I'm frantically mashing A here. A few seconds later, I'm thankful it didn't work, because I forgot I had the Ocarina still equipped!

40:14- Sorsha, Bavmorda's daughter, guards this screen unless you have the Spirit's Crest.

40:25- This particular screen always has the same rock formation, for all intents and purposes. This isn't the case for all screens with rocks on them, unfortunately.

43:05- Faces become my primary level building method later on. Even here, I'm close enough to a healing spot that it's two less faces I'll have to kill later on.

43:21- Getting healed here marks the start of what is, from an execution standpoint, the hardest part of the run, that doesn't end until I make it to Tir Asleen village. My magic strategy involves a necessary Specter and two optional-but-quicker Fleets, meaning I don't have enough left over for even ONE Healmace unless I get lucky with Devileye enemies along the way. Also, hey lady, what do those two statements have to do with one another!?

43:54- I was, um, building more experience here, yeah. I didn't, you know, miscount the number of times I had to go right or anything like that, I would never do that. You believe me, don't you? Please believe me.... That little screwup cost me about 11 seconds.

44:08- On the other hand, because I enter from the right instead of the bottom, I don't have to worry about the rocks on this screen.

44:49- I need to use Specter here, or the mouths on the path come to life and won't let me through.

45:52- My thought behind killing this guy was "MAGIC! I CAN HEALMACE!! *Presses "Hallelujah Chorus" button Jim Cramer-style*"

47:34- At first, the Wing Sword is useless. Seriously, it's weaker than the Long Sword. But there is a good reason for my grabbing it...

48:02- You're probably wondering why I'm talking to this old lady. The reason is that it's a trigger for game advancement. Yes, seriously, the game expects you to wander in and through this cave, talk to this old lady who tells you nothing you didn't already know (As you've probably tried crossing the bridge already), and THEN somehow figure out where to go next. And keep in mind, this was pre-Internet (Though, as mentioned, the game was prominently featured in Nintendo Power), so you couldn't just look this up in a FAQ or anything. The really crazy thing? Having not played this game in many years when I decided to try and run it (It was the logical next step from Scheherazade), I ACTUALLY FIGURED THIS OUT.

48:09- Sometimes a pig dude--who, more importantly, is a Devileye enemy--hangs out on this square. His absence means it's time for me to Fleet out of here.

49:45- Know what this runs needs? Some more drama, so I get hit by a rock to provide it. For the next several minutes, one hit from anything kills me, and I don't have enough magic to Healmace without sacrificing my Fleet. Will our hero make it to Tir Asleen, or will rocks and skeletons tragically cut him down along the way? The answer to you, the viewer, is obvious; rest assured it was far less so as I was running it.

50:31- There's basically no in-game indication whatsoever that "Hey, this guy has the item you need to advance!" I figured it out once again by brute-force exploration (I tend to do my speedrunning work in a vacuum, at least at first). I still have no idea how I figured out the trigger for this.

~50:40- I was making sure I still had Fleet equipped here. I'm very much OCD about, say, checking my pockets to make sure my keys are still there, and that tendency carried over here. Probably a good thing, given my near-mishap at 39:37 (And similar ACTUAL mishap in an earlier unsubmitted version..see the Willow topic for more info).

52:00- Enemies can attack pretty much all the way through the bridge. Most aren't a big deal--they're the Devileye enemies like the one at 45:52 and I just ignore them--but one square has red Skeletons on it. Thankfully I don't encounter them here.

52:30- I make it to Tir Asleen Village, marking the end of Part 3, and breathe a sigh of relief as I do so.

54:36- This is more arcane trigger fun, though you're a bit more likely to stumble onto the correct sequence of events here. Talking to this old lady is the trigger for opening the door to Tir Asleen Castle. Yeah, you definitely gathered that from the conversation, didn't you? Are you new-school gamers scared yet? Also, the Ocarina for some reason doesn't work on her square (Neither does Fleet, if you're curious; the square seems to defy classification in game-programming land), so I have to go right one square and then use it.

56:02- The door is open now. Again, no in-game indication whatsoever that doing Event A leads to Event B becoming possible. Thanks, old-school gaming style!

56:37- Woo-hoo, a new Sword! And it's a pretty sizable improvement over the Dragon Sword. There's actually an even more powerful Sword on the second floor of the castle (The Wonder Sword), but it's not enough of an improvement over the Kaiser Sword to make taking the time to get it worth it.

57:47- Franjean and Rool repay my earlier brushing them off by helping me out of jail. That's awfully nice of them...

58:10- I have to get out of the jail before I can Fleet.

58:49- Before going to Tir Asleen Castle, an empty treasure chest blocks this passage.

1:01:11- To those who verified this run, I apologize for the next 22 minutes and 57 seconds. Everyone else will want to skip ahead to about 1:24:08 in the run; I'm doing nothing but building levels until then.

1:24:15- Specter makes enemies along your route disappear. Pretty cool, though I'm not sure it's actually quicker in this case.

1:25:09- Being a slime dude scares this guy off and gets you into Nockmaar. Hooray. As an aside, this is one of my favorite NES themes of all-time.

1:25:33- In contrast, Abang simply says "..." if you talk to him while in monster form, so I have to wait until I turn back into Willow to talk to him. All told, I actually timed this pretty well. Also, I <3 the powered-up Wing Sword, which is now the most powerful "normal" sword in the game.

1:26:23- I don't know why I'm pointing this out, but the previous sequence was a miscalculation on my part. With a bit of thought, I wouldn't have used that first Specter, so I would have some MP left over and not have to recover here. As a result, I lose 10-15 seconds here (Though my "net loss" may have been a bit less as a result of not encountering enemies).

1:26:55- I need to be Level 13 to uncurse Fin Raziel. This also powers up the Cane, making it possible to defeat Bavmorda. Although, in a non-speedrunning context, it's fun to come here before reaching Level 13 and just turn her from animal to animal. But this is SPEED Demos Archive, not USELESS FUN STUFF IN GAMES Demos Archive, so you'll have to test that on your own time.

~1:27:40- I almost go to the wrong place here, before remembering why I went to Tir Asleen (Not just to recover, where the Bar would be quicker, but to get the Key to Nockmaar Castle).

1:29:02- One more time, there's no indication whatsoever that the old lady on the cliff has relocated here, except that she's not on the cliff anymore. Further, there's no reason to this point to think that a previously closed door in a village would suddenly open up the next time you come back to it. Fun aside, similar to the Nail Clan's "We meet again", you don't actually have to talk to Airk to get the Key, but talking to him and getting the Kaiser Sword is far quicker than going out of my way for the Wonder Sword, considering how often I use each.

1:30:36- I absolutely NEED full magic for Bavmorda, which is why I kill the two Devileye enemies I do.

1:31:46- Your only indication that the Crest isn't where Sorsha says it is is going down to the chest in question. Which is useless.

1:31:59- I'm a little surprised I didn't die here, actually. Kael's attack pattern is such that if you get too far directly to one side of him, he'll rush to that side and pretty much automatically kill you.

1:32:29- This late in the run, I'm taking no chances--I'll lose the three or so seconds to have the ~120HP from killing these guys rather than walking through them.

1:33:38- Bavmorda's first move is more or less the same every time--the angle is slightly different, but not enough to matter--meaning this strategy will always work. The reason I don't just unload as fast as I can is because the Cane shots can be absorbed by her fireballs, and I literally can't afford to miss at Level 13.

And that's it. Hope you enjoyed it! As for what's next, I'm pretty sure it won't be another game of this type--I've taken the "Single-Segment an NES Zelda Derivative" concept as far as I'm willing to for now. Indeed, there's an easy 20-25 second improvement from my two silly mistakes, to say nothing of better luck, but I'm too burned out on the game to attempt it right now.

Thank you for watching! And see you next!

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