Gotta Be Quick

Awesome Games Done Quick 2019

This last week the annual Awesome Games Done Quick (AGDQ) charity marathon was held. If you're not familiar, Games Done Quick is a charity organization raising funds a couple (or more) times a year for various good causes. AGDQ is held every January in support of the Prevent Cancer Foundation while the summer iteration, Summer Games Done Quick (SGDQ), has been supporting Doctors Without Borders since 2013. There have also been a number of smaller marathons such as Japan Relief Done Quick, Harvey Relief Done Quick, and Games Done Quick Express (GDQX).

The regularly held marathons stretch for just over a week each and feature many of the top speed-runners from around the world. The gamers will show up, setup their equipment, and play their hearts out for the good causes, running the games they love as fast as they can. It's always a treat to watch these marathons, and to do so while supporting solid charities makes the marathons even better.

While Asteroid G has been back long enough that I really should have already covered two of these marathons (SGDQ 2018 and GDQX 2018), I will fully admit I dropped the ball in giving the marathons their due coverage. I sat back and watched the marathons like any other normal viewer and totally forgot to take notes or promote the charities. This year, though, that changes. We're going to look back at the true highlights of this year's AGDQ.

And remember, even if you missed out AGDQ this year, you can always catch the next one later in the year over on the Games Done Quick website. The entire archive of past marathons is also available on YouTube (although note that the first couple of years' worth of videos are stored over on the Speed Demos Archive channel). Plus, of course, remember to go support Prevent Cancer Foundation and Doctors Without Borders, because that's really what this is all about.

I've Got a Golden Barrel: Donkey Kong Country Any% All Stages Race

For those of us that grew up in the NES and SNES eras, there was a stretch of time where Donkey Kong Country was the game to own. Its 3D rendered graphics (pre-rendered and done as sprites in the SNES) were revolutionary and the game made Rareware the company to pay attention to. Eventually, through a glut of sequels and Game Boy spin-offs, some of the luster for the series wore off. Rare, of course, stayed in the limelight for a time with Goldeneye 007, which is often considered a masterpiece, and Perfect Dark, which is not. The company would eventually get purchased by Microsoft, severing all connection they had to Nintendo at that point, but their classic games live on in the hearts of gamers.

Personally, I loved DKC back when I played it and I spent hours doing everything in the game (as the game put it, getting 101% of the secrets). While I always thought I was good, though, my skills do not compare to the two runners, stew_ and v0oid, and the things they can do with that game. For me, just clearing the game in two hours would have been a feat, but these runners do it in just over 33 minutes. It's crazy.

Part of what is so impressive are the amount of tricks the players pull off. Most of the moves, Super Barrel Jumps, are frame-perfect tricks. The easiest have seven-frame windows while harder jumps have only a single frame to pull them off. And bear in mind the SNES ran at 60 frames per second, so we're talking fractions of a second to pull off these maneuvers. They do it repeatedly during the run. It's stunning.

Watch the race for the run as well as the awesome commentary going on during the race. Then stick around afterwards for a great interview with the two runners to learn more about how technical and difficult the runs really is.

Jamming With Smaller Games: Spike Hike 100%, Catbird Any% All Worlds, and Another World

While it's great to see popular games played at the GDQ marathons, these runs are also a great time to see little games you might not have heard about before. Such is the case for one little gem, the Game Boy-aping Spike Hike. Designed as part of a Game Jam (a competition for designers to make games quickly, usually over a 48 hour period), this game is a very simple game but very fun to watch. That's made especially so by runner seckswrecks who absolutely blasts through the game in 2 minutes, 50 seconds. It's an especially great run since the player absolutely expected to die (and was going to donate for each death he took), only to then have a perfect run of the game (not to worry, he donated afterwards anyway). His run was a charmer, a great gamer playing a fun little game.

This run was followed by the absolutely adorable Catbird, a pixel-art game about an alien cat who is also a bird. The game is a puzzle-platformer for mobile platformers -- which, to note, this is apparently the first ever mobile game run at a Games Done Quick marathon (make sure to mention that regularly after watching this run). Although the runner, MrUppercaseT, was not able to get a perfect run (a few deaths by accident, others on purpose), the game is still fun to watch in this amusing jaunt.

And then there's the awesomeness of Another World. It might be a bit of a stretch to say this is a "smaller game" since it had a wide release on a number of systems back in the day, but it's not a game that's discussed much any more. This classic (which many of us probably first saw on the SNES) is a strange puzzle-platformer with a unique art style. It looks like it's vector drawn and there really aren't a lot of games that look at all like it (especially not from the era). It's also punishingly difficult, and there are plenty of people I know that have never gotten past the first section of the game.

Despite that, or probably because of it, Another World has a reputation among classic gamers. It's not a bad reputation, to be sure -- many of us love watching this game get destroyed. And that's exactly what Brandooates did in his Any% run of the the 20th Anniversary Edition of the game. He tore through that game in under 15 minutes -- a game many of us would beat our head against for hours, mind you -- reaching the end of the whole shebang faster than some of us can get through the opening area. It's amazing.

Note that the 20th Anniversary Edition of the game doesn't change the basics of the game at all. It's a graphical improvement adding in some nicer effects, but otherwise it keeps the classic game just as you'd like -- crushingly difficult.

Puppy Love: Earthworm Jim 2 Any% Normal

Here's another classic of the SNES era, although not because this was a good game. I mean, to be fair, it is a fun game to play, but Earthworm Jim 2 could also be punishing in places, with many bizarre stages and strange interludes that just ask players to turn off the game and find something else to do. That was, I think, the real point of the series -- the three Earthworm Jim games were all strange head-trips of games, LSD fantasies from game designers, all just to see what they could make that would still technically be called a platforming game. That's what makes this game so much fun.

If you haven't ever seen Earthworm Jim 2, you owe it to yourself to watch a run of the game. This particular one, Any% Normal by Gargon100, won't show you every inch of the game as he utilizes warps, skips, and at least one out-of-bounds to get through the game as fast as possible. That said, watching him cruise to the finish is a treat in itself, and you still get to see so many of the weird things in the game. Things like riding up a staircase on a chairlift, dodging old ladies that drop on you. Or a stage where you play as a naked mole rat slowly floating through a stomach. How about three stages of catching falling puppies by bouncing them on a giant marshmallow? If that sounds like your kind of humor, Earthworm Jim 2 is your kind of game.

This run is a great one and well worth watching. Seriously, having played through this game before, Gargon100 manages to crush it in easily a third of the time it would take me (or any normal, sane player) to get through it. And he, and his fellow couch commentators, provide fun and funny color commentary the whole time. This is the kind of quick, fun run that exemplifies the best of GDQ.

Do note that the "Puppy Love" levels of the game might have been too much of a strain for the broadcasting system; during these stages the cast would sometimes cut out leaving you with just the video of the commentators. That said, the "Puppy Love" stages are also, generally, the most boring to watch, so this really isn't that big an issue.

What a Weird Game: Pocky and Rocky Any% Normal

Speaking of strange little oddities, we have Pocky and Rocky. I don't think here's any way to discuss the art-style of this game beyond calling it "very Japanese". The art, the design, the characters, they're all very Japanese in aesthetic (and mysticism). That's not in any way saying it's a bad thing, but for U.S. audiences this game is going to look very strange, cartoony and bizarre.

Get past the odd aesthetic, though, and what we have is a very deep platforming shoot-em-up (or "shmup"). You'll take your chosen character and guide them through a selection of stages, dodging and shooting at enemies, all to eventually get a chance to take on the various bosses and save the land. The plot is secondary to the game, but the mechanics are solid. This game looks like a great, fun little shooter with plenty of character to go along with its solid controls. Having watched the AGDQ 2019 run of it, I'm now sad I skipped over this game growing up.

Of course, the run is solid largely because runner d4gr0n makes it look so easy. As the world record holder in the game/category, he's naturally the best candidate to showcase the game, and he does it with style and aplomb. This is a run you watch simply to see a master game player at the top of his craft cruise through a game the rest of us would likely struggle with.

Check out the run of the game, and then maybe see if you can find a copy of Pocky and Rocky afterwards. I'm certainly going to keep my eyes out for it now.

You Wanted to Play This Twice, Right?: Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts Any% Normal

Let's not under sell this: clearing through Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts once is a feat. If you're a normal gamer (you know, a scrub like me) you've likely never even gotten through a full cycle of all the main stages of any of the Ghouls, Ghosts, 'n Goblins games. Even doing that once can prove to be an accomplishment for most players. But the vindictive, evil thing about all these games is that you don't have to just play them once -- you have to do it twice in a play-through, and the second time through is always harder. Doing it twice (and having the right weapon by the end of it) will unlock the true final stage where you can finally beat the game properly. These games are mean.

So yes, any run of one of these games at a GDQ event is a treat. To see one of these games beaten, solidly and quickly, is simply stunning to watch. Runner NME did just that, with his clutch sub-40 minute run.

NME not only proved that he was great at this game, but he also showed that even the best gamers can still have flubs once in a while. Losing two lives early, on stage 1 of the first round through, NME shook off some nerves and got back into it. And then, on the second pass, he took a death on the same stage, in the same section, again. And yet he handled it all with aplomb, laughing off the deaths. It's just the price of Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts.

I also want to note that the couch commentators on this run were great, providing useful knowledge about the game while also joking with the runner, helping him stay relaxed and in the zone. This was a good crew on a great game, making for an excellent play-through.

More Action, Less Sim: Actraiser 2 Hard Difficulty

For fans of the original Actraiser, its sequel felt like a betrayal. The original game was an action-platformer/city building simulation hybrid. Your character, the god of a land, would go from place to place, fighting hordes of monsters before aiding the people in rebuilding their civilizations. It goofy and weird and a total trip to play. And then the sequel came out, a game with all the sim aspects stripped away. Fans of the original revolted, and Actraiser 2 went down as a failure.

However, runner PJ makes a solid case for this game as a hidden gem of the SNES era. His hard mode run of the game is gorgeous to watch, as is the game itself. While the fun simulation aspects may be gone, in its place is beautiful artwork, lovely tunes, and plenty of detailed stages to explore. While it might not have the depth of game play of the original, there are delights to be found in the sequel.

Even better than the game play itself (which, again, is a marvel to watch), we also have fantastic commentary on the couch. Blechy gives constant patter, filling viewers in on all the tech and tricks PJ has to constantly perform to navigate this beastly difficult game as quickly as possible. He's aided by Klage and MechaRichter who provide needed color (and a few laughs) to liven up the game. You will learn more about Actraiser 2 than you ever thought possible from this run.

Now I have to go dig out my copy of the game and see if I can find as much love for it as PJ has. That may be a trick...

Whip This Beat!: The Castlevania Block

While the various runs are all gamer submitted, and the GDQ team has to pick from whatever they are given to find the best schedule, invariably the crew ill organize chunks of games into reliable blocks. One of my favorites (for obvious reasons), is the Castlevania block, a solid couple of hours of programming where we get to watch gamers cruise their way through this hallowed series.

Symphony of the Night is a traditional feature of this block of content, almost always showing up in some form or another at every GDQ marathon (it appears, I'd say, about as often as Super Metroid). This year's edition of SotN wasn't on the traditional PlayStation (PSO) or the emulated XBox Live edition, but instead the PS4 re-released of the PSP edition (from the Dracula X Chronicles).

What's interesting about this edition is just how quick the speed run is for it. While the PSO edition has come broken features in it that the players could use to speedily exploit the game and clear it in under 50 minutes, those glitches were patched out of the PSP version. Amusingly, though, a new features was added in (Quick Save) that then created it's own breaks in the game, and, when done right, Alucard can easily go out of bounds, warping himself around the map. Instead of being a patched version of SotN, this edition can be cleared in a third of the time of the original.

Runner Satoryu did just that, with ease, throwing Alucard into places he wasn't meant to get to, and clearing through areas long before he should have any right to be there. While this run doesn't really showcase the game itself all that well (and if you haven't played SotN before, you owe it to yourself to go play it immediately), it is a great showcase for the ways gamers can break the games they love.

Following this, we went into Aria of Sorrow, a game that can easily be broken with glitches and the like, sending Soma cruising around the map via out-of-bounds warps. This run, though, was a Glitchless All Bosses Hard Mode run, meaning those same out-of-bounds maneuvers were off the table for runner VB__.

Although many of us think that Aria is one of the easier games in the series, that's because we play the game casually and not as fast as possible, and also on Hard Mode. VB__ spends the entire main part of the game under-leveled and decidedly weaker than all the foes he's fighting. He clears the game with an impressive sub-48 minute run with only a single death, a feat the three couch commentators (strizer86, ForOhForError, and romscout) agree would be beyond all of them. It's a great, brisk, impressive run of a difficult version of the game.

I do want to note that the three commentators (along with VB__) provide solid conversation the whole time with only a few quiet moments (for donations to be read off). it's a solidly informative set of color commentary that, at the minimum, allows you to understand how hard this run really is.

And those of you that like to watch the glitched runs, make sure to watch after the main part of the game for a glitch showcase. Here you can see a few of the broken things that can be done to Aria. It's very amusing.

Next up was Castlevania Chronicles. This game isn't that well known outside of Japan (unless, like me, you're a devout Castlevania fan). The Sharp X68000 was a computer released in overseas markets that had a number of games released for it. An expanded version of the original Castlevania was released on that system, but since the computer wasn't really seen state-side, we never got that edition of the game. It wasn't until years later, on the PSO, that a port was released in Chronicles.

As a port of the original game, Chronicles is a much more traditional whip-and-jump platformer. Runner Lurk took us through a fairly casual and fun "Any% Arranged Mod X68k Sound On" run of the game (a real mouthful to say). His run was lighthearted and enjoyable, and he made a fairly difficult game seems easy (because even in the easier Arrange Mode, this game is still tough). Plus, you get to enjoy really pretty sprite-based graphics and decent, retro music, which is a total bonus.

We follow the Castlevania remake with back-to-back run throughs by jc583 of Castlevania II: Simon's Quest and Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse. Castlevania II isn't a game that shows up all that often at GDQ events simply because of how volatile the game can be. There are many places where the game can softlock (rendering it running but totally unplayable), and the whole run id highly dependent on good RNG (random number generation). A big skip late in the game requires a particular enemy to jump very high so Simon can damage boost off it to an area he's not supposed to go to. If that doesn't happen, the runner just gets to keep trying.

Thankfully, jc is at least able to get that skip without too much fuss. Unfortunately, the RNG in generally wasn't that amenable on the run, putting him four minutes back on his estimate for the run. Even behind schedule, jc still had a great time, and his entire run was fun to watch (even as it went off the rails).

The RNG gods were much kinder to him on his Castlevania 3 Any% 2nd Quest run. As the one-time world record holder for this category (until just a few days before his AGDQ run, no less), jc is able to play this game with aplomb. Amusingly, even after a cheap death right at the end of the game, he still managed to bring this run enough in under estimate to make up all his time lost on Castlevania II. Both runs are great, from his amusing commentary, to the patter with the couch crew, and the hoy being had with the games.

Finally, finishing out the block, we have Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon, a spiritual successor to the Castlevania series. Runner Laxxus played an Any% Nightmare Veteran run of the game, and he absolutely destroys the game. This is another one where I hope you aren't expecting to really seem much of the game because Laxxus implements a lot of out-of-bounds zips to skip huge portions of the stages. It's amazing to watch, but also lightning fast.

And this run is another one where the couch crew pulls heavy duty. The commentary from Kaubocks, Rondecuba, TheBlacktastic, and Strizer86 is on point, interesting and detailed while still keeping the conversation accessible. If you want to know about Curse of the Moon, they give you the details about it. A really good run all around of a much more recent game.

As an honorable mention for the Castlevania block, we did have a later run that really deserved to be included in the set: Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight. Before the GDQ marathons I hadn't really heard about the Momodora series. These games aren't well known in most circles, with only the more recent games coming out on Steam (and thus reaching a wider market). They're a series of Metroidvania games featuring cute witches in a magical world. They are, in short, adorable. The most recent game, Reverie Under the Moonlight, features vastly improved graphics and control, making for a very smooth, lovely experience.

Runner Sneaky gave us an impressive Insane Mode run of the game, showing just what the game is like at its highest difficulty. Insane is accurate, as Sneaky dies a lot during this run. But it's also impressive to watch simply for how much skill goes in to getting through a run like this (especially when deathless is all but impossible, especially considering the marathon setting). Plus, adorable witches and cats. What's not to love?

Let's Get Funky: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze Any% No Death Abuse

We're back in Donkey Kong's country for a three-way race of the second game in the reboot series. After the first three SNES titles created by Rare (and the Game Boy spin-offs), the DKC series spent some time in the weeds, with a cruddy N64 title and a few random bongo-controlled games, all before Retro Studios (famed developers of the GameCube and Wii Metroid Prime series) brought the series back to life. Both games in the reboot series (Returns and Tropical Freeze) are known for their tight controls and intense difficulty, but it's the second game that was recently released on the Nintendo Switch.

The Switch port actually has a few extra bells and whistles in it. Funky Mode (which is what the runners used for this race) gives the players access to Funky Kong so has a double jump, unlimited rolling, and a useful hover command. Plus, this version of the game gives the players an extra heart of health, allowing for more a slightly easier time in the game (if you're a scrub like me) or to do more damage boosts (if you're insane like these runners).

The race itself got off to a rocky start when one of the runners, Spikevegeta unfortunately missed a trick in the very first stage and spent a good amount of time behind the other two. Much of the race was pretty close, the the lead switching between michael_goldfish and Kruncha. While the antics on screen were great, I will admit that I don't feel like either of the modern DKC games are as fun to watch as the classics. That said, you don't watch this race for the game play as much as for the three players (and couch commentator JHobz), because it's hysterical. Seriously, for pure fun of watching people play games and hang out, this race is a total winner.

Game Saved: Silent Hill 2 New Game (Any% Normal)

When it comes to survival horror games, there are a couple of famous series to pay attention to: Resident Evil and Silent Hill. While the first RE game is at this year's AGDQ, it was actually the Silent Hill 2 run from Punchy that caught my fancy. This run was entertaining simply for how broken it was.

Generally survival horror games are point-and-click adventures mixed with run-and-gun action -- if you played Silent Hill 2 normally, that would be exactly what you'd get. Normally a run of one of those types of games is amusing to watch once -- once you've seen the runner solve the puzzles and experience the majesty of the game (sometimes the hilariously bad majesty, such as the terrible acting of the first RE), you've seen all you need to see. While I'll check in on those kinds of runs, I don't tend to finish them out.

This run is different because the version of the game Punchy played, the PC edition of Silent Hill 2 is horribly broken. That's not just the opinion of the players; the developers of the port admitted it was a rush job and horribly broken. Like SotN (which we watched before), this game implements a Quick Save feature for the port and this causes all kinds of unintended issues. Punchy is able to skips all kinds of triggers, enemies, and bosses with judicious use of Quick Save glitches.

Due to all these errors, the game feels less like a survival horror title and more like a "brisk walk through an abandoned, foggy town" simulator. It's hilarious, made only more so by the catty, sarcastic commentary from Punchy and his couch crew, Plywood, Ecdycis, and Maxylobes. A very fun run of a very badly designed port.

All Hail the Off Brand Mario: Yumi Kojo: Doki Doki Panic! All Levels and Super Mario Bros. 3Mix Any% Race

For those unfamiliar, there are technically two different versions of Super Mario Bros. 2. The version most of the world received -- the one with four playable characters (including Princess and Toad) and Wart as the villain -- didn't originally start life as Mario game. Nintendo was contracted by Fuji Television to develop a game (Doki Doki Panic!) for their Yumi Kojo festival. It prominently featured the festivals four mascots, and decidedly different game play from a traditional Mario game. The original Mario 2 released in Japan was a very different game, what many would normally consider an "expansion set" for the original game. It featured very similar graphics, but new levels, new challenges, new traps, and a much higher difficulty.

When looking to bring a Mario sequel to the U.S., Nintendo of America felt that the original, Japanese Super Mario Bros. 2 wouldn't be successful in America. Gamers over here would expect something different, a vast improvement over the original, not a simple retread. Thus, Nintendo of Japan re-skinned Doki Doki Panic! with Mario characters, made a few minor improvements, and then published this game in the U.S. as the only Mario 2 we ever knew. Fun note, this version of the game was later ported back to Japan as Super Mario USA. Meanwhile, the Japanese Mario 2 would eventually get released over here official as "The Lost Levels" when it was included in the SNES combo-pack Super Mario All-Stars.

I mention all of this for context as runner LackAttack24 brought a run of the original version of this game (with system and original Famicom Disk) to AGDQ 2019. As the current world record holder for this game (as well as numerous records in the original NES The Legend of Zelda), LackAttack was the perfect runner to really show off this version of the game.

What's fun about this run isn't just the fact that it's done well by Lack but also that the commentary is on point, helping us to understand the version differences between this game and the eventual USA version that came out later. Things like the fact that there isn't a dedicated run button (so no holding B and making your character run faster, much like in a traditional Mario game, including Mario USA). To add to that, though, once you pick a character in this game you're stuck with them for the whole run (another change Mario USA makes). As such, characters that we'd normally see, such as the Luigi and Princess analogs, are ignored entirely in favor of Papa, this game's version of Toad (the least-used character in Mario 2 speed runs).

Why Papa? Because when he's picking up an item he runs 20% faster than anyone else. For a speed run, that means that even though he's worse at everything else, he can go much faster, and without a dedicated run button to get the game flying, you need all the speed you can get. It makes this run of a familiar game very different from what you'd expect, almost like it reinvents the traditional speed run for the game.

Lack puts in a great run (only 15 seconds off his world-record personal best) and the couch, and crowd, love every minute of it.

And speaking off of-brand Mario, a little later we had a run of Super Mario Bros 3Mix. This rom-hack is a remix of Super Mario Bros. 3 that incorporates levels and elements of practically every game in the Mario series. The hack itself is quite a feat, working in new power-ups, new level designs (such as reversing gravity, a la the Galaxy games), and intriguing new challenges.

While it should come as no surprise that Mitchflowerpower, the current world record holder in many Super Mario Bros. 3 categories, kept this race competitive, having a sold back-and-forth battle with both runners Gadien and Jabem, what's really great about this race is just watching all three runners tear through this game. Plus, the commentary provided by TheHaxor, RaigeQuitz and GlitchCat7 is amusing and informative. This is a solid entry for the Mario block.

The Joys of Rubber Band Racing: Mario Kart 64 and Mario Kart DS

These two runs took place days apart, but it was still neat to see the two of them within context of each other. Fans of the Mario series will likely know just how much the Mario Kart games have evolved over the years, from the flat tracks of the original SNES incarnation, to the wild loops and upside sections of the latest entry, Mario Kart 8. This year's AGDQ brought us runs from Mario Kart 64 (my personal favorite game in the series) and it's spiritual successor, Mario Kart DS.

Your views on Mario Kart 64 may differ from mine. A lot of players don't like the game because of its harsh rubber band physics (no matter how far in front you are, the computers can quickly get caught up as if pulled to you by elastic). Balancing that out, though, is one of the fairest set of items and a relatively low chance for the computer racers to use anything super nasty against you. This meant that Mario Kart 64 is one of the best games in the series for pure racing (at least in my book). You can really focus on clean lines and power sliding without as much worry about the computers jamming you over and over with red and blue shells.

Not that you're going to see a lot of pure racing from Abney317's 150CC All Cups (Skips) drive through the game. There are a lot of really broken shortcuts you can take in the game, largely because Mario Kart 64 wasn't programmed all that well when it came to checkpoints (and attempts at avoiding them). Thus, Abney is able to skip huge portions of most races through huge jumps and simple skips. It's really impressive.

If you're looking for a more traditional run of one of these games, runner Keverage gave us a 150CC 32 Tracks run of Mario Kart DS earlier in the marathon. Here we get to see the full tracks without major shortcuts of out-of-bounds skips, so you can get all the clean lines and non-stop racing you crave. The racing here is tight and smooth, and you get to see what the racer can do not only in the N64-styled tracks from this racer (as this game very much takes its cues from Mario Kart 64) but also a selection of classic tracks (from older games) included in the bonus cups of this game.

This run is a real treat, especially since it shows me there's at least one more Mario Kart game out there for me to enjoy. Check out both runs to see what can really be done in the MK series.

To the Extreme: Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2X All Goals and Golds (All Careers)

For gamers of a certain generation, there was a time when the Tony Hawk games were events. I know I never watched the X Games, only catching glimpses of skating events when I was at a restaurant and the games were up on a TV. They certainly seemed cool, but I was no way invested in that lifestyle. And yet, the Tony Hawk games were so beloved, with so many people (myself included) picking up each one so we could pull off killer tricks and grind around stages, earning points and being skater gods. I don't know how to pull off an ollie in real life, but I could do in the games.

ThePackle's run of Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2X brought back so many memories. Despite how simple the game looks (and, honestly how awful it all seems now, watching it being played), the game still seems "cool" somehow. It's that vibe of being able to get your character up jumps, skating along walls and grinding on the edges of buildings. The games appear positively ancient now, but there's still that vibe of fun that comes through even on games that look, and feel, three game generations old at this point.

Packle, of course, grinds through the game with ease, even after a rough start due to dropped controls from his setup. He's easily able to course correct and take us on a quick, skillful tour of the stages from the second game before diving into the expansion content included in this XBox re-release and then also showing off the extra bonus stages from the original Pro Skater game. What's especially funny is he make no bones about how bad the bonus content is -- the 2X stages show none of the design finesse of the original levels, while the stages from the original game were in no way rebalanced for the new engine and point scores.

It's a fun and informative look that shows you how good some games can be (and how bad bonus content can get). As Packle even notes, the run is good, but considering he'd set a new world record just hours earlier, he'd really be hoping for more. Even this bad run puts anything I could do in the game to shame.

I Hope Your Really Like This One Song: Puzzle Bobble 1 Player

Now here's a clear example of what can happen when I run goes right off the rails. Puzzle Bobble, as the title implies, is a puzzle game, probably one you've seen, in one form or another. You get colored bubbles and you have to shoot them up a pipe at other colored bubbles to break them all and clear screens. It's deceptively easy but, due to RNG, can sometimes be very difficult to clear quickly.

That's exactly what happened to altabiscuit when what was supposed to be a pretty easy run through the 30 levels of the game went down in flames due to death after death. The game can sometimes defy all attempts at clearing a stage, and when that happens you just have to roll with it and try again. And again. And again.

What's really cool about this run is how altabiscuit handles it all with aplomb. Naturally, it's a marathon so a run he would have bailed on half-way in (and just restarted) had to be seen through start to finish. It illustrates that even the best runners can have off runs, that skilled gamers can still get defied by the games they play. If even you thought you couldn't speed run games because you have so many failures when you play, just remember that even the pros run into those same problems, as this run shows us.

Even still, altabiscuit is able to clear out the game eventually, only going two minutes over estimate to put in a good run of the game. Nicely done.

Bump and Jam: N++ 2 Player Co-Op A-Episodes

I've not really seen or played much of the N series. I want to say I played a demo of N+ on XBox Live a long time ago, but the series didn't necessarily hook me then. A game about ninjas bouncing off walls and opening doors all sett against stark, vector graphics certainly does seem neat, but I had other games to play and never went back for more. Others did, and the series is up to three games so far.

The run of N++ at AGQD 2019 was fantastic. Featuring runners AND4H and Krankdud, these two absolutely tore through the A-side of the co-op levels in the game, absolutely laying waste to the many dangers their ninjas faced. It wasn't a deathless run and yet it became the world record by an easy 15 seconds. Quite the feat for such a fast and frenzied game.

Special attention must be given to Mithical9 for his constant (and I do mean constant) commentary during the game. Each of the stages are short enough that there was never a chance for the man to take a break. He had to motor-mouth through the entire run for over 25 minutes, proving all the details and color that was needed to really understand this run as it unfolded. The two runners got the world record, but Mithical9 was the true MVP of the run.

You Got More Than You Bargained For: Octopath Traveler Single Story RTA (Tressa)

We've been doing our own coverage of Octopath Traveler for a few weeks now and we've only just gotten into the deep meat of the game. Of course, the play-through is a casual run, meaning I'm taking my time through the game, really seeing the sights and experimenting with the systems without trying to look Online on how I should do things. Naturally, a speed run of the game is going to put my speed to shame.

That doesn't lessen the effect of seeing an Octopath Traveler run in action. Runner murmilio absolutely destroys a single story of the game, taking Tressa (a favorite of the players on this site) from the start of her journey all the way to the end of her last chapter in a sub-48 minute run. To put that in perspective (as one commentator noted), he defeated an entire storyline in the time it takes most players to get through a single chapter of the game.

Of course, this game is pretty much made for speed running. The cut scenes are skip-able, everything is setup for you the venture around the world, and the game never once forces you to do anything in any order. It's the closest an RPG can come to being a total free-for-all, and that's part of the magic of Octopath. This game has so much you can do with it, so many different pieces to it, that you're free to do as you like. And that's especially true once you're done with the story mode and just want to go back through the play the game a second time around.

That said, the tricks and tech in this run are really only meant for a speed run. If all you're concerned with is getting a single player through the game (as this category is made for), then you can prioritize items, classes, character levels, and the like. Some resources are wasted in this run that, were you to play a 100% run of the game, you'd be hard-pressed to give up so easily. That's part of the fun of seeing a game like this run -- experiencing different ways to play a successful adventure through the game that you might not have thought of otherwise.

And, yes: shout outs to Tressa, the best character in the game.

Get Equipped With: the Mega Man Block

The Mega Man block wasn't the only big block of content during this marathon to follow Castlevania; there was also a Sonic the Hedgehog block, although I didn't highlight any of that set just because I've never really liked watching Sonic in a marathon setting. I tend to find that those games go so fast, stage-per-stage, that you never really get a good feel for them unless you actually play them. Watching them is just painful for me. Mega Man, though, is always a joy.

The block began with a pretty stellar Mega Man X SNES Trilogy Any% race. This featured three teams (Team X, Team Zero, and Team Sigma), blazing through all three classic SNES games. Although Team X fell behind early in the first game of the trilogy, Zero and Sigma battled back and forth for much of the run keeping things close right up through the last fortress of X3. As someone that has played through all three games in the trilogy repeatedly, it was fun to see these guys tackle the games not only fast but at a much harder difficulty (i.e., not collecting everything, and thus making it artificially harder). I doubt I could ever even attempt a run like this, let alone at the speed they played.

Following this, we had Slurpeeninja helming a fun run through Mega Man 10. His Any% Bas run was fun to watch, not only because it's not a run we get to see very often (normally people play Mega Man or Protoman in this game), but also but because the commentators -- Protomagicalgirl, Zelllooo, and Xerobladedge -- really provided a lot of solid information about this game.

As the second of two "retro" themed Mega Man games for (then) modern consoles, this game doesn't tend to get the same amount of love as Mega Man 9. That is a shame because the game has a lot of interesting features, interesting weapons, and cool stages. It makes for a great speed game, especially once you start tinkering with the bonus characters.

Following this, we were treated to the fan game, Mega Man Unlimited. This was another unusual run of the game as instead of playing as Mega Man, runner LV Creed treated us to a Z-Prototype Any% run. If you aren't familiar with Unlimited, the designers tried to treat this game as a bridge between the classic series and the X series. Thus, the last stage of the game features a prototype version of the Zero character from the latter series. While that nod is a nice toss off, making the Z-Prototype playable is even cooler.

The Z-Prototype is an interesting character. All its attacks use up health, but any successful attack heals Z for the amount of damage dealt. That makes its play through a fine balancing act of damage, maneuvering, and health. Creed is a solid runner in this category, and while his run isn't deathless (as playing as the prototype is, at times, very difficult), it's still awesome to see the character taken through the game at high speed.

And then, as far as dishonorable mentions for the series (and as the switch-over between the Mega Man block, which we'll cover here, and the Awful Games block, which we will not), we have Mega Man for DOS. As runner Lizstar and commentators Protomagicalgirl, Johncarls, and Authorblues note, this game is an official Capcom release, this despite how awful it is. It was designed by one guy as a side project to teach him how to program in DOS. After making it, he offered it to Capcom as a release and they agreed (probably without looking at it first). It is, without a doubt, one of the worst games in the series (right up there with Mega Man Soccer).

It's also one of the shortest, consisting of a brief intro stage, three robot masters, and a single Wily stage. Even the Game Boy games are longer. Of course, that makes it a great speed game as even a screw up doesn't cost that much time; just reset and you'll be back in it within a few minutes. Lizstar's run is great and close to world record pace (which she set earlier in the day). It's a terrible game but she plays it very well.

That's Unpossible!: Cuphead All S+P Grades

There are some games I want to play because they sound awesome, but within that set are a collection of games that I know, even if I were to play them, I would suck so horribly that I'd quit out of frustration. Cuphead is one of those games. It's a shooter with a primary emphasis on boss fights. The hero, Cuphead (and, in two player, joined by his brother Mugman), goes from section to section, finding villains to fight so he can best them and claim their soul contracts. Why? Because he made a deal with the Devil and if he gets these other soul contracts his own soul is safe. It's a bit weird and strange, but that's the style of Cuphead.

Which, speaking of, the game is damn stylish. Designed like the old cartoons of the 1940s and 1950s, Cuphead resembles the output of classic Disney. Everything in the game was hand drawn (or, in the case of the some backgrounds, hand designed in clay and other materials and then filmed), giving it a well done, retro feel. Playing the game makes you feel like you playing right in an old cartoon, it's all so amazing. A true labor of love from the designers.

That said, it's also brutally hard. The game starts slowly enough, but very quickly the challenge ramps up, higher and higher, until you're lucky to get through a boss fight at all, let alone doing it well enough to A or S rank the stage. Or you could be TheMexicanRunner and just own this game like an absolute god. While his run isn't deathless (because getting through this game without dying even once would be an astounding feat), but he manages to get S Rank on every boss fight in a way that makes most of the stages look easy. And then you have add on getting a P rank (as in Pacifist, so he can't kill any enemies) on a small selection of run-and-gun stages included in the game, and even these he does easily.

Cuphead is the kind of game I pick up, play, and then put down after a couple of stages because I suck at it. I love watching it, especially when its dominated like it is here at AGDQ, but I know I will never play it with any kind of skill needed to finish the game. Thankfully, with runs like this, I won't ever have to.

Searching the World: Final Fantasy IV: Free Enterprise League Match Flags

I've gone on before about the awesomeness of Free Enterprise. A rom-hack/randomizer, this game takes the original Final Fantasy IV (or, if you're from the U.S. and pedantic, Final Fantasy II) and converts it into an open-world exploration game. It breathes new life into a classic SNES title, giving players many more hours to enjoy the game. I've watched through a number of weekly races, along with the most recent tournament, and the game never gets old.

That's why I was glad to see Free Enterprise covered at AGDQ 2019. This four-player race is a great way to highlight the randomizer and bring in a new audience for the game. Plus, with the donation incentives AGDQ had for the match (forced opening Dark Knight Cecil, forced hook opening item, special music during the Twin Harp section), the conditions were different enough to keep everything interesting.

Of course, with top runners like Khobahi, riversmccown, Neerrm, and Obdajr, it should come as no surprise that the match was a really good one. Khobahi and rivers, especially, kept the race to a real nail-biter, letting it come down to the wire to reveal who the winner of the match was.

If you haven't watched Free Enterprise before, this race is a great way to experience the fun of that randomizer without the pressure of keeping up with a full tournament. Give it a try and see what all the fuss is about.

Don't Die, Don't Die, Don't Die: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past Low% 1-Hit K.O.

Oh, A Link to the Past. You're one of the greats of the Zelda series. Arguably the best of the run, even after all these years. You can only be matched, never equaled, and even with fantastic masterpieces such as Breath of the Wild, you still take the top spot for many gamers.

It's amazing, though, how spoiled I've gotten watching this game in a randomizer as going back to the original game, I've largely forgotten where many of the items are supposed to be. The game still holds up, even when played in its traditional form... not that runner Xelna does a traditional run. While still keeping within the bounds of a normal play-through (thus No Major Glitches, so no out-of-bounds and wrong warps), he gives us a Low% 1-Hit Kill run that is thrilling and terrifying.

The Zelda games give you plenty of health and items to get through the adventure. They don't expect you to pass up useful equipment, and they certainly don't expect you to play on the razor's edge, always on hit away from death. This run does that, not giving Xelna any chance to survive if things go off the rails. One small mistake and it's back to the start of the dungeon to fight his way all the way back down once again.

If you're never experienced the gut-rending terror of seeing a dungeon wiped out from one wrong twitch of Moldorm (aka, Trolldorm) then you owe it to yourself to watch this run in all its glory. This is a way to play that game that breathes new life into it without changing the base game at all. Its amazing, and a run I never want to attempt.

Final Thoughts

Every year GDQ delivers. There's a reason this is one of the biggest events in video games time and again. As the above videos show, this events is able to deliver great times and awesome thrills. If you haven't watched one of these marathons before, catch up now -- Summer Games Done Quick 2019 is just around the corner...