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Breath Of The Wild Speedrunning Has Changed A Lot In Two Years

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Yesterday, speedrunner sketodara01417 completed a speedrun for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in slightly over half an hour. As someone who used to casually speedrun the game, I was awestruck at how much things have changed. New glitches and massively different movement techniques have radically altered the game into something breathtaking to watch.

Sketodara01417's speedrun, a no Amiibo, Any% run that sought to complete the game as quickly as possible, clocked in a 30 minutes and 11 seconds and set a new record. The first speedrun under one hour occurred in March 2017, the month of the game’s release. At the time, it was a mixture of sprinting, horse riding, and some creative hang-gliding. Over time, it grew to incorporate more tricks, including important “stasis launches.” That’s a technique where speedrunners would freeze an object, such as a rock or tree trunk, using Link’s stasis rune, smack it with a weapons like a sword or axe to prep it to fly into the air, and either grab onto it before it launched, and ride it great distances or allow themselves to get hit by it, using the damage to fly into the air. I used to speedrun using some of these techniques. Returning to Breath of the Wild speedruns now shows a very different speedrun with some of the most jaw-dropping tricks I’ve seen in a game.

The most drastic changes use a trick called the bullet time bounce. This technique, first discovered last August by Chinese players experimenting with the game, involves jumping onto an enemy using Link’s shield and hitting them at a specific angle that launches Link extremely fast. This trick, alongside a glitch that allows players to clip inside of structures, completely changes the once-familiar route around the Great Plateau that I once knew. In fact, it reverses the order of the shrines that players complete to get Link’s powers. It used to be, way back in ancient times, runners would go from the Bomb Shrine to Magnesis to Cryonis to Stasis. Sketodara does this backwards, climbing up behind the Shrine of Resurrection and rushing to grab a bow and arrows, alongside a pot lid that he uses as a shield. From there, they are able to enter into shrines—starting with the Stasis Shrine—by using the shield to clip inside the structure and use the elevator to get inside. This trick allows them to avoid unnecessary cutscenes like upgrading their Sheikah Slate at the game’s first tower.

It turns out that the shield is one of the most busted items in Breath of the Wild. Beyond allowing players to pass larger gaps thanks to shield-jumping, it allows out of bounds clipping to make it easier to break into shrines and even avoid hazards in the difficult Trials of the Sword. But it’s as Sketodara leaves the Cryonis Shrine that its power becomes clear. The bullet time bounce is an astounding glitch, and Sketodara uses it to launch off a Moblin’s head across the Plateau and land right at the Magnesis Shrine. The earliest speedruns used a technique called “whistle sprinting” to allow Link to sprint without losing stamina and rush from shrine to shrine. In other cases, shield surfing was used to cross terrain. The bullet time bounce bypasses the need for this, making it possible to essentially super jump from one crucial point to the next. In all, it takes Sketodara about 16 minutes to escape the Great Plateau. For a slowpoke novice like me, it would often take 40 minutes.

In the earliest days of Breath of the Wild speedruns, Hyrule Field presented a unique problem. Getting to Hyrule Castle meant one of two things: finding a wild horse and taming it, or using an amiibo statue to summon Epona. Amiibos were controversial for Breath of the Wild speedrunners, even if amiibos themselves are very easy to spoof. Epona became less and less necessary as stasis launch techniques developed. It was eventually possible to cross most of Hyrule Field using trees to stasis-launch and glide over the distance. To get to Hyrule Castle, runners would perform “Stasis to Castle,” using a rock slab and stasis-launching from some ruins into the castle. Sketodara doesn’t do any of that. By bullet-time-bouncing off a Moblin outside the Temple of Time, they are able to use the glider to fly over all of Hyrule Field and land at the castle. It takes a little less than a minute, and it’s one of the most gorgeous things I’ve ever seen. You can skip right to that and watch it here.

From here, the speedrun actually starts to feel familiar. Much of Hyrule Castle is about grabbing weapons to use against the Ganon Blights and Calamity Ganon. That means heading to the armory and also blowing up a wall along the way to grab a Royal Guard’s sword. There’s also some cooking. Although Sketodara grabbed the necessary items from different places on the Plateau, they still stop in the banquet hall to craft a damage-boosting mighty elixir to help in the upcoming boss fights.

An example of a now outdated strategy used to get from the Stasis Shrine to the Temple of Time. This was my first time completing the trick, after a handful of failed attempts. The advent of Bullet Time Bounce completely reworked the route runners take through Great Plateau.

Not to make this all about me but I’ll note that Ganon Blights are where most of my old runs died; that stuff is hard even with a mighty elixir. Speedrunners make it look incredibly easy, particularly thanks to a trick that allows them to stun-lock Calamity Ganon’s final phase and keep smacking him until he’s dead. In Sketodara’s case, a mixture of aggressive arrow shooting and this stun-lock technique bring him to the final boss fight against Dark Beast Ganon. This fight is something of “gimme,” but it is possible to stumble in the final moments. Sketodara nails it, ending with a speedrun that improves the Any% record by around 40 seconds.

For a while, I’d let my gaze wander off Breath of the Wild. Returning to speedruns shows a vibrant and exciting Any% run that’s been completely altered. It’s faster, yes, but it also showcases some of the most wild and exciting glitches currently in the game. Breath of the Wild keeps breaking apart with new techniques. Thanks to the tireless work of speedrunners, it’s possible we might even see it completed in under half an hour sometime very soon.

Looking at it all, I can’t help but think about what speedrunner gymnast86 said after completing the first sub-one hour run.

“A game like this takes a while to get good,” he said. Looking at how things are now, I’d say we’re definitely there.