Speedrunners combine A Link to the Past and Super Metroid

Speedrunners have a long history of imposing difficult challenges on themselves. After a game is routed and mastered, speedrunners will start doing blindfolded runs, one-handed runs and the latest craze: the randomized run.

Randomizers do exactly what it sounds like; they randomize all the elements in a game. In platformers like Mega Man X, this includes things like jump height and weapon damage. In RPGs like Pokemon, the pokemon you run into and the skills you acquire are randomized. However, randomizers are most popular in adventure games like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and Super Metroid, where the locations of all items are swapped around, forcing the runner to figure out entirely new routes through the game with each run.

Now, a new type of randomizer challenge has been created, a challenge that randomizes items across games. This is the Link to the Past + Super Metroid Crossover Randomizer, a new ROM hack and speedrunning sensation that just came to light.

Here’s how it works: the hacked rom takes both games and combines them together into one. Certain doors in Super Metroid will warp you to areas in A Link to the Past and vice versa. Your goal is to beat both games as quickly as possible.

The catch? Not only have the item locations for both games been randomized, they have been randomized across games. You might find the Varia Suit on Death Mountain. You might find the Boomerang deep in Norfair. Each item can only be used in its respective game by its respective protagonist, so collecting E-Tanks won’t increase Link’s hearts, for example. Otherwise, you have to use whatever you can find to beat Mother Brain and Gannon and get to the end screen of either one of the two games.

Just a note, this isn’t for the casual. Sixteen tricks and glitches are required for navigating Super Metroid alone, on top of an encyclopedic knowledge of where every item, upgrade and power-up is in both games. For more info on what is required to play the challenge, check out this document.  

This randomizer is the work of hacker and developer Thomas “Total” Backmark. In an interview with Kotaku, Backmark said the project started as a joke. After noticing that the speedrunning communities for both games shared several members, people started joking about running both games at the same time. Instead of doing a dual controller input run, Backmark decided to hack the two ROMs together in order to make this joke become reality.

How does it work? The trick lies in the Super Nintendo’s memory. A Link to the Past and Super Metroid actually use completely different segments of the Super Nintendo’s memory banks. This meant both games could run without accidentally overwriting variables in the other.

There’s still quite a few programming tricks involved. For example, the game automatically saves each time you switch from one game to another. This is because the game doesn’t know how to switch games on death. Certain portions of each game have been altered as well in order to prevent items from becoming inaccessible. There is also logic in the randomization algorithm, which prevents either game from being unbeatable.

The challenge is a bit of a marathon. The fastest randomizer runs for either game only last about an hour. However, this new challenge tends to last about three hours. Some runners have taken to doing "co-op" runs, where two runners play the same randomized seed and share info, but even these end up being several hours.

Even though the current build has only been public for a short while, the speedrunning community is already hoping to see this at a marathon. Unfortunately, it’s too late for it to get into SGDQ, the next big speedrunning marathon. We can always hope that it will get in as a bonus run.