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Shadow Hearts: From the New World (ntscus) (ps2) [Any %] [Single Segment]

Decision: Accept

Congratulations to Kenneth 'Tide' Cheung!
Thread title:  
Edit history:
ktwo: 2016-08-31 12:17:30 am
Run Information

Shadow Hearts: From the New World (ntscus) (ps2) [Any %] [Single Segment]

Verification Files

Please refer to the Verification Guidelines before posting.

Please post your opinions about the run and be certain to conclude your post with a verdict (Accept/Reject). This is not a contest where the majority wins - I will judge each verification on its content. Please keep your verification brief unless you have a good reason otherwise.
Edit history:
LotBlind: 2016-09-01 09:03:44 am
LotBlind: 2016-08-31 04:19:30 am
LotBlind: 2016-08-30 05:48:22 am
LotBlind: 2016-08-29 09:33:33 am
LotBlind: 2016-08-28 01:01:01 pm
LotBlind: 2016-08-27 09:42:49 am
LotBlind: 2016-08-27 05:30:11 am
LotBlind: 2016-08-26 05:42:40 am
LotBlind: 2016-08-25 12:14:10 pm
LotBlind: 2016-08-25 12:07:14 pm
The runner has answered all the stuff that's hidden:

SEG 1:
at the very start, you perform an action, then enter the menu, then continue running afterwards: in some games this is slightly suboptimal compared to buffering going into the menu right at the start or right as you emerge from somewhere for reasons like in case there's any minor delay before the character starts to run, so you don't have two run-starts but just one.

2:12 I don't know anything about this game or its mechanics but could you have run more to the left and talked to the person so they're on your side instead of bumping against them for a small movement optimization?

19:17 Just for reference, what's the approximate probability of a pincer attack like this? Does it vary from area to area?
21:05 what's this wait for?

33:15 and this little wait?

In a lot of places you seem to move around snapping to diagonals more so than straight lines. Doesn't the game map the analog stick inputs very well?

They can't jump that? :|

This shopping might have had some hesitations.

What were you checking here when you did nothing?

Chichen Itza:
What's the canceled Soul for?

Macchu Picchu:
Why's there nothing on the ring suddenly? Does an item do that?

"voice commentary" - seems to be missing from the verification copy.

Movement: So what I get is you CAN'T move in directions in-between orthogonal and diagonal ones? I don't play enough console games... In that case the vector addition works the same whether you go, say, UP 3 seconds, and LEFT 3 seconds, or UP LEFT UP LEFT UP LEFT if you see what I'm saying. Unless switching directions itself introduces a delay. I'd imagine it doesn't seeing how simple movement mechanics tend to be in RPGs.

I'm actually kinda amazed you're able to land so many blind attacks! Lot of them strikes and PERFECTS! I thought for sure it was either automating it, or at least nudging it a bit.

Killer 1 area:
Does it make it more difficult to slink away from fights if your party has afflictions or if someone dies? Or are you afraid of a bad RNG fight that wipes everyone? I'm seeing you healing/curing after every encounter even if just one party member is hurt.

Does hitting enemies/bosses cause them to lose turns? Is that why you sometimes do even very low damage attacks?

Malice Killer:
I presume it's hyperbolic when you talk about "getting stuck in an infinite loop" here? Or how does that work?

Shania: "I felt something evil in that tree" - this is one of those Deanna Troi moments.

It's funny: I kept reading the name of that one spell EN-trance... like "here, lemme give you an IN on dealing hordes of damage on your next go!" Also I was extremely pleased that for the last few areas, the main strategy started by raging the bat.

Hardware stuff is always a bitch with competitive gaming and speedrunning. It's possible to save more time on movement by using directional movement better and running along the "hypothenuses".

I'm actually going to skip the audio commentary now that I'm most of the way through: I'm at least checking the audio on the main track this way.

How can you have a higher in-game time at the end than the real time would have been??

If you wanted to you could probably test how long it takes to move 1 mile and then you'd know how much longer it took with your movement. You could also reason how many extra encounters you got into, but that's only if you can estimate what percentage of movement took place in areas where encounters can occur.

Yeah, so this is definitely indicative of all kinds of preparation and has visibly good execution in menus, fights and the rest. That aspect of this game is definitely emphasized with the given mechanics, as is improvisation. If someone else newly picks the game up though, make sure to have a better controller at hand, because it looks stupid when you're constantly bleeding a little bit of time everywhere, as well as potentially leading into a few extra encounters (!) along the way.

Insanity Prelude
Hi, thanks for taking the time to review the run. My responses to some of your questions:

2:12 - Most likely, I could've, yes. As you noted though, this is a very minor optimization (maybe 1 second). The real problem is that this NPC doesn't always spawn in the same location - sometimes he'll be off to the side, which takes even longer to reach him. I usually don't bother resetting until he appears at the top, but the fact that he spawned in the best location, so I wasn't too focused on losing maybe 1 second in the grand scheme of things.

19:17 - I actually don't know what the chances of an ambush are exactly. Around half way through, they stop becoming relevant because of the accessory that you get called the Warning Device. It's not infrequent - you'll likely run into 2-3 during a run most of the time, although again, I don't have the exact probability.

21:05 - I'm not sure if my voice commentary talked about it, but this was one of those "fast decision making" spots that is random every run. In that particular boss fight, you want to try and finish the boss off with a 20 hit combo. To do this, the current route aims for 1 round of attacks from everyone, then 1 Ninja  Star Frank, into a big combo that has everyone attacking. The boss in that situation hit Frank twice and inflicted Deadly Poison. Deadly Poison takes off about 25% of Max HP at the end of a turn. Since I didn't pull off the 1st Ninja Star, I could not combo a turn off to Frank for the Ninja Star without him dying, which in turn, would make me waste a Talisman (or about 480 in Cash). I debated on doing it and waffled between my options but settled on using the Thera Leaf to heal him because it is cheaper compared to a Talisman. In addition, I was also debating on who to start the combo with since while you want to do more damage, another risk that you can run into is you do too much damage and kill the boss before the 20th hit. I thought about having Johnny attack over Shania, but eventually decided that Johnny's Rock Bump doesn't deal as much as a Shania Standard and that little bit of damage can matter.  All of this is done by the way because beating this boss with the 20 hits means you get a weapon upgrade for Natan at no cost.  This is important because at Vegas, there is an upgrade to the Virgo stellar that costs 5000 cash. Unlike regular shops, stellar upgrades can't be discounted, so they are quite expensive and I have to do some tricks such as getting free equipment early on to ensure I can always get this upgrade to avoid losing even more time once we get to Vegas.

33:15 - Another one of those spots where decision making is critical, but this time with the much higher consequence of dying if you make a mistake. To explain my hesitation, you'll have to re-watch the fight from the beginning. This is actually one of the hardest fights in the game because of the need to improvise and the requirement for very high precision on ring strikes. There's two options you can take: either 2 hit areas, or 4 hit areas. With the 2 hit areas, you have to hit the strikes zones (the red parts in the ring) at all times. On the other hand, with a 4 hit area, you only need to hit 2 of 4 and it opens the possibility for getting an even faster kill on the boss. I prefer the 4 hit since its what I'm used to. The trade off for this though is that the ring is longer so there is a greater risk of whiffing when aiming for strikes. With a technical ring, a single whiff cancels the entire attack and unfortunately, in this fight, it is absolutely fatal. You have just enough Sanity (SP) on Shania to finish this fight fused, so being precise is key. Unfortunately, in the 3 attacks before, I only hit 1 strike per ring instead of 2, which puts me at a deficit for damage. I weighed the option of going for a Double for the Finisher since its what you normally do, but I know that I'm short. I figured that even if I tried risking it, I may still not be able to do it. You'll note that I kill the boss with a measly extra 20 damage, so every little bit counts. I suspect it may be possible, but I would have had to hit absolutely every strike area, which is a tough thing to promise. I eventually settled for the 'safer' option that doesn't kill the run, which was to Doube into a Defend. Defend is a very powerful option in this game because it cuts damage by almost 80% and has a faster recharge time than normal. However, because I am short damage, the end result is that on the last turn, I couldn't do enough to the boss and Shania went insane. This honestly should've been a wipe, but the game didn't kill me and I was still ahead against my splits at this point so I continued.

In retrospect, the better maneuver was probably to hard hit since Shania had stock and enough HP to absorb another attack. I wasn't expecting the attack from Shania to generate more stock for her, enough for a 1 bar. This gave the boss the opportunity to Double and when it doubles, it will always take away your stock if it can. Doing this, Shania would go into the 5th round with 1 bar of stock and I can do the finisher to guarantee kill without worrying about not having enough damage as I did in the turn before. Altogether, this scenario was just a result of missing too many strikes when you shouldn't (you need a strike rate of about 70% in that fight in order to win ideally), then scrambling to try and recover as fast as possible.

Regarding Movement - The analog for the controller I use unfortunately is kind of wonky. It loses inputs at certain times, more noticeably when I have to change directions in 90 degrees. As a result, I use a combination of moving with the analog as well as the D-pad to get the best movement that I can. Just for reference, the "Distance traveled" stat at the end of the game was one of the lowest I've personally gotten, about 54 miles in total. Before I started the grind, I've had movement as high as 58 miles.

1:20:15 - Nope. You unfortunately have to go all the way around to grab the deck brush. I mean if they could jump, they shouldn't have had to move the rudder anyway, but shhhhhhhhh :V

1:28:00 - I screwed up the menu here and it actually threw my rhythm off completely. I'm used to selling off certain items and seeing a certain amount of money back, so when I saw I wasn't getting there, I just said "screw it" and re-did everything from scratch instead of mucking around even more and getting more confused.

1:31:44 - I had to check for Tents since the shopping menu before threw me off like I said. I need at least 1 tent at the top of the hotel, and not having it would be fatal. So I made sure to check that I did have 1 to spare since I was ahead.

1:59:55 - This is a technique we developed called 'Seal Cancelling'. Seals have the fastest recharge time in the game. This means you can try and use one to get your next turn as quickly as possible. Fortunately, the recharge is applied BEFORE the action is carried out, meaning you will want to whiff the Seal on purpose to save it for possible future uses. In that particular situation, I wanted to whiff the Seal to get Hilda a turn as soon as I could after Johnny because Hilda wasn't Entranced, so I didn't want to attack and eat a recovery penalty. I probably should've defended (Hindsight is 20/20) instead but it felt like a good move at the time because it would've allowed Hilda to get a turn as quickly as possible and I may have been able to do another Seal cancel on the following turn to line up everything correctly.

2:11:55 - Yes, there is an accessory called the Magic Mind's Eye. Having this equipped Doubles the power of your magic spells at the cost of making the hit areas on the ring invisible. Since the multiplier is so big, it is a necessary part of the run to make everything doable. In fact, if this accessory didn't exist, many of the South America bosses wouldn't be possible.

Hope that explains some things. This run isn't perfect, so there's obvious flaws, but it is very good based on the route we currently have, requiring a good deal of execution and pretty good luck overall. If you have anymore questions, feel free to ask me.
From now on I'll leave just unanswered questions visible in the first post.
Insanity Prelude
More regarding Movement: To clarify, the analog does give you a fair degree of control of where Johnny is moving. However, the controller I'm using doesn't have a very responsive analog stick, so there are certain positions when I move, Johnny will actually slow down to a walk. I tried using a more responsive controller, but the feel of the buttons didn't sit well with me during practice and I was missing inputs in places more often than I was using this controller. Since you lose way more time and there is way more risk in the case of ring inputs versus movement, I stuck with the controller where I could perform better in battle.

Voice commentary file: I had it recorded as a separate .wav file. Maybe it wasn't combined together in the verification copy yet? Can a SDA staff member comment on this?

Hitting Rings: The voice commentary talks about how to hit the rings accurately despite the invisible hit zones. If you are keen, you'll notice that there are times when I purposely *don't* hit the strike. Usually when doing so has no benefit, although there are times also done consciously when I want to avoid the strike effect. This is because most of the strikes are in a later portion of the ring, so waiting to hit the strike actually wastes frames as opposed to hitting it early when you don't need it. Hitting that many perfects is par for course in the run. The expected strike rate should be about 60%.

South America onward: Yes, random battles in South America and onward are very dangerous, for numerous reasons. Not healing the party after a fight is a judgment call, but its almost always better to full heal since that little bit of HP can matter. For starters, enemies start dealing more damage, your stats are starting to get notably compromised and the ability to get the 1st turn diminishes. However, the absolute danger comes from enemies who will now start having stock in battles. Just like your characters, enemies can combo between other enemies and hit the party multiple times before you can do much. Since run failures exist in this game, getting into an encounter where the 1st or 2nd escape fails becomes very dangerous, and the chances of dying skyrocket in the Gate, where it is almost certainly fatal. As a result, after every fight in the second half of the game, I will full heal the party to reduce this risk. You'll notice I'm a lot more lax from Vegas and before when this risk is less present.
Apologies for the missing audio commentary. It fell under the radar somehow and didn't get copied to the right folder when this topic was created... Anyways, it's been made available now as a separate file through the link to the verification files.

(for the final encodes, it will be added directly to the video file)
Edit history:
Tide: 2016-08-31 04:09:18 pm
Insanity Prelude
ktwo: No worries; any future verifiers will hopefully read that and know that there is a separate audio file. Maybe make a note at the top as well?

re: BabyRage - what you're seeing is the stock mechanics in the game. There is a separate bar under each character's status in battle that builds as they take certain actions. When this bar fills up, the character gains 1 stock level. Enemies have this bar as well, and when a bar is fully charged, it allows characters and enemies to either perform a double action (Double) or they can pass a turn off to another person who hasn't taken a combo'd turn yet (referred to as a Combo). In order to do a combo, you have to perform an offensive action and it has to hit. The actual damage doesn't really matter for the purposes of comboing, so even though Ricardo and Natan do close to no damage, they are still useful because they can use their stock to pass a turn to Hilda, who is the actual damage cannon. In this way, it allows your offensive character to take more turns than normal, although they will suffer a greater recovery penalty the more times they are combo'd to. Managing stock is actually a very big part of the game that you have to do on the fly so it's much trickier than it looks. You also have to consider enemy stock in battle since they have very high offense and with your diminished stats compared to a regular game, will often one shot you with no trouble. There are no turn cancelling mechanics otherwise.

re: Malice Killer - The loop I refer to is hyperbolic, yes. More specifically, it refers to a situation where you are stuck playing defensively and needing to revive/heal constantly just to keep up and try to restore your position to one where you can build offensive momentum (through buffing/attacking). If Malice Killer performs the very dangerous Vice Blade, it will take away everyone's stock by 1 bar, which greatly reduces your options and hurts your ability to combo to Hilda. Since Bat Hilda has very low HP, it is very risky and luck prone to her getting another turn after self buffing with Energy Charge. You may be caught in a situation where you are repeatedly reviving Hilda/healing other party members because if you don't, he'll kill you for sure on the next action. This can repeat for multiple rounds until he finally overwhelms you.

Re end-game: Yeah, you go over to using Physicals for the last dungeon just due to the mechanics of the last fight. You won't see it in the run since I got a perfect battle there, but the amount of damage as well as her counter buffing greatly discourages using magic to try and win there. There are also keys that you pick up which allows you to attack multiple times in one turn, making it a very powerful one-shot type maneuver for the boss fights. We changed to using Bat because Bat has Energy Charge, which is the physical equivalent of Entrance, but only effects the user as opposed to Entrance's targeting (which is anyone else but the user)

Re Hardware stuff: Yes. Movement is something that can be improved, but the major time saves available are all within fights. There is basically 3 minutes that can be shaved off the fights based on my initial glance, and even more so if you get better luck in certain areas. For the record, LCC's total distance traveled (another runner who runs this game) on his PB is 53.68 miles. At 54.67 Miles, I only moved slightly more compared to him, so the amount of time there to shave is rather small.

Re In-Game time: The final save at the end counts the ending into its time. This is approximately 15 minutes from what I'm aware of. Note that the In-game time when compared to real time normally is off by about 1-2 minutes over the course of the run. I suspect this is because it doesn't count certain loading screens into the timer. The save is made in real time at about 4 hours 5 minutes and 50 seconds. So 3:51:08 + 15:00 - 2:00 ~ 4:04:08, which is reasonable.
Decision posted.