Almost two weeks out from release, the community of speedrunners have moved their clear times for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to under an hour! Breath of the Wild is a bit different than past Legend of Zelda games, in that you can head straight to Hyrule Castle and fight Ganon after the opening Grand Plateau region. The first major speedrun was done by streamer Orcastraw, coming in a 3:39:39 after only 2 days with the game.
Since then, that that number has dropped quickly, as speedrunners began to poke holes in the game and shared techniques to move faster. Speedrunner Gymnast86 is the first to get the game done in under an hour, with a time of 58:01. (Orcastraw countered that world record with a 52:25 run today!) Gymnast86 has speedrun previous Zelda games on Twitch, including Skyward Sword, Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, and Majora's Mask.
USgamer reached out to Gymnast86 to dive into the world of speedrunning Breath of the Wild and to understand how a true speedrunner works.
USgamer: Have you found speedrunning Breath of the Wild to be easier or harder than previous Zelda games? Does the structure of the game mean you have to approach it differently?
Gymnast86: Honestly, I would probably say that Breath of the Wild is the same difficulty as most of the games I've done speedruns of in the past. It's still a new release so every runner is gradually getting more comfortable with the controls which should make it a bit easier over time.
Well, the structure of the game means that there's less work to do with regards to the standard Any% category. Usually in Zelda games, there are many tasks you must complete before taking on the final boss. In this game we can just waltz right in, so it cuts out the usual part of figuring out how the fastest way of getting to the final boss is from a larger perspective.
USgamer: In just over a week, speedrun times dropped from 3+ hours to around 1 hour. What techniques fed into this huge change?
Gymnast86: The first speedrun done by player Orcastraw in 3:39:39 was more of an "on-the-fly" attempt at executing a speedrun. I believe what she did was go and beat Vah Norboris to obtain Urbosa's Fury and cut out needing to fight Thunderblight right before Calamity Ganon. This put a lot less pressure on needing to perform well on the final boss gauntlet.
The current fastest speedrun route obviously does not go and free any of the Divine Beasts; we go straight to Hyrule Castle and beat the final boss with the weapons inside the castle instead. Simply not doing detouring to the Vah Noboris led to this seemingly drastic change in time. However, this is normal for speedruns of a recently-released game. They get improved a lot in the beginning but then slowly begin to see less and less time shaved off.
USgamer: What's currently the hardest part of your attempts?
Gymnast86: Surprisingly, it's not the final boss fights. Currently, the most difficult part of my attempts involves running a wild horse through the Hyrule Castle Town Ruins, a recent change that I began putting into effect today. The space in the town ruins is quite small and the horse doesn't always listen to my commands. If it abruptly stops or doesn't turn when I want it to, that usually means that I'm going to be shot by a guardian and die.
USgamer: Are there any required techniques or glitches that feed into your current runs?
Gymnast86: Currently the main technique used in my speedruns of breath of the Wild is known as whistle sprinting. This technique involves holding the whistle button (d-pad down) and repeatedly pressing the sprint button. Normally if you press the sprint button during Link's whistling animation he begins to accelerate for a brief moment before going back to normal walking speed. However, if you keep repeatedly pressing the sprint button, Link will continuously get this small burst forward and he will effectively sprint without using any stamina. This is useful as it allows me to run at near sprinting speed while my stamina meter recharges between regular sprint intervals.
Another new technique just discovered yesterday is the ability to skip the cooldown period after using all the spur dashes on any horse. This is done by first using all the available spurs and then performing a technique which quickly dismounts and then remounts the horse within about a quarter second, thus resetting the spurs and having them all available again.
USgamer: There's been some discussion in the community that using Epona from the Amiibo makes the current world record attempts invalid. Do you think Epona is a valid tool?
Gymnast86: Yes, I believe that spawning Epona using the Link (Super Smash Bros) Amiibo is valid. Traditionally, Zelda speedruns have always used first party external tools if they help speed up the run.
An example would be the Tingle Tuner from The Wind Waker. This item allows you to do things such as buy hearts, magic, or even walk on air, and it's been used in speedruns of The Wind Waker for years. Amiibo have also been used in speedruns of Twilight Princess HD to save a few seconds and generally, nobody has complained. This is why I was surprised to see the amount of players against the use of Amiibo in Breath of the Wild, since nobody seemed to have a problem with similar external tools in the past.
USgamer: Who do think you is your best competition currently for the world record?
Gymnast86: Currently, the players Venick and SVA (sva16162) are probably the best competition. Venick and SVA have both been speedrunning Zelda games for years as have I. I think that between us the record will probably be exchanged a number of times over the coming days and weeks.
USgamer: What makes speedrunning exciting for you?
Gymnast86: I could probably write a dissertation on that question! However, the simple answer is that I get to play the games that I love over and over again, with an added challenge that, quite frankly, never gets boring. It's always exciting to race against the clock and gives the games I love nearly infinite replay value.
It's also exciting when new glitches get found that can completely turn a game inside out and change the way it's played. It gives both the games, and the way the games are played, the ability to evolve almost. Speedrunning is always changing and I find that very exciting.