Last Tuesday, the Any% speedrunning world record for The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD was about three hours. Now, less than a week later, it’s been cut in half, thanks in part to one super lucky fairy.
The records for running Wind Waker HD first began collapsing thanks to the Barrier Shift, an exploit that everyone knew existed but weren’t quite sure how to recreate. When Girtana1 recreated it, however, other speedrunners began utilizing the new trick to start shaving minutes off of their speedruns. By phasing through one of the game’s walls in a particular way, players could bypass a large portion of the game.
Gymnast86, a veteran of Wind Waker HD who’s been running it since it was released, was blessed with a second trick on his subsequent attempts using the new Barrier Shift exploit. Toward the very end of the game, players need to climb Ganondorf’s tower in order to reach the final boss fight. It’s a long, arduous process, but one that’s made significantly easier by utilizing the game’s Zombie Hover Glitch.
When Link dies of a knock-back that puts him on the ground, players can hold L and mash both A and B simultaneously to get him to hover over chasms and reach the platforms on the other side. Unfortunately, landing will resume Link’s death animation, so it’s important that he be healed in the process, which is where fairies come in. In order to traverse particularly crucial rifts, player can put potted fairies nearby and then unleash them by breaking the pots with an arrow right before trying to zombie hover across.
And that’s exactly what Gymnast86 did in a speedrun attempt on Friday that led him to complete the game with an Any% record time of 1:35:57. “Usually during the hover I just focus on correctly performing the hover portion and watching how the fairies move to see if it’s possible that I could maybe hover up faster and catch the fairies at a higher position,” he said. “The instant I saw the fairy begin to move upwards, I knew that I could get it if I began to mash slightly faster, and I just BARELY managed to grab the fairy at the corner of Link’s hitbox.” From there, Gymnast86 had to keep his hovering at the right pace to keep from messing up his good fortune.
People have gotten this fairy trick to work before, including Gymnast86 on a run earlier in the week, but rarely on the first try. “Afterwards I was in shock for about 20 seconds because I was not expecting to get a first try fairy hover after only a few attempts at the run itself, and I began focusing on not dying during the Ganon fight,” he said.
Gymnast86 is a consummate Wind Waker HD runner who has had a lot of practice at trying to perfect the game up through the fight with Puppet Ganondorf. “After that, it’s basically praying that the fairies will be nice and fly up in the specific position we want,” he said.
“I’ve been speedrunning Wind Waker HD since the day after it was released, and I’ve known that if Barrier Skip ever became a trick we did in runs, that it was going to require doing this hover with the fairy RNG. The run time has been cut down by two hours because of Barrier Skip, and because of a sequence break that we’ve known about for a while called Early Master Sword.”
He calls what’s happened over the past week a culmination of what the game’s speedrunning community has been working on now for the past ten months. “It was in June of 2016 that one player discovered a glitch known as Item Sliding which made both the Barrier Skip and Early Master Sword sequence breaks possible,” said Gymnast86. The record times have been falling so abruptly and by so much because a slew of tricks and glitches have now all slotted into place, allowed players to take advantage of all of them together.
“If another top runner is able to get a well executed run that gets the fairy hover first try, they could potentially beat my time by around 10 minutes,” he said. But that’s a big “if.” Some players calculate the probability of getting the fairies to buoy Link up the ledge outside the final boss fight at between 1-5%. And because each failed attempt costs a lot of precious time, having to wait even two or three tries to get it correct could prove fatal.
Because the fairy glitch is at the very end of the run, players have to execute the first 90 or so minutes with precision and then simply hope for the best.
You can watch Gymnast86's entire run below.