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Zelda: The Wind Waker’s best speedrunning trick finally put to the test

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It’s been called the game’s Holy Grail by speedrunners

wind waker hd Nintendo via Twitch

Last night, speedrunners experienced a major breakthrough. A player nailed The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker’s toughest exploit, speeding past an impossible barrier — in this case, the walls around Hyrule Castle — to shave off more than 30 minutes from his playthrough. For a popular game whose speedrun leaderboards show mere minutes between the three fastest times, that’s a huge accomplishment.

It’s not just that gymnast86, already a record-holder for The Wind Waker speedruns, implemented the trick into his playthrough that makes this impressive. The story behind how players figured out how to perform the “barrier skip” move after years of thinking it impossible is also pretty wild.

Console Deals has much of the backstory on what makes this latest development such a big deal for speedrunners. Of all the parts of The Wind Waker that players figured out how to bypass, the partially invisible barrier around Hyrule Castle remained impenetrable. It encircled the Castle, taunting players who wanted to blitz their way through to the end of the game for years. The video below shows just how infuriating the barrier is to speedrunners:

For years, players worked to circumvent the barrier. Girtana1 was one of those players, and he came closest to finding the way around it last summer. To make it work, he used something the community dubbed “item sliding.” That’s when Link builds up massive amounts of speed while aiming with an item in first-person mode. Players need to switch out of the mode in just the right amount of time to release Link and send him jutting forward at top-speed — just fast enough to bypass the barrier entirely.

But Girtana1’s use of the trick only saved players about seven minutes of time and required special items to work, despite him spending more than 50 hours of testing out the quickest glitches.

But yesterday, Girtana1 managed to bust through to the other side in a way that other players could more easily replicate. He used an input logger to capture exactly how he performed the barrier skip so that other speedrunners could mirror his moves perfectly.

Even in this playthrough, Girtana1 is using additional late-stage items at his disposal and not saving all that much time; it’s similar to the original way he accomplished the trick. But because players could just copy his inputs from the log, eventually gymnast86 came in with the quickest run. He gathered up speed using the Wind Waker item, got Link standing at a precise angle and jettisoned past the barrier.

In just three hours, five minutes, gymnast86 finished The Wind Waker. That made him the new top record-holder — all thanks to the barrier skip trick. The whole speedrun is archived in full on his Twitch page, if anyone wants to see one of speedrunning’s most coveted exploits unlocked and put to the test, once and for all.

He also uploaded a tutorial that shows how to make barrier skip work. It’s pretty involved, so amateur speedrunners should be forewarned:

Others are already besting his time, and that’s likely to continue as the successful barrier skip continues to go viral. (We’re already seeing a faster time of three hours flat from streamer RasenUrns.)

Note that the barrier skip is performed in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, the Wii U version of the game. Item sliding currently only works in the HD game. Speedrunners hypothesize that the barrier skip could work in the standard GameCube version, but they’re still working on figuring that out.