On Sunday night during Summer Games Done Quick 2017, speedrunner Dr4gonBlitz beat his own world record in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night’s glitchless run category. Of course, since it was only a practice run that went unrecorded, it didn’t count.
Then, during the official stream, he appeared to beat it again — without any armor or weapons.
Before SGDQ, Dr4gonBlitz already held the world record of 33 minutes and 11 seconds. While warming up backstage, he completed Symphony of the Night in 32 minutes and 49 seconds. During the stream proper, he clocked in 32 minutes and 59 seconds, according to the event’s timer — a bit over his practice run, but still enough to beat his previous world record by 10 seconds, a practical mountain of time in the world of speedrunning.
Considering that Symphony of the Night is among the original games to usher in the Metroidvania subgenre, speedrunners have to work extra hard to memorize the game’s labyrinthine corridors. If that wasn’t difficult enough, runners use a technique called “shield dashing,” which involves rapidly hammering the dash and shield buttons in order to shuffle backwards at speeds faster than running forward.
The glitchless category for Symphony of the Night was set up by Castlevania expert romscout, who delivered an impressive performance at last year’s SGDQ by completing the game in less than an hour while blindfolded. Glitchless runs involve completing the game without exploiting major glitches or flaws in a game in order to save time, as opposed to a standard “any percent” run where players are allowed to beat the game using any means necessary apart from tool-assisted hacks.
Running the game without glitches tends to be easier for players to pick up and play, as it doesn’t require any prior knowledge of the frame-perfect setups required for the any percent run. It does present its own challenges, however, considering that one glitch in the beginning of the game allows players to proceed with the most advanced weapons and armor. This means that not only did Dr4gonBlitz opt out of using time-saving glitches, he also had to play from start to finish using his bare fists.
Update: Due to an issue with SGDQ’s timer, Dr4gonBlitz’s run of Castlevania was not a new world record. Matt Merkle, Games Done Quick’s director of operations, told Polygon via e-mail that they recalculated Dr4gonBlitz’s time to compensate, which “resulted in a time of 33:27, which would not qualify as a WR. This time is still timed by hand so it isn't perfect but should be within a second or two.”