Speedrunners of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time have discovered a way to summon an Arwing — that’s right, the spacefighter from Star Fox 64 — without using mods or a cheat device. And the method that allows them to do this has also dramatically cut the world record time for Ocarina, one of the community’s most speed-run games.
The two things — the Arwing and the speedrun record — aren’t necessarily related to each other. But they both involve something called “arbitrary code execution,” or ACE. This means that the game can be forced to load and execute a save file name as if it is game code — so using a save file name that is game code can access parts of the game left over from its development and testing.
“The first obvious use was warping to the end credits of the game,” wrote redditor Two-Tone, and that has taken nearly five minutes off The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’s world record Any% time. Speedrunner Lozoots has used ACE to set and beat the world record repeatedly over the past week. Here’s what the current record looks like:
Ocarina of Time is the fifth-most speedrun game (by total number of runs, with 6,316) according to Speedrun.com. For four years, the Any% world record time was in the 17-minute range, before Torje finally broke the 17-minute barrier with a 16:58.336 run on July 12. But with ACE’s discovery, Lozoots has set four world records since Jan. 15, all of them faster than 13 minutes.
More intriguing, although not at all helpful to speedrunning, is the Arwing summoning. And it’s not simply a static model — the Arwing is fully animated, with flight behavior and attacks. As redditor Two-Tone explains, the Arwing was “the basis for the Fire Temple boss, Volvagia, as the movement patterns of the Arwing have been shown to be identical.” The Arwing was also used for testing Link’s Z-targeting (lock-on targeting), a gameplay mechanism that made its first Zelda appearance in Ocarina of Time.
When brought into the game by arbitrary code execution, players don’t spawn a helpful sidekick, they get a rather nettlesome enemy that rains laser fire on Link from all directions. Still, Twitch streamer Zfg1 manages to take one out with a boomerang in this clip:
If you’re having trouble reading what is written to the left of the screen in that clip, it says:
By doing ACE three times with different specific filenames, you can remove the character limit on the file name creation. With no character limit, you can type in any payload you want at any length. With this you can do basically anything, and is known as Total Control.
Of course, it remains to be seen how much Total Control can be used to pare down a speedrun that is now mostly cutscenes, with the runner buttoning through them as fast as possible. There is still some gameplay in an ACE-assisted Any% run, mainly in the form of map traversal, but it doesn’t look like there’s much more that can be shaved off of Lozoots’ time.
Then again, six months ago some people were saying much the same thing about Torje’s 16:58.336 time. It all proves, once again, that whenever someone predicts the latest speedrun milestone can’t possibly be improved, they’re usually wrong.