For years, the speedrunning community surrounding The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker has been searching for a way to perform what they call the "Barrier Skip," a way to make it through a walled off section in Hyrule that leads towards the endgame. Last week, this Holy Grail of glitches was found. In the early portions of The Wind Waker, Link descends underwater to the remains of Hyrule in order to collect the Master Sword, a magical weapon that will defeat the villainous Ganon. Across a bridge is a loading zone to the final areas of the game, but it is blocked off by a magical barrier. Not only does the barrier extend upward to an absurd height, but entering the space behind it will knock Link back until he is outside the barrier. While there were theoretical ways around the barrier, no one had managed to pull it off. (For a detailed breakdown of the issue, check here.)
Last week, runner LinkOscuro managed to clip through the barrier in The Wind Waker HD. Ever since then, the game's speedrunning community has been tirelessly working to find a reliable way to recreate the deed. It's all part of a larger effort that came about when another runner, Girtana1, posted a video where he claimed to have passed through the barrier. The video showed Link on the other side of the barrier, but it didn't show the skip itself. The community was so sceptical that Girtana1 eventually took the video down.
"I still don't think it's clicked in my head that it's real," Dereck "TrogWW" Miller told me. Miller is a member of the community who focuses on tool assisted runs. He authored the most recent Wind Waker TAS, which was released in July. "I've seen a lot of fake barrier skip videos and I mean a lot."
Miller's knowledge of the game is exhaustive. When asked for information on the Barrier Skip, he provided me with a detailed summary of the community's endeavours. Their work stretches back for half a decade. It's so notorious that there is a bounty on it: A successful Barrier Skip could see a player earn $US800 ($1048) minimum. The reward rises if it can be used in a real time speedrun.
Link, finally behind the dreaded barrier.
LinkOscuro managed the feat by utilising a recently discovered glitch that is exclusive to the HD remaster called "Item Sliding", which allows Link to build absurd amounts of momentum. With this increased speed and a little bit of luck, Link can burst through the barrier. But things are not perfect yet. The trick apparently requires a player to have the Iron Boots, which take some time to attain. This means means that the potential time saved from the trick, for now, is closer to five minutes than the hour long sequence break some imagined.
When I asked about the skip, community member wooferzfg told me they found it "really underwhelming". Without finding a way to reproduce it consistently or perform it earlier, some runners are unsure about the skip's usefulness. The fact that the trick is exclusive to the HD remaster has some runners who prefer the GameCube original less than enthused. Still, some runners are optimistic.
gymnast86 is the current world record holder for The Wind Waker HD, with a 3:48:22 time. He pointed out that the find opens up exciting new possibilities for speedruns given enough time to study the glitch.
"Even if it doesn't save an hour," gymnast86 began, "the run will be a lot more exciting to run and watch once we full understand the current method."
If anything else, the community would have to consider a new route through the game that would open up new challenges to face. Skipping the barrier only grants runners entrance to the endgame section. They would still have to glitch and trick their way through that in different ways in order to capitalise on it. That task holds a lot of appeal, judging by the various runners and glitch hunters I noted in the community's Discord chatroom.
"It's going to change the run a lot," Miller stressed. "There's so many new opportunities to explore, optimise, and break the game."