Link to the Past is not an easy game. But yesterday, speedrunner ParisianPlayer managed to defeat everyone of its bosses and complete the entire game in one sitting. While blindfolded.
In just over nine hours, ParisianPlayer defeated every boss in the game and unearthed most of its secrets while the entire time a Budweiser scarf was tied around his face. He originally thought it might take closer to twelve, but even after making a handful of mistakes, the Canadian speedrunner managed to surprise even himself.
Blindfolded runs aren't a new thing. Games like the original Super Mario Bros. as well as the N64's Ocarina of Time have proven fertile ground for those players wishing to prove how good they are even while devoid of sight.
So it only makes sense that, in a community driven by an obsession with pushing the boundaries of what's possible in gaming, speedruners would branch out into other games. In ParisianPlayer's case, that new frontier was Link to the Past.
It all started when he saw a blindfolded 102% run of Donkey Kong Country completed by Katun24. "That really made me want to join the group of blindfolded runners, the Blindfolded Brotherhood, which Katun was part of, because I would find dedicated runners there," ParisianPlayer said. "It was what I needed to put some time for playing blindfolded."
Of course, there are several different way to do a run of Link to the Past, even while blindfolded. In speedrunning there are "any%" runs where it doesn't matter how much the player actually does in the game as long as they beat it, as well as "no major glitch" runs that require the player to complete the game without executing any major exploits that would help them jump to later parts or gain access to power-ups earlier than normal.
So ParisianPlayer had to decide on a goal that would push the envelope but still seem achievable. "Some people did the 'true any%' blindfolded but it is very easy and requires probably 5-10 mins," he said. "'True any%' was not enough for a real challenge and the main category, any% no major glitches, is too hard (and I consider it impossible) so I went for the hardest feasible category I could imagine and it was this one (All bosses, all glitches)." This makes ParisianPlayer's nine hour blindfold run from yesterday the first of its kind.
The keys to succeeding are two fold: using Link's sword and bombs as sonar devices to help the player orient themselves and making sure to take advantage of the game's most notorious glitches. The first is straightforward in theory but still difficult in practice. Link to the Past allows the player to hold out Link's sword so that it can both clink against walls and obstacles as well as defend him from enemy attacks. In the end it requires learning to visualise and play the game in a completely different way, thinking in terms of sounds rather than pixels.
As for the glitches, since ParisianPlayer was promising to defeat every boss, he could only use them as a means to getting stronger equipment earlier and not as a way of bypassing the game altogether. "I mainly use the exploration glitch (EG), which is a very well known glitch," he said.
"It allowed me to enter some dungeons early in order to finish them or to grab the items in them." The "Go Anywhere" glitch, as it's also known, lets player travel to any part of the game's map if they save and quit the game right after jumping off a ledge into a pit.
It's a crucial exploit because some of the game's bosses are much harder than others, and being able to traverse the game out of order makes the blindfolded run more feasible.
"I needed it to skip temporarly the Tower of Hera because the boss there (Moldorm) is (almost) impossible with so few equipment," said ParisianPlayer.
"That boss is the reason why I did not go for the main category (any% no major glitches), so that glitch was very important. There is also the conveyor glitch that skips the second part of Ganon's Tower, the somaria cane glitch to skip the torch room in Skull Woods and a very easy clip to enter Turtle Rock from another door. But those last glitches are not as well known as the EG."
After strategising with these tactics in place for a month, and then practicing for two more, he finally felt ready.
Beyond just the loss of sight, however, the blindfold run also presents more mundane obstacles, like what to do when nature calls. "I did not eat, nor drink, nor went to the bathroom," said ParisianGamer. "The way we put it in the Blindfolded Brotherhood community was that the blindfold must seen at all time, so going to bathroom is forbidden."
In this regard, the blindfolded speedrun is not just a mental challenge, but also a physiological one. Yesterday, ParisianGamer sat in the same chair for nearly ten hours with only the sounds of a 25-year old SNES game to keep him company.
Occasionally someone from the Blindfolded Brotherhood would check in over the voice app Discord to let ParisianGamer know the status of the Twitch chat, but for the most part he was alone with the game and the challenge he'd set out for himself, never 100% sure where he was in the game, or what he was clicking on in a menu, or even what time it was.
Early in the run, while making his way up toward the Tower of Hera, the game's third dungeon on the northern most part of its map, there's a cliff with enemies and falling boulders scattered across it. "So here you press diagonal and pray," ParisianGamer says to no one in particular. Several hours later, his faith pays off.
You can re-watch the entire run here.