For a certain subset of folks, speedrunning — the art of beating a video game as quickly as possible — is their window into competitive gaming. But if speedrunning Super Mario World is a 100-meter sprint, a Tales race is a marathon: superficially similar but wildly different.
This weekend, the RPG Limit Break channel on Twitch is streaming a best-of-the-best marathon of the Tales series, a long-running franchise of Japanese role-playing games that dates back to 1995’s Tales of Phantasia. Opening the stream today is a race of 2015’s Tales of Zestiria, commentated on by competitors intimately familiar with the game.
An average role-playing game takes anywhere from 20 to 40 hours to beat, erring on the side of 60 or greater for some classics, or 80+ if you’re one of Jason Schrier’s favourite games. While speedruns of old Nintendo classics may take an hour or under, it is all relative. For the on-average 41-hour epic Tales of Zestiria, the best runners hit just shy of six hours.
Generally, the shorter the speedrun the more it prizes dexterity and adaptability. Role-playing games like the Tales series are more cerebral, with its slower nature meaning that intense subject knowledge and efficient routing is more important than pure muscle memory. Optimization is key, as is keeping pace and remembering small skips that save minutes, eventually adding up to hours.
Role-playing games often use tough boss fights as progression meters; knowing the exact level, items, and abilities absolutely necessary to beat a boss — without wasting precious time on unnecessary luxuries — differentiates world record runs from another spot low on the leaderboards.
Though Zestiria is the only race featured this weekend, runners will be showcasing exhibitions today and tomorrow, culminating in a run of the recently released Tales of Berseria. You can find the exact schedule and a link to RPG Limit Break’s other upcoming events on their stream landing page.