Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl have been called “totally broken” by some speedrunners, and that brokenness has reached its logical conclusion: a sub-20 minute record time for the finishing game. About a week ago, that record time was 51 minutes.
Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl have had a mixed reception, to say the least. Some fans have described the remakes barebones, and a significant number of glitches have plagued the game’s release. Despite all of this, plenty of others have enjoyed a comfortable return to the Sinnoh of their youth. However, both groups have to acknowledge the games have some serious technical issues, when they can be completed in just over 15 minutes. Something just achieved by speedrunner and VTuber, Carolio.
Pokémon is consistently one of the most popular series in speed and challenge running communities. It’s nostalgic for audiences, the strategies are radically different from normal play, and the near mastery of battle and game systems on display are legitimately impressive. However, none of that is relevant in the optimal Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl speedrun, which spends the majority of its time in early game cutscenes, futzing with menus, and traversing a black void — all of which is explained in a great video by Pokémon YouTuber and speedrunner SmallAnt.
Previous record times, which were set by the speedrunner Werster, relied on a menu stacking glitch, which allows the player to freeze the game and bypass large swaths of land totally undisturbed by Pokémon, trainers, and pesky cutscenes alike. Basically, Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl pause their world state while menus are open. By inputting the ZR and ZL buttons while in the Pokémon menu, you can open up a second menu on top of your current one. When you close the first menu, the game unfreezes your character and allows you to move around, but because the second menu is open, the world state is still paused. This allows you to waltz your way across Sinnoh without a care in the world.
Werster’s run actually requires him to fight trainers though, unlike the current record. In the time since his 33-minute run, a new trick has been discovered involving the game’s fishing rod. By binding the fishing rod to two different quick item slots, you can interrupt basically anything you want, which (again) freezes the game. Dismissing the resulting text box will resume things.
If you talk to a particular NPC who pushes the player character, you can effectively store the push until you close her dialogue box using the menu glitch. If you’re pushed while jumping over a ledge, you’ll be knocked into the sky — which allows you to walk over the map and into the black void.
Once in the black void, you can walk all the way to the Pokémon League, save your game, and load in with your character under the map. Once you walk to a cutscene trigger, the game teleports you directly to the League itself. With a few more menu glitches, fishing rods, and save teleports, you can worm your way into the Elite 4. Here you’ll interrupt every entrance animation in the Pokémon League with the fishing rod, which you then resume at the other end of the room — allowing you to clip through the wall and pass through totally unscathed, until you reach the Hall of Fame. There is only one battle in the entire run.
Speedrunning history YouTuber and Reddit user EZscape claims that with this route, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl has reached its “final minute barrier.” The final minute barrier is where major changes to a speedrun’s routing usually stop, because there isn’t any way to make things significantly faster — from then on it’s all about optimisation, execution, and second-saving tricks.
It would usually take years for a game like this to arrive at its final minute barrier. That it was done in under a month is a testament to both the community’s dedication, and to the games’ utter brokenness.