Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow is arguably one of the best games in the Castlevania series, maybe even one of the best games on the Gameboy Advance. It was a 2D action game with minor RPG elements such as leveling up the main hero Soma and equipping him with items with varying effects. What made Soma’s adventure different from other Castlevania games was the ability to acquire the souls of enemies, which gave the player a multitude of abilities. Getting these souls after beating an enemy mostly falls to chance, with some souls being near impossible to get, leaving the player to kill the same monster over and over for hours to get that particular soul. This is what makes Strizer86’s run so interesting, because he can get all of the souls and hit every part of the map within an hour and a half. Consistently.
I stumbled upon Strizer86’s (Mark for short) Twitch channel after finishing up a stream of Aria of Sorrow myself. After getting almost all of the retro achievements, including the one for netting the elusive Sky Fish soul, I figured I’d keep my viewers entertained with someone who was also into the series. When I got to his channel, Mark was casually speedrunning the game I beat in six hours in less than an hour. Speedruns always amazed me, so I frequently checked in with his channel. One day, he had a weird rom tool open, checking code values for each monster. It was during these experiments that Mark revealed to us that he was working on a 100% Souls and Map run of the game, something I didn’t know was possible, let alone something that could be done live. Yet, only a month after announcing this, Strizer had come up with ways to get most of the souls in guaranteed ways. From there he tightened the run and discovered more manipulations to astonishing results.
Basically, what Strizer86 does is manipulate the RNG, or Random Number Generation, of the game to a value that gives the soul. He does this by putting the game into Sleep Mode, loading it back up, and doing various movements and actions that cycle the values. Sometimes, there is an added strategy, like using the Chronomage’s Time Stop ability to stop enemies with more animations from moving, keeping their values manageable. Other times, he has to kill multiple enemies in a single stroke for the manipulation to work. Watching it in action is fascinating, as well as confusing the first few times. Luckily, Mark is capable of talking through what he’s doing, as well as answer questions during a run.
What’s even more amazing about this particular speedrun, is that he’s one of the few to be able to pull it off. It took about a month and a half of him studying the game, learning manipulations, and then trying to put them into practice. Of course, any time that he set was an instant world record, due to no one else running in this category. While he was practicing, Mark constantly swore that getting a time under an hour and a half was possible, even after missing a room got him so close, a big mistake for any run. After many attempts, he finally did it.
This isn’t the only way Strizer86 demolishes this game either. He competes in several other categories, acing the extra character Julius both as an “Any%” and as “All Bosses.” It’s amazing just how much he knows about the game. In order to keep things competitive, Strizer has gone out of his way to create tutorials on how to manipulate particular souls in video and in document form. This is an extension of challenge, as well as show other runners that this run is totally possible. Mark had this to say . . .
“I wanted to make it as easy as possible for other runners to pick up the 100% Soma All Souls category. Previous runs I have simply copied others, but this was the first time I was breaking new ground and creating a run myself. It’s always better for the community when there is documentation as well.”
In regards to speedrunning as a whole, Mark said “I speedrun games both as a way to challenge myself, and as a new way to enjoy games I already love.” Starting with Super C and then moving on to Megaman 3, he continued to enjoy learning the proper ways to get better times. He doesn’t just compete with other runners, but also himself as he continues to improve with each run. The whole spectacle is great to watch from the outside, even if speedruns do seem a bit confusing at first. Thankfully, Mark is always ready to explain certain techniques and choices within each game in the middle of a run.
Strizer86 is hoping to be able to perform the Soma 100% Souls and Map run for SGDQ 2017, mostly to show a larger audience just how interesting the run can be. His consistent times show that its incredibly possible to play it even a tight time slot. He will also be participating in the Frag for Cancer XI charity stream on November 26th and 27th with the funds raised helping out the Canadian Cancer Society.
Catch him frequently on Twitch, hanging out with his audience and finding new ways to enjoy classic games.