Highlights from AGDQ 2017

January 22, 2017

It’s that time of year again, when speedrunners from the world over gather in a hotel on the outskirts of Washington DC and run games for charity. This year’s Awesome Games Done Quick (AGDQ) event was held from January 8 to 14 and raised a record-breaking US$2.2 million for the Prevent Cancer Foundation.

As always, the marathon event provided continuous speedrunning excitement, and here’s a roundout of some of the highlights from the week.

First up, the race between Smaugy and Munchakoopas in Shovel Knight was an early highlight of the week, featuring some incredibly cool play and an exciting finish. This would prove to be just the start of an event full of great races.

The Mega Man series is always well-represented at AGDQ events, and this time it was the game that started it all’s turn to get the race treatment. Coolkid, Endy, Dxtr and Whitehat94 show off how to smash through one of the hardest titles in the franchise.

Salt and Sanctuary became something of a critical darling in 2016, especially among the fans of Dark Souls games, from which it heavily borrows its ideas. Created by a husband-and-wife team, the game is every bit as challenging as the series that inspired it. So of course runner Grimelios completely breaks it, killing every boss in the game in a little under forty minutes.

Pokemon is another franchise that always gets a showing at AGDQ, and this time around it was Pokemon Emerald’s chance to shine. Runner thetyrant14 has a bit of a nervous start, but soon settles into a groove. Find yourself a couch and settle in for about three hours of Pokemon speedrunning goodness.

With its reputation as one of the hardest games on the NES, Ninja Gaiden is another perennial AGDQ favourite. This time around it’s another race, but with a twist: This is a pacifist run of the game. That’s right: no swords allowed (except for boss battles). If you thought the game was hard before, then let runners gusmancini and dxtr show you how it’s really done.

But wait, we’re not done with Ninja Gaiden pacifist runs yet, as gusmancini blows through Ninja Gaiden II in much the same way as he beat the original.

If it wasn’t for Quake, it’s quite probable AGDQ wouldn’t exist. The original Quake Done Quick video was the starting point for the entire speedrunning community, so having the game at AGDQ is a real treat. Here’s runner Coolkid wrecking id’s PC classic.

Speaking of classic id Software games, Doom also got a look-in. Not the original, but the 2016 version, which proved to be a surprisingly good game. Here, Blood_Thunder rampages through it in a way that the Doom Slayer himself would thoroughly approve of.

If you’ve been paying attention to speedrunning at all in the past year, you might be aware of the highly competitive race for the record in Super Mario Bros. Longtime world record-holder andrewg was challenged by young upstart Darbian and kosmicd12 for the record, and it changed hands a few times during the year. With that competition, how could a race between them at AGDQ not seem like a huge deal? The good news is that this Warpless run lives up to the hype, and was one of the definite highlights of the event.

But wait, there’s more! Just in case you thought the three runners were only good at Super Mario Bros, they show off how good they are at its much more difficult sequel, The Lost Levels. This is a game so hard that it didn’t get released outside of Japan until the Super Nintendo era, and this race is just as cool as their original one.

It isn’t an AGDQ without at least one epic-length speedrun of a classic RPG, and this year doesn’t disappoint, with Gyre and Feasel bringing a run of the very first Final Fantasy on the NES. This is a challenging game, and even moreso as a speedrun. This is another run to make a good cup of coffee to and settle in for an afternoon, but it’s well worth it.

So this next one is a bit of a personal one for me. Cobra Triangle was the game I got when I got my NES as a birthday present as a kid. It’s a tough game that uses an isometric perspective, and frustrated me no end as a kid. While I eventually managed to finish it, I was never as perfect as what you’ll see from shiningdragoon in this run.

The Super Nintendo was rife with licensed platformers, and most of them were pretty abysmal. The Addams Family was one of the few good ones, but it was also quite challenging. Here, runner garbanzoguy performs a more-or-less perfect speedrun of the game, taking just over five minutes to complete it. This is an incredible run to watch, especially if you know the game, so don’t miss it.

The so-called Awful Games Done Quick block at AGDQ is always worth it just for the laughs at the poorly-made games that runners can destroy. This year included such ‘classics’ as Cool World, Rocky and Bullwinkle, Wayne’s World, King of Kings: The Early Years and the infamous The Cheetahmen. The highlight, however, is this four-player co-op run of the NES A Nightmare on Elm Street. As a single player game, it’s an exercise in tedium, but as a four-player game, it becomes something quite different.

It just wouldn’t be AGDQ without Zelda, and this year saw a four-way race between Joedamillio, Andy, Bluntbunny and Xelna on A Link To The Past, easily the best of the classic 2D Zelda titles. The run itself is in the ‘No Major Glitches’ category, meaning that beating the game is much more about skilfully getting through rather than taking advantage of the many, many glitches the game has. That makes it a lot more fun to watch.

Katamari Damacy isn’t a game that gets a lot of love at AGDQ events, so when it shows up on the schedule it’s always worth checking out. That’s once again true as sunkir runs the original PS2 version.

Donkey Kong Country and its sequels are popular choices for speedrunning due to their fluid animations and inventive level designs. Rather than just a run of one of them, this year saw a relay marathon of the entire Super Nintendo trilogy, with runners split into three teams and swapping between games. This is a tight race and well worth your time if you’re fan of the series.

TASBot is always a highlight of AGDQ, and each year DwangoAC and the rest of the TASBot team do what they can to outdo themselves. In the past they’ve reprogrammed SNES games to run NES games, made Pokemon play Twitch, and much more. I won’t spoil the magic for this year’s TASBot block other than to say that you’ve probably never seen a Super Nintendo do this before.

The Dark Souls series is challenging enough as it is, so speedrunning it is something that takes a special kind of person. Fortunately, Bubblesdelfuego is just that. Despite significant technical difficulties in the middle of the run, he powers through to the end of Dark Souls III and brings the game to its knees.

Finally, there’s the traditional grand finale of any AGDQ: the run of an epic RPG. This year, it couldn’t possibly be anything but Toby Fox’s classic Undertale, and runner TGH puts on a great show to get through the game for the true pacifist ending. There’s some special moments in this run that aren’t related to the game itself, and the whole thing is well worth settling in for.

And that’s it for AGDQ 2017. But it won’t be the last week-long speedrunning marathon of the year, as AGDQ’s sister event, Summer Games Done Quick, takes place from July 2-9. I’ll see you then!