Solomon's Key (NES)/normal ending

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Category description

This category aims to complete the game as quickly as possible by using all of the golden wings (warps). None of the game's hidden items are collected and this category therefore only achieves the normal ending.

The terminology of the game mechanics page will be used below.

Fireball management

Given that fireballs are scarce, cost time to both grab and launch and how they need to be shot in the order they are picked up, fireball management is a huge task when routing this game. Below is a document that shows which fireballs are collected and where they are used in the route described in this section. There are also some comments about time saved by fireballs in the different rooms and how much time they take to collect.

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Level-by-level description


Room 1
The way of collecting the key and drop down to the lower level is the fastest solution in theory (tas). However, to get it done as fast as possible, you need turn from right to left as quickly as possible, which means an unavoidable time loss when using a d-pad. *
This solution is in practice a few frames faster for real-time speedruns, but also a bit riskier because of the edge jump.

Room 2

Room 3
Not too seldom, the item dropped by the fireballed gargoyle will get stuck inside the block. The game reacts by slowly pushing it to the right. If this happens, it allows for creating a block where the gargoyle stood and make an edge jump from it. It's 10-15 frames faster than what's shown here.

Room 4
The brief halt on top of the gray block is intentional in order to avoid the sparkball below the key. The sparkball to the right is also a threat. The fastest solution is achieved by landing as early as possible and then create the second block as early as possible. There can be almost half a second of difference between a slow, but still somewhat correctly cleared room, and playing it as close as possible to the sparkballs.

Room 5
The gargoyles' walking direction when the room begins is random. There are three of the gargoyles that impact the solution:

  • If the second gargoyle (from the bottom) on the left side starts walking left (10-20% of the time?), its fireball will be shot a little later than what's shown here. The result is that you have to turn around and block it shortly after having collected the key, which generally ends up being a time loss.
  • If the second gargoyle (from the bottom) on the right side starts walking left (not specifically studied, but give or take around 50% of the time?), you'll have to wait before jumping up to the key. This costs a little over 5 frames.
  • If the top right gargoyle starts walking left (not specifically studied, but give or take around 50% of the time?), its fire-breathing animation will trigger a little over 10 frames later.

So in total there is ~20 frames between the best and worst luck. A final disclaimer is also worth putting here. The gargoyles' fire-breathing also appears to be subject to some RNG, but what's stated above should be correct most of the time.

Room 6
This solution is ideal, but requires precise inputs. After blocking the second ghost, Dana has to stop for at least 5 frames before dropping down to the ledge below (otherwise he will collide with the ghost). In order to avoid colliding with the ghost before dropping down to floor level, Dana can not have lost more than (around?) 15 frames in total compared to frame perfect execution. So in total there is a window of (around?) 10 frames dropping down to floor level. This might sound much, but is a bit tricky to pull off. The best is of course to make the first halt as close to 5 frames as possible. The timing for this is very similar to the "drops to a 1 height space". If you master the latter, it will be easier to consistently make a halt for close to 5 frames. The rest is just getting the cornering as tight as possible. While it's not shown here, it's also worth mentioning that the jump over the goblin can be done without letting go of right on the d-pad. You have a window of (around?) 6 frames to do this, so it's not a particularly tight trick.
This solution is much easier than above, but is also slightly over a second slower.

Room 7
It seems to be a few frames faster to first destroy the bottom block above the exit and then the one on top (like shown here) than the other way around.
Alternative solutions to avoid the running edge jump are several seconds slower.

Room 13
Shooting the ghost reduces enemy slowdown and allows for a one second faster solution (both because of having the sparkballs in better positions and because of not having to spend time dodging the ghost). It might be tempting to pick up one of the orange jars. This prevents more saramandors spawning for a while because of the game's sprite limit. However, this will also increase the lag and ends up wasting time.
This solution without using a fireball on the ghost is possibly keyboard-emu only. Testing showed that climbing the right side after picking up the key was very difficult on console. The saramandors spawned too early for passing through. There are other alternatives to circumvent this, but none found that isn't a second slower than with using a fireball. In summary, unless a consistent way is found to complete the room as fast as shown in this video, the time gained in room 1 (by not picking up the fireball there) would be cancelled here in room 13. The result would only be adding a bit of difficulty.

Room 14
One of the harder rooms. Both because of the running edge jump and turning around correctly after picking up the key. If you tap too long on the d-pad, Dana falls down. After collecting the key, you need to press right for 3-5 frames. Less and Dana will hit the head when trying to jump up. More and Dana will fall down to the level below.
The beginning is intentionally not optimized. If you go too fast, you'll run into the ghost when trying to cross the middle. The part around the key also usually has to be slowed down intentionally (just a tiny bit). If you're too fast, the Saramandor will not have passed to left before the block is destroyed.
This solution avoids the running edge jump and is a 2-3 tenths of a second slower. It might look even slower, but the above solution includes a few forced slowdowns, which aren't needed with this solution. This can furthermore be reduced by going for "edge landings" (see game mechanics). Since the horizontal movement isn't a limiting factor on the way up to the key, it doesn't matter if you miss and jump into the side of the blocks.

Room 15
Depending on the sub-pixel when you pick up the key, it's not too uncommon to jump past the fireball jar. Missing the fireball here, will mean doing room 31 without fireball (possible, but harder). This can be helped by quickly releasing right on the d-pad during the jump.
Equally fast, but much more challenging than above. Shown here for reference.
Much safer solution than the ones above.

Room 21
The trick here is to arrive on a level below the gargoyle as quickly as possible. If Dana is too late, the gargoyle will wait too long to shoot the fireball (as shown in the first video). The movement has to be within a few frames of perfection for this to work. The time it takes for the gargoyle to turn around also varies ever so slightly, giving you more or less time for this to work (typically in the range ~5-10 frames). The good thing is that whether the gargoyle fires early or not, the general solution concept is the same, so it's easy to adapt to the whichever of the two situation that will occur.

Room 22

If you collect the super fireball in this room, you can skip the one in room 29 and vice versa. Below is shown both options and their consequences.
This is the solution without collecting the super fireball. After collecting the key, hold right and then do a buffer jump. It's slightly faster to run right for one or two more frames, because you would land immediately in the exit. However, beyond that two frame window, you'll die from the blue flame. Needless to say, the Saramandor next to the key should also be taken into account. If you go at full speed, you'll collect the key too early and land on the Saramandor. If you arrive too late, you'll collide with it just before the exit. With a bit of practice, you can make the climbing to the key a few frames slower than optimal, which will put the Saramandor in the right spot. *
Slightly faster (10-15 frames) since you don't bump into block right before the door. This comes at the cost of one more Saramandor to deal with though (and that extra one can be somewhat hard to consistently get into the right position to jump over). It should be highlighted that this solution allows you to easily collect the drops from the fireballed Saramandors (which is not easily the case with the first solution). There is a decent chance of getting an upgrade jar from one of them. In the route shown in this guide, this won't really help. However, read under room 31 for at least a possibility on how to benefit from an upgrade jar. *
Equally fast to the solution above, but again with the introduction of a risk.
This solution picks up the super fireball, which means that the one in room 29 can be skipped. It's easier than the above solutions, because you don't have to worry about the Saramandor after collecting the key (unless you arrived there at full speed and lands on it right after the key). The disadvantage of this solution is that it's dependent on the gargoyle's spawn direction in room 29 and room 29 also becomes much harder with the good spawn. Time wise and assuming you get the good gargoyle spawn in room 29, it doesn't really matter if you pick up the super fireball here or in room 29.

Room 23

Room 29
This room solution assumes you didn't collect the super fireball in room 22. The gargoyle always starts walking to the left. However, if you buffer a block action at the start of the room, you risk (but not always) manipulating the gargoyle into starting off to the right (buffering a movement or duck action will not have this effect). This was first described by yogidamonk. When it starts walking to the right, you'll have to block a fireball upon landing on the platform, which costs around half a second. Without buffering a block magic at the start of the room, the window for blocking the bottom ghost while getting the super fireball is quite small, but not too difficult with a bit of practice.
If the gargoyle is ~1 square to the right of the key (requires a jump from the very edge of the previous block), when it's collected, it should be safe to continue to hold right during the fall. If you collect the key earlier (= gargoyle is >1 one block square to the right of the key), you'll drop into the gargoyle. This will then have to be mitigated by creating a block midair, at the cost of a minor time loss.

Below videos refer to an overall slower route (with the current knowledge), since they rely on collecting the super fireball in room 22. They're still shown here for reference since the solution for room 29 is faster.
The direction the gargoyle starts walking in will have a big impact. Right (like in this video) allows for a quick, but also difficult, solution.
When the gargoyle starts walking to the left, it can't be avoided in a quick manner and has to be destroyed. So it's worth noting that the default start direction for the gargoyle (left) is slower in the case of not collecting the super fireball.

Room 30
3 seconds slower than above, but much safer and even some room for errors that won't matter because of the waiting that has to be done at various points in the room.

Room 31 *
During emulator testing, it has been shown to be possible to arrive early enough so the fireball didn't have to be used. That is not really helpful in itself, since there aren't any good spots spending a normal fireball. However, if you got an upgrade jar in room 22, the saved super fireball here in room 31 could instead be used in room 37, which would save roughly a second.
This solution uses zigzag jumping and is actually slower than above. It was recorded long before the above solution was conceived and was at that time fastest solution. It's shown here as a concept for possible future improvements. It hasn't been researched thoroughly if more time can be gained through tweaking the route somehow. For information, this video took over 40 tries (with a save state at the key) to do in real time. It's doable, but the risk factor increases dramatically (of course very much dependent on the player's consistency as well).

Room 37

Room 38
This start is a little over a second faster, but also requires more precise inputs. It should also be mentioned that the left-most block on the starting platform is optional. However, leaving it would add two running edge jumps to the solution for the gain of ~20 frames for avoiding the ducked block creation.

Room 39
There is some variation in the sparkball movements in this room. The jump in the top left corner is sometimes not possible to make because the sparkball and the bat are too close to each other. You can get a feeling for this by observing the sparkball's location at the time of collecting the key.

Room 45
It's possible to collide with the demon head when running from after having picked up the key towards the exit. Looking at the position of the spawned demon head during the grab key animation gives a good indication if you're early or not. *
This solution is identical to the one above until just before the end. There is a 1- or 2-pixel window for positioning Dana right before the exit without being hit by the demon head.on head. Whether it's the one or two frame window seems to be very, very roughly 50/50 and appears to sub-pixel dependent without a known way of manipulation or knowing which one it is. It saves a little under a second.

Room 46
Easier solution than above by only using a super fireball. It's around 1.5 seconds slower.

Room 47
Hardest room in the game. The first drop with the key has a 2-frame window (rarely 3 frames - likely sub-pixel dependent) to break the block and then enter the created opening. The second drop has a three frame window for the same thing. Both of these drops can be avoided in a normal playthrough. (first shown by yogidamonk, but apparently found by one of his stream viewers)
This solution is around half a second slower. The purpose of breaking the block on the other side of the shaft before the drop is because the time window for the drop then becomes 3 frames. Be aware of that if you hug the right wall, it's back to a two frame window for entering the opening.

Room 48
There is an interesting back story to this room solution. The essence of it was first demonstrated by TheMexicanRunner while trying to beat the game as part of the "nesmania" (beat all the US-released nes-games). He came up with his solution by just trying to solve the room normally, without having speed in mind. The current tas uses a route that requires "fire block building" (not a good term, but hard to describe, see the game mechanics page). It hasn't been thoroughly tested which solution is faster, but they're close and it's possible that the solution shown here is actually faster.

This solution can be slightly upgraded for a gain of 30-40 frames, but also at the cost of some additional risk:

Solomon's room
It seems like the enemy movements in this room depend on how you have played up until this point (different solutions for room 48 seem to have an impact for example). It also seems like playing the game the same way will result in consistent results, but this is not fully understood and enemy movements in this game are known to randomly vary a bit (including differences between emulator and console, making accurate testing late in the game difficult). There is nothing hard in this solution, but it's easy to be a bit late and not block the demon fire, which will end up costing a little over a second. It's also possible to be too early, which will result in hitting one of the ghosts, so some practice is needed to find the right balance in speed.

You can do the very last part a bit faster. The idea is to, within one instead of two jumps, use the block magic on the "demon mirror", quickly turn around and break the gray block and then land inside the middle section with Solomon's key. You can save ~20 frames with this trick, but it requires a lot of precision and will result in a bigger time loss than that if not executed properly.

It's worth noting that any fireballs you might have in the inventory when arriving here will disappear.

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