These are my notes for the Final Fantasy IV Any% NoCW speedrun. While I am very familiar with the game and the speedrun, I am nonetheless nowhere near being the world record holder in this category or any other, so there are almost certainly faster ways to do things. That said, I do periodically update this document as new techniques and strategies are discovered, so if you follow them, you're probably not doomed to be perilously slow.
This particular guide is intended both for high-level PB attempts and for beginners to learn the run. Some of the strats in this guide may make it difficult to compete for the world record times, but I suspect the difference is minimal. I use this guide for my own PB attempts.
For the curious, the following is a short list of differences between this guide and what are generally considered world-record strats:
There may be additional differences, but these are the ones I can think of at this time.
While these are largely my personal notes used when I actually run the game, a number of people have been using them to learn the run, so I will briefly go over some of the more general concepts that apply to the run. However, the notes will almost certainly still assume you are generally familiar with some of the techniques used speedrunning the game (such as item duplication and run buffering). If you are unfamiliar with these, there are other resources on this site that you may wish to examine.
Unfortunately, as it turns out, levels matter a lot in this run. As such, there is a lot of research into the best ways to allocate experience throughout the run. Experience is primarily manipulated using the following facts:
The "perfect" path is a matter of personal preference and is always up for debate. I make my recommendations throughout this guide, but there are many ways to skin a cat, and you're welcome to develop your own path that suits your playing style better. That said, the experience path is a lot more forgiving in this category than it is in the Any% No64 run. You'll still want to keep in mind the following point:
In these notes, I recommend a particular experience path. However, it isn't necessary to follow it exactly, so long as the above goal is maintained. Consult some of the other guides (especially the_roth's guide) for more information on other possibilities.
Another important aspect of any NoCW run is inventory management. You end up with a very full inventory and optimizing the location of items in the inventory is essential to a good run. This guide makes some recommendations, but ultimately, you will need to come up with an inventory management scheme you're comfortable with.
You have the option of using the Mimic Glitch (AKA Carrot/TrashCan) to defeat Milon and/or Milon Z. Learning these is beyond the scope of this guide, but it may be useful to know that you only need to pick up the Carrot or move the TrashCan to the top of the inventory if you intend to utilize these strategies.
This guide makes the assumption that you are following along from start to finish. Menuing instructions assume that your characters are already equipped as per the guide, and won't list equipment that is staying the same. If you attempt to join in the middle, you may miss this or similar points.
This guide is primarily meant to serve as my notes for personal best attempts. As such, they generally tend to err on the side of less safety. In some cases, notes are made regarding potential safer strats for beginners, but they may not be entirely consistent throughout the document (especially regarding inventory management).
(An excellent example of the above is keeping the Tiara and purchasing/equipping other safety equipment before the Milon fight. This is typically only done if you intend on using Twin strats. For Carrot on PB attempts, it's a waste of time.)
This guide uses the following conventions:
The following resources should prove invaluable to either help during a run or to help you learn the run in the first place:
This guide is intended to be used with a step route. The step route is not required, but it will generally save you a minute or two if executed properly. For this guide, you should be using the nocw routes.
Begin the game. During the introduction, you may wish to hold down B+Right+Down immediately before the battle with the Raven, in an attempt to avoid the Raven's attack. This is known as the BRD or BIRD skip. It may or may not work for you, depending on the awesomeness of your mashing. Finish the introduction and gain control.
If you're on seed 92, be sure to take at least one extra step before you finish the introduction sequence.
Pick up the Tent (the rightmost chest) on Castle Baron 1F and then head to Cecil's room in the left tower to finish the introduction.
Walk to the chocobo forest, optionally pick up the Carrot, capture a yellow chocobo, and ride to the Misty Cave.
Walk through the cave until you reach the boss.
D.Mist turns to mist.
Continue with Fight and Jump until D.Mist falls. There is a small chance (just under 1%) of a third cycle, depending on damage rolls.
After the battle, exit the cave and head toward Mist. When you approach the last tile before the town, hold left, and then hold X. When the menu opens, release the keys, and then use the Tent. After the night is over, and Cecil lowers his arm, begin to hold right, and almost immediately after, begin to hold X (while continuing to hold right). Once the menu is open, you can release the keys.
Walk past the village tiles, and then enter Mist from the right side. Head to the weapon shop.
Head to the northwest house, enter the fireplace, and pick up the Tiara from the first chest and Change (rod) from the chest at the end of the long passage. Exit the house and trigger the cut scene.
Attempt to rearrange your inventory during the animations. Change rows at the end for fist-pump swag strats.
If you are using a step route, this is when you need to start watching which steps you get encounters on.
Continue to Kaipo in the middle of the desert. Enter the town and trigger the cut scene.
NPC movement may seem random, but it's actually reasonably deterministic during this portion of the game. Assuming you walk perfectly and don't stand around, the NPCs will always be in the same location from run to run. This will remain true until Fabul. Learn where the NPCs will be and optimize your walking accordingly.
If at any point, you are unable to execute the Run Buffer for that turn, simply switch to holding A. This is entirely random. After the soldiers are dead, simply twiddle your thumbs until the Officer retreats.
Visit Rosa in the northeast house. Mash with B to avoid talking to Rosa repeatedly. Afterward, leave the house.
Just before exiting the town (immediately after emerging from the door in the wall), take one step to the right, and then go down.
Head north to the cave and enter the Watery Pass.
Walk through the first part of the cave, recruit Tellah, and then continue to the end of the cave. In the last room, pick up Darkness (sword) and exit the cave.
Enter the other cave and proceed until you meet Octomamm.
The following turn order assumes nothing goes particularly badly. Depending on how the battle actually flows, you may need to have Tellah revive Rydia with Life1 or cure the party with Cure2. Research suggests it is optimal for Tellah to stop himself on his third turn, but you can delay this if you need to cure. If Tellah gets any additional turns after casting Stop, it's easiest to just Parry.
At this point, just continue the pattern until Octomamm dies.
Immediately after the battle, open the menu.
Exit the cave and enter Damcyan. Head to the top of the castle, watch the scene, and then take the hovercraft to the Antlion cave.
Follow the path to the second room. You may take either the left or right path, but the right path feels better to me. Your mileage may vary. Once in the second room, pick up the chest on the right side with a Life.
Take the secret passage in the second room and make your way to Antlion's Nest and engage Antlion.
Depending on damage rolls, Cecil may be able to Fight on his last turn instead of Parrying. He can do anywhere from 0-70 damage, with a median value of 54.
Walk out of the cave, board the hovercraft, and return to Kaipo, making sure to park directly to the left of the town.
Head to the house in the northeast corner of town and use the SandRuby on Rosa.
During the night, Edward will loudly play his harp and an angry monster who was just trying to sleep will attack.
You can simply hold the A button for the duration of the fight.
It's a common misconception that it's the Dancing (dagger) that makes this fight consistent. It's actually the fact that Edward is being placed in the middle slot, which offers a 25% accuracy bonus. Since the harp is a back row-compatible weapon in the American release, these factors combine to give him perfect accuracy. It also means Edward is back row-glitched, so even if you switch to the dagger, he retains his perfect accuracy. You may have seen a video of Edward and WaterHag trading misses. This is primarily a problem on the Japanese version or on the PlayStation version, where the harp is not back row-compatible, reducing Edward's accuracy substantially. In that case, you either want him in the front row or you can use the Dancing (dagger). Either way, it's irrelevant for this run.
After waking up, leave the town, making sure to take a step to the left immediately before exiting.
Take the hovercraft to the entrance of Mt.Hobs, parking directly to the left of the entrance.
This choice of parking location is not optional, and is actually critical to the glitch used later. If you park somewhere else, you will probably be unable to finish your run.
Climb the mountain and meet Yang at the top.
During Yang's solo battle, you can potentially manipulate yourself out of a longer battle by checking the damage rolls against this chart and pausing for a short while if you get a bad first kick.
Once you have done 800 damage, you can stop attacking. At that point, heal or parry until Yang's turn.
Once you're down to one remaining Bomb, if Edward, Yang or Cecil died, you may wish to use your Life (if you still have it) to revive them. Otherwise, send it to the bottom.
After the battle, continue to the other side of the mountain. Continue downward and then head east to Fabul.
Head to the King's Room and offer to help. (Do not mash the B button during this dialogue.)
Now that Edward has reached level 10, he has an 82% chance of killing a Fighter with a simple Fight.
If for whatever reason you are unable to do the duplication in this fight, you can do it in either of the upcoming two fights.
Walk to the Inn and watch the scenes.
Head down the stairs and make your way to the exit. After leaving Fabul, head for the ship to the east.
Walk east into Mysidia and go to the item shop on the right.
Head to the House of Wishes and talk to the elder. After the scene, head to the armor shop on the left side of town.
If you want additional safety during the Milon fights, you can also buy Gaea (armor). Technically, the Paladin equipment and Silver (ring) are also just for safety, but I still use them.
Exit the town and head east to Mt.Ordeals.
If you are intending to use the Mimic (Carrot) strategy to defeat Milon, ensure that Porom gets hurt on the way up the mountain. This can be done either by an enemy (e.g. during a back attack) or by your own violent hands.
Palom will need to be able to kill Porom with one casting of Fire1 in the Milon battle. Unequipped, Palom can hit her for as low as 64 damage, so she should be at 64 or lower for safety. You have slightly more margin if you do the full equipment change, however.
Climb the mountain until you reach the summit.
Once on the summit, continue until you are even with the final bridge.
The following is a baseline list of things you might do in this menu. Please read the below paragraphs for more information. If using the mimic (Carrot) strategy, ideally, there is no menu at all.
If you are going to use the Mimic (Carrot) strategy, you should not equip or heal Porom, though you should make sure she is alive and in critical health. You can also opt to skip equipping the other characters, as well. You may wish to at least equip Change on Palom to make the backup strategy more effective.
The inventory management instructions will assume you didn't do any equipment changes.
Even if you're not doing the full equipment change, if you have to menu anyway to heal, you may want to put the Gaea (helm) on Tellah. It will have to be done eventually, and now's as good a time as any.
If you want an easier time if you're using the Mimic (Carrot) strategy, consider changing the battle speed to 2 (or slower).
If the twins cast Comet or if your Flare rolls are horrendous, Cecil should probably give up on attacking, and you should instead just expect to use Twin a third time. You can still try, though. Sometimes it works out.
If your Porom is at full health, you should probably just abort and click that Twin tab instead.
At this point, Milon should screech "Go, my children!" Cecil's next turn should arrive before Palom uses the Cure2.
This strategy is incredibly timing-sensitive. There are many ways it can go wrong, and the only way to really get good at this strategy is to practice it over and over. Porom's first run buffer has an incredibly short window, and in my experience, you must slightly anticipate it unless you have excellent reaction times. A relatively consistent method (if you're musically inclined) is to note that the proper time to run buffer is exactly four beats of the song after you confirm Fire1 (thanks to SwimmyLionni for telling me this). Regarding Tellah casting Stop, you may have better success if you have him wait a second or two before casting. Porom's second run buffer is more important. The first might be prevented by Milon taking an invisible turn.
The notes talk about pause buffering before Porom's final turn. To execute this, immediately pause once you queue Stop. Continue unpausing and pausing quickly until you see Porom flashing. At this point, hold down L and R and unpause. This allows you to get the run buffer in as quickly as possible. This is only necessary on battle speed 1, and can also be omitted if you're confident on the run buffer timing. Do note, however, that there is an incredibly short, approximately six frame window.
Walk across the bridge and engage Milon Z.
Cecil should Fight and everyone else should use Cure2 on Milon Z.
It's unlikely you'll need to heal, but if you do, you have plenty of Life or Cure2 potions.
The experience path assumes one character (specifically Porom) dies here. If you're close to finishing the battle and everyone is still alive, you may want to kill someone to keep your experience path intact (doesn't matter who). To be honest, though, it doesn't really matter for this route, as the experience path is a lot more forgiving. It's also okay if more than one person dies.
Hold Up and A starting from the black screen. Release as soon as you hear Cecil's item menu trigger.
The experience path assumes one character dies here (specifically Porom). Since you brutally murdered her by casting Ice-2, that problem is solved. It isn't a problem if more people die, either.
After the battle, enter the tomb and watch the scene.
After the scenes, descend the mountain and head to the chocobo forest. Catch a yellow chocobo and travel back to Mysidia.
When you release the chocobo, check if you had a good chocobo using the yellow chocobo image. The top pixel of the chocobo should not be in one of the red areas. If you did get a bad chocobo, it's not the end of the world. You will have a chance to fix it later, though it will cost you some time.
Talk to the elder, and then head to Baron via the Serpent Road.
Go to the back of the Inn and talk to Yang.
If either Cecil or Palom are unable to kill their respective Guards, Tellah should cast Virus.
If necessary, you can do limited inventory management during Karate's first attack.
It's actually possible to trigger the end of battle earlier than that message. There are essentially four different patterns, based on a timer you start right as the battle starts fading in from the black:
Originally, I tried using musical cues, but the problem is that the music doesn't restart for the second battle.
After the scenes, head to the Baron weapon and armor shop.
Remember that pressing X will increase the buy count by 10. In addition, if you are on 96, it will automatically wrap around to 20 after a couple of presses.
Enter the Old Water-way and continue until just before the Baigan battle on Castle Baron 1F.
Move on to challenge Baigan.
Your priority is to ensure Palom and Porom are dead. If necessary, Cecil can use his last turn to hit Yang again, but you will lose your chance to menu, so you'll need to finish anything in the Kainazzo battle. Don't leave Yang alive if you can avoid it.
If you have the opportunity, any inventory management you do should probably begin to focus on setting up your inventory for the glitch. Refer to the Golbez section for more details on item placement. Once you're familiar with that, the Glitch Inventory section in the "Battle Information" block will help remind you the item ordering (by referring to the count of each item, as they're unique).
If you are unable to kill Yang at Baigan, your experience path becomes a little more dicey. Keep Yang alive for Kainazzo, and continue on to Dark Elf, where you'll have to make a decision during the battle.
(This assumes both twins were dead. Routing experience in the event one or both of them survives is beyond the scope of this guide.)
Head to the throne room to fight Kainazzo.
Do not mash X during the scenes, unless you're looking to mercy kill your run. In particular, once you're on the airship, pressing X at the wrong time will cause the game to lock up. Stick to A or B (or some other button) instead.
After the scenes, fly to Toroia and enter the castle. Visit Edward on the left side of the castle, use an Ether1 on Tellah and then cast Exit.
Head north to the Chocobo Village, catch a black chocobo, and fly to Cave Magnes.
Head through the cave until you reach the crystal room.
Talk to the Dark Elf. After the scene, talk to him again.
If you were unable to kill Yang during the Baigan fight, please read the below information (you can ignore it otherwise):
During the upcoming Dark Elf fight, Dark Elf will cast Weak. You have different options to fix your experience path depending on who is targeted.
If Dark Elf successfully weaks someone, make sure that person dies by the end of the battle. If Dark Elf misses, your best bet is to go through the effort to have Tellah kill himself.
At this point, you'll need to make a decision based on Cecil's first damage roll. The default pattern is below, and we'll discuss the variations afterward:
If Cecil's first damage roll is 684 or less, Yang should Fight on his second turn instead of Parrying.
If Cecil's first damage roll is 942 or greater, Cid should Fight, Yang should fight on his second turn, and Cecil should Parry on his second turn. (The run buffer after Virus is not necessary in this scenario.)
If three characters survived at Milon Z. and the opportunity for killing Tellah presents itself, take it.
After the battle, get the crystal and leave the room.
You may wish to heal Cecil, Tellah and Yang here to try to avoid menuing again before FlameDog. If you get back attacked on the way, however, you might have to menu again anyway.
Take the black chocobo back to the Chocobo Village and then get another black chocobo. Land according to the black chocobo image, and then walk the rest of the way to Toroia.
For landing your black chocobo, any of the tiles in the "Safe Zone" on the image is acceptable, but if you are on a step route, you want to land in a very particular spot. Particularly, you want to land roughly where the image says "Safe Zone". Essentially, when you walk to the left, you should be walking one tile above the break in the forest, and you will end up at the topmost tile of the Toroian Castle.
Talk to the clerics and then cast Exit.
Board your airship and you'll fly to the Tower of Zot.
After Golbez is done taunting you, go up a floor and head to the chest with Fire.
Continue to the top of the tower, remembering to ensure Cecil and Tellah are fully healed before the battle.
Killing Yang is essential to ensuring a level 19 Kain with this experience path, but keeping Tellah alive is more important (for hopefully obvious reasons). Once Yang is dead, you can simply wait on Cecil's turn for the menuing opportunity. However, you must ensure Tellah is cured if the first Delta Attack hits him.
Enter the door, watch the scene, talk to Kain and then finally watch the next scene.
Kain should be level 19 at this time. If he (for whatever reason) is only level 18, after the first two jumps, have him alternate between Fight and Jump.
The timing on this fight is very sensitive. Don't hold A to fight unless directed to do so.
At this point, Valvalis transforms into her tornado form.
If the damage rolls were decent, Kain can Fight on his last turn instead of Jumping. If Valvalis still doesn't die, just continue the normal pattern. She won't have much HP left at this point.
After the scenes, leave the castle and take the airship to Agart.
This is your last chance to fix your yellow chocobo if you got a bad one. Head to the Chocobo Forest outside of Baron and keep getting yellow chocobos until you get a good one.
Use Magma on the well. Afterward, fly to the Underworld.
At this point, you need to enter the castle and observe 63 screen transitions before talking to the King. When you first arrive in the throne room, your count is 3. You need to go back down the stairs and back up the stairs a total of 30 times to get your count up to 63. If you don't do this correctly, you will not be going to glitchland today.
If you have more than one blue and one orange doll remaining at this point, you need to do whatever it takes to eliminate the others. Only do the following once there are two dolls remaining.
If you accidentally trigger the big doll, immediately change rows, have Kain Jump, and have Cecil keep himself healed with Cure2 potions. If you're lucky, you won't trigger the damage range that results in the dolls splitting again. (It's based on damage, not on time.)
Your primary focus is setting up your inventory for the glitch. If you are following this guide's inventory management route, you can use the following instructions:
However you do it, by the end of the fight, your inventory should match the following:
|↓ Top of Inventory ↓|
|Cure (staff) x13||FireClaw x68|
|Thunder (claw) x8||(any)|
|IceClaw x96||Cure (staff) x20|
|Cure (staff) x13||FireClaw x114|
|Cure (staff) x13||(any)|
|(any)||Cure (staff) x13|
|IceClaw x57||Staff x1|
|↑ Bottom of Inventory ↑|
The third and fourth triplets of items don't need to be at the very bottom of the inventory, but it's an easy way to line them up when you're just starting. They could go in many places, but the other most useful spot to start is two rows below the IceClaw x96. The route used by the guide moves the third triplet closer to the top for convenience.
After the scenes, immediately cast Warp, get the crystal, and then walk down out of the crystal room.
Go left until you reach the Mage Room.
Go down one tile, and then left to the trigger tile.
Go left twice to reach the trigger tile, and then trigger the cut scene to eliminate Kain.
Exit the Sealed Cave, and then go right, down, left. Go down once more to recruit FuSoYa.
Leave the room and return to the Mage Room.
Go straight up to leave the area, and then head left until the Mage Room again.
Go straight up to leave the area again. If you are not pushed through the next room, go up.
Go up, left, up, and then left until you reach the save room with Chocobo music.
Go two steps to the right to save, and then go up.
The next three maps carry a bacon risk, and depend on the following variables:
After passing through those three floors, you're in the clear. Go left until you reach the Castle of Dwarves.
Head down the stairs, open FuSoYa's magic, move "upt Co" to the top, and then cast Exit.
Go to the second tile from the top (go right, up, left) and then go face Zeromus.
Make sure to hold down the L and R buttons to run until Zeromus starts shaking. This will save about 12 seconds.