It’s ok, this isn’t one of those thinkpieces with a controversial title where we tell you that Paper Mario sucks and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is way better. No, the title is literally what we mean: it’s a speedrunning tactic called Arbitrary Code Execution, and it’s absolutely bonkers.
We’ve covered Arbitrary Code Execution, or ACE, before – it’s a speedrunning trick that allows players to manipulate the game’s code, and therefore complete the game faster than ever – or just to spawn a bunch of Arwings in Kakariko Village.
The latest game to fall prey to the ACE technique is Paper Mario, which streamer JCog beat in 54:22 – a new world record for Paper Mario Any% runs that’s almost twice as fast as the next runner-up.
“For anyone wondering, no, this most likely will not be the new Any% route since it requires memory manipulation with OoT, but there’s a good chance we’ll add it to the category extensions board.
Either way, it is technically the fastest Paper Mario has ever been beaten by a human using only official Nintendo hardware.”
This Paper Mario run is unusual, though, not because of its speed, but because 30 of those 54 minutes are actually spent playing Ocarina of Time. JCog’s speedrun of Paper Mario mostly takes place in the world of Hyrule for one simple reason – as WarChamp7 puts it, “OoT is so f*****g busted open people are breaking other games with it now.”
To put it in layman’s terms: the speedrunner can use Ocarina of Time to write code using ACE that will warp them straight to the credits in Paper Mario, but to execute this neat trick, they will have to swap the game cartridges mid-speedrun with split-second timing.
Ocarina of Time wipes the memory of the Expansion Pak when it boots, but Paper Mario doesn’t, so if the speedrunner can turn off the console and swap the two cartridges during the 1 or 2 seconds that the Nintendo 64 still has residual power, then the code that they wrote in Ocarina of Time will be loaded into Paper Mario, and the speedrunner will be taken straight to the credits after doing a bunch of precise movements, including hammering the ground a lot.
There is one problem, though – JCog didn’t blow on the cartridge before inserting it. He may have set a new world record, but does it really count if he didn’t get all the gunk out first?