History of the A Button Challenge

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In the early 2000s, players began trying to beat Super Mario 64 with as few A presses as possible. Thus, the A Button Challenge (ABC) was born. At first, the challenge required clever movement around the levels, but it eventually required advanced techniques and glitches to whittle down A presses. As of 2020, the challenge is still active, with only 19 A presses remaining.

Part I: Early History

(todo: this is almost certainly missing things from forum pages and non-English web pages. More research and elaboration on this section is required.)

In 2001, Walton Dell's website detailing Super Mario 64 tricks included details on the ABC for BoB, as well as the red coins star in SL.[1][2] Curtis Bright, who runs sm64.com, was keeping track of ABC at least as early as December of 2006.[3] In early 2007, Thiago Trujillo had what is the earliest, nearly complete count for the game (that we have access to) with a total count of about 263 presses.[4] (This list is missing all navigation presses, two of the DDD stars, three of the TTC stars, one star in RR, and BitS.) On 13 July 2007, a GameFAQs forum thread about the ABC was made.[5]

Part II: Pannenkoek2012's Initial Run-Through

When pannenkoek2012 arrived to the ABC scene in August 2013, the A press count was at 211.[6] His first ABC video was for 5 Itty Bitty Secrets, in which he completed it in 0 A presses.[7] Pannenkoek brought much more optimization to the ABC, using cloning, Goomba architecture, frame walking, hat in hand displacement, WDW water level manipulation, shell hyperspeed, infinite coin glitches, and Big Boo manipulation. Within the first 4 months, nearly 100 A presses had been saved, bringing the count down to 117.

Part III: Further Progress

Initially, A presses were saved by using precise manoeuvres and glitches such as Cloning. In March of 2014, it was discovered that Mario could use Swoopers in Hazy Maze Cave to gain height, leading to 3 A press saves.[8] Not long later, Pannenkoek found out a way to get past the back and forth bridges in Bowser in the Sky using a goomba bounce, saving 1 A press.[9]

In April of that year, more cloning tricks were discovered in the Bowser in the Sky including a new glitch called Transport Cloning. This saved a total of 3 A presses in a 120 star run.[10] Throughout May, Pannenkoek and Gaehne D discovered many tricks including utilizing a lakitu bounce in Rainbow Ride,[11] a way of lowering the basement water level in 0 a presses[12], and a way to raise the water level in Wet Dry World.[13] In total, 9.5 A presses were saved.

In mid 2014, Pannenkoek figured out a way of entering Bowser in the Sky in only 1 A press by bouncing from Wing Mario Over the Rainbow.[14] Pannenkoek found a way to exploit the bowser levels’ elevators’ broken hitboxes, saving an A press in Bowser in the Sky.[15] Now the A press count for Bowser in the Sky with red coins had halved, from 10 to 5. A month later, 4 A presses were saved on Tick Tock Clock by using a bloated bob omb to get past the cage.[16] Plush discovered a way of building speed called Hyperspeed Water Sliding, which was used to save 1 A press in Hazy Maze Cave.[17] Furthermore, many new strategies were discovered which got rid of reliance on something that requires an A press such as getting Through the Jet Stream in Dire, Dire Docks without the Metal Cap.[18]

In late 2014, Tyler Kehne discovered a very useful trick called a Star Dance Clip (SDC), which allows Mario to go up higher on a dive recover. This was first used to enter Hazy Maze Cave 0x using the star from MIPS.[19] Another also very useful glitch was discovered called Vertical Speed Conservation of VSC for short. This allowed for Mario to store vertical speed. This initially saved 6.5 A presses. The following month, 2 glitches were discovered: The Glitchy Ledge Grab and the 207 dive recover. This allowed for mario to enter Bowser in the Sky in 0 A presses.[20] This also allowed for mario to climb the cork boxes in DDD,[21] saving 4 0.5 A presses. The 207 DR, combined with a precise dive recover on a crystal, allows for Bowser in the Dark World to be completed in 0 A presses.[22] Other improvements, mainly from Plush, saved an extra 5+3x0.5 A presses.

A major milestone occurred in early 2015, when a method to traverse the starting platforms was discovered. This method used the 207 DR combined with Chuckya’s grab meant that Bowser in the Sky could be completed in 0 A presses.[23] This was a massive improvement compared to one year ago when it required 10. Also, Plush and Tyler Kehne found a way to use lava boosts to get to the top of the volcano in Lethal Lava Land, saving 2 A presses.[24] In late January, Pannenkoek discovered a way to activate the Vanish Cap switch 0x,[25] meaning that the vanish cap could be used for free in an abc run. In March of 2015, Pannenkoek found a way to get onto the pole platform in Tick Tock Clock 0x by combining VSC, a ground pound and a SDC, saving a total of 3 A presses.[26] Pannenkoek and Tyler Kehne found a way of getting onto the pirhana plant platform in Tiny-Huge Island from the small painting 0x by using goomba bounces.[27] This saves 7 A presses as it requires an A press to enter from the big painting.

In mid 2015, a method of re-entering TTC using spawning displacement was discovered.[28] The Instant Release glitch was also discovered. In total, 2 A presses were saved on TTC. Pannenkoek found a method of getting Mario Wings to the Sky in 0 A presses by using Transport Cloning to craft a goomba staircase.[29] Around June, Kyman noticed some unusual behaviour while releasing a whirlpool clone at a loading point. This lead to the discovery of a glitch called no transition loading. After lots of hard work, an A press was saved on Pole Jumping for Red Coins.[30] On Pannenkoek’s video showing this star, a user by the name of TJ Henry Yoshi wrote a notorious comment saying “an a press is an a press, you can't say it’s only a half”. This would later become a huge meme. In Jolly Roger Bay, Tyler Kehne found a way of ground pounding the blue coin block 0x by exploiting goombas, saving an A press.[31] In July, Tyler Kehne, Plush and Sonicpacker found ways to utilise hyperspeed in HMC, saving 1+2x0.5 A presses.[32]

By the end of July, the A press count for a 120 star run had been reduced to only 37. Around this time, a speedrunner had experienced a glitch that made mario randomly warp up. The cause was unknown, but if discovered, could be used to save A presses. This was labelled the TTC Upwarp Glitch. Pannenkoek put a $1000 bounty out to anyone who could replicate it.[33] Throughout the years, many have tried, but to no avail. It is suspected that the glitch happened due to a hardware problem.

In late 2015, a method to enter the secret aquarium on Virtual Console was found. This strategy involved hyperspeed walking in HMC, then using PU movement to reach the entrance.[34] a PU route was devised in HMC which saved a half A press. Tyler Kehne found a pedro spot in TTC which could be accessed with a bob-omb.[35] This saved 1 A press.

Part IV: 2016-Present

In mid 2016, a new glitch was discovered in TTC called pendulum manipulation.[36] This allows for the pendulums to swing incredibly high, initially saving 1 A press. A month later, the ABC team found a way to climb the ship in Jolly Roger Bay in 0 A presses,[37] meaning the red coin star could be done 0x. sm64expert and Pannenkoek found a way to get to the cannon on Wing Mario over the Rainbow 0x,[38] saving half an A press. Later that year, a user called Z1mb0bw4y suggested a way to re-enter TTC after collecting The Pit and the Pendulums. Although first overlooked, it became confirmed, saving an A press.[39]

Throughout 2017, most improvements came in the form of alternative strategies which were either faster and/or saves an a press outside the level by removing the need for a set HOLP. A new method of fly guy manipulation was discovered, which saved time on 2 Rainbow Ride levels.[40] A method was found to use a preset HOLP in Bowser in the Sky without costing an additional A press.[41] A massive time save was found for 3 stars in TTC,[42] which involved using a forgotten strategy to get past the pole,[43] saving over an hour on each star. Near the end of the year, Iwer Sonsch found a way to jump directly from the pedro spot in TTC to the thwomp platform,[44] saving an A press in Stomp on the Thwomp.[45] By the end of 2017, the A press count was lowered to 28.

The first major breakthrough in 2018 was a new glitch caused by raising a scuttlebug into a Vertical Parallel Universe, causing it to clip through floors.[46] This saves 3 A presses in Big Boo's Haunt. Timestoppa and Tyler Kehne found a way of using speed to get to the stone pillar platform in Jolly Roger Bay 0x,[47] saving an A press.[48] Tyler Kehne began working on a way to get into the Secret Aquarium without PU movement (the n64 crashes when it enters a PU). After lots of hard work, a solution was found, saving an A press in the N64 versions. In mid 2018, Bad_Boot and Sidney found a way to build speed on a treadmill in TTC, allowing Mario to jump straight up to the top of the pole.[49] This saves a total of 2 A presses.

Shortly after, a great discovery was made. Andru! had left his wii on overnight, and found that the rising and falling platforms in Bowser in the Fire Sea had risen. This led to the discovery of a new glitch,[50] and meant that the game could now be completed in Wii VC with 0 A presses.[51] Throughout the year, 3 A presses were saved in Stomp on the Thwomp, lowering the count to 2.[52] By the end of the year, the total A press count was at 21.

In mid 2019, an A press was saved by finding a way to re-enter TTC from the Get a Hand Star using 0.5 A presses.[53] Other improvements in TTC included removing the need for a preset HOLP in TTC for 3 stars,[54] which is significant as it requires an A press to enter TTC. Currently, the A press count stands at 19.

References

  1. http://www.wdell.com/videogames/sm64/course01/
  2. http://www.wdell.com/videogames/sm64/course10/
  3. https://web.archive.org/web/20061209073313/http://www.student.cs.uwaterloo.ca/~cbright/sm64/a-presses.html
  4. http://www.oocities.org/thiagotrujillo/abut.html
  5. https://gamefaqs.gamespot.com/boards/198848-super-mario-64/36745360
  6. https://youtu.be/RJaL5QOq590?t=400
  7. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xy7XDStV5WE
  8. "SM64 - A-Maze-ing Emergency Exit - 1x A Presses [OUTDATED]" by pannenkoek2012
  9. "SM64 - A-Maze-ing Emergency Exit - 1x A Presses [OUTDATED]" by pannenkoek2012
  10. "SM64 - Transport Clones" by pannenkoek
  11. "SM64 - Cruiser Crossing the Rainbow - 0x A Presses" by pannenkoek2012
  12. "SM64 - Pound the Pillars - 0x A Presses" by pannenkoek2012
  13. "SM64 - Quick Race Through Downtown! - 0x A Presses" by pannenkoek2012
  14. "SM64 - Red Coins on the Ship Afloat - Without the Ship" by pannenkoek2012
  15. "SM64 - Bowser in the Sky (without Red Coins) - 3x A Presses [OUTDATED]" by pannenkoek2012
  16. "SM64 - The Pit and the Pendulums - 3x A Presses [OUTDATED]" by pannenkoek2012
  17. "SM64 - Metal-Head Mario Can Move! - 0x A Presses" by pannenkoek2012
  18. "SM64 - Through the Jet Stream (No Metal Cap) - 0.5x A Presses [OUTDATED]" by pannenkoek
  19. "SM64 - The Big House in the Sky - 1x A Presses [OUTDATED]" by pannenkoek2012
  20. "SM64 - Go to Bowser in the Sky - 0x A Presses" by pannenkoek2012
  21. "SM64 - Board Bowser's Sub - 0x A Presses" by pennenkoek2012
  22. "SM64 - Bowser in the Dark World (with Red Coins) - 0x A Presses" by pannenkoek2012
  23. "SM64 - Bowser in the Sky (with Red Coins) - 0x A Presses [OUTDATED]" by pannenkoek2012
  24. "SM64 - Hot-Foot-It into the Volcano - 0x A Presses" by pannenkoek2012
  25. "SM64 - Vanish Cap Under the Moat (and Cap Switch Pressed) - 0x A Presses" by pannenkoek2012
  26. "SM64 - Stomp on the Thwomp - 7x A Presses [OUTDATED]" by pannenkoek2012
  27. "SM64 - Tiny-Huge Island 100 Coins - 0x A Presses" by pannenkoek2012
  28. "SM64 - Stop Time for Red Coins & Reenter TTC - 0x A Presses" by pannenkoek2012
  29. "SM64 - Mario Wings to the Sky - 0x A Presses" by pannenkoek2012
  30. "SM64 - Pole-Jumping for Red Coins - 0.5x A Presses" by pannenkoek2012
  31. "SM64 - Jolly Roger Bay 100 Coins & Red Coins on the Ship Afloat - 1x A Presses [OUTDATED]" by pannenkoek2012
  32. "SM64 - Elevate for 8 Red Coins - 0.5x A Presses [OUTDATED]" by pannenkoek2012
  33. "SM64 - TTC Upwarp $1000 Bounty" by pannenkoek2012
  34. "SM64 - Go to The Secret Aquarium - 0x A Presses (VC Only) [OUTDATED]" by pannenkoek2012
  35. "SM64 - Stomp on the Thwomp - 6x A Presses [OUTDATED]" by pannenkoek2012
  36. "TTC Pendulum Manipulation" by pannenkoek2012
  37. "JRB Red Coins on the Ship Afloat 0x A Presses" by UncommentatedPannen
  38. "WMotR Red Coins 2x A Presses" by UncommentatedPannen
  39. "TTC Re-Entry After Pit & Pendulums Star 0x" by UncommentatedPannen
  40. "RR Tricky Triangles! 0x Faster Strat" by UncommentatedPannen
  41. "BitS Faster Strat for 120 Star ABC Run" by UncommentatedPannen
  42. "TTC Timed Jumps on Moving Bars 3x Faster Strat using PBH" by UncommentatedPannen
  43. "TTC Bob-omb to Pole using Pause Buffered Hitstun" by UncommentatedPannen
  44. "I found an A press save in SM64." by Iwer Sonsch
  45. "TTC Stomp on the Thwomp 5x A Presses [OUTDATED]" by UncommentatedPannen
  46. "BBH Big Boo's Balcony 0x A Presses" by UncommentatedPannen
  47. "JRB Blast to the Stone Pillar 0xA (Confirmed)" by Tyler Kehne
  48. "JRB Blast to the Stone Pillar 0x A Presses" by UncommentatedPannen
  49. "Confirmed 2xA Save in TTC (Treadmill HSG)" by Tyler Kehne
  50. "Bowser in the Fire Sea in 0x A Presses? (New Glitch Explanation)" by bad_boot
  51. "Bowser in the Fire Sea with Red Coins 0x A Presses (Wii VC Only)" by UncommentatedPannen
  52. "TTC Stomp on the Thwomp 2x A Presses" by UncommentatedPannen
  53. "TTC Get a Hand & Re-Enter 0.5x A Presses" by UncommentatedPannen
  54. "TTC Timed Jumps on Moving Bars 1x A Presses (without Preset HOLP)" by UncommentatedPannen