The Not-So-Little Engine That Could (finally take less than 3:00)

speed/shortcut - The Not-So-Little Engine That Could (finally take less than 3:00)

Submitted by SadisticMystic

Three minutes is a significant milestone in this game. All but five of the stages' Mission 1s can easily be completed in less time. The five that don't fall so easily are Final Rush, Final Chase, Cosmic Wall, Route 280, and Eternal Engine.

Now, Cosmic Wall is obviously out of the question...it takes the best sequence of events just to complete it under 5 minutes. Final Chase is elusive as well; 3:00 is tricky, but it can be done. And Route 280 will fall simply by holding your powerslides long enough.

Hero stages are more manageable, with only 2 problems instead of 3. Final Rush is chaotic, but it can be lowered beyond 3:00 by conventional means, simply jumping between rails and looking for a plethora of shortcuts.

And then there's Eternal Engine.

It's a closed stage (i.e. you're forced to follow the same general path every time), and Tails only goes so fast. Good players at the time of TSC's founding seemed to have their times grouped in the 3:13 to 3:16 range. This suggested that the Engine was a fairly easy stage to make everything go right, and that the perfect time was somewhere in the 3:10s.

Yet somehow, the low time on the leaderboard at TSC now reads under 2:40, and at one point, I held the record at 2:39.42 when second place was all the way back at 3:04. How could one player have been 25 seconds ahead of the best competition at the time from both America and Japan, and 33 seconds ahead of the former "invincible time"?

Well, you're about to find out. Because there's such a unique trick involved in EE1, and it's so hard to figure out, I held this walkthrough back for a long time. Obviously a record on the first try is unreasonable, but if you follow it through, 3:00 will come without any problem at all...under one condition. This trick only works in the DREAMCAST version of the game; GameCube players are out of luck and will have to live with 3:00 tantalizingly close and out of reach (EDIT: Months after this was first written, players finally started breaking 3:00 on a GameCube, but only the top-tier players have done so). Why? You'll find out later. On with the walkthrough.

You start the level by falling. There are two enemies that power the lock on your first door, so try to take them out as fast as possible. In fact, you should hold down the B button from the moment you start falling. Aim slightly to the left and try to kill the left enemy in midair, then pivot right and shoot again. You can have the door opening in 1.5 seconds or even faster.

Now run forward, getting the six rings. There are three enemies that appear in the hall, but you only need to shoot the middle one to avoid a hit. Try to stay slightly left of the center at this point.

As you reach the next corner, make the turn SLOWLY. If you make a sharp turn, you end up coming to a stop, or at least slowing down. Instead of a 90° turn, try to make two consecutive 45° turns (in fact, the second one should be left incomplete). The goal is to give the door enough time to open enough for Tails' machine to fit through (this is why you start just left of the center), but to keep moving the whole time (because you obviously don't want to throw away time).

You'll end up turning another corner in the same way, but you need to plan for the upcoming door. There's a moving mechanical device hanging from the ceiling, and if you lock on to it when it's on the left, you can actually blow up one of the beetles from residual damage! Then lock on to the right one as normal, and the door should open soon enough that you don't have to slow down to get through.

NOTE: In this stage, and all other ARK stages, notice that all doors like this start opening from a point slightly left of center. If you can get used to staying at this same horizontal point, then you'll be able to get through more doors, faster. Occasionally, if you run into a door before it opens enough, you'll "bounce" off the wall as opposed to coming to a simple stop. Such bounces can cost a full second of time, and should be avoided if at all possible.

Now, after the door, swerve as far right as you can. You want to aim for the back right corner of the room. You can shoot out the box onto this 2x2 stack...but it doesn't matter if you do!

The best path through here is to get in front of the boxes, in the deepest section of the corner possible. Instead of making two jumps up the staircase (as they want you to do by shooting out the box), it's possible to make one jump and trigger the spring!

When you hit the spring, take a quick glance at the timer. The ideal time is anything under 11.1 seconds. If you don't beat 11.1, it'll slow you down significantly later.

Now, at the top, it's the second pulley...but a beetle is flying around the area. The reason 11.1 seconds is so crucial is that if you hit the spring before that time, you can actually race right through the rings and beat the beetle, but if you don't, you'll either have to wait for it to pass or lose time by flying around it. But once you grab that pulley, wait about a second (so that you'll face the right direction) and then hold lock-on.

As you go up, you'll lock on to a Hornet, while the camera angle is such that you can't see Tails. Keep holding the lock-on, and eventually the screen moves up and down quickly. This means you've reached the top of the pulley, so jump and hover forward, releasing lock-on at this time. Lock on to the next Hornet as well, and slow down BRIEFLY so that the upcoming door has time to open.

You should be hitting the checkpoint at 22 seconds if you beat the beetle (spring by 11.1), or 23/24 if you didn't. Anyway, make a left turn just like the earlier ones.

Hold your position at left-of-center. You can lock on to any of the four Beetles on this corridor, but it's not necessary. When you get to the lasers, swing left and back right, staying in position. Lock-on as soon as the door starts to open.

As soon as the lock-on cursor appears on the Hornet, release for the kill, then keep moving forward while tapping B as fast as you can.

There is a switch behind this door, along with 5 boxes. Since the boxes are nothing but obstacles, your goal is to destroy as many as you can before the door opens! (Once the door opens, you might end up locking on to dynamite, which certainly ruins your time.) By tapping B, you fire Volkan Cannon shots through the wall, and they should destroy at least some of the boxes. The one you want to destroy at all costs is the Chao box, so if you hear that unmistakable sound of a Chao box breaking, along with a brief but sudden slowdown by Tails, you'll know you've done it.

Now, the switch is in the dead center of the room horizontally, so pick up that line and keep going forward. If there's a box in your way, jump over it. If not, just run to the switch. Either way, JUMP as soon as you hear the switch sound--it's the fastest way to turn around. Come back out of the room.

Because the camera is aimed differently at this point, just do your best to turn the corner properly. Once the next Hornet comes into sight, lock on and release right away.

It should be destroyed some time around 40 seconds, so keep running forward and stay to the left. There's a run-n-gun beetle that flies in across the gap, but if you stay left, you can just keep running full speed forward, and not only will you cross before the beetle, but its shot will whiff!

Again, stay just left of center as you run down the hall. The 5 rings are optional, but I'd skip them because you run the risk of hitting dynamite, which not only drags you backward but also throws off your horizontal alignment if you hit it. Slow down for the door again.

Once you come to the balcony, it's time for drastic action. Just jump off.

Okay, so there is a point to this: there's a missile down below, and the sooner you bring it into the visible plane, the sooner you can fire it. Obviously, the fastest way to bring it into view is to jump off as soon as you can. If you haven't become used to jumping off at this point, just practice for a while, using Hovering to make sure you land on the lower catwalk instead of in a black void. However, for your fast times, Hovering is a no-no.

After you land, move to the button as soon as you can. The moment you see smoke from the missile, that means it'll fire, so move forward. Most of the time, it's possible to hover straight from the catwalk to the middle platform, and from there to the other end.

However, if you catch that platform at the back position (which usually means a good time for the missile firing), you'll have to be tricky. See the rail on the right? Jump onto that first, and from there onto the platform on the other side.

Once on the other side, jump over the metal boxes and continue on. Sometimes, usually if you had to use the rail to jump far enough, you'll go from the platform directly to the top of the boxes, which saves a bit of time. Now get ready for B-tapping...

As you go down the hall, ignore the beetle. What you need to pay attention to is that canister at the back of the next room. You need to lock onto it 4 times as fast as possible. 1...2...3...4...keep running forward, all the way, and you just might make it...

Yes, there's a shadow up ahead, with a giant weight overhead. Walking there is suicide, right?

If you did it right, you'll get shot #4 right as you enter the shadow, destroying the canister. Now, the weight is a long way up in the air, and it has to fall a while...oh, the suspense...

And in the time it takes to fall, you'll have just enough time to run to the other side of the shadow, out of range, and you'll hit the switch just as the weight crashes down and almost turns Tails' machine into scrap metal.

Upon hitting the switch, that weight will rise back up again! Take the left spring to land on it, then go to the center (where the handle is). There's a pulley up above, and as soon as you see that red handle, you're high enough to jump up and grab it. Once you reach the top of that pulley, jump forward to get another, and at the top of THAT one, go up to the checkpoint. Pay special attention to the time.

If you got 1:11 or possibly 1:12, then the platforms up ahead can be favorably timed.

If you got anything else, the platforms will not be synchronized, and you'll end up waiting a while and wasting time. To avoid this, run through the door and let the Chaos enemy kill you.

After you die (or if you're lucky enough to get 1:11), go through the door. DO NOT lock on yet. Watch the Chaos enemy closely, and as soon as its eyes turn green, that's your cue to fire. Once it's destroyed, turn the corner as you're used to.

Now, there's another Chaos enemy up ahead, but unlike the last, there are no doors tied to it. So you don't need to kill it, but obviously you can't let it hit you or else the time you lose will cause the platforms to lose their favorable timing. What to do?

Just lock-on, WITHOUT the intention of killing it! Just the act of locking on will cause it to scamper back to its "shell", so that it won't attack you! Run forward more, and when it does pop back up, it won't be able to reach you!

Now go around the lasers, get in proper positioning for the door, and go ahead and lock on to one of the Beetles if you want. Go left and jump on the box, then jump up to the main level. Welcome to the platforms!

Obviously you made the platforms have proper timing, or else you would've killed yourself already to make sure they do. Jump on the first platform, and if you're doing this from a 1:11 checkpoint, jump on the second platform, then jump across to the other side once you get high enough. You can get a height boost by tagging the balloon.

If you're at the platforms after dying, jump to the first one, and jump as high as you can. Fire the Volkan Cannon forward, to hit the balloon...and strangely, you'll bounce up from that! That boost gives you enough height to cross the gap!

Land, drop down, and hit the next checkpoint. Turn the corner, and make sure to activate a lock-on. There are three beetles in the next hall. The middle one is best, but any of them will work. What you DON'T want to hit are the moving capsules; you'll either have to come to a complete stop, wasting time, or you'll end up running right into the explosion...again, wasting time. Clear the path of Beetles and move on to the catwalks.

I won't go into much detail on the catwalks; just remember 2 things:
1. Try to cut corners as often as possible. Sometimes this means jumping onto the side rails to get more height, so that you can cut deeper into a corner. Less distance traveled = good.
2. Avoid locking on too much, or else you might find yourself blowing the ground out from underneath you. Only shoot things if they're directly in your path, such as the beetle in the middle of the path just after you come off the first pulley.

There are good catwalk runs and bad catwalk runs, but as a general rule, the time between the checkpoint before the catwalks and the checkpoint after it should be 26 seconds or less. If it's longer than that, consider restarting from the beginning.

Keep running forward after the checkpoint, a bit left of center, ignoring everything. Even the shield up ahead...don't shoot it. It's speed time.

After the shield room, it's another balcony, this time with a bridge across. Ignore the bridge, and like last time, just jump off.

There's a series of boxes up ahead, and you need to clear a path. Shoot as many times as you can, and if you're lucky, you can get rid of two boxes in a column without having to slow down for anything. Jump over the indestructible box and move on.

Ignore all the beetles here, and stay aligned with the door. It's another Chaos enemy, and you'll repeat an earlier maneuver with it. Just lock on, not to kill it but to delay its attack until you're safely out of reach, and run around to the pulley.

At the top, you get to jump backwards to the next pulley, but it shouldn't be a problem. The bigger problem is finding the right time to jump to the platform at the top of that. If you jump too soon, you fall to the bottom, costing major time.

Again, stay slightly left of center (as if it hasn't become natural already), at the front of the platform. Once you get high enough that the door opens, go through. Once again turn the corner with two 45° turns, and hit the final checkpoint.

Okay, now it's time to start playing for real. Do everything as described above, but even before that, look at the mission objective.

"Destroy the colony's power generator!"

This is where you can laugh, because it's how you'll end up saving at least 20 seconds. The objective of EVERY Sonic/Tails/Shadow/Eggman stage is, technically, nothing more than tagging the Goal Ring at the end. The mission that's listed is only for story purposes, and now you're about to find that out.

You see, the "big shortcut" involves hitting the Goal Ring from the TOP, and WITHOUT destroying the colony's power generator.

Once you get to the last checkpoint, go through the door, and you'll see a platform. You may remember that when you jump on this platform, it immediately sinks and subjects you to the updraft.

Jump on it anyway...but carefully. You need to jump on one of the SIDE RAILS of that platform. This will put you about two feet higher, which is high enough that it's possible for you to jump again. Do so, and immediately start to hover. (Illustration)

Once you're hovering, start moving at a 45° angle up and right. Keep going until the screen "shifts". It's hard to describe what the exact motion is, but you'll know that a screen has shifted a few pixels.

See, the "updraft" only works if you're within certain horizontal boundaries. When the screen shifts, you'll know you're outside of that column! At this point you COULD release hover and fall to your doom...but after you've made it this far, don't.

Instead, the shift is a signal for you to change your trajectory. Instead of 45° up-right, you can now move straight forward.

But wait! You're about to crash into the tower...closer...closer...just keep going, into the wall...

What? It turns out that, except for the panel on the front (a panel that, coincidentally, is just as wide as the strip of updraft), the outer walls of the tower are NOT actually walls! You can go right through them! (Note - This is why it's Dreamcast-only. When the level was reconstructed for GameCube, I presume it was easier to construct the final tower so that the outer layer is made of actual walls, not just decorative panels. There is no reason to believe this shortcut was responsible for changing this attribute, or even that Sonic Team knew it could be used as a shortcut in the first place.)

Once you pass through the wall, you'll see a strange sight. It's a black cylinder, with Matrix-like green symbols moving along it. Never mind those; that's just one of the textures that form the inner wall of the tower. If you try to move into it, you'll end up making your familiar final descent, except the camera angle is bad and you'll probably end up dying. The point is, don't try that if you're going for time.

On to business. To make the shortcut work, you need to fly around to the BACK of the cylinder, and once you're there, let go of hover. You begin to fall...a VERY long way. It's just as long as you'd fall when playing the "normal" way, but you have no lasers or enemies to contend with.

Anyway, at the end of the long fall, one of four things will happen:
1. You'll fall into a void, and Tails will die. This means you went too far back when flying behind the cylinder. You get to start back at the last checkpoint, so repeat the process again.
2. You'll keep falling, with nothing but background on the screen, and the fall will never stop. Congratulations, you're stuck in an Infinite Fall. You went WAY too far back behind the cylinder, and for that you get to pay. Forget the final checkpoint; you have to select Restart or Quit from the pause menu, and go all the way back to the beginning.
3. Your fall will come to a stop, and it will appear that Tails is floating on air. This means that you didn't go back far enough, and Tails is stuck on an invisible platform (it's actually the ceiling of the power generator room). This doesn't wreck your run, though it will add a few seconds to your time if it does work out. Jump, hold Up on the control stick, tap the Hover briefly, then release Up. You should end up falling again, and the outcome may result in #1 or #2 again, or possibly...
4. If you moved to the perfect position during the fall, you'll keep falling, then catch a glimpse of the alcove where the Goal Ring resides, and then the screen fades...Perfect. You landed directly on the Goal Ring. This immediately ends the level, and stops the timer. If this was your first time with the shortcut, it's almost certainly a new record.

Now that you've had some experience with this trick, you can try to figure out more of what to do with it on your own. Keep it up enough, and you might beat 2:40 as well!

As usual, have fun and DON'T DO DRUGS!
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