Speedrunning Live A Live

These are my run notes for Live A Live. They're rough and written for me to quickly understand and reference, so they're probably nigh useless for anyone else. Sorry about that.

Pre-run thoughts

Timing and Categories

These are my opinions, as the only active runner I know about. If a community forms, these are open to redefinition :)

RTA time starts once you hit A on "New Game" and ends when you hit a button to close the protagonist's dialogue just prior to his teleportation from the statue room.

The main category should include a seven hero boss rush and not doing Oersted's finale chapter. I feel this is the canonical way to finish the game and nothing else gives you the full proper credit sequence. I want to call this Any% but maybe "True End" is more accurate. This category allows all forms of taking items into the finale, redoing chapters, etc.

ILs should be timed such that 9 ILs add up to a segmented run (with a few seconds lost to menuing between chapters). For this I've settled on time starting when you hit A at "Is this okay?" or "Redo?", and ending when you see the save screen after the chapter ends. This means the ~4 minutes of credits are counted in the runtime but will make it easy to convert IL times to segmented run estimations. If you want to future-proof your runs, you can set a split at character control and the last action before credits start, so SDA compatible time is present in your splits.

The first eight ILs are pretty self-explanatory. Finish the chapter and get sent back to the main menu. The finale IL is the same, but timing stops at the same place RTA timing does. The finale allows you to bring in any items you want from prior chapters, so snagging a save with a Cola Bottle, Basic Rock, and Medicine Box is recommended.

General Optimizations

Stats

The stat system in Live A Live is a little opaque. Most of this is just anecdotal theory...

I suspect each ability has its own equation for damage derived from stats. Some abilities seem to gain more damage from stat gains than others. For example, Chill Wind is just ridiculous regardless of stats, but doesn't gain much from additional IQ, while the Shan Quan ultimate benefits strongly from both SP and IQ.

We only really go crazy with stat optimization choices in a few places:

On level up, stat gain is random. You can gain either 2, 3, or 5 of each stat. So bad rolls can total up to 20 missing points in a stat in some chapters. Unfortunately there's nothing to be done about this except to expect it and be able to mitigate the effects of bad luck a bit. This is most harmful in Oersted's chapter where bad rolls can actually put stoning Gynophobia out of reach, or make Algos eye not do enough damage to early guards to one-shot them.

Stat max is "99 + 127", that being 99 from level ups and 127 from equipped gear. In this route, no one we use will be getting close to a base of 99 in anything.

EXP Gain

Every level takes 100 EXP to gain. Once you level up, remaining EXP is just lost. So if you reach 99 EXP, you should take a 1 EXP fight rather than a 45 EXP fight. This is especially relevant in the finale when hunting Ishtars. If your main character is on the verge of leveling, you should stop fleeing and bump up to the next level before the next Ishtar.

For the most part, only heroes who act during the fight get maximum EXP. There are exceptions, but they're not worth mentioning here because they don't come up.

Characters who are of lower level than the monsters gain more EXP, characters who are higher level gain less. This curve is pretty steep and tops/bottoms out pretty fast. As an example: Masaru in the finale (Level 2) gains 11 EXP for a fight the rest of his party gains 4 EXP for. So while a low level character will catch up, it won't be fast.

In most open areas, fights tend to be decided by the total level of the party. Most areas also seem to have a minimum and maximum level where, if your party is outside that range, you'll just get the minimum/maximum level spawns instead.

Finale EXP

This deserves special mention. Out of all the methods of gaining EXP in the finale, the best by far is killing Ishtars. Ishtars are mini-bosses that spawn in most places in the world and are a guaranteed level for one hero if killed by stoning (up to at least 25, which is way stronger than needed to kill Odio). Stoning is easily accomplished with the Algos Eye found in the first room of Sundown's Dungeon. If the user has more than 70 IQ when the eye fires, the Ishtar is guaranteed to be stoned. Having more as a buffer is a good idea since Ishtars can also IQ down you.

If you use the second hero (left slot) to initiate the Algos Eye, the Ishtar cannot stop them aside from killing them outright with Escher Space. Ishtar can't/won't turn to use Tail or Morbius Rondo on them and will usually Escher Space or Constrict either the right or top hero. Sometimes Ishtar will Tail the top slot, knocking them back. That's why I advise against using that slot to initiate the Algos Eye.

Ishtars seem to begin spawning when the party's total level is equal to 32. They'll appear in indoor areas first, such as the Forbidden Land and Oboro's dungeon. For a few levels after, they'll have a very high rate of spawn before they begin tapering off as new molds enter the spawn rotation. In the mid 40s, they'll disappear entirely. You'll know this has happened when a mold of one Mustard Dragon and two Pistachios begin spawning. At that time, Ishtars can still be found in the outdoor area for a few levels yet. Effective leveling will get you ready for Odio long before Ishtars disappear.

The party we use in the finale comes in at levels 2, 8, 9, and 10. So total of 29. This means we need 3 levels before Ishtars begin spawning. This is best achieved with the mold that's two Bulldozers and the Master. Someone can sneak between the Bulldozers and kill the Master for an easy Break Down, giving them all the EXP. This mold is available right from the start in the Forbidden Land and is semi-common.

Nothing else is really worth the effort. Pre-Ishtars, the Bulldozers are worth 75 EXP a fight. Ishtars are a guaranteed level-up every time. If you're targeting 16 on your main damager, you could have everyone share in the EXP from the Bulldozers to get to 32 ASAP then let the damager hoard all the EXP from Ishtars to get to 16.

Keep in mind that once a hero levels up, their EXP is set to 0. Once you're Ishtar hunting, every other mold is literally a waste of time. Other molds could be useful in the Bulldozer phase, but not often and not by much.

Finale IQ

The finale strategy will require stacking IQ on one person. This will let them stone Ishtars with Algos Eye (70IQ) and stand up to Odio's attacks (as much IQ as they can get). There are two good options for this: Li and her ultimate and Sundown with Neo Shot Storm. That means we want the Medicine Box (which we want to buff Oboro's attacks anyway) and IQ items we can trivially pick up as we go. So my thoughts on IQ items littered through the game:

Accessories
Body
Head
Foot
Offhand

The critical line is around +60IQ. This is enough that any one person can stone Ishtar even after the IQ Down from Escher Space. As noted this is easily met.

When fighting Odio, all we care about is reliably hitting Level Down from Sundown. +70 IQ is enough to do this.

Long story short, we don't need to go out of our way to max IQ. What's available in the finale is more than sufficient to get the job done.

Oboro (40:00)

Masaru (15:00)

The most straightforward of the chapters. This is 7 fights with no puzzles, no walking, no leveling. There's RNG in that you can't progress past the first fight until you've learned both skills, and if you fail to turn in some fights, they can kill you in two hits.

There's no real route here. You'll need to pick up a few skills to smooth over the fights, and for the final chapter, but beyond that it's a matter of getting what you need and then winning fights.

As tempting as it is to skip Tsuda, you can't. Abise-Geri will NOT hit Moribe until you Tsuda him. Also it's nice to have to try to earn some time back by upping your damage if you whiff and get an enemy adjacent to you.

If you happen to get hit by Namcat and pick up Pancha Kick, it's a pretty reliable knockback and might be faster than Tsuda since your foe won't get a turn then.

Sundown (28:00)

Most of Sundown's route is text boxes. Spam them with B instead of A so you don't whiff choices. Always pick the one that's not "..." or the dialogue will repeat (or worse)

Goons do NOT "Break Down" once you kill O Dio. You have to wipe the entire board in the final battle to win.

Akira (50:00)

We want to minimize our time here. Run through, don't upgrade anything, and flee from fights. Taro can take out the goons in the facility and every fight besides has cheese. You could take the whole chapter at Level 4, but it'll be faster to just kill some people than squeeze by them.

Pogo (60:00)

The MO here should be to rush until you have control of Bel, then grind until she hits Level 7 and gets LaaLaa. This will make the fight against O-D-O a giant joke.

The big bottleneck in the chapter, aside from getting Bel to Lv7, is getting her to kiss you just before the first Zaki fight. You can give her one of several items to do it. The only two good options this route are...

The rest will cost you your Buzzing Knife by either taking the Stone Knife or the Cord, which is not a good call.

Kung Fu (45:00)

Since the Inheritor will mainly be an ult machine in the finale, what moves we teach is irrelevant once we finish here. Go for the KO ASAP. I tend to favor Li and make sure she gets Squirrel Kick and Lao for use here and in her finale re-fight.

Super optimization involves getting your Inheritor to 7 in training then switching to beating up the other non-Sammo student for speed. You'll oneshot them or they won't counter because they know no counters. It saves quite a bit of time in an IL but may be over-optimization in RTA.

Cube (45:00)

The speed route is the casual route. There's no tricks here. Just a lot of mashing to fast skip text and knowing when the plot continuation triggers.

Oersted (45:00)

The TAS circumvents the need to grind. There's six mandatory fights that serve as EXP gates. These are bypassed with either the Algos Eye for stone, or spin spam. The spinning is reliant on stats so some grinding may be required to make it hit; same with stoning.

Note: In instances where I missed Hammer on Claustro, or Stone on Gyno, they always hit after a save reload. Luck or is there something there?

Finale (50:00)

My party right now is Oboro, Sundown, Li, and Masaru.

Now we equip the party.

All of Odio's abilities are resisted by IQ, Li's heal is boosted by IQ, and Li's ultimate attack is boosted by IQ (and Speed), Sundown's Neo Shot Storm's procs increase chance with IQ. IQ is god-tier here.

After refusing to kill Odio, we return to the statue room to begin the boss rush. This should be easy but some thoughts...