This is a 24-minute video explaining how to beat a Super Mario 64 level with only half an A-press. It's the most compelling film I've seen in years.
But wait: How can you press A half a time?
Basically a half A-press is when you press A to jump into the level, and hold it throughout the level, never releasing it, and thus, never performing a complete A-press.
But, like, why would you want to beat a level without pressing A?
After beating the game as a kid, Buchanan sought out further challenges within the game. That lead him to the forums of a website called SM64.com, where users shared detailed knowledge of coin maps, and more importantly, glitches. It was on SM64.com that Buchanan discovered the A-button challenge. It's just a constraint to add infinite replayability to the game, but Buchanan and his collaborators have elevated the A-button challenge to an artform.
In the SM64.com days, people were completing the game (getting all 120 stars) in about 212 A-presses. Buchanan, with the help of online collaborators, has got that number down to about 32. That's beating the entire game while only pressing jump 32 times. And he's still looking for ways to save A-presses.
So how does he do it? The secret is in the glitches. "I'm on the breaking edge of new glitches," Buchanan told BuzzFeed. "I want to push Super Mario 64 as far as I can."
The first glitch employed in the Watch for Rolling Rocks video — and I'm simplifying complicated things explained in the video — is a technique called scuttlebug transportation. This involves gaming the unique properties of an enemy called a scuttlebug, and the limitations of its movement. The scuttlebug, it turns out, exists in a cylinder that extends infinitely upward. So with a particular set of movements, you can actually raise the enemy up into the air.
Though scuttlebugs can be moved upwards, they have constraints, such as an inability to move through doorways.
"If your dream was to bring all the scuttlebugs together for one big jamboree," Buchanan says in the video, "I'm sorry, but its' not gonna happen."
The positioning of the scuttlebug will be important later on.
Then Buchanan charges Mario for 12 hours to build up enough speed to travel through parallel universes. Bear with me for a minute.
This is where it's important to note that Buchanan is playing on an emulator, not a Nintendo 64 console.
An emulator is a program that runs video games on your personal computer, which, obviously, is much more powerful than a video game system from 1996. Most of the glitches performed in Buchanan's videos can actually be performed on a console, but they're made much easier with an emulator.
"Everything I'd been unable to do because of dexterity, and my inability to play perfectly, now it was solved," Buchanan told BuzzFeed. "I could play with save states. I could advance frame by frame. I could slow down the game."
With the emulator, the task of charging Mario for 12 hours in game time took only 7 hours in real time.
"I have a little box of all the possible inputs," Buchanan told BuzzFeed. "I can check a box for the A-button, and there's a circle that says what direction I put the input in." And because of the speed of a modern computer, the process can be sped up to 3X real time.