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A tool-assisted superplay (or in most contexts, tool-assisted speedrun; commonly abbreviated as TAS) is a playthrough of a game in which no mistakes are made, and near-perfect performance is achieved. Because human players are prone to making mistakes, and have limited reflexes, finger speed, and prediction, external tools must be used in order to achieve these types of runs, including:
- Save states: a player can go back to any previous time in the game in order to correct mistakes.
- Frameskip: advancing a game's logic, one frame at a time, to achieve perfect temporal accuracy.
- Controller-less inputs: selecting inputs without the physical limitations of a controller, allowing for otherwise impossible button combinations.
- Memory reading: by reading the game's memory, a player can obtain information otherwise inaccessible.
Because of the implementation of these tools, these runs are only feasible on emulators. Normally, to show the finished run to an audience, the player's inputs are recorded, and later played back at full speed, and with no cuts. Because of the wildly different nature of these type of runs, records obtained this way are not comparable to records obtained with real-time challenge runs in terms of measuring skill. The name "tool-assisted speedrun" comes from the fact that most of the time, these tools are used to complete a game as fast as possible; a "superplay" refers to playing the game with or without a fast completion, as long as it features tool-assisted gameplay.
Some things in the Pikmin series cannot be performed in real-time, and are only possible with the use of the aforementioned tools. Notably, Pikmin can be thrown as fast as possible by pressing the throw button on the first possible frame each time, Pikmin can be thrown at precise locations, even while moving the leader, and random elements can be controlled by manipulating the random number generator and using savestates until the desired outcome is achieved.
The following tricks are featured prominently in tool-assisted superplays of Pikmin. While some of them can be reproduced by humans, albeit sometimes inconsistently, they are typically much easier to reproduce in tool-assisted superplays.
- Several glitches that can be used to the player's advantage can be performed with perfect precision.
- The object nudging and enemy riding glitches can easily be abused to end up out of bounds, thus allowing the player to skip large areas otherwise meant to be played through, or push any object that would slow Pikmin down.
- Bomb-rocks can be duplicated.
- Detrimental glitches, such as the crushing glitch, will never feature in tool-assisted gameplay, unless they provide some sort of advantage at a later point.
- Ship part collection cutscenes can be skipped reliably.
- Enemies can be lured, made to perform specific actions, drop specific pellets or manipulated to end up in certain places or positions at a specific time.
- Nectar weed and rubble will always drop nectar if necessary.
The following tricks can be performed reliably in a tool-assisted environment:
- Cave generation can be manipulated until the desired layout is achieved. Typically, tool-assisted superplays feature layouts promoting fast treasure collection, few obstacles in the way of the Pikmin, and Candypop Buds. Layouts with missing sublevel objects can be avoided as well.
- Nectar eggs and petrified enemies can be made to drop sprays at will.
- It is possible to reliably skip the brief control lockout that happens after some cutscenes.
- Going out of bounds by exploiting enemy knockback and the napsack glitch is made easier.