Community Spotlight:

Lee Garasich

Top Super Metroid speedrunner
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We are pleased to introduce Lee Garasich, who set the record for total completion of Super Metroid without saves with a time of 1 hour 22 minutes. This was verified on February 21st 2006 and was held until July 1st 2010. Lee has also appeared on Nintendo Week, a weekly entertainment and news series covering Nintendo related content where Lee showcased some of his speedrunning tricks. We interviewed Lee in regards to his love for Super Metroid and his speedruns.

SS: So to start us off Lee, could you tell us a little bit about yourself, your introduction to Metroid and why you decided to speedrun the SNES classic, Super Metroid?

I am an open-minded person who has a passion for video games and loves to try out new things. I hail from the city of champions, Pittsburgh, PA, and wouldn’t have it any other way. I also enjoy meeting new people, interesting conversations, and living life to the fullest.

I first tried my hand at Metroid many years ago on the NES. I am guessing around 1987 or 88 I got Metroid and even as a child I was enraptured by the free roaming gameplay along with the graphics and sound. I recall as a child having much difficulty completing a lot of the tasks the original game required. At many points in the game, I used other means to accomplish certain tasks. For example, to get the Varia Suit, one would need to acquire the High Jump Boots. However, I was able to figure out if I could get a flying monster to follow me through a small passage, I could freeze the monster in place and make the jump to get the Varia Suit.

SS: On Nintendo Week you mentioned Super Metroid was your favorite game. Please share a few memories of the game you have.

When Super Metroid came out, I was elated to say the least. The concept to return to the original planet had me rife with anticipation. Aside from the obvious huge upgrade in graphics and sound, the story was a bit more fleshed out in Super Metroid. As I started playing Super Metroid and traveled down through the very familiar corridors, got the Morph Ball power up, got the Missiles, and shot at the roof to the right of the elevator from Crateria only to find out the Energy Tank from the original game was present, I was filled with a nostalgic joy that could not be matched. Each step I took further into Super Metroid, the smile on my face grew. I knew I was playing a true masterpiece.

It was New Year’s Eve 1994~95, while everyone was preparing to celebrate the New Year, I made my first trip to Tourian. I could feel the urgency as I fought through the area, jumping each time I saw a Metroid come at me. I encountered the baby Metroid and did not know it was the hatchling until it saved my life. I got to the area right near Mother Brain and destroyed the very familiar power supply veins and blasted Mother Brain with Missiles, watching the glass shatter around her with an eerily real sound effect.

The sound stopped, the area started to explode, and Mother Brain fell to the ground. I felt triumphant. Just then, amidst my feeling of accomplishment, Mother Brain arose from the ground with a new body, opened her single eye, and yelled at me. I fought for what seemed like days until the Metroid hatchling came to my rescue. I was completely taken back by what happened after that.

I knew from that moment what my favorite video game was. I didn’t make the decision to speedrun Super Metroid until 2005. The idea came about while playing through the game one day while a friend watched me. I played through the game so many times just for fun I never really had to try doing anything special. The original record I held was just my average playthrough.

SS: Your time seems mighty impressive Lee! It can’t have been easy for you to get to that standard straight away. How much practice did you have to put into your run before you were confident enough to set a time for the game?

As I stated before, playing through Super Metroid was never much of a chore for me. I think my first completion was around 8 hours with roughly a 56% item collection percentage. Even after defeating Mother Brain, it was clear there was much more to Super Metroid than what I had seen so far. Without question, I was eager to get back into the planet Zebes and do more exploring.

I started to do some granular exploration with the X-Ray Scope, examining each block for secrets. Early in the new millennium, I was able to locate the final items I was missing. One of them was located in a lava pit in Norfair and the other was to the right of the Energy Tank in Maridia in the room with the big turtles.

Even after locating all the items in the game, I still played Super Metroid here and there. I then started to get certain items early to keep my flow through the game smooth. Getting Power Bombs before fighting Kraid is a good example. This allowed me to get the Missile Expansion instead of having to return to that area at a later time.

In early 2005, I started to get a flow going in Super Metroid where I could get all the items and beat the game with confidence. It was at this point a friend of mine made the comment that I play through the game quite quickly and it was quite a sight to behold. At this point, I started looking into doing a speedrun. I read up on the rules of the speedrun, current speedruns, and any tips I could find to help me make my run quicker. The only additional trick I learned at this point was the Mockball trick, which is jumping and rolling into a ball in a way to conserve your forward momentum. I use that trick once in my speedrun to access Super Missiles early in the game.

SS: So when you’re not playing Metroid games, what else do you enjoy doing? What are your hobbies and interests?

When I am not playing through my favorite game Super Metroid, I enjoy many things like building and racing high performance cars. I like to do things outdoors such as camping, hiking, cycling, and going for long walks. I also enjoy visiting and hanging out at The Gamemasters Realm in Hopewell, PA. At The Gamemasters Realm, gaming is a way of life. My hobby is collecting video games and consoles. I currently own nine game consoles ranging from the NES to the Xbox 360. When I get an urge to play a classic game, say Shining Force, I like being able to pull out the system and game and play it till my heart is content.

SS: You recently appeared on Nintendo Week, an entertainment and news series on the Nintendo Channel for Wii. How were you approached to appear on it and what was it like taking part and discussing your speedrunning skills?

I was first told about Nintendo Week through a good friend of mine and owner of The Gamemasters Realm Brian. Nintendo Week contacted Brian and he in turn contacted me and told me about how they wanted me to be on the show. Brian even went out of his way to set up a video conference with the director and me, which was held at The Gamemasters Realm.

Going on Nintendo Week was nothing less than one of the best experiences of my life! Everyone there was so kind and helpful. I got to sit down and play Super Metroid and share my love for the game and show off some tips and tricks. Being a big fan of the show, meeting Gary and Allison was really cool, along with everyone else who helps to make that show so entertaining. It was a wonderful experience and I was sad it had to end.

SS: There is a possibility that some of our users may want to try and speedrun some Metroid games themselves. Do you have any tips or advice for wannabe speedrunners, and what type of experience do you think they will gain from a speedrun, rather than a normal playthrough?

When approaching Super Metroid, or any game in general, my best suggestion is to take your time and really get to know the game well. I played Super Metroid over and over through the better part of 10 years, off and on. I never really had to try hard to play the game fast, just exploring the game and having fun the speed came naturally.

As far as Super Metroid is concerned, wall jumping is the trick to know. If you can hold Samus against a wall while using the wall to keep yourself in the air, then you are off to a good start. Know how the map is laid out and avoid rooms you do not need to access. Much like anything else in life, practice, practice, practice will get you far.

SS: Metroid: Other M is about to be released worldwide and you made it clear on Nintendo Week that you were looking forward to the game. What are your hopes and expectations for this latest addition to the series?

I am eagerly awaiting the release of Metroid: Other M. I am looking forward to seeing how Samus’ back-story is fleshed out and how it fits into the over all mythos of the Metroid universe. The Metroid games thus far have not had too much story, but there is a very nice story involved with the series. I have great faith in the guys at Nintendo and Team Ninja, that they will do an amazing job on the game.

Another thing I can’t wait to check out is the throw back to 2-D gaming with the newest version of Metroid. The game still looks to be in 3-D; however, the camera is done in a way it seems to be a 2-D game. Holding the Wii-mote sideways and being able, at anytime, to go into first-person by pointing the controller at the screen is going to be tons of fun.

SS: Your record speedrun for Super Metroid was beaten by Brandon D Moore on the July 1st 2010 by an impressive nine minutes. Do you have any plans to take back the record and earn yourself that number one spot?

I was very excited to see someone had beaten my record in Super Metroid. My record at 1 hour and 22 minutes was done with just my normal play through which I had been doing for years. I never had the intentions to set the bar very high because I don’t want anyone who is considering a speedrun through Super Metroid to be discouraged. Super Metroid is a game that should be enjoyed by all.

That being said, I’ve been working on a better run through the game. I am shooting for a 1 hour flat run with 100% item collection. When that will be I am unsure, but I plan to take back the title before the end of the year. I am very pleased to see others are picking up this classic and enjoying the game as much as I do.

SS: Thanks for taking the time to speak to us Lee, it’s been very interesting to hear about your experiences. Do you have any closing comments to make?

Thank you very much for taking the time to read what I have to say about Metroid and my life. It does sound a bit corny, but always follow your dreams. You never know what the future holds. Always keep your eyes on the prize and keep on gaming everyone!

Shinesparkers would like to thank Lee Garasich for the interview and wish him the best of luck in taking back his speedrun title!

© 2010 Darren Kerwin and Lee Garasich
Interviewed on 9th September 2010