Cutscenes (known internally as "cinematics") are scripted sequences in which the camera is changed, often to show something of significance (but not always). While a cutscene is active, the player has no control over Samus, and the in-game timer is stopped. Depending on the game and the specific cutscene, it may or may not be possible to skip the cutscene by pressing the Start button.
Cutscenes are composed of multiple objects operating in sequence:
- Camera: The most basic of the objects, changes the position of the camera.
- PlayerActor: Clone of Samus for the purpose of being used in a cutscene.
- CameraWaypoint: Instructs where the camera should go. Note that these are not exclusively used in cutscenes.
- CameraFilterKeyframe: Responsible for effects such as fade in or out from back, placing black bars on top/bottom of screen, etc.
- CameraBlurKeyframe: Responsible for blurring effects.
- ActorKeyframe: Responsible for all actions involving cutscene actors, including clones of Samus.
- SequenceTimer: Sends messages to other script objects with precise timing. Introduced in Echoes.
Orchestrating these cutscenes are Relays and Timer objects which will be scattered across the room. Every single object composing a cutscene physically exists in the bounds of the room, but is invisible and untouchable.
In Metroid Prime, whether or not you can skip a cutscene is dependent on the cutscene itself. Cutscenes are hand crafted by chaining together relays, timers, etc. This applies to both the cutscenes, and also the cutscene skips. Whatever state the cutscene was in had to be manually cleaned up before gameplay could resume. As such, not all cutscenes are skippable.
This was changed in Metroid Prime 2: Echoes and onwards, where all cutscenes are skippable. This even includes sequences with dialogue, as long as you have seen them before. This is because of the introduction of the SequenceTimer, which acts like a central sequential event manager. Because of the ease of development this brings, cutscenes in these games tend to have much more complicated layers or scripting.
There are certain applications for skipping cutscenes in a speedrun setting. For example, in Echoes, when going through one of the Controller Access rooms (such as Torvus Controller Access), it is faster to skip the cutscene just as it's about to end. This allows for the room to fully load while still in the cutscene, saving a small amount of in-game time. There are also situations where not skipping a cutscene is faster. In Prime 1, in the room Sunchamber, when getting the Artifact of Wild, it loses over half a second to skip the cutscene, due to the fact that Samus is not able to move immediately as the cutscene ends. If the cutscene plays out naturally, it saves over half a second because Samus will be able to move immediately when it ends. Some cutscenes like Phendrana Shorelines in Prime 1 will reposition you, but only if you watch the full cutscene without skipping.
There are some situations where it's possible to get cutscenes to overlap with each other. In some cases, it is possible to achieve this with Infinite Speed. This is usually achieved by triggering two separate events at once, such as in Sunchamber by grabbing the artifact at the same time the cutscene that occurs after killing the Chozo Ghosts plays. In Prime 1, this can let you skip an unskippable cutscene by overlapping a skippable cutscene onto one. Doing so can allow Samus to regain control during a cutscene playing. Most notably, this can be seen in Chapel of the Elders when overlapping the Wave Beam cutscene with the fight starting, and skipping immediately. TODO: Go into more detail, info on Sanctuary Entrance cutscene overlap.
Interrupting Cutscene Scripting
By interrupting a cutscene mid-script, it is possible to stop any cutscene during any sequence. This has strange effects such as leaving the PlayerActor visible and still animated as the sequence that would ordinarily hide it is skipped by ending the cutscene early. Ordinarily the method of doing this is by using Infinite Speed to overlap a skippable cutscene onto a non-skippable cutscene. This lets you skip the normally unskippable cutscene anywhere in its sequence. This is only possible in Prime 1 before the introduction of the SequenceTimer, which will automatically run through the entire sequence properly before exiting.
To interrupt a cutscene mid-script in Echoes or beyond, only one method is currently known. To interrupt the SequenceTimer, it has to be unloaded. This poses a problem as unloading it ends the cutscene altogether, not allowing any interesting effects within Prime 1. To get around this, it is required to unload a cutscene on the frame you get repositioned elsewhere. Samus cannot move during cutscenes however, and so the only way to accomplish this is through proximity unloading. By being in the Aether out of bounds, Samus will continue to slowly float upwards during a cutscene. By keeping the game on the wrong room and timing the proximity unload to occur the same frame the game repositions you, it is possible to interrupt the cutscene mid script. This has extremely odd effects. The game is stuck trying to reload the room and will place you wherever your repositioned to with the cutscene having stopped on that frame. This can let you access cutscene only layers of bosses and other rooms where cutscenes are much more complicated and interesting. Because this can only be done on the frame you reposition, interrupting cutscenes is very limited in its scope. Applications of this have yet to be explored much as a result.
Actionable Cutscene Bug
While Samus cannot normally move during cutscenes, there exists a bug exclusive to Prime 1 that allows for this among other side effects to be achieved. This is known as the Actionable Cutscene Bug, and it allows for certain inputs to be repeated while a cutscene is active. This can happen in the following conditions:
- The player does an input on the frame before a cutscene starts.
- On the frame directly after, the Start button is pressed to immediately skip the cutscene. Both of these inputs are frame perfect.
Naturally, this can only be done on cutscenes that can be skipped. This can have different effects depending on the action being taken:
- Boost Ball: Can be held during the cutscene to charge. If B is not held after the cutscene ends, it will immediately Boost.
- Charge Beam: Can start charging during a cutscene.
- Morph Ball: Morphing or unmorphing will cause Samus to constantly transition to morph/unmorphed state every single frame, creating a "flicker" effect.
- Morph Ball Bomb: Can lay a bomb during a cutscene and be hit by it after the cutscene ends.
- Power Bomb: Can lay a power bomb during a cutscene.
- Scan Visor: Can scan given scan points during a cutscene.
- Switching Beams: Can switch beams during a cutscene, eliminating the time spent having to wait for it to be ready before it can be used. This saves time when getting the Ice Beam and Plasma Beam.
- The L Button: Pressing L while walking into a cutscene will cause Samus to move while the cutscene is active. Due to the nature of the way this bug works, she won't be walking at maximum speed. However, you can go in any direction.
- If Samus is locked onto a target, the only frame perfect input required to perform this bug is the Start press to skip the cutscene.
- X-Ray Visor: This takes away the negative filter that is normally applied when selected, resulting in an otherwise normal view with a strong white fog surrounding Samus.
The results are equivalent to if the respective action was done on each frame while the cutscene is active. Because this bug requires that the cutscene be skippable, this makes its usage limited. There are additional restrictions if the cutscene repositions Samus. If a cutscene repositions Samus, her facing angle and morph state will both be fixed.
While technically RTA viable, this bug allows for small amounts of time mainly to be saved for Tool-Assisted Speedruns across the entire game. Time save comes from being able to move during the cutscenes themselves and the ability to switch immediately to the Ice and Plasma Beams during their pickup cutscenes.