I’m not ashamed to admit, that when the SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom remake was announced last year, I rehydrated my face with real tears of joy. I’m a huge fan, so I was even more excited when earlier today Nintendo casually dropped the release date. A new infographic detailing all of the Switch games coming in 2020 revealed that Rehydrated comes out May 24!
Coincidentally, earlier this month I was able to chat with SHiFT. He is arguably the biggest speedrunner for the original Battle for Bikini Bottom. He began speedrunning the game in 2016 -- when it had only been on the market for 13 years -- and is one of the current foremost experts and tutorial creators. Among other things, I was able to learn his origin story in the speedrunning community, and he gave me his thoughts on SpongeBob: Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated.
Titus: So the main game you have chosen to speedrun is SpongeBob Battle for Bikini Bottom. What made you choose this title in particular?
SHiFT: I didn’t get into Battle for Bikini Bottom because I wanted to start speedrunning, I started speedrunning because I wanted to play Battle for Bikini Bottom. When I did my first run, I didn’t even know what Livesplit or any of the common tools people use were. I just used an iPhone timer and looked for the leaderboards after I finished a run.
Speedrunning wasn’t something I had considered trying when I discovered a run of the game on YouTube. It reminded me that the game exists, so I decided to play through it for fun, and try to learn some of the tricks afterward to see if I could pull any of them off. I had so much fun learning them, that I eventually decided I should just try to do a full run of the game with the stuff I learned, which became my first speedrun.
You’ve been playing the original SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom for years -- what are your thoughts on the Rehydrated remake so far?
I was able to play it during my trip to Purple Lamp Studios, and also give my feedback to the developers. I think their design philosophy is on the right track so far. The game has a lot of potential, if the hopes and wishes of the fans are fully realized in the final version. However I can’t speak for whether that’s the case, because I played it a while back when it was still in alpha.
So you were able to play it! Were there any changes you thought they needed to make?
We have to first establish that it’s not a repaint and upscale. It’s a full remake from the ground up, on Unreal Engine 4. So it’s not really a matter of changing things, other than level design and maybe some casual mechanics. It’s going to be a very different game as far as speedrunning goes. I think it’s going to shed light on just how fortunate we are to have as good a speedrun as the original.
There are so many things that go into our current runs that just won’t be there in the remake. Sure, it will have different strategies, but it will for sure make it obvious that the speedrun of the original is a product of many years of optimization.
Are Purple Lamp at least considering trying to recreate any exploits from the original SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom into Rehydrated?
Last I heard they are on the fence with trying to recreate Cruise Boosting, but it had been acknowledged that it’s a popular fan request. They’re not opposed to it. I would personally love to see it happen, because it will allow some fun and flashy movement in a SpongeBob game other than the original, while still being a very different game due to the absence of the hundreds of original glitches on the new engine.
Good to hear that they are taking fan opinions into account. So, why should people care about the Rehydrated remake? From the perspective of a speedrunner, or a casual player.
People should care because it’s the first full remake from the ground up ever done for a licensed game. Especially since it’s been over 16 years since the game came out. It was 100% made possible by the resurgence of the community surrounding the original, which is extremely unusual and perhaps unprecedented.
I think speedrunners will have fun hunting for new tricks in the remake. There’s no telling how much people will enjoy running it, but to me it seems like the developers are just trying to develop it into a solid 3D platformer. We’ll just have to see what happens when it’s out. I can see a lot of people from the original community giving it a chance, as it seems just about everyone is excited for it.
In my experience, people are often confused when they learn the game is being remade, and that the original is popular to begin with. At your last GDQ run the announcer seemed skeptical when telling people what game was up next. Do you think a non-fan would enjoy the game, whether it be the original or the remake?
A non-fan will enjoy the original because it’s a great 3D platformer. Because I haven’t played the remake in its finished form, I can’t say much for that though. It seems like that one is headed in the right direction, but it’s not a complete game yet.
The game has always been a cult classic, it sold several million copies. I believe the announcer was skeptical because it wasn’t a well-known game in the speedrunning community beforehand. It was a very popular game when it was released. A platinum hit on all consoles. But the passage of time left it forgotten by a lot of people, and there was previously no organized group on the internet to keep it alive.
What is some advice you would give to new players trying to get into SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom for the first time this year, whether it’s the original or Rehydrated?
For casuals, I think it’s worth playing the original first if you have the means of doing so. If not, definitely at least play the remake.
For speedrunners, if you like the speedrun of the original, don’t wait for the remake to get into speedrunning. The remake will be a completely different run with its own strats. If you want to get into speedrunning the original, use the tutorial videos that I upload to my YouTube channel. I’m currently working on a fully comprehensive any% tutorial with over 60 play-testers, to make sure it’s the best learning experience yet.