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I've tried to cut all the corners, sprint for just those 21 extra HP the trip straight to the cave spares me and everything, I've dashed through the map to the boss fight but I always run out of time.

Given that this can be done without rewinding time and doing so is necessary to get the Barely title — how can you actually pull this off?

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The shield you buy in the southmost town is not optional and skipping it wastes more time than it saves. As the game says at some point, shields are necessary to absorb critical hits; in this particular level this means reducing the amount of knockback you get from the final boss.

Dash to the south town past the bridge, buy herbs for the fight if you want and buy the shield. Dash to the castle and you'll make it (more or less) barely in time.

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The key thing for me was dashing during battles, specifically in the cave to get to the chest (to be safe I'd keep at least 4HP when leaving the cave) and in the final battle between the lord and his minions. You should have plenty (a couple seconds) of time to spare; aim to cross the bridge with about 11s left. – Sumudu Fernando Mar 13 '13 at 5:30

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