The Konami Code | Gaming Historian

The Konami Code | Gaming Historian


Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A. The Konami Code is the most famous cheat codee of all time. But there’s more than that. First used in 1986, the code has appear in over 100 video games. It’s been referenced on TV shows, and has been an easter egg in a few… …unexpected places. In short, The Konami Code has become more than just a cheat code. It has become a part of the pop culture lexicon. So what’s the story behind this famous code? Let’s take a look. It all started at video game developer, Konami, in 1985. Kazuhisa Hashimoto was part of a small team working to port the arcade game, Gradius, to the Famicom/Nintendo Entertainment System. Gradius is a classic side-scrolling shoot-’em-up. In it, the player controls the Vic Viper spaceship, which you must protect from alien attackers. As you fly through space, you try to collect capsules, which grant you access to more powerful weapons. It’s a tough game, and Kazuhisa Hashimoto wasn’t great at it, and that presented a big problem. He needed to play through the entire game to check for bugs, but he couldn’t beat the game. So, he created a cheat code: Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A. By pausing the game and entering the code, it game him a full set of power-ups, which he desperately needed to complete the game and finish testing. He said he chose the famous combination of button presses because it was easy to remember. When Gradius was released in 1986 for the Famicom/NES, the cheat code still worked. Why it worked is up for debate. Some say that the code was left in by accident. Others say that Konami liked the code and kept it in intentionally. Either way, the code worked, and several of Hashimoto’s coworkers put the code into their own games as they ran them through testing. Although the Konami code was first introduced in Gradius, it didn’t really become widespread knowledge until a few years later, when the code appeared in the NES port for Contra, in 1988. By entering the Konami code at the title screen, players could increase their lives from three, to thirty. This was extremely helpful, as Contra is not an easy game. But how did people find out about the Konami code? It’s possible that some people discovered it organically, but there’s no doubt that Nintendo blew the lid off it when they wrote about the Code in the inaugural issue of Nintendo Power. Nintendo Power’s first issue came out in the summer of 1988. On a page marked ‘Classified Information’, they shared the code and wrote, “this trick will give you all the help you need to defeat the Aliens.” Afterward, the Konami Code also became known as the ‘Contra Code’, or the ’30 Lives Code’. It went on to appear in Konami games and non-Konami games too. What it does depends on the game. In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, using the Konami Code at the title screen nets you two extra continues. In Tengen Tetris, entering the Code drops a long Tetromino. In Castlevania Bloodlines, it unlocks Expert Mode, which you normally have to unlock by beating the game. It doesn’t always help, though. Sometimes the developers teased us with the Code. If you enter the code in Kid Dracula for the Famicom, you’ll get a message saying, “Too bad, there’s nothing here!” In Metal Gear Solid 2, entering the code causes Snake to question your decision. [Snake] What do you think you’re doing? [Gaming Historian] The Konami Code has appeared in more than 100 video games, far too many to list here, but what makes the code a pop culture fixture, is the fact that it crossed over into other genres. It was a joke on Family Guy. It unlocks colorful raining dots on Buzzfeed.com. It’s the name of a song by The Ataris, and it plays a key role in the movie, Wreck It Ralph. Years ago, when you entered the code on ESPN.com, sparkly unicorns and rainbows filled the screen. Entering the code on Facebook created a lens flair effect. It was also a question on the game show, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? The contestant didn’t know about the Konami Code, though. The mistake cost him $7 thousand dollars. More recently, the Bank of Canada got in on the fun. If you enter the code on its webpage celebrating their new $10 bill, Oh Canada plays and fireworks shoot off. So as you can see, the Konami Code has firmly entrenched itself in video game and pop culture. It may have debuted in Gradius by mistake, but I think we can all agree that as far as mistakes go, this was a pretty good one. That’s all for this episode of the Gaming Historian. Thanks for watching. Funding for Gaming Historian is provided in part by supporters on Patreon. Thank you.

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