We talk about codes a lot in this blog. We’ve discussed codebreaking, hidden messages, encryption, spycraft, and password protection in the past. But we haven’t talked much about another kind of code, the sort that grants secret access to new abilities, powers, and other benefits.
In the video game world, these are commonly known as cheat codes. There are various famous ones from different eras of gaming, but one code stands head and shoulders above the rest: the Konami Code.
[Image courtesy of Newegg.]
Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start.
Ubiquitous in the 1980s and 1990s, the Konami Code was named for Konami, the video game publisher whose games utilized this code. It was first used in the Nintendo version of the arcade game Gradius in 1986, giving the player the full set of power-ups (rather than forcing the player to earn them throughout the game).
You see, the video game designer and producer working on converting the game, Kazuhisa Hashimoto, found the game too difficult to play during his testing phase. He then created a cheat code to make the game easier, allowing him to complete his testing. The code he chose became known as the Konami Code.
It’s most famously associated with the game Contra, a side-scrolling platformer that pitted Rambo-inspired heroes against an invading alien force. The game was famously difficult because one hit could kill you, and you only had three lives for the entire game. Entering the Konami Code granted the player 30 lives and a much greater chance of success.
(I, of course, could beat it without the Konami Code. But this article isn’t about me and my old-school video game wizardry.)
The code became part of video game pop culture, continuing to appear not only in Konami games, but all sorts of other games, up through the modern day. Often with different results.
In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time, you got extra lives. But if you used it in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, it would unlock a playable version of Spider-Man. If you use the code in Assassin’s Creed 3, a turkey will wear the character’s famous hood, weirdly enough.
The code has transcended gaming as well, not only becoming the name of a famous wrestler’s gaming-centric YouTube channel, but appearing everywhere from Family Guy and Wreck-It Ralph to Dance Dance Revolution and Rocket League.
It even allows for a bit of festive fun on the website for Bank of Canada. On the page revealing the new $10 bank note, inputting the code hilariously activates a rain of money-confetti and plays the Canadian National Anthem.
Sadly, the reason that I’ve got the Konami Code on my mind today is that Kazuhisa Hashimoto passed away this week. The veteran game designer was 61 years old, and after being hired by the company in his twenties, spent nearly 30 years working for Konami, first on coin-operated games and later on console titles.
There’s not a huge amount of information readily available about Hashimoto or his life outside the world of video games. In fact, some articles about Hashimoto claim he was 79 years old at the time of his death. And the one photo I can find that’s attributed to him appears to be a picture of Star Trek actor George Takei instead.
We here at PuzzleNation mourn the loss of this influential designer and contributor to pop culture. May both his games and his famous code live on as fine, smile-inducing examples of his hard work and playful nature.
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