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Late to the Game(s): Up, up, down, down…

Reflecting on the impact of Konami and their code

By: Jeremy D. Wells

Carter County Times

If you played games in the 80s, or if you spent any time really geeking out about gaming at all, you’re probably familiar with the Konami code. The code – up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, Start (or Select) – is practically shorthand for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) generation of video game consoles that ushered in gaming as we know it today. The code, and variations on it, has been used as a “cheat” in multiple games since it first showed up in Konami games on the NES. 

I first used the Konami code on Contra, where it granted you 30 lives right at the start of the game. With that cheat in hand my cousin and I fought our way through level after level of human enemies, tanks, and aliens to beat the game. Without the cheat (I honestly needed it worse than my cousin did) we’d have never been able to progress all the way through the game. With it, even less talented gamers like me could feel invincible. 

Though I first used it on Contra, the code actually originated with a port of the arcade shooter Gradius. The developer working on the port found it too difficult to play the game during testing without all of the power-ups so he inserted the code as a pause screen option, choosing a series of inputs that would have been impossible to randomly achieve, that gave him all of the bells and whistles. 

He planned to remove the cheat before the game was shipped, but didn’t do so. Worried that removing it at the last minute could lead to game-breaking bugs, they decided to leave it in. The rest, as they say, is history. 

Versions of the code have been in various Gradius games, as well as the Contra, Castlevania, Silent Hill, and Metal Gear series, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games, and other Konami produced games. It’s become so iconic it’s also been used elsewhere by other game and tech companies. 

So, you can understand the dismay of gamers when earlier this month it was announced that Konami – known in the west for video games but a multi faceted company in Asia with properties ranging from anime to trading cards to pachinko and even fitness – was shutting down its video gaming divisions. Gamers were shocked and dismayed. Some of Konami’s properties, like Castlevania and Metal Gear, have still been producing games in their series regularly over the years – at least until the last generation – and still have huge followings. 

Thankfully, though, it turns out the claims of gaming division closures were just rumors. While the company is going through some reorganization and restructuring, which included the closure and merger of three existing gaming divisions, the company has assured fans that the statement released to investors does not mean that the company is closing their video game division. 

While we haven’t seen any of those iconic Metal Gear, Castlevania, Contra or Silent Hill games so beloved by fans of the company since the PS3/Xbox 360 era, with Konami focusing mostly on Pro Evolution Soccer and Yuh-Gi-Oh over the past generation, the possible return of those franchises in the PS5/Xbox Series X era – and the well known cheat code with them – isn’t off the table after all. 

That’s something we can all “up-up-down-down-left-right-left-right-B-A” cheer about. 

Contact the writer at editor@cartercountytimes.com

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