RetroVision – The Konami Code

Most retro gamers will know the code off by heart, repeat after me: Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A.  But do you know where it came from, or even how prolific it has become in the gaming world?  Most will know the code from Contra, many may even know it as the ‘Contra Code’.  This was primarily due to its near standard use within in the game, in order to gain the 30 lives needed to survive the Red Falcon’s forces and the game’s punching difficulty.  However, this was not actually its first appearance, far from it.

Gradius for the Famicom. The Konami Code’s 1st appearance

The code was originally created by Konami employee Kazuhisa Hashimoto who ported the Arcade classic Gradius to the Famicom.  During an interview with Japanese gaming magazine Dorimaga, Hashimoto recalled the reasons behind why he created it:

The arcade version of Gradius is really difficult, right? I never played it that much, and there was no way I could finish the game, so I inserted the so-called Konami code (laughs).

Then, when asked by his co-worker for the reason behind programming the code the way he did, Hashimoto simply replied:

There isn’t one, really. I mean, I was the one using it (laughs), so I just put in something I could remember easily.

This use in the Famicom / NES port of Gradius became the code’s first use, granting players a full set of power-ups if entered whilst the game was paused, power-ups that usually have to be gained through normal play.  The code would then go on to famously appear in Contra, becoming famous in turn.  Following this, the Konami code has gone on to appear in over 100 games, with varied results.  From replenishing the player’s life in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Foot Clan, to unlocking alternate outfits by dancing the code in Dance Dance Revolution SuperNova 2, to even tricking the player into destroying themselves in the SNES title Parodius! From Myth to Laughter.  Hideo Kojima even programmed Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty to mock the player for trying to cheat, when the code is entered.

King Candy entering the code in Wreck-It Ralph

The code’s use isn’t even restricted to Konami titles.  In fact a range of both modern and classic games have utilised the code over the years, giving a nod to memories of children of the 80s, and to the code’s position as an integrated part of gaming popular culture.  Borderlands 2Bioshock InfiniteCrash Bandicoot 3: Warped, and even Resident Evil 2. In fact it may be worth just giving the code a go on the next game you decide to play.  It may just open up a hidden Easter Egg.

Beyond games, the code can be found in a variety of unexpected places.  For example entering the code on Vogue UK’s website reveals an array of catwalk velociraptors, and at one point when entered on Marvel’s website it would reveal a squirrel Deadpool.  The code also features in a central role within the gaming inspired Disney film Wreck-It Ralph.  Here the villain, King Candy, utilises the code on a faithfully recreated NES controller in order to hack the game and take control.  The code was even the answer to a question on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

Vogue Konami
Well hatted Velociraptors appear after inputting the code on Vogue UK’s website

So that’s the story of how Hashimoto’s personal code, that he used to survive the difficulty of one 8-bit classic, became such a core part of gaming popular culture.  Hashimoto entered the code because he could remember it easily, and if you plan on challenging much of Konami’s back-catalogue, it’s probably worth remembering this one too.  No doubt we will be featuring it a fair amount within the Cheats section here at Rings & Coins.

Sophia Aubrey Drake

A lifelong gamer with a fanatical love of all things Nintendo and Japan. So much so that she's written a thesis on one and lived in the other. Currently on a quest to catch every last Pokémon. Follow me on twitter via @DivaXChill or @RingsandCoins.

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