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Kazuhisa Hashimoto, creator of the famous ‘Konami Code,’ has died aged 61

 

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The Konami Code was first implemented in shooting game Gradius in 1986 and later in the game Contra, Games that were famous for they're difficulty. Hashimoto was responsible for converting the game (Gradius) from arcade to the Famicom/Nintendo Entertainment System console, but found the game too hard to beat, so he created the code to give himself more lives. When the game finally shipped to homes, it turned out he forgot to remove the code altogether.
 

Knowing the code meant you were armed with powerful information. There was no commercial Internet in the 1980s. To know the code, you had to know someone who knew, or at least subscribed to a print magazine that told you how to do it.

 

Thanks to Hashimoto, it’s now standard practice and worth the effort to punch in his famous sequence of buttons — you never know what you’re going to get. More than 30 years later, it’s the code that keeps on giving. It was more than a video game cheat code. It became a meme among anyone involved with computer software and information technology.

 

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RIP. At 61 years old, he died too young. Given all the other games he was involved in at Konami, I'm not sure what I think about the fact that he became best known for the Konami code, but I guess there are worse ways to be remembered.

 

I take issue with the basic narrative regarding the Konami code itself, though. A lot of places are reporting that Hashimoto forgot to remove the code, but a few interviews with the man himself imply that maybe it's more like it turned out he "forgot" to remove it.

 

I'm in the early stages of a side project about the Ganbare Goemon series, so I've been reading some interviews with Konami developers, and there is one interview in particular about Konami during the Famicom’s early days where he explains how the code got there: [Spoilered for length.]

 

Spoiler

Hashimoto: As Famicom development gathered steam, little by little we got more professional designers, but from the start there were very few people in charge of planning. In general, it was like people brought concepts from the arcade division and we had contests to develop ideas from those concepts. (Laughs.) It was normal for Famicom games to be made in about 4 to 6 months with a group of about 4 people, and this was very much the status quo until the time came to develop for the Super Famicom. You know, my first game, Hyper Olympics [Track and Field outside Japan], took two of us, a programmer and a designer, half a year to develop. Gradius took less than six months with a group of four people. Hyper Olympics could be really rough on regular Famicom controllers, so we got a special controller made for testing. As for Gradius, we were ordered, “Port it!” so we went about it in a very practical way. Or, I should say, the Famicom hardware was overwhelmingly limited in how many sprites you could put on the screen, so we had no choice but to be practical. (Laughs.) “OK, this should go up to here!” That’s how we made the game. I had one person who worked under me, and he was really into arcade games. The arcade version of Gradius is really hard, you know. I was not that familiar with the game, so clocking the game was naturally impossible for me. That’s why I inserted the Konami code into the game.

 

Umezaki: Yeah, that code. What is the origin of the Konami code?

 

Hashimoto: No, no, there’s nothing to it, really. (Laughs.) After all, I was the one that set the difficulty level (laughs), so I made the code easy for me to remember. The development period was about six months, and at that time it was fun to build a program, as it was sort of like a puzzle. I got a feeling like, could I be able to insert a cypher into the code while building the program? But the arcade version of Gradius was so commercially successful that I got some really disparaging complaints about it. The head office had really high hopes for the game and placed an order for one million units, but Gradius ended up selling only about 500-600 thousand copies. [Translator’s note: Legend has it that the president of Konami himself was furious about the the port’s underwhelming sales; eventually, total sales for the Famicom port of Gradius would total approximately 1 million.] Conversely, not that much was expected of Goonies, but it sold nearly a million.

 

At that time, there was a trend to have hidden characters in games that had nothing to do with the games. We slipped in three or four UFOs and other characters in Hyper Olympics, and the same thing happened with Goonies. At that time, everyone was putting the characters in really easy-to-spot places, where everyone would expect them to appear. Well, I think that the hidden codes in Xevious made a big impression on me. Which reminds me: I remember I was playing Dragon Quest while we were making the game. I was also really into Zelda on the Famicom Disk System [the original Legend of Zelda], and would play the game deep into the night. (Laughs.)


(My translation.)

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I always felt this code wasn't really known here till recently. Mainly because the NES really wasn't popular here but due to the internet it's sort of retroactively become the code we all know and love. I think the british equivalent would have to be up, down, left, right, A+Start from sonic the hedgehog.

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On 27/02/2020 at 11:23, Ketchup said:

I always felt this code wasn't really known here till recently. Mainly because the NES really wasn't popular here but due to the internet it's sort of retroactively become the code we all know and love. I think the british equivalent would have to be up, down, left, right, A+Start from sonic the hedgehog.

For me it would be down, R, up, L, Y,B,X,A. 

 

Not Konami though - Capcom

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Street Fighter II World Warrior (play as same characters).

 

Still remember it!

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