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Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Start Turns 27 Years Old

By Kevin on Apr 25 2013 02:20 AM

Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start!
Twenty-seven years ago today, a legend in gaming was born. This was no ordinary legend, however. This legend — summoned by a sequence of eleven quick button presses on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) controller — gave new life to the player wielding it. Known as the "Konami Code," "Contra Code," and even the "30 Lives Code" amongst Nintendo fans worldwide, the Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start button sequence will forever be ingrained in our memory.

The history behind it is rather simple. On Friday, April 25th, 1986, Gradius for the Nintendo Famicom (NES in North America and Europe) was released in Japan. Gradius is a side-scrolling shooter developed and published by Konami. Compared to the Famicom version, the arcade version was significantly more difficult. The developers needed a way to factor that in to the home console version. One of the main developers for the game, Kazuhisa Hashimoto, was interviewed (below) about a year ago and revealed the history behind the legendary code.

Not only has the Konami Code been used by gamers all over the world, but also in comedy cartoon Family Guy, by announcers during a real-life wrestling match, and even Disney's recent new movie Wreck-It Ralph. If you want a good read, check out the following interview. If you're not much for reading, skip to the end of the article and watch the video that pays due tribute to the legendary code.

Kazuhisa Hashimoto: Game developer and Creator of the Konami Code. He joined Konami in 1981.
Shigeharu Umezaki: Executive Vice President and General Manager of production at Konami Computer Entertainment. He joined Konami in 1983.

Umezaki: What’s the story behind the Konami Code, anyway?
Hashimoto: There isn’t one, really. *laughing* Because I was the one who was going to be using it, I made sure it was easy to remember. The game took around half a year to develop, and, at the time, putting the code together was like an entertaining puzzle. “How on earth am I going to be able to fit these passwords into the program?” I’d ask myself. Gradius saw an incredibly poor reception, however. *laughing* The company made almost 1,000,000 copies in anticipation of its release, but we were only able to sell 500,000 ~ 600,000. On the other hand, games like The Goonies, which we didn’t expect to sell well at all, sold close to a million. Back then, hidden characters were all the rage. I put 3 or 4 UFOs and the like in Track & Field and The Goonies had some too. I’d put them in really easy-to-find places, where anyone might expect them to be hidden. I think I was heavily influenced by the hidden commands in Xevious. I also have memories of playing Dragon Quest while making the game. Not to mention playing the FDS version of Zelda late into the night. *laughing*

Umezaki: That’s right. Making games was always fun, but playing them was even better. *laughing* I still play, but back then I was addicted to Dragon Quest. Aoyama and Hashimoto I took turns playing the copy we bought and finished it in a day. We were really moved by the ending and spontaneously decided that we wanted to put a staff roll in one of our games, too. When we were trying to decide what sort of title we should attach our names to, we all pretty much agreed that it should be something that valued technology over substance and started researching possibilities in-house soon after. The FDS was reputed to have a large memory capacity.
Hashimoto: The system’s capacity was around 1 megabit, but if you programmed a game for quick disks it didn’t end up taking that much room, making it easy to develop for. However, reading data obviously went slower compared to ROM cartridges, so you had to take that into careful consideration. The original Ganbare Goemon (Legend of the Mystical Ninja) was the arcade game known as Mr. Goemon, meaning our version was just a port. We turned an arcade game that didn’t sell well into Ganbare Goemon! A Tricky Journey, an original console game.

Umezaki: We expanded the map, anyway. The game’s title was originally “A Tricky Journey”, but because we wanted to keep the name “Goemon” in it and because it wasn’t very catchy, we stuck “Ganbare” in there as well. *laughing* The first game only had one character, but when we adopted two-player simultaneous play for the sequel we chose Ebisumaru (originally localized in North America as Dr. Yang) to be Goemon’s partner. Because there was so much charm and personality in the face of one of the new staff members, we were quick to turn him into a character and put him into the game. That’s when we registered the designs for Goemon and Ebisumaru.
Hashimoto: I was quick to point out that, in my opinion, it would be enough to allow players to simply wander around a large map. At the time, most games with staff rolls attached to them had lots of restrictions in terms of how freely you were able to move about, so I figured it be interesting to have one that just let you run around.

Umezaki: And one where items appeared when you jumped.
Hashimoto: Consequently, I designed the game in such a manner that, even if you sucked at video games, you were eventually able to earn enough money to go into a shop and buy a pass to the next area. That way, anyone could beat it as long as they had enough time on their hands.

Umezaki: There were times when, say, players would have too much freedom and end up somewhere strange, however. The 3D dungeons were also incredibly long.
Hashimoto: Idiots, you’re not supposed to go in there! *laughing* It’s better to just keep playing. In terms of development, the idea of having 2 megabits of memory was absurd. We didn’t have any tools that allowed us to connect the maps together at the time, so I remember manually attaching pieces of paper to each other one by one.

Umezaki: Yeah, that’s right, they were all drawn out on big sheets of graph paper.
Hashimoto: It wasn’t until after that we started using tools to make maps. I really didn’t think the game would ever be finished. That’s when we started getting actual designers joining the company. The development of The Goonies, Castlevania, and Goemon began around the same time. I was too fussy over the design of The Goonies, in particular, and map was pretty small as a result. I was ordered make a hidden stage at the last minute. *laughing* There was nothing else for it, so I changed up the colour palette and made it so you could access the level. “It’s small, so I can do it, right?” I thought to myself as I hammered it out. But from that point onward, I began to understand that we needed to use tools and that if we didn’t change how we did things, game development was going to get really annoying. At the time, the whole process was deeply influenced by how Konami made arcade games. As you might expect, we didn’t have any tools for making big maps, but sprite tools would come to us from the arcade division. That might be part of the reason why companies that produced arcade games were releasing titles with better graphics at the time. The history of video game music was also embedded in arcade gaming. When we were doing NES games, the arcade division already had its own dedicated composer. In addition, our company was right next door to the Osaka College of Music, so we had graduates from there among our employees. *laughing* I know there were some that worked on Contra and the like.

Umezaki: That’s why the sound was always critically praised, regardless of the hardware.
Hashimoto: Yeah. There was a programmer who was part of the sound team, and he took the composer’s tunes and programmed them for use on the NES as well. The sound, at least, was done by a dedicated team.

Umezaki: The Nintendo era was also a time of personal growth for me. Back then, I was able to concentrate all my efforts on programming, which I had no previous experience with when I started off doing NES games, and I gradually began to comprehend its interest.
Hashimoto: I’d have to say that the NES era was the most interesting to me as well. I think I was really happy back then, compared to the young people these days who are making games for current-gen systems such as the PS2. With today’s games being on such a huge scale, you have one person dedicated to making menu screens and another relegated to working on the interface. The days when the programming, planning, and design was done by one person were limited to the Nintendo era. I feel a little bit sorry for people today when I think back to how I was able to influence all the aspects of game design. Even though I’ve gone on to participate in most systems’ launch titles, from Gradius III on the Super Nintendo and Parodius on the PC Engine to games for the PS2, I think I like the Nintendo era the best of all.

Source: GlitterBerri

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Comments: 6

Wow. I remember seeing that in the movie Wreck-it Ralph. Some people where laughing, I didn't realize it was an old cheat. I feel stupid now
This code is so legendary, some have even turned into a plyometrics workout for nerds.

View PostAeonHunter, on 30 April 2013 - 02:02 PM, said:

This code is so legendary, some have even turned into a plyometrics workout for nerds.

Nice find

View PostAeonHunter, on 30 April 2013 - 02:02 PM, said:

This code is so legendary, some have even turned into a plyometrics workout for nerds.

Excellent find! But...what the heck is that dude wearing. That was funny to watch!

EDIT: Never mind. He explained it. Hilarious.
The Vlogbrothers have consistently great content. They've been a favorite channel of mine for years.
I only ever found 1 konami code