Here at Cheat Code Central, we’ve spent two decades celebrating the lost art of, well, cheat codes. Inputting codes to unlock secrets, upgrades, and boosts goes back even further, practically to the origins of video games. While most cheat codes come and go, remembered only by internet archives and magazine pages, a few gain cultural notoriety. But only one cheat code has garnered the most fame; that code is the Konami Code. And now is an unfortunate occasion to celebrate the code, as its creator has passed away in 2020. So grab your controllers, boot up some Contra, and let’s pay some respects for Kazuhisa Hashimoto.
Hashimoto was pretty much there from the beginning, since before Konami made video games. Then, now, and possibly forever (barring growing litigation in Japan), Konami’s ultimate cash cow is gambling. Konami’s earliest software was largely coin-operated gambling, such as slot machines. Nowadays it’s all about the pachinko, but a recent return to video games follows some budding regulation. Back then, while Konami’s best programmers stayed on the slot machines, entry-level programmers and designers were learning to code while producing console games.
One such title was Gradius, a Famicom port of a popular arcade shoot ‘em up. While the home version had to be simplified from the arcade original, Gradius was a notoriously difficult game; the console version would certainly prove challenging. Games were made by only a couple people in the NES days, and Hashimoto didn’t feel up to the challenge. So he thought up a simple code he’d be able to remember throughout Gradius’ development.
The code gave Hashimoto instant access to nearly every power-up available all at once. It was a necessary handicap for Hashimoto, but not intended for gamers at home. The code was supposed to be removed before launch, but naturally the version of Gradius that shipped still held the code within its… code. Somehow players discovered the code, and history was made. The Konami Code was a cultural flashpoint for video games. With Contra’s smashing success a bit later, the Konami Code (which granted 30 lives) was cemented as mythology. Konami would use the code for years to come, and other developers would use it too as homage.
Hashimoto went on to be a lifer at Konami, working on titles like Ganbare Goemon, Gungage, and Lethal Enforcers. He wasn’t a huge name at Konami on the level of say, a Hideo Kojima, but he was around for a long time, through multiple console generations. He would eventually climb the corporate ladder, becoming executive president of Star Online. If it wasn’t for the whole Konami Code thing, we probably wouldn’t know Hashimoto by name. Programmers hardly gained credit for their work back in the NES days, with things like staff rolls not even being common practice. And if they were present, sometimes contributors would either get nicknames or initials instead of full credit.
I admit, I wasn’t a child of the Nintendo Entertainment System. I’ve gone back and played the classics, but my memories of Konami aren’t associated with the Konami code. I’m more of a Super Nintendo Konami jingle intro kind of guy. But despite all the hours I logged into Turtles in Time not knowing what the Konami Code was or that it was even a thing, I can still appreciate history. I’ve never been able to dedicate the time to beating Contra with only three lives, and straight up relied on the Konami Code to get through to the end without external cheating. Years later I had fun trying it on various websites, and in random games, just assuming (and sometimes being right!) some coder baked in an easter egg. So to Mr. Hashimoto, without whom we’d never have the Konami Code, I have to say thanks for all the goofy fun. I hope your silly mistake blowing up into a beloved, time-defying meme brought you as much joy as it did everyone else.