If you remember that code, you’ll certainly remember others you’ve used before.
Cheats have existed as long as the games industry has, but in a time of monetisation and DLC, they’ve become less about fun and more about profit.
In over half of the games released during the 90’s, there were button combinations, and when done right, they would unlock or show a screen where you could select any level in the game, or even place objects that belong to that level, and try to edit it as you saw fit.
You could even be invincible or spawn (make appear) a weapon or ability that you don’t receive until much later in the game. It could be Sonic 1’s level select, or Contra’s well known ‘Konami Code’, and you could instantly be given infinite lives or continues to help you through Contra or Sonic 1. Or you could just make Lara explode in Tomb Raider II.
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The last cheat code above is known as the ‘Konami Code’, and appeared in the first ‘Gradius’ game in 1985. Using it on the title screen would give the player all of the strongest weapons, whereas with Konami’s ‘Contra’, it would give the player 30 lives from the start.
Nearly 30 years since it’s first appearance, its popularity has gone from just being present in Konami’s games, to others such as ‘Clockwork Knight’ or ‘Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped.’
Even as a hidden code for a phone.
At a phone shop I once worked at, the Palm Pre had a ‘Konami Code’, which me and a colleague loved. It was a great easter egg to have that would unlock the developer features for emulators and apps not authorised by Palm.
The first three Mortal Kombat games had a unique take on cheat codes, called a ‘Kombat Kode’. These could only be accessed when two players or more were playing. This could enable one character to begin a match with half their health depleted, or the winner could face the final boss, or they could access ‘Pong’.
Part of the fun of cheats wasn’t to have an advantage to beat your friend. The charm of them was to keep the longevity of the game going. You were still paying £40 for a Mega Drive game in 1993, and to have an ability to place objects in the level, or even objects that were left out, and play around with the game’s gravity, was something enjoyable to do and still made the game fun, even if you completed it along with their hidden levels and abilities.
But cheats placed in games weren’t just limited to what the developers put in. ‘Game Genie’ and ‘Xplorer’ were carts or discs in themselves, which would ‘hack’ the game in question, and give the player abilities that wouldn’t be accessed by normal means. You could increase Sonic’s speed or jump height to ridiculous levels, or have multiple weapons fire at once in Tomb Raider III.
Using this method can even lead to early stages that were cut to be played, but in a jumble of glitches and pitfalls such as Sonic 2’s Hidden Palace (mentioned from December.).
When it came to newer games, especially on the PC platform, achievements would be inaccessible if a cheat was used. Half Life 2 for example, if ‘God Mode’ (Invincibility) was used, then as long as that cheat is enabled, it will hold the user back in completing the game fully. Cheats are today’s In App Purchases or DLC, where they can be unlocked for a small fee.
The only company that seems to keep this tradition going is Rockstar Games and Grand Theft Auto V. Cheats are there that add even more fun to the game, such as explosions when a melee attack is performed, along with any firearm used. Along with the ‘invincibility’ and spawning the most powerful vehicles, you can’t use them in ‘GTA Online’ and the achievements are blocked here as well in single-player, but the fun of an exploding punch similar to Ryu in Street Fighter is fun incarnate.
With iOS and the iAP (In App Purchases) you can spend around £5.00 to unlock everything from the start, and this is a huge problem. It takes away the challenge and fun of unlocking everything from scratch. ‘Jetpack Joyride’ is an example of this. It’s a game that’s fun and addictive, and by collecting the coins, you can use them to unlock weapons and vehicles. But if you just want everything, spend some of your hard-earned money, and receive everything from the beginning.
It’s a waste, and sucks the fun out of playing the game a great deal. The fun in a game is the challenge, and the satisfaction when all your time and effort on the game has been worth it.
‘Freemium’ games make this their front and centre feature. You can download the game for free, but you have to keep spending money in order to progress. EA’s remake of ‘Dungeon Keeper’ was a terrible and depressing example of this, alongside remaking all of the art assets to appeal to a younger age range.
The difficulty and reward should come back in all games, but the charm of ‘Debug Mode’ and many others is something that should be available for free. A hidden gem that you only find out from others. Something that’s talked about but is only a myth that grows so much that it must be true. Examples such as a playable ‘Shen Long’ in Street Fighter II or the golden warthog from Halo 2. Not just a pop-up window when you begin a game right away.
It would be great to think that there’s a hidden weapon by either certain button presses, or to achieve in a precise sequence of events that’s in a modern game today.
Even when ‘Halo 5’ is released next year, a ‘Konami Code’ to unlock an out of place Spartan would be great, and a return to this in many more games for the PS4 and Xbox One would be something that I’m sure everyone would love to see.