Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, Start. Probably the most famous cheat code in video game history. The Konami code has existed in numerous video games (and Wreck-It Ralph) and it can trigger a whole load of features, from extra lives and power-ups to instant death. Cheat codes have been a part of video games for a long time, although they seem to be slowly fazed out, replaced by micro-transactions.
I have used cheat codes in numerous games. My earliest memories are using the level select code in Sonic The Hedgehog on the Sega Mega Drive. I would enter the code and jump straight to Star Light Zone. It was a great way for me to experience the different levels of a game, especially ones I rented. Getting codes at the time could be difficult though. You would have to find them in a magazine or hear about them by word of mouth. It was actually a friend who introduced me to the level code. With word of mouth also came rumours. The most famous one I remember was the nude code for Tomb Raider II. It was everywhere. The code I had heard about turned out to be the Exploding Lara code. I suppose that serves us right.
Cheat codes weren’t just for skipping levels or powering up your characters. In GoldenEye 007 on the Nintendo 64, you could unlock Big Head Mode, Invisible Mode and extra characters in multiplayer. We would use the Invisible code to play “Predator” in multiplayer mode. Of course, people just ended up looking at each other’s screens (another form of cheating).
Of course, not every game had cheat codes. Some required you to play through it to unlock the cheats, characters and powerups. For example, Metal Gear Solid had you save either Meryl or Otacon to unlock an item for your next play through. Save Otacon and you got the awesome stealth suit. Save Meryl and you got the infinite ammo bandana (you can tell which one I preferred). Of course, there were other, more devious methods you could use. Devices such as Action Replay, Xploder or Game Genie allowed you to enter codes that had numerous effects on the game. In Final Fantasy VII, you could give yourself the Master Materias, infinite health and “revive” Aerith.
I have used these devices. They can be fun to dabble with and they sometimes come with a trainer to help you build the codes you need. While they may give you infinite lives or invincibility, they can also cause issues in the game. They can even crash the game. I’ve never had any long-term effects from using these. Perhaps the oddest effect I’ve seen is in the Temple of The Ancients in Final Fantasy VII. The Xploder caused the whole screen to become glitched. You could still get through it but it wasn’t easy. Perhaps the most useful function I found was how they enabled me to get the event Pokémon. We never really had Pokémon events growing up so this was pretty much the only way for me to get them.
Nowadays, you can find all sorts of cheats and Actions Replay codes on GameFAQs to help you through a game. Speaking of GameFAQs, there’s the impressive selection of strategy guides. In the dark days of dial up, I would purchase guides for the more complex games, such as Final Fantasy VIII, Metal Gear Solid and Donkey Kong 64 (yes, you read that right). These were great for making sure you didn’t miss anything. As I started to get access to the internet, I would print out the guides. I still have the walkthrough I printed out for Final Fantasy IX.
I don’t really use the cheat devices anymore. I am going to try and play through all my games without them but we’ll see how long that lasts when I get to Ninja Gaiden III. I did use a cheat code for Rise of the Robots. It’s not like I missed anything with that game. As for strategy guides, I do use them a lot. I have used one for every Yakuza game. I try to avoid any that contain spoilers and mainly use them for finding side-missions or special items. It can be a time saver but it comes at the cost of not actually exploring the game world. It is a trade-off I’m willing to make to ensure I don’t miss anything but it’s not for everyone.