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December 2005

Exploring The Konami Code

The Konami Code To many gamers it is a magic chant to ward off trouble: Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start.  The infamous Konami Code has been around for years now, dating all the way back to the original Nintendo Entertainment System title Gradius.  Created as a testing cheat by Gradius developer Kazuhisa Hashimoto, the code has gone on to appear in more than fifty other video games, and by entering the code at special moments players are granted anything from power-ups to bonus energy to a penalty for trying to cheat.

Many people (myself included) first came to know the code as the "Contra code" due to its use in granting thirty extra lives when the code is tapped in at the NES title Contra's title screen.  Before the pubic popularity of the Internet and before the massive influx of gaming magazines this little code somehow managed to pass from person to person across playgrounds and offices everywhere.  The code's longevity is credited not only to the cheat-tastic extras it provides, but also to the fact that it was once a secret that "everybody" knew.  I'd love to know just how the code spread throughout the gaming world.  How fast did it spread?  Who did Kazuhisa Hashimoto tell first about the code?  Is it the most popular and/or well-known cheat code in this modern era?  Some questions will never have known answers, unfortunately, but as long as we can enjoy extra lives in Contra I think it's a fair trade-off.

In Search Of... An Old Commodore 64 Game

Question BlockHelp a guy out, won't you?  I'm trying to track down an old Commodore 64 game from my youth.  Players control a little blue camel-like guy as he moves back and forth on a seesaw.  Up above on a castle the evil overlord tosses multicolored bricks down on the seesaw.  The object of the game is to use the seesaw to propel bricks back up at the castle until eventually the camel-like guy can launch himself up in order to free his captured friends.  Does this sound familiar to anyone?  Can anyone tell me the name of this old game?  Better yet, can anyone tell me where I can find it today, either as the original version or a modern update?

Castlevania Collection Coming Quickly

Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow The absolute worst aspect of Konami's Castlevania games is that the company produces so few copies of them.  These days those gamers who hesitate to pick up a newly released entry in the series risk having to scour eBay for a decently-priced copy.  Two of the recent Castlevania titles for the Nintendo Game Boy Advance (Harmony of Dissonance and Aria of Sorrow) are excellent examples of this trend.  New copies of these titles can fetch up to and beyond $100 each in some markets.  I love a good game, but that's ridiculous!

Konami has heard the fans (and their wallets) cry out for salvation.  Next month the company will release a two-in-one game pak for the Game Boy Advance featuring Harmony of Dissonance and Aria of Sorrow.  Same games, one game pak, one sane price.  If you missed out on these games the first time around then this is an excellent time to pick up two of the best Castlevania games.  Just remember that he or she who hesitates is forced to buy from eBay.

Sega Dreamcast Strikes Back

Sega Dreamcast logo Engadget believes that Sega is on the verge of re-releasing the Sega Dreamcast console in Japan.  As you'll recall, the Dreamcast was Sega's last console in the home gaming market.  Released in 1999, the system went bust as too many Sega fans had moved on from the company after the debacles of the Sega 32X and Sega Saturn.  The Dreamcast fixed some of the company's recent mistakes, but by that time it was just too late.  There are still plenty of Dreamcast fans out there though, and although the console is gone it is not forgotten.

Some wonder why Sega would choose to unleash the Dreamcast again.  I do not believe this is Sega's attempt to break back into the console business.  If anything I'd bet that this is Sega's way of clearing out any old stock still sitting in a warehouse as part of a move to cash in on the nostalgia cravings that are so common these days.  By re-releasing the Dreamcast now the company can pick up on gamers who didn't get around to picking one up in 1999, and they can also ride the wave of people looking to pick up a "new" console to complement the Microsoft Xbox, Sony PlayStation 2, or Nintendo GameCube already set up on top of the television at home.  It's an odd decision from Sega, but Sega's odd decisions are why we love the company.

Starring Peter Fox As Donkey Kong

Fox Trot Bill Amend loves including video game references in his syndicated comic strip, Fox Trot.  This week he's crafted a story arc where the comic's greedy young wunderkind, Jason Fox, wants to make the remake of the remake of King Kong.  He needs someone to play Kong, however, so he tries to cast his older brother Peter.  Jason even has an old Halloween costume for him to wear, although to be technical it's not exactly a "King" Kong costume.  Kudos to Bill Amend for slipping in references that keep the gaming culture's icons and lingo in the mainstream media.

Matt's Day Off

Hats off to MattG! Today will be quiet at Press The Buttons because I'm taking the day off.  Today is Graduation Day, you see, which means it's time for the graduation ceremonies at the university where I'll receive my Bachelor's degree in Information Technology with a minor in Creative Writing.  Then it's off to celebrate with my family.  I'll be back tomorrow with the usual PTB content, so for today you're on your own for pithy commentary and the occasional humorously related image.

Weekly Poll: Finish Him!

Weekly Poll for 12-4-2005 Most of you out there believe that if the Sony PlayStation 2 doesn't help carry Sony's game division through the holiday season, then nothing will.  My how the mighty PlayStation Portable has fallen if this poll is any indication.  I have a little cousin who wants one for the holidays though, so that's at least one person who still wants one.  Yes, yes, I know.  I'm joking.

Moving away from sales and revenue, let's tackle a debate as old as Mortal Kombat itself.  It's time to settle the issue once and for all.  Do video games lead to violent behavior?  Vote in the poll and leave your comments below.  Together we can make the world a safer place for violent video games.  If we don't speak up for Scorpion and Sub-Zero, who will?  And what of Goro?  Hmm?

Proving The Existence Of Shy Guys

Shy Guy I'd like to take a moment to address one of the long-running untruths regarding the Super Mario Bros. series of video games.  For almost twenty years now I have listened to people claim that Super Mario Bros. 2's cast of enemies should not appear in any other video game because the events of the game turn out to be a dream that Mario has one night.  Basically, the idea is that Shy Guys and Pokeys and Birdos should not exist in the Mushroom Kingdom because they appeared in Mario's dream.  I submit to you that those characters are just as "real" as Goombas and Koopa Troopas, and I can prove this quite simply.

I ask you: have you ever had a dream about something or someone that was actually real?  Ever dream about a friend or a loved one?  Have you seen familiar places and objects in your dreams?  Surely those doubting Bowsers out there can see how it's possible for real people and places to appear in dreams, and just because said people or places are in those dreams does not make those people or places non-existent in reality.  Shy Guys appeared in Mario's dream because he was familiar with them.  Not everything in a dream need be fantastically imaginative.  Q.E.D.

EA Acquires Jamdat

Jamdat Bowling, Bejeweled, and TetrisRemember Jamdat?  The mobile gaming company that has become quite successful with Tetris and Jamdat Bowling for mobile phones?  Well, they're part of the beast now.  Electronic Arts is purchasing the company for $680 million.  Expect to see Jamdat absorbed into the EA label and for EA to begin using Jamdat's credibility and business relationships to establish new mobile versions of Madden, smaller James Bond titles, and so on.  Plus now EA acquires all of those popular and profitable Jamdat titles.  EA has earned a bad reputation lately for some of their shovelware, but if they do this right and don't dismantle Jamdat to the point of no return (EA's mobile division will be folded into Jamdat instead of the other way around), this could actually work out for everyone, both business and consumer.  If you like Madden and Bond, that is.  Here's hoping that Jamdat's developers can infuse some new life into those franchises.

Scenes of Gaming Awkwardness

Awkward moments The Photoshop mavens over at are at it again, this time with a selection of awkward moments from video games.  It's just a little levity for the end of your week (although some are in poor taste, so just be aware of that), so why not check 'em out and chuckle along with the rest of us at the round Tetris block, a Punch-Out!! bout against "Hungry Mike Tyson", and a long ride to the next whorehouse in Oregon Trail.  And don't look up Peach's dress.  Mario doesn't like that.  Show some respect for the fair princess.

Image by Im_Just_An_Ordinary_Panda