Josh’s Diary of a Retro Gamer – Cheat Codes

The first time I encountered cheat codes was in the original Contra. The difficulty of the game compared to the amount of lives given made it almost impossible to beat. I would play over and over just trying to clear the first few levels. Needless to say, as a child I would get frustrated much easier than I do today. I would simply give up after a few runs to play an easier game.

One day, a neighborhood friend came over to my house to play video games with me. Despite my objections, the first game he turned on was Contra. He assured me that this time it would be different because we could start the game with thirty lives. I was skeptical because this seemed impossible to me. We turned it on and he punched into the controller the classic combo every retro gamer knows, “up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, b, a, start.” To my utter surprise, he was right, we now had thirty lives. With these added lives I was finally able to beat the game. From that day forward I looked for more codes to level the playing field in the most difficult of games.

At the time, the only way to find cheat codes was through the classic gaming magazine, Nintendo Power. I would search through it every month to find the latest codes. I soon noticed that codes didn’t just give lives but could do a multitude of different things. One of these was the ability to select any stage in a game. When I read that I could do this in Sonic the Hedgehog, I immediately ran to my Genesis to try it. I punched in up, down, left, right, and held A as I pressed start like the magazine instructed. To my amazement a screen popped up that allowed me to jump to any level in the game. I will always remember that day because it was the first time I was able to beat Dr. Robotnik and watch the final scene. It felt like I had finally heard the ending of my favorite story after years of never knowing how the book ended. I was given the gift of closure, a wonderful feeling I can still recall 29 years later.

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