Veteran video game developer Kazuhisa Hashimoto died this week at the age of 61. You may not recognize his name, but one of his most significant contributions to video game history is probably etched into your brain — up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, Start — otherwise known as the Konami code.
“We are saddened to hear about the passing of Kazuhisa Hashimoto, a deeply talented producer who first introduced the world to the Konami Code,” Konami tweeted Wednesday morning. “Our thoughts are with Hashimoto-san’s family and friends at this time. Rest In Peace.”
Hashimoto joined Konami in 1981 and contributed his talents to many popular games, including Lethal Enforcers, ISS Pro Evolution 1 and 2, and Salamander (aka Life Force). He also worked on the Nintendo Entertainment System port of arcade classic Gradius.
Gradius for the NES marked the first time the Konami Code was used in a video game. Pausing and entering the sequence on the NES controller activated a cheat that gave the player all of the ship’s power-ups. Hashimoto created the code for himself rather than the players.
“I hadn’t played [Gradius] much and obviously couldn’t beat it myself, so I put in the Konami Code,” Hashimoto said in a 2003 interview archived by Siliconera. “Because I was the one who was going to be using it, I made sure it was easy to remember.”
The code was left in the final game because they were afraid that removing it at the last minute would create bugs in the final product.
The cheat code, or variations of it, was used in other Konami games, including Contra, Castlevania: Bloodlines, and some of the Metal Gear games, just to name a few. It also spread to other non-Konami games with varying effects. The button sequence became so ubiquitous that many gamers (including myself) would try it on any game they played just to see if it worked.
It has even appeared in non-gaming related media, including as an Easter egg on the Bank of Canada’s website a couple of years ago.