Legendary Konami developer and creator of the Konami Code passed away

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This code was introduced by Kazuhisa Hashimoto in the Famicom (NES) port of Gradius as a testing tool, then discovered as a cheat code, and later became part of video game culture itself. RIP Mr. Hashimoto.

This is Konami’s official declaration:

Also, different industry personalities have spoken about the fact, such as Iken Imaizumi and Reggie-Fils Aime

The code acquired mainstream popular culture value over the years, even to the point of appearing in countless video games like Contra, or big movies like Wreck-It Ralph:

The creation of the Konami Code

Here’s an excerpt of a discussion of Mr. Hashimoto with Shigeharu Umezaki (a Konami production manager) in 2003, where he mentions the use of the Konami Code.

Hashimoto: Once we started making NES games, a few people who specialized in game design started appearing on the scene, but originally there really wasn’t anybody exclusively in charge of planning. We’d generally bring material over from the arcade games and then have a sort of duel of ideas. *laughing* It was normal for a NES game to be designed in 4-6 months by a team of 4 people. This practice didn’t really change until the Super Nintendo era. My first game, Track & Field, took half a year with a grand total of 2 people working on programming and design. I don’t think Gradius took even half a year with a team of 4 people. We did spend time developing a special controller for Track & Field because people complained the regular one hurt, however. Gradius was something we were ordered to port, so we tried to be realistic about it. The number of sprites on the NES is overwhelmingly small, so we had no illusions about what we were capable of. *laughing* We just said to ourselves “Well, that’s as much as we can do!” and left the game at that. I had one guy under me, and he played through the coin-op version. That one’s really tough. I hadn’t played that much and obviously couldn’t beat it myself, so I put in the Konami Code. *laughing*

Umezaki: What’s the story behind the Konami Code, anyway?

Hashimoto: There isn’t one, really. *laughing* Because I was the one who was going to be using it, I made sure it was easy to remember. The game took around half a year to develop, and, at the time, putting the code together was like an entertaining puzzle. “How on earth am I going to be able to fit these passwords into the program?” I’d ask myself. Gradius saw an incredibly poor reception, however. *laughing* The company made almost 1,000,000 copies in anticipation of its release, but we were only able to sell 500,000 ~ 600,000. On the other hand, games like The Goonies, which we didn’t expect to sell well at all, sold close to a million. Back then, hidden characters were all the rage. I put 3 or 4 UFOs and the like in Track & Field and The Goonies had some too. I’d put them in really easy-to-find places, where anyone might expect them to be hidden. I think I was heavily influenced by the hidden commands in Xevious. I also have memories of playing Dragon Quest while making the game. Not to mention playing the FDS version of Zelda late into the night. *laughing*

Source and credit of the translation goes to GlitterBerri https://www.glitterberri.com/developer-interviews/konami-the-nintendo-era/, originally from Game Staff List Association Japan

Lord British Sprite Sheet from Salamander (PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16)

So I spent some more time on this great game to rip the Lord British sprite sheet from Salamander, which was also missing from the entire Internet (in this day and age… go figure!). I especially like the vertical version of this ship. Again, it was also submitted to The Spriters Resource for redundancy and crowdsourcing reasons 🙂

Lord British Salamander v1.1 Ripped-by Alekz for gradius.co and TSR

If you want to directly download it, just go here.

Here’s a bigger version of the sprite sheet in case you’re into zoomed in sprites.

Lord British Salamander v1.1 Ripped by Alekz for gradius.co and TSR 800px wide

Don’t forget to follow on Twitter and Facebook, and of course join the Discord community!

Vic Viper Sprite Sheet from Salamander (PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16)

So I was looking for a nice vertical sprite of Vic Viper from Salamander / Life Force, and couldn’t find one, so I decided to rip it myself from the PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16 version of the game. So here it is. It was also submitted to The Spriters Resource, so you can find it easily there too 🙂

Salamander Vic-Viper 1.2 Ripped-by Alekz for gradius.co and TSR

Just click here to download it.

I find the Vic Viper design fascinating, and the vertical version of this sprite is really, really nice in my opinion. I love the transition from horizontal to vertical. Tetran beware!

There are also vertical and horizontal versions of the weapons and options / multiples. Next project: Lord British! That one is also an awesome ship design.

Don’t forget to follow on Twitter and Facebook, and of course join the Discord community!

No Power-Up Run Challenge Guide to the Gradius games

The No Power-Up Run Challenge is a recent new addition to the way people can play the Gradius games. To understand how this works, though, you need to know what exactly power-ups are in the games. A mechanic that sets Gradius apart from other similar side scrollers was its power-up system where you collect power-up capsules from defeated enemies and used them to enhance your ship. If you chose to hold off on using your capsules, collecting more allowed you to advance further to the right side of the power bar, allowing you to get weapon upgrades, shields, and the ever-useful Options (or Multiples in other games/regions). The system allows you to prioritize what you absolutely need to have early on during the game.

But, what if we decided to throw that away and challenge the game with just the initial speed and setup of our ship? Would it still be possible to beat the games where you must have tons of firepower unleashed with a single button, and even have a fast ship? That is what the “No Power-Up Run” challenge is about. Collecting capsules is ok (even the blue “Mega Crush” capsules), but under no circumstances can we upgrade any part of our ship, even its speed. Any cheats that increase lives and continues are ok to use (and perhaps recommended), but the full power-up cheat is banned. This article is about how players could potentially fare with this restrictions.

Before you begin the No Power-Up Run challenge…

When doing a No Power-Up Run challenge, a few things have to be considered:

  • The game must be completed from the beginning of stage 1 to the ending sequence.
  • Each portion of the stages must be completed without enhancing your ship, even its speed. Deaths are ok as long as you can pick back up from where you left off.
  • How does the game handle deaths? Is it checkpoint-based or do you directly respawn?
  • If it is checkpoint-based, are there sections that are incredibly challenging to survive until the next checkpoint?
  • Does the game offer continues, or if not, is there an extra lives code?

There are a few trouble areas in a game where a no power-up run could be difficult:

  • Areas where the next checkpoint is a considerable amount of distance from the current checkpoint
  • Areas with lots of enemies able to shoot bullets
  • Sections with swift scrolling
  • Mini-boss and Bosses
  • There may be other areas in addition to the general types listed above

As you practice for a No Power-Up Run Challenge…

If you believe the game you are choosing has manageable enough trouble areas, here is some advice to prepare for the run:

  • If a stage has multiple routes, decide what route you should take before the actual attempt. You will figure out the routes as you practice.
  • Anticipate ahead of time where enemy fire will go. You will not be able to move quickly, so you need to react sooner to enemy fire.
  • Determine what enemies you should DESTROY and what enemies you should LEAVE ALONE. Do not try to hit all of them.
  • Some deaths will certainly be unavoidable due to the difficulty of the game. Expect enemy fire to constantly graze your ship during the run.
  • Some bosses may be better handled letting them time out. Determine when you should do this based on how you can handle each major enemy.

Finally, the last thing is to practice, practice, practice. This is not an easy challenge to do, because these games are challenging enough just playing them normally. In other words, be familiar enough with the game you are going to attempt. Above all else, do not try this challenge if you are not confident in your abilities.

The Games and Their Possibilities of Success

What follows is how I feel about the possibility of each game I have not yet attempted or recorded.

Completed with proof:

  • Gradius II (Famicom)
Gradius II Famicom No Power-Up Run

Completed, to be attempted again by recording/streaming:

  • Gradius (NES) [Continue code needed]

I completed these, but I will not be making a video on them:

  • Salamander 2 (Arcade) [Entertaining to play, but doubtful it will be entertaining to watch unless I play on a high difficulty]

Attempted, but failed:

  • Salamander/Life Force (NES) [Ran out of continues in stage 6, may need 30 lives code]

Theoretically possible:

  • Gradius (Arcade, MSX) [Former may need continues, latter just not tested]
  • Salamander/Life Force (Arcade, MSX) [Former may need continues, luck in stage 5, and latter just not tested]
  • Nemesis and Gradius: The Intersteller Assault (GB) [Untested, but no known sections that could not be possible with no power-ups]
  • Nemesis/Gradius 2 (X68000, MSX) [Untested, but no known sections that could not be possible with no power-ups. Form-changing capsules will be considered not enhancing the ship.]
  • Gradius Gaiden [Need second player for speed section to prevent checkpoint warping]
  • Gradius V [Lots of continues likely needed, speed section has forced deaths, assuming Revival Start is off]

Theoretically impossible:

  • Gradius 2 (Arcade) [Speed section]
  • Nemesis 3 (MSX) [Queensryche boss requires Options and/or Tailgun]
  • Both Arcade and SNES versions of Gradius 3 [Choking Weed boss requires one or more speedups, Speed section]
  • Gradius 4 (Arcade) [Speed section]
  • Gradius Generation/Galaxies/Advance (GBA) [Speed section]

My Attempts at the No Power-Up Run Challenge

Gradius 2 for the Famicom

Gradius 2 (Famicom)

I completed this one via Twitch on June 12, 2019. Gradius 2 for the Famicom has unlimited continues, so I felt the 30 lives code was not necessary here. As a result of losing all your lives, the only penalty was having to restart a stage over. However, there are two exceptions to this, due to having only one checkpoint each: Stages 5 and 7. Each stage presented its own challenges, and here is a breakdown of the tricky spots in each stage:

  • 1: Fire dragons, flares from the stars in second half
  • 2: Cell wall area, Contra aliens
  • 3: Volcano area (especially twin Volcanoes at end)
  • 4: Moai ambushes, mini-boss Moai
  • 5: All parts except Brain Golem boss, Zelos Force boss likely hardest part of the run
  • 6: Really the entire stage can present its own problems
  • 7: Cell enemies, sudden appearing cell structures towards the end

Difficulty: Very Hard

Salamander 2 (Arcade)

I did a practice run on June 20, 2019, which three continues were used to beat the game. I will not do a video on this one since I believe it will not be entertaining to watch. The playing is interesting, though. 5 of the 7 bosses (Stage 2 and Stage 6 were the exceptions), timed out due to battling them for too long. As a result, though, there are unlimited continues for the first loop, so this is possible with no power-ups. The hard part is actually avoiding to pick up power-ups since sometimes the game tries to force them on you, especially with Doom, the final boss. Because this game lets you respawn where you die, though, the overall difficulty is tame compared to other games. If you are looking to try to beat this game without continuing, though, good luck.

Difficulty: Normal

Crystal Core Gradius Wallpaper UHD 4K

I made this to celebrate #GradiusDay 🙂 Crystal Core is my favorite boss from Gradius III, and I love the soundtrack that plays when you fight him.

Crystal Core Wallpaper from Gradius III by @aalkz

Download full resolution wallpaper here 3840×2160

Follow and share if you like it!

Don’t forget to follow on Twitter and Facebook, and of course join the Discord community!

Also, let’s take a moment to remember Crystal Core’s awesome music

Gradius Day is officially May 29

A celebration of the legacy of Gradius games by the fans of the games themselves!

Gradius is an awesome game series, and we want to celebrate the joy it has given us along the years. Do you remember the first time you played a Gradius game? The first time you thought “Wow, that’s an awesome piece of music, right there!”, well now is the time to express all of that with whatever you want to do for May 29 🙂

Gradius Day

“I Gradius, how can I celebrate #GradiusDay?”

These are examples of ways to participate on #GradiusDay, the main idea is that you do something Gradius related that day and express it online with the hashtag #GradiusDay
– Fan art
– A photo of your collection with the hashtag #GradiusDay written or visible somewhere
– Music cover
– Cosplay (who wants to be Tetran?)

“Where do I post #GradiusDay related stuff?”

Anywhere you want, really if you use the hashtag, but here are places where Gradius fans are known to gather to share Gradius love, so these would be great places to post:

– The Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/936041039932014/
– The /r/gradius subreddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/gradius/
– The Discord server: https://discord.gg/8e4DFAy
– This website, comment below!
– Mention (and follow!) @aalkz (Alekz) and @GradiusCore on Twitter for RT of your posts 🙂 https://twitter.com/aalkz and https://twitter.com/GradiusCore

If you are a professional artist of some form, it would be really cool if you did something special for today, we Gradius fans promise to share it (with proper credits, of course) forever and ever.

Meet Gradius Archimendes, the Gradius version where power-ups are noodle boxes

Gradius was no stranger to ports and versions of the game, so why would it be weird if Konami featured noodles inside the NES flavor? The year was 1986 and Konami decided to promote the instant noodles brand Arukimendesu / Archimendes, which literally means “instant noodles to walk/to go”. How, you ask? Well, this version of the game has Archimendes noodle packages instead of power-ups…

Gradius Archimendes Noodles instead of power-ups. Because Japan!

And a strange message at the end:


Gradius Archimendes Hen Ending

Other than that, this NES version is exactly the same compared to the original. It’s a neat piece of trivia for Gradius and retro gaming fans, and certainly a very expensive collection item, since apparently only 4,000 copies were made. There’s an ebay listing that’s going for a whopping $2,500 USD:

The full poster:

Gradius Archimendes Hen Poster

Here’s a full run of the game in case you want to see those delicious noodle boxes in action:

What do you think of this version of the game? Would you have bought it and devoured those noodles?

Fun piece of (un)related trivia: Oddish’s alias name is Arukimendesu in the Japanese versions of Pokémon. Japan really likes noodles.