This Week in Games
Speaking in Code

by Heidi Kemps,

Friends, we have lost an unsung industry legend.

Kazuhisa Hashimoto, the man who came up with the Konami Code, has passed at the age of 61. He apparently worked at Konami for many, many years after coming up with the iconic button sequence, but never got much of a spotlight – I bet most folks didn't know he was the Konami Code's inventor until today.

Secret codes in games originated from the need for programmers and playtesters to access things easily: you didn't want to have to grind through stages 1-4 whenever you wanted to test stage 5, and you didn't want to go into stage 5 with no power-ups, so let's create a sequence of button presses that enable a stage select and another to give you full power. Whether by accident or deliberately, finished games would ship with these debug codes still intact, their existence unknown to the average player. This is exactly what happened with the Konami Code: Hashimoto put it in to help test the port of the notoriously tough Gradius to NES, and it's claimed that he forgot to remove it.

But even if they remained in the game, surely nobody would find these things, right? After all, who would ever think to mash those keys in that specific order on a whim! But find them they did, and everybody wanted them. Many an otherwise awful strategy guide, magazine, or 1-900 line would sell itself on the promise of giving you access to the most desirable hidden codes out there.

To many from my generation growing up with the NES, the Konami Code represents something more than a simple cheat code: it takes us back to our formative experiences in gaming, when the knowledge of some crazy secret trick or button sequence made you a god amongst your peers. Eventually, everybody knew the code to get 30 guys in Contra, but when you first acquired that knowledge you felt godlike. Unstoppable. Like you'd just come into possession of some sort of gaming Holy Grail (in both the Arthurian legend or Fate universe sense). I still remember how powerful I felt when I learned the Sonic 2 stage select and debug codes on the Prodigy Online forums months before they saw print in magazines.

Nowadays, secret button codes are close to nonexistent, save for some easter eggs in retro throwback titles. I mean, why leave debug tools in when you have the ability to charge players for power-ups and skipping levels? Even if the publisher is not totally greedy, most games hide the fun and cheat-y stuff under game-achievement-based unlocks, making sure that you have to enjoy the game a very specific way before you get a chance to screw around. But the Konami Code lingers on, even in non-game contexts: numerous applications and websites have used it for memes and access to hidden stuff, and its most prolific recent appearance came about when Fortnite had its apocalyptic event.

Tributes to Hashimoto's most famous contribution to gaming have been pouring in on Twitter all day. He may not have been a Miyamoto- or Kojima-level gaming auteur, but even so, Hashimoto's legacy on gaming is an indelible one. May God grant him all of the options, ripple lasers, and shields whenever he wants in heaven.

PLATINUMGAMES ANNOUNCES PARTS TWO AND THREE OF THEIR FOUR-PART PLAN

The reveals of the PlatinumGames Four are coming in more quickly than I anticipated! Early this month we saw the launch of the Wonderful 101 re-release Kickstarter campaign, with the promise of three more surprises to follow. As of this week, we now know what announcements number two and three are.

First off is Project G.G., a new game directed by Hideki Kamiya of Okami, Viewtiful Joe, and Wonderful 101 fame. It's Platinum's first wholly-owned, self-published IP, and they're aiming to make it as widely available as possible. Unfortunately, details are kind of scarce as to… well, what Project G.G. is. We know that it's superhero-based from the imagery in the trailer, at least, making it part of a sort-of trilogy of Kamiya-helmed hero games. In Kamiya's own words (translated from a Famitsu interview), it's a “giant-hero-esque title.” So like Ultraman, then. I can dig it.

Alongside this game announcement came news that P* will be establishing a new studio based in Tokyo. Thus far, all of Platinum's titles have been made in Osaka (where former employer CAPCOM also has its main headquarters), but a Tokyo branch provides ample opportunities for expansion, easier back-and-forth with Tokyo-based publishers P* might be working with… and will make poaching employees from the many Tokyo-based developers that much easier now that they don't have to move across the country.

Folks have always seemed worried about PlatinumGames's ability to survive in the cutthroat AAA development world, but going from all of this, things seem to be going quite well for them right now. Of course, we all know that things can go south really fast in the game biz world, so keep on buying their good stuff if you want P* to keep on shining!

CORONAVIRUS CONTINUES ITS HYPE-DESTROYING RAMPAGE

Japan's starting to take some extraordinary measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus, especially since it was revealed how badly Shinzo Abe's administration has massively bungled things like the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship. It was just announced that there are plans to close schools across the country in March as a safety precaution, which… doesn't make a whole lot of sense if you really think about it (are schools more contagious than packed subways?), but it's important to look like you're doing something, dangit!

The government has also been suggesting that large-scale events in March be cancelled or postponed, and we already see that happening: AnimeJapan 2020 is among the more prolific cancellations, but plenty of other, smaller events and venues are feeling the pressure too.

Of course, since airports and large conventions are big areas of international mingling, there's a lot of fear about hanging around those places as well, even if they're not in Japan. We already saw this last week with Sony pulling out of PAX East, but another big yearly event, Game Developers’ Conference, is also feeling the pain. Sony and Facebook pulled out a while ago, and over the past week Epic Games, PUBG Corp, Microsoft, Unity, and Kojima Productions (who were set to give several speeches at the show) have all bowed out – alongside numerous individuals who were set to present talks during the show.

Many are expecting GDC 2020 to be cancelled altogether at this point, which I think would be the best move. I actually wasn't planning on attending this year, and it looks like I made the correct choice… though I certainly wasn't expecting all of this to go down. If GDC is the first major US gaming convention in 2020 to be a casualty of the coronavirus scare, I somehow doubt it'll be the last. And, as I said last week, I have a feeling there are going to be a fair few guest and exhibitor cancellations at anime cons in the next few months…

FIGHTING GAME NEWS ROUNDUP: KEFLA DEBUTS AND A SAMURAI SNAG

Dragon Ball FighterZ has plenty of Gokus but not a lot of women. Let's fix that. Why, hello, Kefla!

Kefla is part of the latest season of DBFZ content and is available to download on your consoles right this minute, so if you want to lay on some pain using badass super Saiyan ladies, you know what to do!

Also available for download very soon is Samurai Shodown's Mina Majikina. Unfortunately, while Mina will be available, the discounted Season 2 Pass (which gets you all of the newly announced DLC characters at a discounted rate) has hit some snags on the PS4: when Mina drops, the season pass won't be available for purchase, probably due to some weird certification snafu we're not privy to. In any case, SNK is promising that if you buy her separately, they'll work to find some way to make it up to you:

And hey, I know there's some fans of big sis Narmaya here! She'll be available as Granblue Fantasy Versus's first piece of DLC very soon. Here's a closer look at her:

And so, another TWIG draws to a close. I'm hoping we hear some big announcements from PAX East, but I have a feeling most gaming announcements are going to be rather low-key over the next month or two… which might be for the best, since we all just want to coop up in our houses and play the packed March release slate, right? I'm curious, though – are you personally worried about the coronavirus panic affecting your con-going plans? I'm set for Sakura-Con in April, but I am rather concerned… fortunately, it's close enough to drive to and I have friends there, so I don't have plane tickets or lodging cancellation fees to worry about if the worst does happen. How about you? Discuss away in our forums (link below), and I'll see you again soon!


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