Think back to a time way, way back when back before most of you reading this were probably born. Back to a time when the NES was still the latest and greatest current gen console. Back when televisions ran off of cathode rays, telephones were permanently attached to walls, movies came on magnetic tape, and the internet was something nobody had ever heard of outside of Matthew Broderick movies. This ancient era is when the following Mother’s Day story took place.
You see, we had an NES that was shared amongst the family. (Okay, so everyone on Earth had an NES) The family, being my older step-siblings and me, who the thing technically belonged to. By “technically belonged to,” I mean I pretty much wasn’t allowed to touch it during the weekends when they were around. This meant that I got to watch them play a lot of games, that I would then take my turn at during the weekdays after school.
Now my Mom, she wasn’t really into gaming, but for whatever reason she developed this fixation with Contra and Gradius. To this day I have no idea why. (A few years later, my SNES would wind up being her own personal Bubsy machine, but I digress.) Anyway, she would often play Contra on two player co-op with me, which was cool and all, but let’s be honest: Contra was freaking impossible. For a kid who was maybe 7 or 8 tops, and my Mom, who in my mind may as well have been Yoda’s age at the time (although she was actually younger than I am now), Contra was the single most difficult thing ever.
I knew that there was a way to cheat and get more lives or something in the game, because I had seen my step-brothers do it, but I had no clue how. At some point, my Mom somehow learned this ancient Japanese secret, because one day we sat down to play and she told me the code. After like 20 failed attempts, she entered it in herself. It was glorious. We had thirty, count them, THIRTY lives. Contra went down, eventually. I would later learn how to do it on my own; after she had to tell me the code again for the umpteenth time. It was a code I would never forget: up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, start.
Mom also had a thing for Gradius and was also good at it. Like, freakishly good at it. Or at least I think she was, looking back it’s possible she never got past level 4 for all I know, but back then, in my mind, she was a Gradius goddess. Though, that may have mostly been because I couldn’t past level 2.
I spent days upon days trying to figure out how Mom always kept getting so far in the game. I think it really just came down to me sucking at it, rather than her actually being good. It would be probably another decade before I learned a shocking truth – that this most hallowed combination of button presses worked in Gradius too. Not only that, but it was ironically the first game the code was in. It worked a bit differently, in that it gave you all the power-ups instead, but still. I wish I had discovered that back then. Maybe I could have beaten Mom’s absurd high score.
As we sit here today, and ponder our female parents on their day of celebration and flowers, I would just like to say thank you Mom, for teaching me the Konami Code.