My freshmen year of college I came to a crossroads in my video game life: Wind Waker had just come out for the Gamecube. One other guy on my floor and I were the only ones to pick it up. There was a friendly bet on the floor as to who would beat it first. No physical incentive was involved. We were battling for pride and admiration from others. Actually, it would have showed who was the biggest dork. He had a huge advantage. I gave him a handicap. I would play without help. He had the strategy guide and the internet at his disposal. I had to use my knowledge of Zelda games and awesome video game playing/puzzle solving skills. I even charted each island myself along with treasures and Tri-Force pieces. I don’t know if was my awesomeness that helped me to beat the game before he did or the fact that it was all I did outside of going to class, but I did it. Ever since then I decided that I would play games without aid the first time through and then use a strategy guide or cheat or some other help the next time around. The only exceptions to my rule would be rented games or long games like Final Fantasy. Like I said earlier though, this crossroad came during my freshmen year of college. Cheating was a whole other story prior to my time at Northern Illinois University.
If you’ve been reading my articles, you know what systems I’ve owned and what kinds of games I play. What you don’t know if that for each system up to the original Playstation, I owned some type of cheating device. I also bought strategy guides, but if I wrote about those the article would stop here. For the NES, SNES, Game Boy and Game Gear, I owned a Game Genie. For the Playstation and Nintendo 64, I owned a Gameshark. These devices aided in changing parts of a game’s code and thus altering different areas of the game. You would input codes at the start up. The codes could grant things such as invincibility, unlocking different levels or even changing the look of a game. The devices would come with booklets that had codes for games that were out at the time and you could get more codes via game magazines or experimentation.
The Game Genie helped me make it through games that were difficult to impossible either because I was too young or the design was bad. Dragon Warrior for the NES was really hard for a kid six years of age. With aid of the Game Genie, I didn’t need to worry about losing HP, MP or keys. I could run through the game in a matter of hours and fight off even the hardest of enemies. Friday the 13th was another game that was difficult for me. Not only was it scary that Jason could pop out at any time, it was also insanely difficult and had pretty shoddy gameplay mechanics. But, again, thanks to the Game Genie, I was able to survive Jason’s onslaughts, sometimes just standing there while he tried to hurt me and laughing at his failure to do so. It even made the NES game, Karnov, playable. And for anyone who has played Karnov, you know the hours of frustration that game provided.
One crazy thing I remember when using the Game Genie for the Sega Game Gear was the hidden messages I found. I was at a friend’s house fiddling around with my Game Gear, tapping random buttons and inputting random codes. Next thing I know, there is a blue screen with a message saying, “Help. I’m a prisoner in a Game Genie factory.” I was in 4th grade at the time and was admittedly pretty scared. There were other messages too which I don’t remember as much as that one. Years later, I researched what the messages were and found out they were just little Easter eggs. Even so, the messages were creepy.
When the N64 and PSone came around, Gameshark was the “in” cheating device. The codes were longer but allowed for more things to be changed. Plus, you could save the codes in the device so you didn’t have to keep inputting them every time you start the game. Being able to avoid level grinding in Final Fantasy VII was a blessing. The version I remember having was the Gameshark Pro, which let you design your own codes and added a whole new dimension to the game, or froze it and deleted your save data, but mistakes had to be made in the name of cheating.
That leads me to the problems with the Game Genie and Gameshark. They were great for allowing you to make game easier or add a different dimension. Too often though, they made games broken. The devices would delete save data or corrupt your game. Sometimes, they would make the game too easy. Have you ever played through the first disc of FFVII at level 99? It’s not a whole lot of fun.
This is also the reason why I try my hardest not to cheat in a video game either by using a cheat device or a strategy guide or even the internet. I want the challenge. I like that feeling of accomplishment. Even better than that is the “holy crap I found something” feeling. I don’t frown on using guides or devices. To each his/her own. The Game Genie/Gameshark and I had plenty of great memories. But, that’s what they are, memories. It’s a sign that I’ve grown as a person and as a gamer.
Just In Bailey –an homage to the secret code from Metriod, which allowed you to play as Samus Aran without her suit– is an editorial column at Vagary.TV brought to you by Joey Alesia. Each week Joey will challenge you to look at a different perspective of the characters, gameplay, and/or plot in your favorite games. Chat up your thoughts below, or send Joey an e-mail at Joey.Alesia@vagary.tv