The Game Genies. The thorn in Nintendo’s side for the entire life of their early systems. Yet was fully endorsed by Sega for their systems. These cheat systems where incredibly popular back in the day but now no longer exist. Yet opened the way for the wave of other cheat systems, some which, like Action Replay, are still in production today.
Game Genie works by intercepting and directly altering snippets of binary code in a game. Thus giving the player added benefits and extra abilities within the games. Like extra lives, unlimited health and lives, stopping time limits, super jumps and more. There were even codes that would alter a game to make it more challenging like giving only half the energy you would normally have and even open sections of a game that developers had long ago scrapped. These alterations were only temporary and would be lost if the console was turned off.
The Game Genie was released for the NES, SNES (Though I am unsure about Super Famicom compatibility), Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, Sega Game Gear and Game Boy. While the cheat system was fully endorsed by Sega for use on their consoles. Nintendo wasn’t so keen on having the Cheat system used on their consoles and even went as far as suing Galoob.
The case revolved around Nintendo claiming that the Game Genies were derivative works that violated copyright laws. However the case was lost and the court ruled in favour of Galoob and sales of Game Genie were allowed to resume.
Nintendo would later try to stop the system from working by embedding checksums into the roms of games. However through the use of extra codes, and later revisions of the Game Genie hardware, the checks could be circumvented and the cheats to be still applied. Nintendo even tried altering the shape and design of cartridge slots. For example the top loading NES wouldn’t accept the cartridge, but an adapter was later made by the Game Genie manufacturers. And the Game Boy version supposedly won’t work with any other version than the original design, though I have had it working with the Game Boy Color hardware.
As good as the Game Genie was there were still issues with the system on some games. Depending on the combination of codes, or even individual codes, games could become unstable and crash. New glitches would appear and some games would not allow you to complete them. Some games couldn’t be hacked, as the code was held in different parts of the memory inaccessible to the Game Genie. An example of which is Jurassic Park on the Game Boy. The SNES version would not work at all if enhancement hardware was applied to the cartridges, for example the Super FX and SA-1 hardware. On the flip side, however, the Mega Drive/Genesis version could be used as a region converter due to the simplistic way that Sega region locked their hardware.
I had always wanted a Game Genie back in the day. Though my parents would not get one for some strange reason. It’s within my recent collection of retro games that I have finally been able to get my hands on a couple of the cartridges.
From my experience they offer a great way of completing games that normally are near impossible to complete. For example I would never have been able to complete Dick Tracy for the Game Boy without it. But I can see how easy it would be to fall into the trap of using on every game that I have. Regardless of ease to complete.
By far the best version of the hardware I own is the Game Boy version. As it not only has space to house the small code book for it. But it also has two buttons on the front of the unit to turn codes on and off, and also a button to “soft reset” and to go back to the code input screen. Without losing the codes that you have already inputted. Handy for if you made a mistake or found that certain combinations of codes cause issues. Code input also seems easier on the Game boy version compared to the other versions.
In general though the Game Genies seem like an invaluable tool for most gamers. Their abilities to not only make games easier, but also make some more challenging is a great incentive to own one. Even used as a trainer tool they offer great value. New codes are been made even today as people find new hacks. Sites like GameGenie.com are full of new codes and searching the net will find forums were people can request newly hacked codes for games.
The only issue with them is the incompatibility with certain hardware variants and glitches they can potentially cause. And unfortunately the system was eventually made redundant by the masses of newer Cheat cartridges that came out after it. Such as Action Replay and Game Shark.
But I am still going to give the Game Genie a 4 out of 5 score. Because, as I mentioned earlier, it is still an invaluable tool and worth adding to peoples collections. Also the cartridges on their own are incredibly cheap to pick up. And codes are readily available on-line so books aren’t a necessity.
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