For years gamers have been using game enhancers to give themselves an edge in their favorite titles. Ever since Galoob released the original Game Genie on the NES back in 1990, these so-called cheat devices have been steadily evolving, offering everything from memory storage for game saves to the ability to update directly from the internet. Indeed, it’s amazing to think of all the things they can now do, and it’s as though they’re always one step ahead of the hardware.
It hasn’t been without controversy though. Nintendo took Galoob to court over its Game Genie, claiming that the device created derivative works that violated copyrights. They lost when the court decided that no derivative work was ever created since all the enhancements made by the Game Genie were lost when the NES was shut off. Since there were no permanent changes to the game itself, and the device was being used under the terms of free use, no violation was made. Needless to say, this didn’t make Galoob one of Nintendo’s favorite companies.
So what’s a game enhancer to do? Why, go to the competition, that’s what! Sega not only embraced the Game Genie when it was released for the Genesis in 1992, it gave the enhancer its seal of quality as an official peripheral! Yes, Genesis owners were now openly allowed to try all the cheat codes they could muster, all with Sega’s blessing. Over the next few years, several additional code books were released, and to this day there are thousands of codes available, with more being made every day.
Codes, Codes Everywhere!
The first thing you noticed about the Genesis version of the Game Genie is that it has a power switch and activation light. Unlike the NES original, you can now switch off the enhancement features whenever you want to. Certain games require this, and it’s an excellent way to ensure that you never get stuck mid-way through an adventure. The only downside of this is that you have to be very careful when using the switch, as a twitchy Genesis console may freeze your game if you fiddle with the cart too much. I hardly had this problem though, and it seems to be more an issue of cartridge slot cleanliness than the Game Genie itself.
Just like its NES and SNES counterpart, the Genesis Game Genie offers thousands of codes for use with just about every title on the system. In addition to the standard code book packaged with the enhancer (which contained codes for 123 games), Galoob made several update code books available to those who paid the $3.50 subscription and mailed the coupon in the back of the included manual. Four quarterly issues were offered, giving gamers codes for the latest games. Back in the day before the internet, this was a big plus, as it was the only way to get new codes without having to create them yourself. These days, you can get many more codes than all the updates combined off the internet. Theoretically, every game for the Genesis can be enhanced, and it’s only a matter of unlocking which codes work with any given one. The included code book is very thorough about the whole process, and for that reason those seeking to do their own coding might want to pass on a bare cartridge. This shouldn’t be too much of a problem, as complete copies can be found on eBay for less than $10.
Speaking of actually coding the games, the process is identical to other iterations of the device, and NES veterans will have little trouble getting started. For the newcomer, code-making is still as complicated and time consuming as ever, which is why only the most determined and patient of gamers will actually attempt to create their own codes. It is much easier to head over to sites like Game Genie’s Genesis code page or the Genesis Project’s Big Book of Game Genie Codes, the latter having codes for over 330 games!
More than Meets the Eye
What makes the Genesis Game Genie so darn cool is that it goes above and beyond its original function. Sure, you can still create all kinds of crazy codes for just about every title out there, but you can also use it as a game converter! For those games that were released before Sega began to implement regional lock out in the Genesis, the Game Genie acts as “pass through” cartridge that will allow model 1 and 2 consoles to read the game. For example, model 1 and all model 2 Genesis systems have problems reading some early Electronic Arts titles like Budokan and Zany Golf due to lockout measures taken by Sega, but work fine through the Game Genie.
Even better is the device’s use of codes to play imports that are normally unplayable because of the lockout. Though it only permits a select amount of codes, several high profile Mega Drive games like Alien Soldier and Monster World IV are indeed compatible with it. Unfortunately, the Game Genie isn’t compatible with the model 3 Genesis console, so those who use Majesco’s release are out of luck.
Many people dismiss the Game Genie as a viable converter due to the limited number of compatible games. however, given the sheer amount of import titles out there, both PAL and Japanese, it’s probably safe to assume that many more codes await decryption, and it’s only a matter of time before they are found. Check out our article on import converters, Locked Out: Importing Made Easy for more information and lots of Game Genie import codes!
This Genie is not Infallible
If there is one flaw with the Game Genie, it has to be its lack of compatibility with games that have memory saves. The codes themselves work fine, but you won’t be able to save your game, and in some cases, the Game Genie might actually even erase it. It is unclear why this occurs, but it seems to be an issue with all versions of the device, on the NES and SNES as well. This makes using codes in RPGs like the Phantasy Star series and Shining in the Darkness impossible, unless you’re willing to play through them in one shot. Not very likely, is it? An interesting note is that this is not an issue when playing on an emulator. The save problem only occurs on actual hardware.
Even so, there is no reason for any Genesis owner to not own a Game Genie. It’s cheap, chock full of great codes for all types of games, and even has (albeit limited) converter functions. You might have a hard time finding the other code books that came out later on, but that’s what the internet is for, right? The sites linked above should give you more than enough to work with, and you’ll be blasting through those hard games in no time. Yes, that’s right Turrican. I can see the fear in your eyes now!