ABACABB: The Cheat Code That Forever Changed Gaming

Back in the early 90s, the console wars heated up pretty intensely between Nintendo and Sega. Hell, we had gangs in our schoolyard dedicated to either system willing to fight each other over which was the superior gaming console. NES fans loyal to the Mushroom Kingdom believed it to be the OG and automatically better in every way while Sega Heads stood proud of being the more “mature” way of gaming mocking the kiddie games of NES. So which was better? I mean, there are certainly a lot of variables to consider, however, I’m not here to debate an age-old argument. But, I will point out that ONE of those systems converted some kids to switch sides all with one game that BOTH systems had in their arsenal, but with one small, but highly significant difference that both changed the quality of the game itself and hell made it that much more enjoyable.

That is, of course, ABACABB.

In honor of 30 years of Mortal Monday this year-the day the arcade game dropped to home game consoles– it’s pretty important we commemorate what we schoolkids gossipped about outside of the classroom about a game where we’d seen a character fighter rip their face off and breathe fire onto their opponent, reducing the other guy to ashes and bones. And there was BLOOD. Enough of it to make Sam Raimi envious. It was almost like the forbidden fruit for those of us with uptight parents and on September 13th, 1993, we got to take this now legendary beast of a game home on multiple different platforms, depending on which one you owned of course.

I mean, this was a pretty killer promo and to be honest, it’s pretty much the only thing we gaming enthusiasts talked about for months leading up to MORTAL MONDAY.

Alas, however, when you brought that long-awaited sucker home, you were in for an enraging awaking upon the first few minutes of play. So much so that anyone standing in your way wasn’t getting any friendships in terms of conversation when it came to talking about the game. The blood had been replaced by squirts of grey goo crap that looked like 4-day-old oatmeal. And even worse, NO FATALITIES. Thanks to pearl-clutching parents and congressmen shitbags, MK had been stripped of what made it unique among its peers to appease the elder whiners for the home video release.

Nintendo, the family-friendly console, had a pretty friendly reputation with politicians at the time who blasted games such as MK in particular for the violence and sanitized the game down to a barely PG rating. But Sega being the rebellious teenager it was, inserted its own middle finger to those opposing us of our right to play a game filled with blood and gore.

Sega engineer, Paul Carruthers who was on hand for the game’s final processing and debugging was the man behind the infamous code as he himself received permission to sneak blood and gore into the game from the higher-ups’. At the main menu, players could press down, up, left, left, A, right, and down, spelling out DULLARD, to reveal a cheat menu. In the secret screen, they could do things like enable blood, which also reinstated the original arcade fatalities, and choose which arena to fight in. According to lore, Acclaim worried that DULLARD would be too hard for players to remember. So ABACABB was born from Carruthers in retrospect to a pretty sweet Genesis album and Sega players could restore MK to all its violent glory.

The code was meant to be secret, but I don’t even think SEGA cared all too much as it hinted that there was one right in the game. SEGA stood for chaos friends. Fuck your censorship.

Mere weeks after Mortal Monday, Congress and Senator Joe Lieberman rallied to get parental guidance and ratings for video games mostly solely based on Mortal Kombat alone, and now with this added not-so-secret blood code from SEGA in the mix, it was only a matter of time before we got what we now know as these rating systems that we see on games purchased today; 30 years after MK dropped into our homes forever changing the history of at-home gaming.

At the end of the day and because of this cheat blood code, SEGA sold as much as five times more MORTAL KOMBAT games than Nintendo, which hit the Mario Party goers hard in the 16-bit console wars. However, NES learned their lesson when it was time to drop MK II and fully restored all the blood and guts into the game with no code needed.

Which was great because I want my characters to bleed…like…a lot.


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