I don’t think there’s any moment more magical in gaming than the very first time you booted up a PlayStation One console. Before then, teevee games and consoles such as the SEGA Megadrive or SNES were simple machines. Switch them on, switch them back off, blow on the cart and repeat the process all over again. Hey presto, it was time to play games!
Along came the PlayStation, a machine which made use of cutting edge CD-ROMs to store games on and also offered crystal clear audio quality. You’d plug that wonderful grey box up to a TV, switch it on and over the course of 15 seconds you were reminded of just how powerful your new console was. That brief blurp of sound, a gentle smattering of crystals harmoniously clinking against one another and that delightful fade. In case you’ve forgotten, here’s a trip down memory lane:
So who’s responsible for that bit of audio magic? That would be none other than sound designer Takafumi Fujisawa, who recently spoke to Game Informer’s Jeff Cork about how he came up with the catchy jingle. “I was a part of the PlayStation project even before the team was official, and as the hardware development progressed and the prototype was built in the spring of 1994, I created the startup sound. I received the logo animation (in Japanese we call it motion logo) and added my sound design on it,” Fujisawa explained.
There weren’t much time restrictions on the design itself, but being also a part of the sound chip, firmware, development tool team I was aware of the polyphony and ADPCM requirements already, so I tried to make the best out of them. The concept was set to maintain the core image of PlayStation no matter what type of TV speaker it is played on, as there could be countless kinds of TV around the world. The only limitation I experiences was the size of the ROM, so I kept the size as minimal as possible.
I expressed the excitement to the game that begins after this sound by starting the music quietly in order not to scare the user when they turn the power on and follow it with the sound quality that sounds original and also welcoming. My aim is to lead the sense of security when the console is turned on to the excitement after with the C major dominant motion showing the intention for continuing to be on the mainstream, the rich strings kick in and the last part features twinkling tones and setting the perfect 4th chords.
The function of this sound is to tell the user that the hardware is running like it is supposed to, and that the disc has successfully been read. To add, the swooshing reverse sound is designed so that it can go into loop if the disc couldn’t be read, and we can understand if something went wrong.
Fujisawa’s first draft was pretty much given the green stamp of approval by Sony’s big cheeses, as the simpler and more basic approach seemed to resonate better overall when compared to the other ideas that he had in mind. “I had an alternative version with a voice whispering “PlayStation” layered on top of it which I sampled myself, but with the impression being that the game console speaks to you we decided to go with the orthodox (simple) option in the end,” Fujisawa said.
The rest is history. PlayStation’s start-up sound kicked off a new benchmark for future consoles, each one adding their own distinctive start-up sound in an effort to carve out their own identity. Nintendo’s GameCube console will always have my favourite boot-up sequence (Doootododododotododooo!), but there’s no denying that 25 years ago, the PlayStation One debuted with a sound that is simply iconic.
Last Updated: December 6, 2019