As a huge fan of retro games, certain beeps and boops from systems and titles can trigger a warm wash of nostalgic memories. One sound in particular takes me right back to the ’90s on a bullet train, though: The bzeeeew, bzeeeeeeeeew* hum that signals your PlayStation is coming to life.
I’m not the only one who gets a rush from this bit of gaming ASMR, which is probably why Sony’s official PlayStation blog posted an interview with its composer, Takafumi Fujisawa. Fujisawa talks about his inspirations for the sound, the story that’s narrated by its “phases,” and scrapped alternatives.
“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,” Fujisawa tells Jeff Cork, Game Informer’s Senior Editor. “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.”
Indeed, turning on the PlayStation and hearing that chime felt like an event after years of shoving a cartridge into a slot, snapping the console on, and being directed to a title screen. The PlayStation was the first game system I was allowed to keep in my bedroom, so I played it at all hours. When I hear Fujisawa’s digital symphony, I’m immediately back in high school, sitting up in the dark of 2 a.m. and anticipating the chance to hit “start” on Final Fantasy 7, Mega Man X4, or Breath of Fire 3.
An aside: I’m intrigued by Fujisawa’s claim that he composed the PlayStation chime to sound non-threatening. If you try to play a damaged or pirated disc, there’s a chance you might hear a comparatively loud and harsh version of the chime. If the PlayStation tries to read a borked disc, the chime’s “swoosh” sound is startlingly noisy. Then an error screen pops up and plays a discordant set of chimes that fans (and victims of the error) have named “Fearful Harmony.” People who grew up with the PlayStation have stories galore about trying to play some pirated Rugrats game, only to have the PlayStation error screen tell them off without saying a single word.
That’s PlayStation nostalgia for you. It giveth, and it taketh away.
(*The USgamer staff had a brief but intense deliberation about how we ought to spell out this iconic sound. I voted for the “bzeeew” in the opening paragraph. Kat says she hears the “beYOOOOOOOW Beyowwwwwwww” I used in the headline. Caty hears “bruuuuuuuum.” Ultimately, any sound you hear is the correct sound; there is no “right” way to hear the voice of God.)