Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Musi(c.)PSX: Superthruster (1999)

Sony's Playstation console was first released in Japan in December of 1994.
A year later, it spread across the globe, leading to it's eventual assimilation into modern living. The console was officially discontinued by Sony in 2006, but began a process of phasing out with the 2000 release of the Playstation2. Known in it's early years colloquially as the PSX, the console was characterised by a slick attitude that met modern gamers on varying levels, boasting releases like Wipeout, which fused electronic music culture with the gaming experience. This post is a celebration of that time. Music circa (c.) the PSX

Sly & Robbie - Superthruster (1999)

If you've been reading the entire series of these music-derived articles, you could be forgiven for thinking me a deranged lunatic convinced the PlayStation was the centre of the universe. While I'm not sure I appreciate the inference of insanity, I have to wonder if, in this gaming world gone mad, the perspective of a madman isn't the most clear of all.

The focus of most of these blog entries has been on the significance and contribution the PSX made to electronic music, and vice versa. It's fair to say, however, that the PlayStation was a very different thing to very different people.

By 1999, the Sony PlayStation was firmly established as a household name.
This feat, particularly as a global phenomenon, could not have been achieved through the exclusive sensibility of Sony's trendy, Euro, youth driven marketing stratagems. As much as the vivid cool of electronic urbana was able to infuse the clunky grey box with a sexy beeping soul, it was a darwinist math that inevitably demanded broader interests to support the machine.

The PSX had to offer much more than the paninaro of it's time to expand it's reaches across the gaming market. Sega's bungling business meant rising to the role of a console for all Europe was simple, but regardless of it's clunky ineptitude, the tragically unremarkable Nintendo 64 put the Nostalgia in NTSC, and had the confidence of fists stained with the blood of a blue hedgehog.

A congregation of entertainment movements was needed to unite the efforts of the techno-fashionista and common man.

Experimentation created a conversation of common interest between the professional ranks of niche interests, like skateboarding and wrestling. Sony's early line-ups established a strong enough base upon which emerging trends could position themselves to further interact with hardcore and casual fanbases, alike. This commercial discussion re-established gaming a vital tool in cross promotional marketing, encouraging fans to feel increasingly involved with their interests.

CD-based technology meant many of these games could challenge alternative mediums through high quality sound and video. Even before the WWF Smackdown! games introduced exclusivity to wrestling on consoles, FMV challenge promos like those seen on broadcasts made playing Warzone on the PSX a valued unique experience.

Though significant for decades prior, the PSX era coincided with a mainstream boom for anime in Western culture. Now a staple of Saturday mornings, it's hard to imagine a world where the wide-eyed kinetic style of Japanese animation wasn't so prevalent.

1995 gave the world a name to rally behind with the release of Mamoru Oshii's cinematic adaptation of the Masamune Shirow manga, Ghost in the Shell.

This rallying point engendered a renewed sense of familiarity that boosted interest in other iconic titles (like 1991's Akira), and gave way to a phenomenon. While Nintendo were well primed to capitalize (and fund) the trend with titles like the Pokemon franchise; the PlayStation arguably connected Western audiences to Japanese development in ways that mirrored their perception of the "genre" as something exotic and adult, whilst pandering to familiarity. (Unlike the import-heavy favourites of the Dreamcast).

The 1997 PSX-exclusive, Ghost in the Shell, contributed a relevant example despite it's relative obscurity today, and in-game graphical removal from the anime style. Animated sequences closer to the manga in design were enough to pick up the slack, making it a smooth segue from the film deeper into the niche, and a rival to more direct correlation seen on the Sega.

This, of course, is the long way round to introducing today's musical feature.

The Sly & Robbie track quickly became a staple of my listening at the time, which, also coincided with casual interests in anime. Early experiences in gaming, ie; Street Fighter II, helped prepare me for the animation titles that would be popular at the time, and made connecting with softcore Japanese titles on the PSX a fun fad for all. I'd like to think I've never been nearly as ignorant to the culture as that implies, but it's a touchstone for the importance of these congregating interests.

It was a time of intertwining interests and expanding horizons.
A chance to share and communicate through different mediums.
It was a time for shiney skyscrapers and full frontal nudity. I miss it.

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