Five of the Best is a weekly series about the bits of games we overlook, those poor old things. I’m talking about crowds, potions, mountains, hands – things we barely notice at the time but can recall years later because they’re so important to the overall memory of the game.
Now is the time to celebrate them – you and me both! I will share my memories but I’m just as eager to hear yours, so please share them in the comments below. We’ve had some great discussions in our other Five of the Best pieces.
But this week we’re all about…
Console startup screens! These are the places where those lovely boxes under the telly first get to introduce themselves, get to show a little bit of character. They’re also the sorts of things we tune out after a while, it seems: they become such a familiar part of the game playing process that we can cease to see them anymore.
Unless they’re absolute classics, of course. Here are five of our favourites, all of which are worth a rewatch.
There’s something Mario 64-like about the GameCube’s interactive startup – echoes of that big plumber face gurning as you twisted and pulled his features like Play-Doh. A roll of your thumb over the GameCube controller’s analogue stick and you could turn the console’s cheerful logo left and right as it unfolded, even spin it fully round on its axis, while listening to not one but two secret loading sounds.
It was a whimsical loading screen, one which danced about at its own pace, doing its own thing. Yes, I’m purple, it said. Yes, I have a carry handle. Now, are you ready for some fun?
The original Xbox had a very simple pitch. It was all about power. Hence the startup sequence, with its sense of futuristic machinery that builds and builds and builds until the energy can no longer be contained.
I absolutely love this startup screen. It’s so unapologetically everything that Microsoft was going for. A console with a controller as big as the original Duke needed a startup as over the top as this. Well played!
Minimalist charm here, but no matter. This may be my very favourite startup ever. It’s just the name of the console, the name of the manufacturer and…that’s it. And yet!
And yet! The spectrum of colours! The way those letters dance onto the screen! The fact that you hold the entire thing in your hands. And best of all, that last twinkle noise on the soundtrack, and the beat you have to wait through before it comes along. Nintendo is brilliant at this stuff, and as Chris Tapsell just pointed out while I was rewatching this, it’s an absolute crime that the Switch is so underserved in the startup game.
This is surely one for the ages. When Sony decided to announce its arrival in the homes of millions as it stepped into the world of video games, it did so with this: a spacey seance that’s as iconic as the PlayStation logo itself. It’s a soothing sweep, a sci-fi sawtooth synth working off a soft tinkle that sounds like a shopkeeper’s bell as it invites you into another world. IIt’s the rumble of one of gaming’s most seismic shifts about to take place.
Everything that SNK did in the 90s had so much swagger, probably nothing more so than the Neo Geo’s audacious boot-up screen. Want to flex your muscle and provide some specs for the arcade-based powerhouse? Sure you do, but why not do it in style. And so 330mb ROM size becomes ‘MAX 330 MEGA, PRO-GEAR SPEC’. It’s utterly preposterous, almost entirely meaningless and absolutely brilliant – the swagger of SNK delivered in one chunky slogan.