The 'Sega' Jingle Took A Surprising Amount Of Hard Work
In the original Sonic the Hedgehog game, Sega wanted to test your setup with a little sequence that blasted sound through whatever speakers were hooked up to your Genesis. If you played Sega games back then, you might know what we're talking about: The Sega jingle, which chanted the company's name at you:
But we're actually not talking about that. We're talking about the original plan for a sound test, which would have involved music playing while Sonic breakdanced. Yes, Sonic was supposed to breakdance for you, just in case you forgot what era this extreme radical dude came from.
That was the plan, and they allocated enough space on the game cartridge for the breakdancing routine. Then they ran short of time, so they scrapped it. That left them with an empty chunk of space just sitting there, and they filled it with the Sega jingle you know so well. The jingle feels so distinctive because it wasn't what we thought of at the time as video game music or 8-bit music (or we guess you'd call this generation's tunes 16-bit music). It was the same chant that played in TV commercials.
This meant that the chant took up a surprising amount of that space they had to spare. It took up 56 kilobytes. Which might sound like nothing in absolute terms—the pic at the top of this page is twice that—but the entire game, jingle included, was less than 500 kilobytes.
Today as well, games start with elaborate screens and jingles. They announce the name of the studio, and several other studios as well. Then they announce the game engine, possibly across several screens. Then they announce that the development team spans many ethnicities and religions, and then, serving no purpose at all, they announce that the game has an autosave system, and you must not randomly unplug your system. These screens are so universally hated that gamers have put together a wiki devoted to telling you how to edit each game so you can skip them.
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For more on video game music, check out:
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Top image: Sega