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Ecco the Dolphin

Genre: Action Developer: Novotrade Int. Publisher: Sega of America Players: 1 Released: 1993

In the early ’90s gaming was overrun by HUGE amounts of generic platformers and endless boring sport games, Ecco came into the world in 1992 with some of the best graphics ever seen on the Genesis. This beautiful game was a gift for me on my 6th birthday, and being the mindless child I was, getting Ecco the Dolphin instead of Power Rangers royally ticked me off. My Mom (who bought it for me) showed me some of it, and while I was sitting beside her and watching this silly game take place I tell her to “jump higher, and higher”, and then Ecco jumped too high.The next day I went into the password section, and while the game still seemed too dumb, I discovered the all N code… and then I knew from then on, Ecco was going to be apart of my life forever.

That may have a lot of you thinking about the story and well, its a very in-depth (no pun intended) and original storyline. So, Ecco’s pod has been sucked away from him into the air, and he, (the only one left) is quite confused as to what has happened, He must endlessly look for them. In his travels, he learns more, and more of what is going on, and it turns out that more is going on behind his loss than he ever imagined. The story is integrated into the gameplay flawlessly, and combines ancient history, with science fiction, and it works so well that you feel that your apart of the story, the life, and adventure of Ecco!

The graphics are breath-taking, especially for the Genesis system. Everything from the fish, to the plants, and scenery over all are some of the best you’ll see. What screen shots cannot show, however is the incredible animation of Ecco in this game, with it never looking like a game. Ecco’s movements are as graceful as real life, which is also thanks to its great control system, the game plays better then most games WISH to be, there is a boost button, a charge button, and a sonar button, and the genius behind the sonar (explained later) just adds to how perfect the controls are. The music is just as powerful, matching the underwater feel in an eerie sense. It’s just right for the game, and it sets up the ending of the game perfectly too, try playing this with the sound turned down, and you will see what I mean; it’s like ripping out Ecco’s heart. the noises in here are somewhat natural feeling, and for the most part help set the mood, except for the sound Ecco makes when hit… He sounds like he is in so much pain that it makes you freak out every time you hear it! This is fixed in the second game (for the most part) though, and it’s the only real problem with the game (except difficulty for some).

I really like the idea of the echolocation command, it is an original, and unique tool. As well as using it to activate objects and talk with other dolphins, and creatures, Ecco can use his echolocation to give him a small map of the area around you, This adds a lot of strategy to the game, as you must plan your actions ahead of time instead of rushing into things. This is one thing that prevents Ecco from being tedious. Puzzles in Ecco are ALWAYS tricky, but can be solved by heavy thinking. For instance, by using blocks to move through a tough current to get the bottom, and you will learn from your deaths, and when I say deaths, I mean you WILL die over, and over, and over again, this is a VERY, VERY CHALENGING game (but, not the kind you get angry with), so USE THE DAMN SONAR, because without it you will die even more, and it’s what dolphins do in real life. I just love how they fit that into the game.

Players will travel with Ecco to a huge variety of environments. You’ll journey with Ecco to the frozen North to meet the Big Blue, the shark infested open oceans, the lost city of Atlantis, back in time to the Jurassic age, and even in outer space! The good news is that they play much differently too! You will be using blocks to break chains in Atlantis, or calling to the sky for a Pterandon to take you though a level in the past. Backgrounds are hyper realistic; the ice levels feel frozen and alive, while the Atlantis ruins are haunted and mysterious. The levels alone are a beautiful work of art, excellently complimented by the game’s wonderful soundtrack.

This game has a massive amount of play time in it, and has 27 HUGE levels to explore. Using the game’s password system, you can even replay any level you’ve completed previously too. Some levels also have sub-missions in which your saving young dolphins, and many other things, which further adds to the game’s length. Even without these sub-missions Ecco has a near endless amount of replay value.

Oh, and for you Nomad owners, I think you will be pleased with the quality this game has on the handheld, except for sometimes getting too blurry, I guess it all comes down to your opinion.

So, what is Ecco the Dolphin exactly? I tried very hard to figure out what kind of games are like this, and the only thing that comes close is, the Legend of Zelda, mixed with… a space shooting game, just underwater… A masterpiece (a damn hard game to find problems with). It is a timeless classic that will always stand as a reminder of how great Sega can be. Its a game that would be a sin to miss. Fast, original, fun, and gorgeous, Ecco exceeds the limitations of the 16-bit hardware, and is an adventure for gamers (or non-gamers) of all ages and gameplay-preferances. There’s not a single word that can describe how much I (and you will) love this game.

SCORE: 10 out of 10

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2 Comments

  1. vacuumnoise says:

    Wow, what a beautiful review, I am in accord with this, I’ve wanted this game since it came out and ONLY recently got to play it! SEGA really nailed the mood with this title; lush in every respect.

  2. Aramil says:

    Totally agree with the review and kuddos to you sir for writing such a detailed overview.
    This game is a work of art.
    There is not one area of it that i would not award a perfect score.

    Another area that won me over was the “realism” of it. Ecco seems to be nothing more than a dolphin…he has no super powers or in-game powerups, he just swims, swims faster and sonars his way through the beautifully designed levels. Just brilliant.

    A beautiful journey that every genesis and mega drive owner should undertake and complete at least once.

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