Genre: Action Developer: Novotrade Int. Publisher: Sega Enterprises Players: 1 Released: 1994
Terror. This is something not heard of in most Genesis games; Joy. This is not a feeling that follows terror; Sadness. This is something not found in joy, yet they all fit together here. Play all the RPGs you want, for I was part of something bigger. Play all the Shmups you want, for I was part of something better. Play all the the Sonic games you want, for I was part of something faster, as I was Ecco, yes I was.
I know of many people that have shunned the Ecco series away, because it might seem childish, but if only they knew of the REAL Ecco, if only they would come to play this game, then they would know.
The original story of the first Ecco was very interesting and unique, and this one is just as good (if not better). The game still uses the science fiction theme, but instead of the history theme, NOW you get a future theme. The game starts you off in the Home Bay where everything seems peaceful, but eventually “creatures” start showing up from the north, and just then, Trellia a Dolphin from the future shows up, and explains what will happen if Ecco does not come with her to the future. The story is kinda odd, but honestly, I don’t really care because it works. It has a very sinister and even apocalyptic tone to it, and I’ll be honest, the development of the story isn’t exactly top notch, but it manages to stay interesting and moves its way into the game in quite a seamless matter. The ending is also one of the saddest endings in a game, or even a movie I have ever known.
Ecco the Dolphin is a series that is difficult, but this game now mixes in more fear in one level then the first had IN THE WHOLE GAME! This added “fear” in the game in turn makes the whole adventure seem far harder then the first, while it is really about the same difficulty, if not easier (you can now adjust the challenge, and if you are doing bad the game gets easier for you, but not by much). The clues that you get from glyphs and other dolphins are still quite vague, and trying to put them all together can be very challenging, for instance there is a level called Four Islands, where you must follow another dolphin, named Blackfin to the exit, and you must stay with him even if you do know the way, because without him you cannot go through a barrier. If you are too far ahead or behind, guess what? you have to start the level all over again, This is incredibly annoying to do, because you have to make a very far leap while swimming right beside him, and obviously he will not give you much room to build up enough speed. New to the series is actual boss fights (not just one anymore), and of course, they hit hard and fast, some of which kill you in less than three hits, and you cannot always expect there to be fish nearby to restore your health. That being said, all of the boss fights in the game except one (Globe Holder) are surprisingly easily beaten once you know what to do.
The soundtrack for this game is actually BETTER then the first (the exact same thing can be said about the graphics), and the main theme is a tune I will NEVER forget. Each one perfectly fits the atmosphere of the stage they are used in. It can be very relaxing, but as I stated before… it can also be very scary. The sound effects are also still well done, though some of them are very weird, but It’s hard to say if they are realistic, as most of the creatures that make sound are fictional, but I really have to mention that they were given some sounds that seemed “appropriate.” There isn’t much to be said here, because this series’ music and sound is always stellar!
The controls are easy to learn, and Ecco once again uses his sonar to stun or kill certain enemies and bosses, activate some items, talk to other creatures that can also sing, or produce a map of a portion of the stage. This is a very important technique to know, as many of the levels in the game are incredibly huge, and contain many separate routes to take. Since Ecco is a mammal, he also needs air to survive. His air meter must be periodically restored by either surfacing or by sitting in an underwater air pocket. You will have to do this frequently, as Ecco’s air meter will fully deplete in around only two minutes, and his health bar will begin dropping it runs out! It is really hard to say what about the gameplay makes this game so fun. But it is truly very well done, and the wide variety of tasks that you accomplish keeps the game from becoming boring and repetitive. and all the little extras you do give it a lot of replay value!
Before I end this, I must mention, that the only two new things in the game are the scrolling 3D levels, and the inclusion of Metaspheres, which, at the end of the day was a cool idea, but a BAD idea.
The concept, the story, and the gameplay are incredibly unique, and are perfectly complemented by the game’s excellent visuals and sound. Even though this game only received a slight facelift over its prequel (only in the dolphin model), which was released in 1992, they still manage to look beautiful a decade later. The levels have an incredible amount of detail in them, giving you the most realistic ocean that had been made that console war. The Ecco sprite itself looks almost exactly like a real bottle-nosed dolphin and is very realistically animated.
Ecco: The Tides of Time is just as fun as the original, and NEEDS to be in your collection. Incredibly fun, incredibly unique, and incredibly challenging. It is just rather sad that the series is not all that well-known, because these games are truly masterpieces plain, and simple. If you ever have the chance to play this or any of the other Ecco games, do not pass it up. I can guarantee that you will have a great time, and if it’s this particular game, I guarantee you 100% that you will feel alone and scared, as Ecco was.
SCORE: 9 out of 10