Ahh, dolphins. Sleek, majestic creatures that glide through the ocean
currents. Knifing through schools of fish, swimming in aquariums to put on a
show for the nice people at Sea World. Oh, to be a dolphin...
As you would guess from the title, Ecco the Dolphin puts you in the
role of a dolphin. And it's a solid action/adventure game to boot.
As far as storyline goes, since dolphins are often associated with
Environmental groups, you might expect that this game involves a dolphin that
blows up fishing boats, right? Wrong. Instead, you are Ecco, an adolescent
dolphin who's pod is swept away mysteriously one day by a storm. He later
meets an odd looking creature called the Asterite (which resembles a DNA
strand), who tells Ecco that a sinister race of aliens from a neighboring
planet, called the Vortex, snatch away sea life from Earth every 500 years so
they can continue existing. So Ecco must go off, rescue his friends and put
the Vortex out of their misery!
Controlling Ecco in this game is a snap. C button makes Ecco swim
faster, B makes him dart forward (Useful for destroying enemies and eating
fish), but the most versatile of Ecco's moves is his sonar. Holding down A
will show you a map of your location, which will come in handy a lot. Early
on, Ecco can recieve a special song from another dolphin which can stun
jellyfish and sharks, and another that when you press A+B, will send out a
deadly blast that can maim or kill any enemy in your way. With the exception
of a few next-to-impossible jumps that you must do, controls are 100% res-
While swimming around mindlessly (and getting eviscerated by sharks),
you have to keep an eye on your Air meter. When it goes out, you lose life...
until you finally drown. To prevent this fate, you... have to swim up to the
surface for air, dammit! There are also plenty of Glyphs scattered about, and
they either help you out, give you bum advice, or block your way. Aside from
adding an "adventuresque" factor to the game, their real purpose is for you
to find out just what they really are. :)
Another neat thing is the use of dia- er, monologue. If you meet any-
body (like another dolphin or orca), just sonar them and they'll strike up a
conversation with you. Well, almost. Ecco never says a single line in the
whole game! But the heavy use of undersea jargon makes it forgivable.
Graphics are very colorful and vibrant. Ecco looks almost photo-
realistic, and other sea creatures appear like they've just jumped out of an
issue of National Geographic. The Vortex aliens look very H.R. Geiger-esque.
The levels look great too. In the Ice Cap, you sort of expect Ecco to turn
into a popsicle, and the Atlantean levels really resemble ancient Greek ruins
(Except they're sunken). There's only one real eyesore; the Tropical levels'
sandstone rocks look like someone vomited on a pad of paper and called it
Soundwise, there aren't very many memorable tunes (The only one I
like is the opening theme), though they do the job. But, oh God, the noise
that Ecco makes when he gets hurt is so @!$#! ANNOYING!!! It's not a good
thing considering how you hear that "OooughhahAAAAHhghhg" only about 50,000
times per game! There are a lot more sound effects (like Sonar) that are high
pitched whiny little pieces of noise, but you won't be as pissed off with
those as you will with the hurt sound.
There is only one real flaw that permeates the game, however: Level
design. Roughly 60% of the levels revolve around finding the key glyph that
opens up the door glyph, and for some, this kills any replay value that this
game ever had. But it didn't annoy me much. Overall, some will be put off by
this game's repetitevness, but for the rest of us, Ecco the Dolphin will
give you lots of old-school fun. Those that can make it over the Deep City
wall, that is. >:-)
So how's our favorite sea mammal doing today, you ask? Well, after
the Sega CD/Game gear versions came and went, and a MARVELOUS
sequel was horrendously overlooked, Ecco just seemed to fade away for a
while. But with the launch of the Dreamcast, its developers, Novotrade
(now known as Appaloosa) have started a sequel/remake. Previews of it have
given thumbs up; it's set release date is mid 2000. Keep an eye out when it