Ecco the Dolphin
Box Shot
Ecco the Dolphin
Platform: Genesis
Publisher: Sega
Designer: Novotrade
Genre: Action/Adventure
Players: 1
Published Date 1992
Reviewed by: Red Baron

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- ponsive.

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 artwork. Yuck.

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 comes.