The Completist Presents: Ecco the Dolphin – Part 1, An Introduction
Zack Smith is a fellow writer on 1MoreCastle, who is also a member of the Storm the Castle writer’s guild. When I found out about his passion for aquatic life, I was a little shocked that he had very little experience with Ecco the Dolphin. After all, he runs his own business maintaining aquariums for customers. Earlier this year, he even went scuba diving in his home state of Florida. It’s not very often I meet people who have a life and play video games simultaneously. Admittedly, I program, play video games, and have no life. So by challenging Zack to play this game, I wanted to get his perspective on how accurate the game is in relation to actual sea life and his overall experience as well. Which begs the question: Which Ecco the Dolphin would I have Zack play? The best one ever made of course: No, not the PC version, the Sega CD version!
I know there are those who would argue that the PC version is the definitive choice. But in my opinion, the PC version is a broken piece of software. You probably won’t even be able to get it to work without an old version of Windows, and running it in something like VirtualBox. Plus, the experience of playing it on a console (with a controller), or even a console emulator, removes the headache the PC version causes. Its problems (and there are many) include things such as crashing mid game and failed loading cues. There was also the issue on which mode to play in: High detailed mode, or regular mode? Another issue with Ecco PC is the exclusion of certain sound effects that take away from the whole experience. Ecco PC is obviously not a great choice for someone who wants to get lost in Ecco’s world, so avoid this version at all costs.
Since Zack didn’t’t play Ecco much as a kid, I doubt he will be able to feel the same nostalgia I do. An even better idea would be to go back in time and give little ‘Z’ (That’s what I call Zack as a kid) a copy of Ecco the Dolphin CD. Unfortunately, in real life, the Atlanteans didn’t create a time machine, so Zack will have to do his best with what he has today: An adult perspective on a classic game. Can Zack do it? Can he beat this game? Is it as hard as people say? This is a guy who grew up in the NES generation, where a lot of games were not only hard, but completely unplayable. Does Ecco deserve the bad rep it gets from gamers? Or is it truly a great game – We’ll find out soon enough.
First off, I have covered Ecco the Dolphin previously on 1MoreCastle. But to sum up my experience, it is a game that has defined my whole goal in life: To make a video game of my own. The game I’m working on is modelled after Ecco the Dolphin, and I have been trying to get a satisfactory engine working for more than 10 years. I learned about Ecco the Dolphin through my Aunt who was a big fan of Boris Vallejo – The artist who did the cover art for all the games in the series.
The first Ecco the Dolphin I ever played was the Game Gear version, which in my opinion, offers more game play and puzzles than the Sega Genesis or Sega CD version. I later got the Sega Genesis version and was never able to beat it, due to a glitch that I would learn about years later. Eventually, I was able to play Ecco the Dolphin to completion when I got a Sega CD. Aside from puzzles, the Sega CD release is the best version of the game out there. It was more complete, featuring new levels that used many of the graphics tiles that would make up levels in Ecco 2: The Tides of Time. There was also a wonderfully orchestrated soundtrack performed by Spencer Nilsen, who did music in many other games for Sega in those early days. There were even FMV sequences with real Dolphin footage and “facts” spoken by a narrator for those who were interested. These extra features made Ecco the Dolphin CD a better version overall than its Genesis counterpart.
When I was in high school, I used to listen to the Ecco the Dolphin CD soundtrack all the time. My goal then was to make an Ecco the Dolphin fan game – But why Ecco? Because I saw a great game that I felt could be better. I played the hell out of all the Ecco games and wanted more. In 1994, fans had a glimpse of a possible sequel. The Sega Saturn, and 32X had just recently been released, two special versions of the game were teased. Fans would later learn that those games were just tech demos from earlier prototypes. Years passed and not a word of a new Ecco the Dolphin was heard. Finally, with the release of the Dreamcast, a new Ecco the Dolphin would be born: Ecco, Defender of the Future. This new Ecco wouldn’t come about flawlessly. The problem with it is that it didn’t continue the cannon that would come to be known as the Ed Annunziata universe. This new Ecco was instead, the vision of science fiction writer David Brin. Known for his Dolphin inspired “Uplift Universe” series of Science Fiction novels.
So to this day, Ecco lives in limbo – Will Sega ever continue this franchise? Or is it dead in the water? Lost in the Tides of Time. For now, let us not worry about the future, let us look to the past, and get one great gamers perspective on this awesome franchise: The balls in your court Zack Smith.