Ecco the Dolphin

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This article is about the video game. For the game series, see Ecco the Dolphin (series).
Ecco the Dolphin
Ecco-cover.jpg
Box art of the North American release of Ecco the Dolphin. Painting by Boris Vallejo.
Developer(s) Novotrade International
Publisher(s) Sega
Designer(s) Ed Annunziata
Composer(s) Spencer Nilsen (also sole composer for Sega CD)
Christopher Sobiraski
András Magyari
Platform(s) Sega Mega Drive, Mega-CD, Windows, Game Gear, Master System, Game Boy Advance, Xbox 360 (XBLA), Virtual Console, iOS, Cloud (OnLive), Steam, Nintendo 3DS
Release date(s) Sega Mega Drive
  • EU July 31, 1992
  • NA July 29, 1993
  • JP July 30, 1993
Mega-CD
  • JP February 24, 1995
Wii Virtual Console
  • NA November 27, 2006[1]
  • EU December 8, 2006
    • JP December 2, 2006
    Steam[2]
    • NA June 1, 2010
    iOS
    July 22, 2010
    Nintendo 3DS
    • NA December 12, 2013
    • EU December 12, 2013
    • JP June 26, 2013
    Genre(s) Side-scrolling action-adventure game
    Mode(s) Single player
    Distribution ROM cartridge, CD-ROM, digital distribution, cloud computing

    Ecco the Dolphin (title screen: Ecco) is an action-adventure game originally developed by Novotrade International for the Mega Drive, and published by Sega in 1992. The game's designer is Ed Annunziata. It is the first installment in the Ecco the Dolphin video game franchise.

    The player character, Ecco, is a bottlenose dolphin who travels through time to combat hostile extraterrestrials in Earth's oceans and on an alien spacecraft.

    Ecco the Dolphin was republished digitally via Nintendo's Virtual Console in 2006,[1] Microsoft's Xbox Live Arcade,[3] Steam,[2] iOS, and Nintendo 3DS.

    Development[edit]

    After deciding to create a game based around dolphins developer Ed Annunziata carried out research on the subject and was particularly inspired by the book Sounding by Hank Searls which explained how the creatures use echolocation.[4]

    Annunziata worked with the music team on the soundtrack, playing them songs by Pink Floyd to illustrate the feeling he was aiming for.[4]

    Ed Annunziata, the developer, said on Twitter that "I was paranoid about game rentals and kids beating the game over the weekend. So.. I.. uh... made it hard."[5] His favourite level was Welcome to the Machine, which was "way over the top challenging"[4]

    Gameplay[edit]

    Attacking enemies is accomplished by making Ecco ram into them at high speeds. Swimming can be made progressively faster by tapping a certain button, and the speed can be maintained by holding it down. Players can perform a purely aesthetic spin in the air when jumping out of the water.

    Two features of the game play on actual dolphin habits; one button causes Ecco to sing, allowing him to speak with other cetaceans and interact with certain objects. The same button is used for echolocation; holding it down causes the song to return, generating a map of the area. Several levels contain enormous crystals called glyphs, which respond in different ways if Ecco touches or sings to them. Some block paths, and a "Key-Glyph" must be found in such cases to pass. Others give information, and a few in later levels replenish health/air and give Ecco temporary invulnerability.

    Additionally, Ecco, being a mammal, must surface periodically for air, or else find an air vent. If the "air meter" runs out, Ecco loses health rapidly, represented as drowning. His health is measured by a separate meter; it is depleted by enemies or when his air meter runs out, and it is recharged by eating fish, "singing" to clams, or, later in the game, singing to special statues or crystals called "glyphs". Ecco's song can be optionally upgraded at two points in the game: one upgrade allows Ecco's song to be used in combination with a charge as a long-range weapon, and the other temporarily disorients sharks and makes minor enemies freeze temporarily. Touching any enemy by any means other than an attack causes Ecco to sustain damage. The enemies range from seahorses to giant octopodes.

    The penultimate level of the game is titled "Welcome to the Machine", named for "Welcome to the Machine", the second song on Pink Floyd's 1975 studio album Wish You Were Here. Ecco: The Tides of Time (1994) features a level called "New Machine", named for "A New Machine", a two-part song on Pink Floyd's 1987 album A Momentary Lapse of Reason.[6]

    Storyline[edit]

    Ecco The Dolphin for the Sega Mega Drive.

    The game begins with Ecco as he and his pod are swimming in their home bay. One podmate challenges him to see how high into the air he can jump. When he is in the air, a waterspout storm forms and sucks up all marine life in the bay except Ecco, leaving him alone in the bay. Upon leaving the bay to search for his pod, he contacts several dolphins from other pods, who tell him the entire sea is in chaos, and that all marine creatures had felt the storm. An orca tells Ecco to travel to the Arctic to find a blue whale named the "Big Blue", who is revered among marine mammals for its age and wisdom. Once Ecco finds him, the Big Blue tells him such storms had been occurring every 500 years and directs him to the Asterite, the oldest creature on Earth. He leaves the Arctic and travels to a deep cavern where he finds the Asterite. Although it has the power to aid him, one of its globes is missing, and needs it returned. However, this can only be achieved by traveling back in time using a machine built by the ancient Atlanteans.

    Ecco travels to the sunken city of Atlantis, where he discovers the time machine and an ancient library. He learns the cause of the storm; it was a harvest of Earth's waters that was conducted every 500 years by an alien species known as the Vortex. The Vortex had lost their ability to make their own food, and so every 500 years, they would harvest from the waters of Earth. Learning this, he activates the time machine and travels 55 million years into Earth's past. Ecco locates the Asterite in the past but is immediately attacked by it. Forced into battle, he manages to dislodge a globe from it. This opens a time portal and he is sent back into the present. After receiving the globe, the Asterite grants him the power to turn his sonar into a deadly weapon against the Vortex, as well as the abilities to breathe underwater and to slowly regenerate lost health. The Asterite instructs him to use the time machine to travel back in time to the hour of the harvest. This time he manages to be sucked into the waterspout with his pod. Once inside the waterspout, Ecco makes his way towards the Vortex Queen, the leader of the Vortex race. Eventually, the Vortex Queen is destroyed and Ecco rescues his pod.

    Development[edit]

    The game's creator, Ed Annunziata, had decided to intentionally make the game difficult because he had feared that children who rented it would be able to easily complete the game over the weekend.[7]

    Versions[edit]

    Reception
    Review scores
    Publication Score
    MegaTech 94%[8]
    Awards
    Publication Award
    MegaTech Hyper Game

    The game was originally released in 1992 for the Sega Mega Drive, and became a bestseller.[9] Mega placed the game at #24 in their Top Mega Drive Games of All Time.[10]

    An enhanced Sega Mega-CD version that features new and redesigned levels and an alternate Red Book audio soundtrack, composed by Spencer Nilsen, was also released. On release, Famicom Tsūshin scored the Mega-CD version of the game a 27 out of 40.[11] This version was later ported to Windows. The Windows port was further enhanced with higher resolution graphics.

    Game Gear and Master System versions were also released; they featured different levels to the other versions and a special intro featuring a whale song, and dolphin noises for the title screen.

    Game Gear[edit]

    The Game Gear version had some notable features in the intro that were not present in the Mega Drive version. These included a dolphin crying "SEGA" on the SEGA screen and dolphins laughing on the title screen.

    Sega Mega Drive Collection/Sega Genesis Collection[edit]

    Ecco the Dolphin, along with Ecco: The Tides of Time and Ecco Jr., can be found on the PS2, and PSP game Sega Genesis Collection.

    RealOne Arcade[edit]

    In 2002, Sega's first attempt to enter the downloadable retail game content business occurred on RealOne Arcade.

    The first few titles released included Ecco the Dolphin, Columns III and Shinobi III. These downloadable releases came in one hour trial versions.

    Virtual Console[edit]

    Ecco the Dolphin was released in Europe and Australia for the Virtual Console on Nintendo's Wii console on December 8, 2006 for 800 Wii Points.[1] It was released in North America on November 28, 2006 for 800 Wii Points, and in Japan on December 2, 2006 for 600 Wii Points.[1]

    Xbox Live Arcade[edit]

    Ecco the Dolphin was released on the Xbox Live Arcade for a price of 400 MS Points on August 15, 2007 for the Xbox 360.[3]

    Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection/Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection[edit]

    Ecco the Dolphin is part of Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, along with its sequel.

    Nintendo 3DS[edit]

    3D Ecco the Dolphin is a port of the game for the Nintendo 3DS as part of Sega's 3D Classics line. Along with stereoscopic 3D graphics and the option to choose between Japanese and International versions of the game, the port also adds 'Super Dolphin Mode', which decreases the difficulty by giving players invincibility and unlimited oxygen. The game was released on the Nintendo eShop in Japan on June 26, 2013, and in North America and Europe on December 12, 2013.[12]

    References[edit]

    1. ^ a b c d "Wii.Nintendo.com - Wii Virtual Console games - Ecco the Dolphin". Nintendo. Nintendo. 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-05-18. Retrieved 2007-09-25. 
    2. ^ a b http://store.steampowered.com/app/34274/
    3. ^ a b "Ecco the Dolphin - Game Detail Page". Microsoft. Microsoft. 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-08-23. Retrieved 2007-09-25. 
    4. ^ a b c http://www.gamingfurever.com/editorials/727-sef-s-interview-with-ed-annunziata-game-designer-of-ecco-the-dolphin
    5. ^ "285469578635640832." Ed Annunziata at Twitter. Retrieved on January 30, 2013.
    6. ^ "Arkonviox.com - Welcome to the Machine and Pink Floyd". 
    7. ^ "Ecco The Dolphin". Did You Know Gaming?. 2014-02-02. Retrieved 2014-08-02. 
    8. ^ MegaTech rating, EMAP, issue 22, page 98, October 1993
    9. ^ Official Gallup UK Mega Drive sales chart, April 1993, published in Mega (magazine) issue 7
    10. ^ Mega magazine issue 26, page 74, Maverick Magazines, November 1994
    11. ^ NEW GAMES CROSS REVIEW: エコー・ザ・ドルフィン CD. Weekly Famicom Tsūshin. No.324. Pg.41. 3 March 1995.
    12. ^ http://www.siliconera.com/2013/12/10/3d-ecco-dolphin-rebalanced-difficulty-two-versions-one/

    Nintendo Official Magazine Staff (2001). Nintendo Official Magazine - Nintendo's Market Share 1988. Future Publishing. p. 35.

    External links[edit]

    • Arkonviox.com - An Ecco the Dolphin news and resource website with a focus on the 8/16 bit classics and Ecco, Defender of the Future.
    • Caverns of Hope - An Ecco the Dolphin news and resource website, with a focus on the Defender of the Future title for Sega Dreamcast.
    • Ecco the Dolphin DARK SEA - An Ecco the Dolphin resource site with a focus on research into prototype versions of the games, multimedia archiving and interviews with Ecco Team.
    • Significant Bits section - An article listing some of the most notable points of Ecco the Dolphin.
    • The Big Blue - The newest Ecco website.Links, downloads, and all about Ecco.
    Preceded by
    Sonic 2
    UK number-one Mega Drive game
    April 1993
    Succeeded by
    PGA Tour Golf 2