30 Years a Dolphin: Celebrating 3 Decades of Ecco
Staff, 2022-08-09 00:01:10,
It’s been 30 years since we first took control of that loveable little ocean scamp, Ecco. In that time the series has seen highs and lows of all kinds through its meagre five game releases, so why do some still revere it after all this time?
The year was 1992, the world had just been treated to its most violent and divisive beat ‘em up videogame, Mortal Kombat, and the concept of a family-friendly game set entirely in the ocean from the perspective of a marine creature seemed to be something of a pipe dream. Enter Ed Annunziata and Novotrade International’s Ecco the Dolphin.
Ecco The Dolphin is a science-fiction action/advenure game series where the player takes control of a — you guessed it — dolphin, as he attempts to save the ocean after a catastrophic storm which occurs every 500 years and removes a large portion of marine life. He does this by talking to other sea creatures, defeating enemies by headbutting them, and collecting ‘key-glyphs’. Ecco — being a mammal — needs to surface occasionally (otherwise he drowns) and also comes under attack from various sea life throughout his travels. He communicates with neutral and friendly sea life by ‘singing’ ; he also uses this mechanism to navigate his surroundings just as a real-life dolphin would.
Fast-forward to today, 30 years later, and I felt it was the perfect time to look back at this often-forgotten series. As mentioned previously, the Ecco series only has five mainstream releases and almost all of them have been met with mixed reviews and criticisms, with Ecco Jr. especially being hit with accusations of being “unoriginal” and “a way for Sega to dig its claws into impressionable minds of young children and make them believe they need to graduate to the first (and more original) Ecco.”
Realism was always at the forefront of the development of Ecco for Annunzita, as he had recently read Hank Searls’ book Sounding, which covers the topic of echolocation and how dolphins navigate the ocean using sound due to their eyesight being lacking in spite of their 300-degree viewing angle. Sound is exceptionally important in the Ecco series, with the soundtrack taking inspiration from ethereal sounds such as the work of Pink Floyd.
Graphically, Ecco was years ahead of many of the titles being released at the same time. The game is built on a 8-bit engine which does limit the colour and depth capability. This is barely…
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