11/16 -Ecco the Dolphin

Hello and welcome! My name is Katosepe and I’ll be your host for today’s Video Game of the Day.

Sometimes you play a game and the story just resonates with you. Everything is so exciting and new and you just want to find out what happens. Then when you go to tell a friend about it, suddenly, as the words come out, you start to realize that the game you just played was super weird. Even though it felt perfectly reasonable when you played it, somehow saying the premise out loud suddenly makes it incomprehensible. Today’s game is a perfect example of this phenomenon. Today’s game is Ecco the Dolphin, developed by Novotrade International for the Sega Genesis and released in 1992.

Players take control of Ecco, a dolphin who must save his friends. Ecco is able to use echolocation to map out his surroundings, and must solve puzzles and help other sea life to progress through the various levels. Movement is unique and has Ecco moving in all directions on a 2D plane. So while the camera looks at the game from the side, because of the game being underwater, the controls function more like a top-down action game. This strange movement is also used to create platforming puzzles where Ecco must jump out of the water at precise angles and speeds to succeed.

Ecco the Dolphin is a game with a simple idea, players can take control of a dolphin and go on underwater adventures. It can be a graphical showcase for the Sega Genesis, known as the Mega Drive for those outside of the US, and can be a family-friendly adventure for everyone. Somewhere down the line though, someone at Novotrade decided on a rather strange plot for Ecco to follow. 

As Ecco is swimming with his pod, all of the marine life in Ecco’s bay are sucked up into the air. Ecco finds out that every 500 years, an alien race known as the Vortex comes and harvests sea life and Ecco must now save his pod from the Vortex Queen. Ecco’s story involves time travel, prehistoric ocean gods, Atlantis and much more. Also there are Pink Floyd references in the level names.

To say Ecco is a bizarre game is an understatement but that doesn’t make it bad. In fact, the game received significant critical praise, particularly for the unique premise of the game and the beautiful artwork taking full advantage of the 16-bit hardware to create an underwater world. Ecco would be ported to the Game Gear and Master System although these versions were far inferior to the Genesis version. It would also be ported to PC which featured new levels and graphical features. Ecco the Dolphin would become a Sega mainstay, reappearing on the Sega CD and the Sega Dreamcast. 

Thank you so much for listening. I want to give a big thank you to Adrian Simple for coming on the show yesterday! If you missed that episode or just want to catch up on Video Game of the Day episodes you may have missed, head over to videogameoftheday.com. If you want to hear more interesting facts about the games we talk about, follow me on Twitter @vg_oftheday. Don’t forget to check back here tomorrow for another Video Game of the Day.

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