Aside from a mediocre and confusing outing on the Dreamcast, Ecco the Dolphin hasn't been seen since disappearing into the Tides of Time, but now the team that produced the awesome Ecco is plotting a new oceanic adventure.
Aside from the occasional screenshot, Ecco the Dolphin is unlikely to ever feature in the Mega Drive Championships (except possibly the Challenge). An awesome one-player swim-a-thon it's a little bit platform and a little bit puzzle, but entirely awesome. There were two games created on the Mega Drive. The first Ecco the Dolphin saw our hero struggle to discover why his pod had disappeared entirely from the Ocean, ultimately discovering that defeating the evil Vortex is the only way to free his family. The sequel had our hero taking the fight to the Vortex in order to rescue the Astrite and subsequently prevent the oceans from falling into a dark future. Time travel, transforming into other animals, discovering Atlantis, alien worlds, are all part of the course for Ecco.
The music, the movement, the story and the adventure. From the eerie early loneliness of the game and discovering the hostility of the environment, the vast open stretches of the Open Ocean, to cursing that giant wall in Deep City, every moment is packed with more awesome than you can shake a stick at (and if you don’t happen to have a stick handy, be sure to get one before playing Ecco). The best part about Ecco the Dolphin is that it could have so easily gone down the route of toshness by opting to do an environmental themed game, giving some not-so-subtle hint that man's destruction of the planet also includes the vast seas and oceans, but mankind is nowhere in this game and instead of hippie stuff like stopping pollution, we are fighting space aliens who come to feed from the Earth's oceans - awesome!
Other than a regrettably mediocre and extremely confusing outing on the Dreamcast, Ecco the Dolphin has been absent from our consoles, but now the team who created the original Ecco the Dolphin are attempting to raise funds for a new title called "the Big Blue". Big Blue, of course, is also the name of the massive blue whale you meet in the original game. The new title promises "experience the ocean like never before" and although such a stand-alone comment would sound lame, in the context of Ecco the Dolphin it is a high bar reach.
So here, we go, we already speculate the Mega Drive Championship members have already contributed as much as £2 to the project and with our continuing support it might even reach £3. Our benevolence is indescribable: CLICK HERE FOR THE BIG BLUE KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN. The project is active until 29th April 2013 and requires $665,000 to continue.
AND FOR NO REASON WHATSOEVER: THE TOP 5 THROW YOUR CONTROLLER DOWN MOMENTS IN ECCO
5) That Sodding Big Wall in Deep City (Ecco the Dolphin)
Right, so you're swimming along and are feeling pretty good at mastering the controls of Ecco. You've braved the icy north, the depths of the tropics, marvelled at the sunken city of Atlantis and, empowered with the knowledge from the Library, you are ready to find the time machine and disappear into the past. Yet, arriving in Deep City provides a frustrating problem; a great big chuffing wall blocking the path. Let's be honest, the wall of Deep City makes the Berlin Wall seem wonderful. So after pootling around in the area underneath discovering no way out and franticly attempting to use the upwards current to propel Ecco over the wall, the likelihood is by this point the controller has been hurled to the floor and curses throw in the direction of whichever God you support. Like the hateful barrel of hate in Sonic 3's Carnival Night Zone, you might have mastered playing the game dynamics, however, this puzzle requires something different. The trick here is to use the B and C button simultaneously in order to leap over the damn thing - knowledge being key to this obstacle, once performed the struggle is never as intense. This technique is also needed in the City of Forever, although, after learning it in Deep City, it isn't quite as hateful.
4) Bloody Glyphs in Crystal Springs (Ecco 2: Tides of Time)
So we've just started enjoying the new look Ecco and the fact he no longer screams when hit and almost immediately we run into our first controller throwing part of the game; the sodding glyphs in Crystal Springs. The second chuffing level of the game and already the urge to kick the Mega Drive is present. Singing to the numerous glyphs around the level doesn't work and some other dolphin has already directed you to "something strange below" and given you the cryptic clue of "can you feel the energy pulling". The trick is to sonar the glyphs around the level repeatedly so as to sever them from their holds and then, when loose, move them down to the "something strange below". Once this has been figured out, the level isn't nearly as difficult, just time consumingly annoying. This is the only throw your controller down moment in Ecco 2, which although challenging in places, does so without being frustrating.
3) Dark Water and the Sodding Evil Asterite (Ecco the Dolphin)
It seems that when designing Dark Water, the developers sat down and said "how do we make this level as hard as possible?" If Machiavelli had been around in the late 20th Century he could have devoted an entire book to the Dark Water level. Resist the temptation to explore the level for all you will discover is death; through spikes, strong currents and spikes, remorseless evil trilobites, those carrot type enemies and more spikes. Going the direct route is no picnic either (unless you hate picnics and find yourself frequently getting killed on them), fast moving crushing shells, a chuffing seahorse, those prehistoric eel shark things are all arranged for maximum difficulty. Then, just when you thought it couldn't get any worse you come face-to-face with the Asterite. The enigmatic creature from the Deep Water is less amiable in pre-historic times and greets Ecco with bolts of electricity which cause significant damage. In order to defeat the damn thing you must charge four globes of the same colour, however, infuriatingly, should you miss and hit a different colour then all your previous work is undone. Add to this, by this point in the level Ecco's air meter will be running close to empty requiring a swift fight and usually a swift death. Of course, these being the days before saving, being killed by the Asterite means having to re-do this entire nightmare level again - controllers will be hurled, pets kicked and rage vented.
2) Hard Sodding Water (Ecco the Dolphin)
A reasonably witty comment within an Ecco FAQ observes that they didn't need the word "water" in the name of this level. Frustration fest it is and Hard Water is easily the most difficult challenge Ecco has yet faced or will face until the Atlantis levels. Sure, the next level (Cold Water) sees the challenge of the Big Blue drown-a-thon, however, for sheer hair ripping annoyance, Hard Water is one of the worst. The enemies are the same annoying ones which appeared in Ice Zone, uber spider crab things, tiger sharks and jellyfish, however, what stands Hard Water apart are the sodding narrow passages and large blocks of shifting ice, which crush Ecco - instant death! Moving through passages at anything more than a cautious creep is inviting death upon Ecco and incorrect timing and movement is your greatest foe. In order to beat the Hard Water you must first skid along the ice surface to the left and dive down to discover a key glyph. The barrier glyph lies to the right of the level, just before the exit, in an upwards passage following a chasm of crushing ice. Death will find you fast and frequently.
1) Welcome to the Machine (Ecco the Dolphin)
So we’re nearing the end of the game and after somehow beating the damn evil past Asterite (without cheating or save states, right?), recovering the lost globe, travelling back in time to the eye of the storm and surviving the Tube, we reach a realm where frustration has a new name: the sodding Machine. Welcome to the Machine is an auto-scrolling level and the screen lurches mercilessly, squishing Ecco against the numerous walls and obstacles that litter the level. Throw into that mix many roving Vortex drones, dead end traps and the requirement of scurrying quickly between narrow gaps to avoid death and Welcome to the Machine creates one of the most hostile environments in the entire game. The good news is that this is the penultimate level and following this you get to slog it out with the Vortex Queen in the Last Fight; the bad news is that getting swallowed by the Vortex Queen transports Ecco back to the Machine. Wipe the sweat from those palms, grip those controllers tightly and be prepared for an endurance test the likes of which modern gaming, with its save points and help menus, has long since abandoned. Death, destruction, death again, death again, death again – now you’re getting the idea.
SPECIAL MENTION: Re-building the Bloody Asterite (Ecco 2: Tides of Time)
Ok, so this isn't frustrating, but it is easily the most tediously annoying premise in any Ecco game. Following the descent into the Moray Abyss Ecco is required to rebuild the damn Asterite by collecting pairs of globes. Prepare to spend the next few levels exploring every section in order to complete this task and getting pissed off at glyphs telling you "You may not pass yet... You must rebuild the Asterite". Fret not, as once this section is complete you get to morph into a shark, which is as awesome as it sounds.