Way to swim, tiny orca“Let’s hear your idea.”
“Okay… okay… alright… here’s the deal, the game is called Ecco the Dolphin, and it stars… a dolphin named Ecco. Straightforward, right? That’s all we need.”
“Ecco the Dolphin, eh? I can dig it. So, this, Ecco was it? Ecco is like Sonic? All edgy and maybe we can get a couple of animated shows out of it if it’s popular?”
“Well… no… I was thinking Ecco would just be, like… a regular dolphin.”
“Yeah, like, he’s just a dolphin.”
“What? Not anthropomorphic? No legs?”
“So he just stays in the water… and swims around?”
“No attitude? No getting in the player’s face?”
“Would… would he even talk?”
“Well, I guess he could talk…”
“… To other dolphins and sea animals and stuff.”
“What? Ugh. Wait! Oh! Can he, like summon sharks and octopi like Aquaman?”
“No… that would be… No. Just no.”
“Damn. Okay, yeah, maybe that was a stupid idea. So what, he’s going to be an underwater dolphin that jumps on sharks to rescue his princess?”
“What? Whoa, no. No jumping. Ecco is a dolphin. He just, you know, swims.”
“Swims? Ugh, okay, I guess we can work with that. He can at least run?”
“Run? Underwater? No, but I guess he could… dash? Like a really fast swim?”
“Now we’re getting somewhere! Gotta show off that blast processing somewhere in there.”
“I don’t think that’s a real…”
“So Ecco the Dolphin dashes all over the ocean to save his… what? Princess? Girlfriend?”
This is how the level starts!“Woof… can he just be a dolphin? Swimming? Like the point is just to survive in the ocean? Breathing and eating fish and stuff?”
“He has to have goals! Video games are about goals!”
“Alright, he got separated from his pod. Is that cool? It’s like he’s trying to get back to his family.”
“Nobody would pay any attention to the story of a fish trying to get back to his family!”
“Dolphins aren’t really fish. You see…”
“Don’t care! Which is what everyone is going to be saying about this game! Alright, let’s make it simple, his ‘pod’ has to be rescued by Ecco.”
“Isn’t that what I just…”
“Because they were kidnapped by aliens! Get it! Aliens vs. dolphins! It practically writes itself!”
“What? That’s crazy, why would…”
“They want to eat him. Duh. Ever seen the Twilight Zone? Now all we need is how Ecco fights the aliens. Maybe he could collect three magical weapons…”
“No! No weapons! He’s just a dolphin. He could use that dash to beat the aliens. Isn’t that just what the hedgehog does? He’s fast?”
“No. Do you even play our games? Sonic jumps, and somebody already said that Ecco can’t jump.”
“Because he’s in water…”
“Whatever. What other powers do dolphins have?”
“Powers? Dolphins just swim and making dolphin noises… that’s pretty much it.”
“Noises, eh? Alright, how about this: Ecco has a magical scream that can hurt the aliens.”
“A scream? How about just, like, echolocation? You know, what dolphins use to navigate underwater?”
“Ecco uses echoes? Oh that is gold. I’ll have the boys start making this game immediately. Ecco the Dolphin fights the Vortex?”
“The Vortex?”
“That’s the name of the aliens, dummy! Try to keep up!”

· · ·

“Alright, sorry to bring you back here, but we have a problem with Ecco the Dolphin.”
“What’s wrong? Is it being cancelled? It’s not… it’s not because of Zool, is it?”
“What? No. Zool is going to be its own big hit, but that’s beside the point. Look, the problem is that we’re having trouble coming up with levels for Ecco.”
“That’s crazy. Ecco has the entire ocean available.”
“Yes, he’s stuck in the ocean. You see the problem.”
Like a penguin!“How is that a problem? The ocean takes up three quarters of the Earth! You literally have 75% more options than every other game that takes place on Earth.”
“You’re not thinking like a video game designer. Look, there are some tried and true levels out there: grass stage, fire stage, ice stage, water stage, sewer stage, city stage, cave stage, and then techno stage. The final level is always the techno stage. And we can’t do a fire stage because of all the water everywhere.”
“So?! So!?! SO, Mr. Dolphin Guy, we’re stuck with water stage, over and over again. That’s good for the beginning of this little fishy adventure, but once you get past a shark and an octopus, it gets old. People barely care about water stages to begin with; nobody is going to want to play a game that is all water stages.”
“Can’t all the water stages be different?”
“An entire game about exploring the same boring ocean? Never going to happen. Make with the ideas.”
“I don’t see why this is… Fine. You said something about an ice stage? Ecco has to go the South Pole to meet with… a whale? An old, wise whale. So there’s your ice stage.”
“Oh, I like this idea, like there are old sea animals that know the aliens’ weaknesses. This could work… Yes… Yes, what is the name of that Scottish dinosaur sea creature?”
“What? That’s… That’s not a real thing. Are you talking about Nessie?”
“Yeah, that’s the ticket! Nessie! Ecco could go meet Nessie, who was around the last time the aliens invaded!”
“What? No, absolutely not! Nessie. Isn’t. Real.”
“Neither are aliens! Okay, maybe not Nessie, though, that stupid name would probably remind people of the competition… But Ecco goes to meet a really old, like, dinosaur fish.”
“I don’t see how this helps…”
“And then goes back in time! Dinosaur level! Dinosaurs are hot right now!”
“What? Ecco can’t travel through…”
This makes perfect sense!“Yeah, Ecco goes back in time to get help with fighting the aliens, and then comes back to the present. Oh! Ecco gets the power to travel through time in Atlantis! City level!”
“Argh… and the last level is against the aliens, so that has to be the techno level, doesn’t it?”
“You’re right, and when you’re right, you’re right. That’s perfect. Now we’ll just put a sewer…”
“Please don’t make Ecco swim through a sewer. I just… Just promise me there won’t be a sewer level.”
“Fine. Suppose we have to save something for the sequel. Hell, we could probably make an entire game out of sewers and sea predators.”
“A dolphin isn’t really a predator.”
“Doesn’t matter. Any other requests, your highness?”
“I really don’t think asking… You know what? Sure. Special request: could you make the game hard? I want people to remember Ecco exploring and having fun in the ocean, not… whatever these other levels are turning into.”
“Oh, don’t worry about that. This whole ‘video game rental’ thing is destroying our industry, and we were already going to make it hard as titanium. Can’t let the little rugrats beat the game in a night, you know?”
“Yeah… that sounds like a great idea. Game of the year, right here.”
“Glad we see eye to eye.”
“Oh, one last thing. Think you could sneak some Pink Floyd in there?”
“I’ll see what I can do.”

FGC #18 Ecco the Dolphin

  • System: Sega Genesis, and then a whole heck of a lot of systems since about 2006 or so. The 3D Classics version on the 3DS is the bee’s knees.
  • Number of players: They never got around to shoehorning in that orca with two mouths named “Choppers”, so just one player.
  • Goggle Bob Historical Fact: This is the first and only game my dad ever made me stop playing, as I was getting so frustrated with the instant death floating ice blocks that I was literally swearing at the television. This never happened again, as I learned to bottle up my rage and unleash it on unsuspecting random strangers.
  • Favorite Level: As much as it makes no sense, going back in time is always fun. Man, you could sell me practically any game with the premise “there’s eventually time travel”. The more time travel, the better the game. I have a Chrono Trigger tattoo that basically proves this to be true.
  • I hate everything about thisEver actually beat this game? Yeah, either with cheat codes or save states. The final boss is completely impossible, requiring some precision “shooting” and dodging, and then literally flinging Ecco right into the maw of death repeatedly, and any mistake means starting over a stage back. I have a hard time thinking of an action game with a more difficult, unfair finale.
  • Did you know? There’s a peculiar “humans are bad for the environment” message that is relayed by a good number of sea creatures in this game. It’s noble that they tried to stick a decent environmental message in the game where a dolphin travels through time to gain magical powers to defeat an alien race that returns to eat dolphins every five hundred years.
  • Would I play again? Ecco the Dolphin is one of those weird games that, every once in a while, I pick up, play, and then get to the exact moment it becomes too difficult to bother (about four levels in), and give up and play something else. OH MY GOD THIS IS A SONIC GAME!

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Battle Arena Toshinden 3. Actually, I can already see that becoming a “triple”, so let’s say Battle Arena Toshinden: The Trilogy. Three games for the price of one! Aren’t you excited? Please look forward to it!

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