Hello all! Last week, I wrote about a budget-ish ghost-filled game that was pretty awesome, despite not being a triple A title or aggressively marketed. Who’da thunk it?
This week brings us under the sea in a unique (and difficult as all hell) Sega Genesis classic.
Ecco the Dolphin hit the Genesis in 1992. It’s a side-scrolling action-adventure where you play as, um, Ecco the dolphin. During a carefree day in the ocean, Ecco shows off how high he can jump out of the water. While he’s airborne (I mean it must be a huge jump), a vortex sucks up Ecco’s fellow dolphins. Ecco sets out to find his pod, and runs into a variety of marine life along the way.
As Ecco, your primary method of attack is charging into enemies. You can swim freely in eight directions, which is liberating, but it makes tackling enemies tough at times, mostly because Ecco controls a bit loose and his tackle move is pretty intense. You’ve also got sonar, which you use to communicate with other characters and as a means to map out the areas you can’t immediately see.
There’s not much to the gameplay—that is to say, it’s not complicated on the surface. You swim around, explore levels, and look for Key Glyphs that allow you to unlock paths blocked by diamonds. You need to periodically surface for air, and generally everything is out to kill you.
Like I said, it’s not a complex game, but anyone who’s played Ecco knows how ludicrously difficult the game can be. You get hit by basically everything, your air runs out pretty quickly, and it’s mostly nebulous in terms of objectives and such. It’s a game you need to figure out for yourself, sort of like Dark Souls, really. It’s in fact that same Souls-like level of challenge in Ecco; it’s brutal, but you always feel like you can do it if you try. I mean, generally speaking; the “Welcome to the Machine” level is total BS and just sucks. But for the most part, the game is fair, if punishing.
I don’t really have a whole lot to say about Ecco; it’s a game I hated when I first played it. It took me a while to warm up to it. What makes Ecco great is, to this day, it’s still a unique experience. You have a sense of freedom in your movement, something you only see in games like NiGHTS (also a Sega title. Hmm). It’s an original plot and setting; not a lot of games take place under the sea and have you battling a freaky Eldritch terror alien at the end (seriously).
I think that’s why I stuck with this nigh-impossible game all the way to the end. It’s a one-of-a-kind title, and you feel good about finishing it (like Souls). It’s kind of interesting, to me, how Ecco mixes an insane challenge with a generally...I wouldn’t say completely positive, but it’s a sort of happy game, aside from Chuckles the Alien up there. It was also fun revisiting a somewhat forgotten character from gaming’s past; I think an Ecco title on a current-gen console would be fantastic. Or at least a game like Ecco, which, again, we’ve really not seen since.
Of note is the soundtrack; it’s one of the best gaming has to offer, particularly if you’re into Pink Floyd. It compliments the on-screen action perfectly, even though it doesn’t initially feel like it should. In a funny way, it lulls you into a false sense of security; you’re thinking “ahh, this game is pretty chill,” and then IT’S NOT. Give it a listen; it’s classic Floyd filtered through that 90's Sega Genesis sound we all (kinda sorta) love:
And give Ecco a try if you have the means. You might find it to be better than you thought. Just take a deep breath first, and relax: you’ve got this.
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Next week-A bunch of classic Sierra games just hit Steam, so maybe I’ll cover one of those!