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This is a great RPG game from Appaloosa Interactive. It originally ran on the Dreamcasttm, but there is a PS2 version now. It is, in many ways, similar to a flight simulator crossed with any of several other role-playing games(note: some may say this is and RTS. But they are wrong).

Story

You take the part of Ecco, a bold young dolphin with the stars of the constellation Delphinus on his forehead. The story is set 500 years in Earth's future, with man and dolphin living side by side, as friends and allies. Peace and happiness all round, except some nasty guys called 'The Foe' plan on wrecking the party. They've pillaged, raped, plundered, raped, killed, raped and raped for ages. Then, for whatever reason, mankind and dolphinkind stop them. They plot some horrid vengeance on earth.
Fortunately, they are held back by the Guardian, a giant crystal with mystical powers. The Foe probe for weakness, and thus the game begins.

Controls

The controls are simple enough, but can get confusing in tight situations.
A)This is accelerate. When tapped, Ecco speeds up. If held down, he maintains speed.
B)This is charge, which boosts Ecco to higher speeds than is otherwise possible. This can be used to attack enemies, eat fish, or just jump higher out of the water.
X)This causes Ecco to emit a sonar pulse, as dolphins do, to scan surroundings, talk, and also can become a weapon later.
Y)This is the button for special maneuvers, dodges, etc. It is used in combination with other buttons to create these.
It does take some practice to learn how to use these controls properly, but using them at all is not hard.

Gameplay

*Gargles mildly*. Oh, this bit is good. In most respects, the world is similar to a flight simulator: you can move in all directions, at different speeds. This gives the game real depth and feeling. Knowing how to use multiple directions is important.
As a mammal, Ecco needs to breathe oxygen, either from the surface or from an air vent. If not, the air meter steadily drops until it is empty, then Ecco will quickly lose health and die. Fortunately, you have infinite lives, or the game would be impossible. When Ecco is killed, he respawns from the last checkpoint. Unfortunately, there is no indication as to where these are.
The other meter is health. Health is lost when you fight and take hits. If the health reaches 0, Ecco dies. Health is replenished by eating fish. Different fish heal different amounts of health. The heal rate appears to based on how easy it is to catch, and it's rarity on that particular level. Some fish are poisonous, and hurt if caught. However, if poisoned by a jellyfish, they are the only cure.
Fighting is not the biggest aspect of the game, but sharks, and other, nastier dangers await. The game fighting system is simple: use attacks to kill your enemies. Some enemies are tougher than others.
The game's style is primarily puzzles. Most of the game's puzzles are actually quite difficult. Unlike some games, they require skill to solve. That said, the difficulty of puzzles throughout the game is uneven. The second level is harder than the first, but also harder than the third, and some others. The absolute hardest level is disputed, but most agree that the penultimate level is the most annoying. This is the only weakness to the gameplay, really.
Finally, my favorite part: jumps. Rising for air is fun. Jump straight up, twist, twirl, spin, chirrup, just about anything is possible.

Graphics

*gargles loads*. Fantastic. Perfect. Brilliant. Amazing 3D world, with just the right background fade for different clarities of water. Seaweed dangles and waves, fish dart, dolphins leap into the air. It's fantastic. Beautiful. The animals are perfect. Literally. They have captured the turtles, the fish, the whales, everything is just right. The sharks are probably best. Absolutely evil, through and through. The image of fear.
And yet, this is just the first two levels - greater treats await. The magnificent Hanging Waters is a level of perfection beyond all doubt. Like crystals, high in the air. They have done well.
Too good to say any more about, really. Experience is the best teacher.

Sound

As good as the graphics, even the title screen music is perfect - it brings images of dolphins to the mind, bypassing the eyes entirely. The music fits the game. Every level has been tailor-fitted. It is awesome. Beyond words. Every sound is done carefully, every splash and bubble fits like a skin to the graphics.

Warning! Plot details follow!
In-game story

In the first section, Tranquility Isle, the Guardian is broken by The Foe. You must journey to Atlantis to repair it. This is set in the first timeline. It isn't too hard.

The second section is Man's Nightmare. This is misleading; it actually means a nightmare for dolphins, created by man. This timeline exists because, having broken the Guardian, The Foe travel back in time, to attack earth in the past. Once then, they steal from the dolphins their 'traits' of intelligence, ambition, compassion, wisdom, and humility. Then, Ecco arrives. He uses metamorphosis to change into a Foe-thing, and destroys their spaceship. However, the globes, along with Ecco, are scattered through time, and lost. This makes dolphins weak, and mankind enslaves them. They are split into three groups: Movers, who make machines go, Crimsons, who are the caretakers, and the Circle, who operate controls for machines. You must guide Ecco through this section, with it's murky water and puzzles, to reclaim two of the stolen globes (Intelligence and ambition).

With two globes retrieved, the vortex of time re-opens. This takes you to the third section: Dolphin's Nightmare. As before, this is the nightmare created by dolphins. Without the others to balance them, dolphins have become intelligent, ambitious, and consequently greedy, vengeful and callous. They have split into just two categories: The Clan, who are yellow, spiky and gilled (their leaders are black, and the bosses are white), and the Outcast, who are green and gilled. The Clan are out to get the Outcast. You must reclaim compassion, which makes dolphins friendlier, and wisdom, which makes them just and fair. The vortex re-re-opens, and sends you on to the final area.

Domain of The Foe. This is the big one. Without humility, dolphins and man were unable to beat The Foe. The earth is now their domain. They are ruled by the Foe Queen, who has the final globe trapped between her teeth. You must kill her and take the last globe. Then the game goes to a happy ending, where you return to the nice, happy world there was before.

Songs

As the game progresses, you learn 'the songs of the sea'. They are taught to you by other dolphins. They basically enhance the sonar, giving it special aautomated functions when used on the correct object.

  • Song of the Turtle. Use it on a turtle and it will follow you around. They are quite slow, so don't rush. Learnt on lvl 2.
  • Song of the Shark. This is more like it. Use it on any shark, and it will be briefly stunned. It will freeze, and become vulnerable to attack. Most importantly, if you ram a shark head-on while stunned, it will not hurt you as it normally does. Learnt on lvl 2
  • Song of the Fish. Also great, use it on a small shoal of fish and they will follow you. Some fish are just food, some glow in dark caves, and others are poisonous, and therefore enemies will not attack out of fear. Learnt on lvl 2.
  • Song of the Ray. This makes the giant manta ray go where you point it. Just aim to line up Ecco, the ray, and the destination. Also, it makes stingrays reveal their position, and swim away if they are visible. Learnt on lvl 4.
  • Song of the Plant. Makes a certain type of plant squirt ink around, thus allowing you to see a harmful, invisible form of seaweed. This is only used once, I think. Learnt on lvl 1, section 3.

Also, the Labour Harness you gain in the second area enhances sonar, but it is not a song, as such.

Overall

A great game, worth playing in every respect. If you have a Dreamcasttm, get it. It is just too good to miss.

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