Nerdy Monday 6: Ecco the Dolphin
In a world filled with first person shooters, World of Warcraft, Mario making yet another comeback on the Nintendo Wii, RPG’s, and character mission games, there aren’t any puzzle games anymore. If you look back on the great NES/SNES/Sega games of the late 80′s and early to mid 90′s, there were a lot of games that required you to solve puzzles in order to advance in the levels of the game. Zelda is the prime example I think of. Everyone remembers it, it was (I think) the only officially licensed game (that was popular) that came in a golden cartridge. With the many different worlds, enemies, screens, weapons, and all the other things involved with Zelda, it took time to play. Nowadays, the die hard fans can beat that 8-bit masterpiece in a matter of an hour or so. But when we were all going through the levels the very first (or even the second or third) time around, it was puzzling. The different moves you made in certain levels played a factor in other levels. There were sequences you had to perform certain tasks in, and I wrote a lot of them down in the “notes” section of the instruction manual I had for the game. Those kinds of games were great. I certainly don’t think my parents thought so at the time, but those skill sets carried over into my studies. Especially in middle or high school when I started getting into more complicated mathematics. I already had sharpened my problem solving skills to the point of being deadly, and deadly accurate with them.
Which brings me to a cult classic: Ecco the Dolphin: the Tides of Time. Yes, I owned this gem growing up. I recently repurchased it at “Trader’s Village” in Kingsport. I got it for $2. If you’re looking for retro video games, go to Trader’s Village, there’s a man named “Tony”, he’ll have just about everything you’d want. Tell him I sent you. Anyways, this past week, between interviewing Mrs. Bethany Wilson for the write up on The Blowfish Emporium, lining up an interview for this coming Friday, and typing up the next section of my book, along with looking for a steady job, I re-played, and re-beat The Tides of Time. It was great. I had to cheat once or twice, but I didn’t break out my game-genie. For the most part, I sat down and played and played until I figured out how to get through each level. 20 years after the original release, it was still challenging, frustrating, and aggravating, all in a good way of course. It’s funny because my buddies and I get together and play these old games. Big Rod, a friend of mine is all serious about first person shooters, and he and I had a hard time playing Paperboy 2 on SNES one time. My brother A1C Jeremy Dotson is the same type of gamer as Big Rod, and plays COD 13 or something on 360 Live, but can’t get a handle on playing these older games. It just goes to show you that no matter how good of a gamer you are, playing ehse old games that came out in the video game industry’s infancy will challenge the crap out of you!
Everything I remember about this game is still there. The controls are simple and effective, the gameplay seems cut-and-dry-enough, and there are numerous enemies, warp levels, and other dolphins to talk (“sing”) to, to keep you amused for a while. If you’re lucky enough to still own this game, keep it. It is a treasure work saving shelf space for. If you can play it on an emulator or something, do it because you will be thoroughly satisfied.
Each one of the levels teaches you a new skill. I think it’s the first 6 or 7 levels that teach you all of the possible capabilities that Ecco can do. After that, you have to remember to use all of them in the more difficult levels. And if you get caught, do what I did.. go to youtube and look up level walk-throughs for the Tides of Time. That in and of itself is amazing. I wish I had youtube back in 1993, it would have saved a lot of controllers from being turned into frisbees, or getting stomped on, thrown in the freezer, off the back deck, or up into a tree. yeah, my parents were not happy about that any time it happened.
As an added bonus, I also went through and beat Ecco the dolphin: Defender of the Future for you guys on Sega Dreamcast. It was a little different. As opposed to the Tides of Time, which is a sequal but can serve as a stand alone game, Defender of the Future took it one step further. It was a little more difficult getting used to all of the controls. That’s to be expected though on any Dreamcast game. That system was not out for very long, not many people had it, and not a lot of people remember the controllers like they do Sega genesis, N64, or playstation. Once you get past that though, it only takes about 5-10 minutes to get everything down pat. Playing Defender of the Future (DoF) was more fun to me than Tides of Time (ToT). I think it may have just been me, but I think Ecco is self aware. He looks happier to see me in DoF.
It’s almost as if the dolphin himself knows this will be a better game. Granted the graphics were better, because it came out on a “Next-Gen” system with a 128K byte processor. I loved the Dreamcast. I was one of the first people ever to have Soulcalibur, still have it, and am proud of it. DoF also brought into the next generation a lot of the puzzles that seemed to fade away with the cartridge consoles. With DoF, it seemed like you had to remember all of the “strategies” and abilities from the first Ecco, and ToT. AND it added new manuvers and things of its own. The levels were longer, and there were more of them. After beating ToT just a few days ago, I feel like I could beat it in an hour and a half if I really tried and timed myself (and if I cared). DoF though, you get so frustrated and confused you have no choice but to save it to your handy-dandy VMU, and walk the hell away from it for a little while. You have to set time aside from it to go think about other things. And in some cases, figuring out the meaning of life would be less mentally straining than that game. Keep in mind I had never played it before this past week, so it was all new to me. But once you beat the entire game, and you see Ecco swimming and he’s all happy, and tells you congratulations, it makes it all worth it.
Overall, both of these games get 8/10 difficulty, 10/10 nostalgia, and 9/10 overall game play. Not bad for a bloodthirsty, smart-as-hell hunter who catches fish like this. Play these games. you can get a Dreamcast at flea markets all around the Tri-Cities for $20. That’s how much I paid for mine, and Tony threw in about 5 games, 3 controllers, 5 VMUs, a RumblePak, and a controller cable extender. There are websites out there that let you download Dreamcast games for free, or $6 a month. Either way DoF is the way to go. Oh and by the way, downloading/burning/copying Dreamcast games is legal since no one is making money off of the rights to the games anymore. It’s delicious. DoF was the first game I downloaded and burned for my Dreamcast, and I have close to the entire Dreamcast library. You can youtube how to burn the games, they’d explain it better than I ever could. I highly recommend the Ecco franchise to anyone. Maybe you played them all growing up, and want a little nostalgia in your life (like me), or maybe they’re just new to you and you want to see what the older Sega games are all about. Ecco may not be the best thing that Sega ever developed, but it’s up there. It’s definitely one of my favorites.
See you at the flea market, and happy gaming!
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