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Developer:
Appaloosa
Publisher: Acclaim
Platform: PS2, Dreamcast
Release Date: March 3, 2002

by Felipe Faria Lemos




In the history of the series, Ecco the Dolphin was never an easy game, but it has always managed to inspire, effortlessly, awe from a gamer. Filled with challenges, amazing environments, realistic models, and animation, it sets the mood like few games can. Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future was originally released on the Dreamcast a few years ago, and it was later ported to the PlayStation 2. Ecco the Dolphin is an award-winning series, which began on the Sega Genesis, developed by Appaloosa (formerly known as Novotrade) and published by Sega.


If you ever played the original Ecco the Dolphin games on the Sega Genesis, you probably got frustrated with the insane level of difficulty. However, if you got through that barrier and coped with the frustration, the game is truly rewarding. Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future is quite similar in that regard. While the level of difficulty is not the same in the Sega Genesis, since this time around you can save the game and there are checkpoints within the levels, it is still not an easy game. For the casual gamer, the difficulty will certainly drive them away from this title, but if you are a hardcore gamer who loves games that challenge you, Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future is for you.


The Ecco the Dolphin series has always boasted beautiful graphics and artwork, and, thankfully, in the PlayStation 2 it is looking as good as ever. The underwater environment is stunning, with water reflections, fish, coral reefs, sharks, and other sea creatures. The models all look great and move realistically. Talking about moving realistically, controlling Ecco is a great experience in itself. He moves so smoothly, fast, and accurately, you really get the feeling of controlling a real dolphin in its natural environment. With that said, in some of the more confined levels, he can get stuck, and controlling him requires a lot of patience and polishing your technique. On the bright side, most of the levels are vast and beautiful, with a huge variety in details and crisp textures, with a good frame-rate during most of the game.


Another difficulty worth mentioning is finding what you have to do next, and how to get there. Unfortunately, the sonar map in Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future is not as effective as it should be, especially in larger levels. Even with the added R3 function on the PlayStation 2 (Ecco will face the new objective direction), it still fails in giving the player a good sense of space and makes it a bit hard to locate yourself in a level you still did not memorize.


The story in the Ecco games has always been an interesting point. I believe a gamer would either love or hate it, since it is so different. The premise on this game is similar to the past Ecco games in certain aspects. In Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future, Ecco travels to both the past and future to save humans and dolphins from an extraterrestrial threat, known simply as the Foe. It is not the first time Ecco does some time traveling, since in the two past games he had to do so, also to contend with an extraterrestrial race, called the Vortex.


In this game, it is the dawn of the 30th century, and humans and dolphins set out together to explore the Universe. When they went out of Earth, a sinister enemy cast envious eyes upon it, for the Earth was a prize beyond measure. The Foe never gave up in finding a moment of weakness from the Guardian the greatest creation of the dolphin kind which protected the planet. It was in this time Ecco arrived at the isle of the Guardian to learn from the scholars of peace, but he was destined to be the only hope of both humans and dolphins, and savior of the future.


In the end, Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future is a true gem. Unfortunately, many people will never hear about it, or give it a try. With a spectacular number of levels and huge variety, Ecco has a great value for the price it can be found nowadays. For the regular player, the main adventure would probably span around 20 hours, and for completists, somewhere around 30, I would say. There are some extras here, including soundtrack, image gallery, and videos, which is good, but nothing truly extraordinary.


To finalize, Ecco is not an easy game in many aspects. Its gameplay is not perfect, some of the challenges are confusing and can frustrate the player, some of the mechanics are not the best, and the sonar map is very difficult to deal with. However, if the player can possibly see beyond all these difficulties, he or she will have a great, refreshing experience in the end, and it probably will make you want to try the old Ecco games (which also are worth your while), and will have won your heart, and place Ecco among your known and respected franchises.


Final Grade: 85%


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