Ecco the Dolphin

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Ecco the Dolphin
Box art of the North American release of Ecco the Dolphin. Painting by Boris Vallejo.
Developer(s) Novotrade International
Publisher(s) Sega
Director(s) László Szenttornyai (MD, CD)
László Mérő (GG)
Producer(s) E. Ettore Annunziata (MD, CD)
Jerry Markota (GG)
Designer(s) E. Ettore Annunziata (MD, CD)
László Szenttornyai (MD, CD)
Programmer(s) József Molnár (MD, CD)
Mihály Brudnyák (MD, CD)
Fox (MD, CD)
Attila Bús (GG)
Balázs Pápai (GG)
Artist(s) Zsolt Balogh (MD, CD)
- Talent - (MD, CD)
Eszter Páris (GG)
Composer(s) Spencer Nilsen (MD, CD)
Brian Coburn (MD)
András Magyari (MD)
Csaba Gigor (GG)
Gábor Foltán (GG)
Platform(s) Sega Genesis, Sega CD, Microsoft Windows, Game Gear, Master System, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo 3DS
ReleaseSega Genesis
  • EU: December 1992
  • NA: December 29, 1992
  • JP: July 30, 1993
Sega CD
  • NA: June 1993
  • EU: 1993
  • JP: February 24, 1995
  • JP: December 13, 1996
  • NA: June 1, 2010
July 22, 2010
Nintendo 3DS
3D Classics
  • NA: December 12, 2013
  • EU: December 12, 2013
  • JP: June 26, 2013
Genre(s) Action-adventure
Mode(s) Single-player

Ecco the Dolphin is an action-adventure game originally developed by Ed Annunziata and Novotrade International for the Sega Genesis known as the Mega Drive in regions outside of North America and published by Sega in 1992. Ecco the Dolphin was republished digitally via Nintendo's Virtual Console in 2006, [1] Microsoft's Xbox Live Arcade, [2] Steam, [3] iOS, and Nintendo 3DS.

Action-adventure is a video game genre that combine core elements from both the action game and adventure game genres.

Edward Ettore "Ed" Annunziata is best known for the Ecco the Dolphin series, Kolibri for the Sega 32X. and as the voice of "Greg" in the Sega Saturn game Three Dirty Dwarves. Later he served as an Executive Producer for Nokia's N-Gage mobile phone and gaming device, helping create nearly a dozen multiplayer titles for the platform. One of them, Smallball Baseball, was one of the first microtransactions-based games targeting the US market. In 2006, he founded Twofish, Inc. with Lee Crawford and Sean Ryan.

Sega Genesis Fourth-generation home video game console and fourth developed by Sega

The Sega Genesis, known as the Mega Drive in regions outside of North America, is a 16-bit home video game console developed and sold by Sega. The Genesis was Sega's third console and the successor to the Master System. Sega released it as the Mega Drive in Japan in 1988, followed by North America as the Genesis in 1989. In 1990, it was distributed as the Mega Drive by Virgin Mastertronic in Europe, Ozisoft in Australasia, and Tec Toy in Brazil. In South Korea, it was distributed by Samsung as the Super Gam*Boy and later the Super Aladdin Boy.


It is the first installment in the Ecco the Dolphin video game franchise. The player character is a bottlenose dolphin who travels through time to combat hostile extraterrestrials in Earth's oceans and on an alien spacecraft.

Ecco the Dolphin is a series of action-adventure science fiction video games developed by Novotrade International and published by Sega. They were originally developed for the Mega Drive/Genesis and Dreamcast video game consoles, and have been ported to numerous systems. The games are named after their main character, Ecco, a bottlenose dolphin. They are known for their high difficulty level. Ecco was created by Ed Annunziata, who also produced Chakan: The Forever Man.

Player character fictional character in a role-playing or video game that can be played or controlled by a real-world person

A player character is a fictional character in a role-playing game or video game whose actions are directly controlled by a player of the game rather than the rules of the game. The characters that are not controlled by a player are called non-player characters (NPCs). The actions of non-player characters are typically handled by the game itself in video games, or according to rules followed by a gamemaster refereeing tabletop role-playing games. The player character functions as a fictional, alternate body for the player controlling the character.

Bottlenose dolphin genus of dolphin

Bottlenose dolphins, the genus Tursiops, are the most common members of the family Delphinidae, the family of oceanic dolphin. Molecular studies show the genus contains three species: the common bottlenose dolphin, the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin, and the Burrunan dolphin. Bottlenose dolphins inhabit warm and temperate seas worldwide, being found everywhere except for the Arctic and Antarctic Circle regions.


Ecco the Dolphin for the Sega Genesis MD Ecco the Dolphin.png
Ecco the Dolphin for the Sega Genesis

Attacking enemies is accomplished by making Ecco ram into them at high speeds. Swimming can be made progressively faster by tapping a certain button, and the speed can be maintained by holding it down. Players can perform a purely aesthetic spin in the air when jumping out of the water.

Two features of the game play on actual dolphin habits: one button causes Ecco to sing, allowing him to speak with other cetaceans and interact with certain objects. The same button is used for echolocation: holding it down causes the song to return, generating a map of the area. Several levels contain enormous crystals called glyphs, which respond in different ways if Ecco touches or sings to them. Some block paths, and a "Key-Glyph" must be found in such cases to pass. Others give information, and a few in later levels replenish health/air and give Ecco temporary invulnerability.

Cetacea Order of mammals

Cetaceans are aquatic mammals constituting the infraorder Cetacea. There are around 89 living species, which are divided into two parvorders. The first is the Odontoceti, the toothed whales, which consist of around 70 species, including the dolphin, porpoise, beluga whale, narwhal, sperm whale, and beaked whale. The second is the Mysticeti, the baleen whales, which have a filter-feeder system, and consist of 15 species divided into 3 families, and include the right whale, bowhead whale, rorqual, pygmy right whale, and gray whale.

Animal echolocation method used by some animals to determine the location of something by measuring the time it takes for an echo to return from it

Echolocation, also called bio sonar, is the biological sonar used by several species of animal. Echolocating animals emit calls out to the environment and listen to the echoes of those calls that return from various objects near them. They use these echoes to locate and identify the objects. Echolocation is used for navigation and for foraging in various environments.

Additionally, Ecco, being a mammal, must surface periodically for air, or else find an air vent. If the "air meter" runs out, Ecco loses health rapidly, which represented drowning. His health is measured by a separate meter (above the air meter); it is depleted by enemies or when his air meter runs out, and it is recharged by eating fish, "singing" to clams, or, later in the game, singing to special statues or crystals called "glyphs". Ecco's song can be optionally upgraded at two points in the game: one upgrade allows Ecco's song to be used in combination with a charge as a long-range weapon, and the other temporarily disorients sharks and makes minor enemies freeze temporarily. Touching any enemy by any means other than an attack causes Ecco to sustain damage. The enemies range from seahorses to giant octopodes.

Mammal class of tetrapods

Mammals are vertebrate animals constituting the class Mammalia, and characterized by the presence of mammary glands which in females produce milk for feeding (nursing) their young, a neocortex, fur or hair, and three middle ear bones. These characteristics distinguish them from reptiles and birds, from which they diverged in the late Triassic, 201–227 million years ago. There are around 5,450 species of mammals. The largest orders are the rodents, bats and Soricomorpha. The next three are the Primates, the Cetartiodactyla, and the Carnivora.

Clam common name

Clam is a common name for several kinds of bivalve molluscs. The word is often applied only to those that are edible and live as infauna, spending most of their lives halfway buried in the sand of the seafloor. Clams have two shells of equal size connected by two adductor muscles and have a powerful burrowing foot. Clams in the culinary sense do not live attached to a substrate and do not live near the bottom. In culinary usage, clams are commonly eaten marine bivalves, as in clam digging and the resulting soup, clam chowder. Many edible clams such as palourde clams are oval or triangular; however, razor clams have an elongated parallel-sided shell, suggesting an old-fashioned straight razor.

The penultimate level of the game is titled "Welcome to the Machine", named after "Welcome to the Machine", a song on Pink Floyd's 1975 studio album Wish You Were Here . Ecco: The Tides of Time (1994) features a level called "New Machine", named after "A New Machine", a two-part song on Pink Floyd's 1987 album A Momentary Lapse of Reason . [4]

Welcome to the Machine Song by Pink Floyd

"Welcome to the Machine" is the second song on Pink Floyd's 1975 album Wish You Were Here. Written by bassist Roger Waters, it features heavily processed synthesizers and acoustic guitars, as well as a wide range of tape effects.

Pink Floyd English rock band

Pink Floyd were an English rock band formed in London in 1965. They achieved international acclaim with their progressive and psychedelic music. Distinguished by their philosophical lyrics, sonic experimentation, extended compositions, and elaborate live shows, they are one of the most commercially successful and influential groups in popular music history.

<i>Wish You Were Here</i> (Pink Floyd album) 1975 studio album by Pink Floyd

Wish You Were Here is the ninth studio album by the English rock band Pink Floyd, released on 12 September 1975 through Harvest Records and Columbia Records, their first release for the latter. Based on material Pink Floyd composed while performing in Europe, Wish You Were Here was recorded over numerous sessions throughout 1975, at Abbey Road Studios in London.


The game begins with Ecco, a bottlenose dolphin, as he and his pod are swimming in their home bay. One podmate challenges him to see how high into the air he can jump. When he is in the air, a waterspout forms and sucks up all marine life in the bay except Ecco, leaving him alone in the bay. Upon leaving the bay to search for his pod, he contacts several dolphins from other pods, who tell him the entire sea is in chaos, and that all marine creatures felt the storm. An orca tells Ecco to travel to the Arctic to find a blue whale named the "Big Blue", revered among marine mammals for its age and wisdom. Once Ecco finds him, the Big Blue tells him such storms have been occurring every 500 years and directs him to the Asterite, the oldest creature on Earth. He leaves the Arctic and travels to a deep cavern where he finds the Asterite. Although it has the power to aid him, one of its globes is missing, and needs it returned. However, this can only be achieved by traveling back in time using a machine built by the ancient Atlanteans.

Aquatic locomotion is biologically propelled motion through a liquid medium. The simplest propulsive systems are composed of cilia and flagella. Swimming has evolved a number of times in a range of organisms including arthropods, fish, molluscs, reptiles, birds, and mammals.

Waterspout weather phenomenon, intense columnar vortex that occurs over a body of water, commonly a non-supercell tornado over water

A waterspout is an intense columnar vortex that occurs over a body of water. Some are connected to a cumulus congestus cloud, some to a cumuliform cloud and some to a cumulonimbus cloud. In the common form, it is a non-supercell tornado over water.

Arctic polar region on the Earths northern hemisphere

The Arctic is a polar region located at the northernmost part of Earth. The Arctic consists of the Arctic Ocean, adjacent seas, and parts of Alaska, Finland, Greenland (Denmark), Iceland, Northern Canada, Norway, Russia and Sweden. Land within the Arctic region has seasonally varying snow and ice cover, with predominantly treeless permafrost -containing tundra. Arctic seas contain seasonal sea ice in many places.

Ecco travels to the sunken city of Atlantis, where he discovers the time machine and an ancient library. He learns the cause of the storm; it was a harvest of Earth's waters that was conducted every 500 years by an alien species known as the Vortex. The Vortex had lost their ability to make their own food, and so every 500 years, they would harvest from the waters of Earth. Learning this, he activates the time machine and travels 55 million years into Earth's past. While Ecco is in the past he learns an ancient song to communicate with a Pteranodon. Ecco locates the Asterite in the past but is immediately attacked by it. Forced into battle, he manages to dislodge a globe from it. This opens a time portal and he is sent back into the present. After receiving the globe, the Asterite grants him the power to turn his sonar into a deadly weapon against the Vortex, as well as the abilities to breathe underwater and to slowly regenerate lost health. The Asterite instructs him to use the time machine to travel back in time to the hour of the harvest. This time he manages to be sucked into the waterspout with his pod. Once inside the waterspout, Ecco makes his way towards the Vortex Queen, the leader of the Vortex race. Ecco destroys the Vortex Queen and his pod returns home.


The existence of Ecco the Dolphin had been heavily rumored throughout the industry before it was finally revealed by Sega in 1992 as a Genesis exclusive, then simply known as Dolphin. [5] After deciding to create a game based around dolphins, developer Ed Annunziata carried out research on the subject and was particularly inspired by the book Sounding by Hank Searls which explained how the creatures use echolocation. [6] Annunziata worked with the music team on the soundtrack, playing them songs by Pink Floyd to illustrate the feeling he was aiming for. [6] Annunziata later said, "I was paranoid about game rentals and kids beating the game over the weekend. So.. I.. uh... made it hard." [7] His favourite level was Welcome to the Machine, which was "way over the top challenging" [6]

The name Ecco comes from John C. Lilly, where, during his experiments with psychoactive drugs, he claims to have met a series of cosmic entities dubbed Earth Coincidence Control Office (E.C.C.O.). In his life, Lilly was involved in extensive research involving dolphins, compiling his work's findings in the book The Mind of the Dolphin. [8] The game takes much inspiration from Lilly's work with dolphins and his experiments with psychedelic substances. [9] Ed Annunziata himself has stated on his Facebook page: "I did read a lot from John C Lilly." [10]


The Genesis version of the game was released on December 29, 1992, during the same time Batman Returns was released for the Sega Genesis as well.

Game Gear and Master System

Sega Game Gear and Master System versions were also released; they feature different levels from the other versions and a special intro featuring a whale song, and dolphin noises for the title screen. The Game Gear version has a dolphin "SEGA" on the SEGA screen and dolphins laughing on the title screen, along with a new soundtrack by Csaba Gigor and Gábor Foltán, as well as a wider color gamut.

Sega CD and Windows

An enhanced Sega CD version that features new and redesigned levels and an alternate Red Book audio soundtrack, composed by Spencer Nilsen, was also released. This version was later ported to Windows. The Windows port was further enhanced with higher resolution graphics. In 2014 a fan-made fixed and enhanced version, dubbed Ecco PC Fixed & Enhanced Edition, became available for newer versions like Windows 10. [11] [12]

Sega Mega Drive Collection/Sega Genesis Collection

Ecco the Dolphin, along with Ecco: The Tides of Time and Ecco Jr. , can be found on the PlayStation 2, and PlayStation Portable game Sega Genesis Collection .

RealOne Arcade

In 2002, Sega's first attempt to enter the downloadable retail game content business occurred on RealOne Arcade. The first few titles released included Ecco the Dolphin, Columns III and Shinobi III. These downloadable releases came in one-hour trial versions.

Virtual Console

Ecco the Dolphin was released in Europe and Australia for the Virtual Console on Nintendo's Wii console on December 8, 2006 for 800 Wii Points. [1] It was released in North America on November 28, 2006 for 800 Wii Points, and in Japan on December 2, 2006 for 600 Wii Points. [1]

Xbox Live Arcade

Ecco the Dolphin was released on the Xbox Live Arcade on August 15, 2007 for the Xbox 360. [2]

Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection/Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection

Ecco the Dolphin is part of Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, along with its sequel.

Nintendo 3DS

3D Ecco the Dolphin is a port of the game for the Nintendo 3DS as part of Sega's 3D Classics line. Along with stereoscopic 3D graphics and the option to choose between Japanese and International versions of the game, the port also adds 'Super Dolphin Mode', which decreases the difficulty by giving players invincibility and unlimited oxygen. The game was released on the Nintendo eShop in Japan on June 26, 2013, and in North America and Europe on December 12, 2013. [13]

Ecco: Songs of Time

In 1996 a soundtrack album combining music from both Ecco the Dolphin and Ecco: The Tides of Time was released, under the title Ecco: Songs of Time. [14]


Review scores
Next Generation Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svgStar empty.svg (PC) [15]
MegaTech 94% [16]
Electronic Entertainment 9 out of 10 [17]
MegaTechHyper Game

The Sega Mega Drive version became a bestseller. [18] Mega placed the game at #24 in their Top Mega Drive Games of All Time. [19] On release, Famicom Tsūshin scored the Mega-CD version of the game a 27 out of 40. [20]

A reviewer for Next Generation called the PC release "little more than a conversion from the yesteryears of the 16-bit Sega Genesis. Except for a few video cut-scenes, there is little attempt to make this game look or play better for the PC." He nonetheless praised the game not only for its novel concept and responsive controls, but also "its smooth graphics". [15]

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Ecco: The Tides of Time is an action-adventure video game developed by Novotrade International, published by Sega, and released for most of Sega's then-supported gaming consoles in 1994. It is the second game in the Ecco the Dolphin series. The Tides of Time continued the story of the first game and featured similar gameplay with a few new additions.

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Ecco Jr. is a video game in the Ecco the Dolphin series, released in North America on August 15, 1995, and in Australia in November 1995. It had the controls and basic gameplay of the other two Mega Drive/Genesis titles, but is geared towards younger players, lacking the high difficulty of Ecco the Dolphin and Ecco: The Tides of Time.

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  1. 1 2 3 " - Wii Virtual Console games - Ecco the Dolphin". Nintendo. Nintendo. 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-05-18. Retrieved 2007-09-25.
  2. 1 2 "Ecco the Dolphin - Game Detail Page". Microsoft . Microsoft. 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-08-23. Retrieved 2007-09-25.
  3. "Ecco the Dolphin™ on Steam". Retrieved 21 November 2014.
  4. " - Welcome to the Machine and Pink Floyd". Archived from the original on 2011-07-07.
  5. "Genesis Preview:Dolphin". GamePro. GamePro Publishing. November 1992.
  6. 1 2 3 "Sef's Interview with Ed Annunziata, Game Designer of Ecco the Dolphin - Gaming Furever". Archived from the original on 29 November 2014. Retrieved 21 November 2014.
  7. "285469578635640832." Ed Annunziata at Twitter. Retrieved on January 30, 2013.
  8. Lilly, John Cunningham (1 May 2015). "The Mind of the Dolphin: A Nonhuman Intelligence". Gateways Books & Tapes. Retrieved 6 September 2016 via Google Books.
  9. "The Ketamine Secrets of Sega's 'Ecco the Dolphin' - VICE - United Kingdom". 16 March 2015. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  10. "Ecco the Dolphin: Caverns of Hope - Timeline - Facebook" . Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  11. Ecco PC - Fixed and Enhanced Edition on
  12. True Fan Hack Stories: Ecco PC Fixed & Enhanced Edition on (August 2014)
  13. "3D Ecco the Dolphin Has Rebalanced Difficulty And Two Versions In One". Siliconera. Retrieved 21 November 2014.
  14. "News Bits". GamePro . No. 95. IDG. August 1996. p. 17.
  15. 1 2 "Ecco the Dolphin". Next Generation . No. 15. Imagine Media. March 1996. p. 87.
  16. MegaTech rating, EMAP, issue 22, page 98, October 1993
  17. Nihei, Wes (January 1994). "Ecco the Dolphin". Electronic Entertainment (1): 100.
  18. Official Gallup UK Mega Drive sales chart, April 1993, published in Mega issue 7.
  19. Mega magazine issue 26, page 74, Maverick Magazines, November 1994.
  20. NEW GAMES CROSS REVIEW: エコー・ザ・ドルフィン CD. Weekly Famicom Tsūshin. No.324. Pg.41. 3 March 1995.