For those reading one of my Genesis review blogs for the first time, here is the basic concept:
I already reviewed a bunch of SNES games, so its natural that I am going to review the games of its prime competition. Does the SEGA Genesis stand a chance against the legendary SNES library?
My review series is based on the top 100 list of Retro Sanctuary
Originally, I post most of my stuff in a football forum"Goallegacy" which is the first online community I have ever joined. Which is the best place for a football fan (the REAL football, not handegg) to hang out in the internet.
Also, here are a number of extra rules for Destructoid:
-If you have any suggestion of a game that is not in the Gamesradar list that I should review, please suggest it.
-Make a bet on each game to check whether Chris Charter played it or not.
Without further ado, here is:
19: Ecco: The Tides of Time:
Genre: Action Adventure.
Developer: Novotrade International.
First things first, I am changing my rating system to better rate different genres according to their own rules. It will still be from 50 quality points, but every title will start from 25 and earn/lose points according to criteria important to the titles and genres themselves.
The two Ecco games are probably one of the most unique games on the Genesis. Water levels in other games are usually described as the weakest parts, but here is a game about Dolphins composed entirely of water levels. It's also a game about a dolphin that looks like a dolphin, not a mascot character.
It is a testament to the skills of its development team that Ecco not only manages to be unique game, but also actually fun and worth playing.
"Now we hear songs of fear from the north"
When games starring Ninjas, Knights, and soldiers rarely got a story in the 16bit era, it is very surprising that Ecco: The Tides of Time attempts to craft an actual narrative around the game. As a sequel to the first Ecco game, The Tides of Time begins after Ecco defeated the Vortex aliens that threatened his world before.
Yet, due to some time machine mumbo jumbo, the Vortex are back with a vengeance, and Ecco will need to travel through the past and the future to face their threat.
Ecco shouldn't travel to Australia 25 yeas in the future, because the great coroal reaf might disappear then
In the course of the game, you will travel to a utopian Dolphin time, where flying Dolphins rule both sea and air, as well as into dark oceans where the Cthulhu-like aliens suck you into alternate dimensions.
One nice detail that is consistent throughout the game is its attempt to use known qualities of dolphins in its telling. For instance, all communication between Ecco and his allies is through song, which is how dolphins communicate in reality.
There is a Story: +2
Varied Locations: +2
"Return to your time and stop the Vortex before they take root upon the Earth"
In traveling through the varied locations, the entire game will depend on how you adjust to swimming your way through them. Since all levels are in water in some form, Ecco can swim in all 8 directions in 2D space.
Except, swimming is programed with inertia and position in mind. This means that abruptly changing directions will reduce your speed, but moving within a smooth curve can allow you to change directions without losing momentum.
It has a natural feeling to it, and so I got used to it fast. It might still cause you some frustration when you need to build up speed just before a sharp turn in order to jump over some obstacle in the water, but you will probably get used to it.
Imagine a whale turning
Other than swimming around, Ecco will have to deal with some enemies, as well as consistently look for air sources. Being Mammals, dolphins actually breathe air, and so trying to fill the air meter in-game is a constant source of positive tension.
Enemies in the other hand are more nuisance than fun to deal with. Due to the way Ecco moves, it is sometimes incredibly difficult to tackle a shark two times to defeat it. It is even worse if your double-tap didn't register, because that shark will then bounce right back.
This leads to a difficult game becoming more difficult, especially in regards to the final boss which can almost be unbeatable if you don't figure out the only safe spot where you attack it from.
Fun Swimming Controls: +3
Managing Air Supply: +2
Weak Combat: -2
"I am from the distant future, or one possible future"
While The Tides of Time basically introduces all of its gameplay tricks in the first few levels, it manages to use them in a variety of ways in 30 levels without introducing much new.
Most levels are labyrinth of sorts, with Ecco looking for key stone to progress, or helping some sea creature who will return the favor. In the larger levels of this kind, it is sometimes difficult to get a grasp of your surroundings, or to know what you need to do to progress. Ecco can hold the sonar button to get a map of his surroundings, but the map is not detailed enough in some case.
Ecco is best in stages where it deviates from the maze structure. In one stage, you are swimming through a skyline while some giant squid thing chases you around. In another, you are being carried from one sky pool to another by one of those utopian dolphin creatures.
It is surprising how much mileage Novotrade International got from such a basic premise.
I guess in the Dolphin run future we will have rivers in the sky for more efficient travel, gotta get rid of the giant red jellyfish first though
One reason the entire design works is because of the challenge in the game. Its not an easy game, and there is always the possibility of dying mid-course. This puts you back in the start of the stage, which is OK for most stages.
However, there are longer stages which make this infuriating. The final few stages are simply devilish to go through, especially with enemies that can easily kill you with one hit. At that point, a difficult but fair game becomes decidedly unfair. which is obvious when you learn that Novotrade International intentionally upped the difficulty of the game to decrease Trade-ins for the game.
That is not to say the difficulty is insurmountable, there is even a higher difficulty setting for the experts, but that it takes too much time to get through with no pay-off. I say no pay-off because the times I went through, it felt more like luck than skill.
Varied Levels: +4
Too Difficult in the end: -3
"When will we swim n peace again?"
When Donkey Kong Country was released on the SNES with wide praise to its graphical innovations, and Sega might have been able to fight back in that battle if Ecco was a typical game, since it employed many of the same innovations.
With sprites rendered in 3D, it allowed for a smooth swimming animation that contrasted beautifully with the colorful and varied backgrounds. Both under and above water, the level backgrounds were beautiful, with colorful coral reefs and larger-than-life moons.
In some levels though, the underwater backgrounds were nearly non-existent. That was perhaps an attempt to showcase the emptiness of deep sea. However, a whale in the distance would have made a more effective use of perspective.
The Teleportation sequences were technoligically impressive
That is a minor complaint regarding the graphics of the game, but I cannot have any negative comments regarding its soundtrack.
Seriously, this might be the best Genesis soundtrack.
Reportedly inspired by Pink Floyd music, the tunes in Ecco are atmospheric and convey both the oceanic and sci-fi nature of Ecco's quest. From the opening track, you will realize that Ecco is not about a happy-go-lucky dolphin, but about a much grander quest.
Energetic tunes like my favorite, The Tubes of Medusa, contrasts well with sombre and mysterious tracks like Moray Abyss.
Its a constantly good soundtrack that removes the pain of having to repeat a 15 minute level from the beginning.
Good Graphics: +4
Great Soundtrack: +5
Like dolphins, Ecco: The Tides of Time is a game that is not afraid from swimming against the current. As a result, it managed somehow to become both an iconic and forgotten game at the same time.
While it is easy to get lost, and the difficulty might not provide pay-off to everyone playing the game, it is simply worth it to play a unique game which was not imitated in any way since. It also has some pretty sick tunes.
Swimming into the Horizone
1- Eat fish to restore your health.
2- Repeatedly use the Sonar skill to get a grasp of your surroundings.
3- Double tap the tackle button to permanently kill your opponents.
4- You can safely dodge enemies without having to deal with them, most of the time.
5- The Cthulhu like enemies can kill you very easily, either run away from them or immediately try and kill.
6- There is an item that upgrades your Sonar attack in almost every big level, it is worth it to find it, but don't go out of your way.
At first, I was going to play the first Ecco game before The tides of Time. However, I found that game to be an unpolished mess (Enemies will respawn at your face when you use Sonar for instance), so I just went ahead with this one. Maybe its only the soundtrack, but I ended up liking it despite wanting it to finish fast.
Next game on the list is the final Shinobi game on the list, Shinobi III at #16. Since I liked the previous two Shinobi games on the list I expect to like this one.
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