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YMMV / Ecco the Dolphin

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  • Breather Level: Defender had "Obscure Ways to Terminus," which was almost insultingly simple after a series of difficult and confusing levels, and there were no enemies to speak of.
  • Broken Base: A low-key disagreement regarding Defender. The absence of Ecco's usual mindfuckery had a mixed reaction from some old-timers, though it left an impression on younger players and added to Ecco's niche fanbase.
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  • Complete Monster: Defender, the two unnamed Exalted Ones lack the redeeming qualities of the leader, Mutaclone, and are merely vile supremacists. Using their power over their oppressive group, the Clan, the Exalted Ones order numerous atrocities, such as using whales as living generators; cutting off the food supply of a village they cast out before sending sharks to attack them; and torturing a member of the dolphin resistance. Unrelentingly cruel, the Exalted Ones show nothing but pride in their action, one even saying they believe compassion to be a weakness.
  • Disappointing Last Level:
    • Defender gets hit with this bad during Domain of the Enemy.
    • Welcome To The Machine in the original game.
  • Goddamned Bats: Goddamned Crabs/Pufferfish/Trilobites: There are quite a few enemies in the Genesis games that make you see the positive side of driving things to extinction.
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  • It Was His Sled: The Vortex aliens and time-traveling shenanigans were meant to be enormous twists in the first game that undoubtedly caught a lot of gamers by surprise. Nowadays, it's impossible to talk about the series without mentioning either.
  • Narm: The death of the Asterite. What should be a pretty touching moment suffers from the limitations of the game engine, as it's depicted as the head of your foe just bouncing left and right for a long time, then its opponent crumbles into pieces.
  • Nightmare Retardant: Some of the enemies are just still pictures ramming into Ecco. It kind of takes the fear of getting swarmed by giant crabs out and ruins the immersion.
  • Paranoia Fuel: So you've just started Tides of Time. You're zooming around one of the first levels, enjoying the better controls, and suddenly you see a terrifying mass of blue chitin that kills you instantly. It was one of the alien enemies in the first game that you never saw till the last level. On the one fin you don't want to go that fast ever again in case more of them are floating around, but on the have to. Eep.
    • In Defender, seeing another dolphin usually indicated an area that was relatively safe, and promised conversation with an ally (or at least someone who wasn't actively aggressive). Then the Dolphin's Nightmare stages come along, and any time you see a dolphin swimming in the distance it might be just another friend... or someone out for your blood.
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  • Polished Port: The Windows 95 version of Ecco the Dolphin ups the visual quality with its redrawn graphics, features the Sega CD version's soundtrack, the FMV sequences from Tides of Time, tightens up the controls, adds new difficulty system, and a save feature.
  • Porting Disaster: The GameGear version of Tides. It is now thought it was based on a prototype of the Genesis/Mega Drive game. The Game Boy Advance port of the original Ecco isn't quite so atrocious, but removed almost the entire soundtrack, replacing it with a 30-second loop heard during the time travel sequences in the original game.
  • Scrappy Mechanic: The starfish you have to echolocate over to rocks so they can smash them. On the plus side, they wreck any enemies in the way, but it can be quite tricky to get into the proper position, and if you take too long between calls, they disappear and you have to start over.
  • Surprise Difficulty: Fits right in there with Surprise Creepy. You'd think a bunch of games starring a cute dolphin would be a pushover? To make a long story short, it's not.
  • That One Boss: Given the general difficulty almost all the bosses are well-hated, but the final boss of the first game deserves special mention. She actually isn't all that bad herself, but if you die you have to pick your way through Welcome to the Machine again. Worse, she has a move that will kill you instantly or even freeze the game forever if you have infinite life.
    • The Foe Queen in Defender deserves some elaboration. Five minutes before she kills you by leaking her own blood. Scary as fuck background music, as you get to hear the increasingly violent beating of her heart as you kill her. And the level is dark and cramped, because you're inside her body.
      • At the top of the list after the Foe Queen is probably the final Clan overlord, whose fight involves a substance that inverts your directional controls - and it's pretty much required that you inflict this upon yourself, as you have to lead the boss into the very same substance to confuse him.
    • The Asterite of the past in the first game is fought inside a tiny room with no oxygen pockets at all. To beat it you have to hit four globes of the same colour in a row, and hitting one of a different colour will reset the process. The Asterite, for those not in the know, is a 2.5D double-helix of globes that is constantly spinning, so requires absolute timing and precision. On top of this the Asterite will shoot lightning bolts directly into Ecco's face with no warning at all.
  • That One Level: Every game has at least one. Inevitable given the general difficulty, really.
    • Ecco the Dolphin features Welcome to the Machine: Five minutes of twisting, turning, auto-scrolling Hell. And just to make things even better, if you lose to the final boss you get to go through again!
      • The Japanese release attempts to ease the frustration by adding a level called "The Stomach". This level is gotten to by being swallowed by the Queen; while you are still in danger, you don't have to go through the machine to get back to fighting her.
    • The Hanging Waters levels in Defender of the Future, and by proxy the Skyway in Tides, can vary depending on the player. They're insanely hard, but both are some of the most beautiful things to come out of their respective consoles.
    • The pre-history levels from the first game are all difficult, but special mention goes to 'Dark Water' and 'Trilobite Circle.' The former is difficult due to its twisting and cramped tunnels crawling with enemies, few oxygen pockets and a fight with The Asterite. The latter is this because of a strong current placed right before the end of the level that sends Ecco back to the very start!
  • That One Puzzle: 'Deep City' from the first game requires Ecco to leap over a massive pillar to access the level proper. The next level 'City of Forever' requires him (if the player doesn't know about the shortcut) to jump over a series of tall pillars. If the player hasn't mastered jumping out of the water by this point, they can be stuck at these points for a long time.
    • The infamous octopus in the Undercaves is an early game example, partially due to it being early enough that the player won't have a good feel for the controls yet. The puzzle is simple enough and even explained to you in-game by the line "swim slowly past eight arms", but pulling that off is finicky. Opposite the octopus are some spikes so you need to line yourself up precisely so that you won't get hurt by the spikes but also don't crash straight into the octopus. If you move too fast the octopus' attack can shred through a full health bar nearly instantly, not helped by him often knocking you into the spikes for even more damage. All the while you don't have much room for error since you need to pass the octopus twice before you can refill your oxygen meter and you only just have enough to make it in time, meaning you need to figure out that perfect swimming speed the game expects from you where you're fast enough that you don't drown but slow enough that you don't anger the octopus. Softened in the SEGA CD version where they place a checkpoint right before the octopus so it's not so unforgiving.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: Defender looks damn good for its time, and remains appealing to look at today.
  • The Woobie: Ecco himself is a Stoic Woobie, particularly in the first game, where he's kicked into a globe-spanning adventure when his family is suddenly stolen from him by terrible, powerful forces he can't begin to understand.
  • Woobie Species: A few in Defender.
    • In the Dolphins' Nightmare section, a pair of enslaved humpback whales provide the power for the Hanging Waters, a process that shortens their lives each time it's initiated. They're so amazed to meet a dolphin that's not abusive towards them, they willingly go through with it to help Ecco out.
    • Also in Defender, the Outcast dolphins come across as Jerkass Woobies. Yeah, they're bastards to the other marine life, too, but they're still, well, outcasts, and the Clan likes to cut off their food supplies and sic sharks on them for giggles.
    • Pretty much all the dolphins from Man's Nightmare. They aren't as intelligent as dolphins in the true timeline, so mankind took advantage of them and enslaved them, and at some point turned the oceans into polluted, near-dead expanses of nothingness. Then humans wiped themselves out, or from the dolphins' perspective, disappeared. The Mover (hard-labor class) dolphins were happy about this since they no longer had to work endlessly, while the Circle (machine operators) dolphins refused to give up their tasks in case man showed up again, and the Crimson (lore-keepers) pined for the loss and wondered if man was testing them, and in the meantime they forgot where to stain their fins red, so this class has all but died out (though Ecco rediscovers it and stains his own fins, which makes the last Crimson very happy). So basically, all the dolphins are living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland they didn't create, don't have the intelligence to improve their situation, and have no clue where their masters got to - or whether life would get better or worse if they came back.


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