Sega‘s classic Ecco the Dolphin was first released in 1992 for the Megadrive/Genesis.
Although serene, beautiful and cute-looking, Ecco the Dolphin is notorious for its level of difficulty. Lead designer Ed Annunziata admitted after the game’s release that he was “paranoid about game rentals and kids beating it over a weekend,” so he made it hard to beat. And – my goodness – he certainly succeeded in doing that…
You play as a dolphin, called Ecco, and have a number of abilities at your disposal. You can use echo location to create a map of your surroundings. You can speed up gradually, and maintain that speed. You can jump and somersault out of the water, blow bubbles, and drown… by not resurfacing when you run out of oxygen. In the tunnelled levels of Ecco the Dolphin even tiny pockets of air can be a life-saver.
As Ecco the Dolphin unfolds you discover an ever-darkening story about a race of aliens trying to harvest the Earth’s seas for food. Your ultimate aim is to stop them. How can you do that, without thumbs or technology?
An enhanced Sega CD version of Ecco the Dolphin was released later, featuring an alternate soundtrack by Spencer Nilsen. A sequel, called Ecco: The Tides of Time, was released in 1994.