Fuck Yeah, Ecco!
The Big Blue


Ed Annunziata has launched the Big Blue Kickstarter! You may remember hearing about this game a few months back. It’s a spiritual sequel to Ecco (because SEGA are being idiots about this and refuse to give Ed the Ecco license) about life evolving after the extinction of humankind. Cetaceans, of course, hold the key to life arising anew and rejuvenated for this new world.

The idea is to generate new life via songs, and the music is provided by none other than Spencer Nilsen, who composed the music for the original Ecco games, in particular the CD versions. Plus, most of the original Ecco team is working on it! They also have creature designer Art Berg (Star Wars) and composer Bear McCreary (The Walking Dead, Battlestar Galactica) on board, too!

Please proceed to the Kickstarter page to learn more about the game - it looks stunning and just the sort of beautiful underwater adventure Ecco fans have been champing at the bit for. Perks include your name in the game credits, exclusive ingame content, and at high levels entry into the beta!

I am suuuuper excited about this, everyone, and I hope you are, too. Please, throw some money at this project, and if you can’t do that, reblog and share far and wide! If we can’t have the Tides sequel Ecco deserves, let us at least have this!

Here’s an interview with Mr. Annunziata from July 26, 2012, discussing his storied history making games. I’ve included the bit most relevant to this blog below - head on over to Sega-16 to read the whole thing!


Sega-16: You had mentioned recently that Sega rejected your proposition for a new Ecco the Dolphin title. Are you able to shed any insight into this, and if so, what does the future look like for that iconic series?

Ed Annunziata: For at least 15 years I’ve been trying to convince Sega to allow me to make another Ecco. Honestly I am not sure what the problem is. I even offered to find the funding for development myself if they would just license the character back to me. Maybe one day it will happen, but for now they don’t seem that interested. I would even be happy if someone else made a new version. Ecco deserves better than limbo. I have considered making a different, dolphin based game without the Ecco license, but as irrational as this may sound, I don’t want to hurt Ecco’s feelings. If I made Dave the Dolphin for example, I’d feel like I was cheating on Ecco. Silly, I know. So, I’ll wait and be patient. The current crew at Sega will eventually retire, or get laid off, then I’ll come at them fresh again and maybe get some support. The truth is, it took me almost two years of pleading to get them to sign up to the original Ecco – but luckily I rolled an 18 for tenacity and eventually convinced them. I’ll write you back if anything changes on the Ecco front.


The ocean is cold and dangerous.

Happy birthday, Ecco.


Today is July 29th, 2012.

On this day, twenty years ago, the first Ecco the Dolphin game was released in North America, on the SEGA Genesis. It would be released in Japan the day after on the Mega Drive, and in Europe the day after that.

I was four years old.

I’m pretty sure we didn’t actually get the game for a year or two after that, but Ecco the Dolphin is one of the first games I really remember. I remember an incident when I was supposed to be in bed, but heard the mellow, soft tones of the game’s opening song start up, and came downstairs to watch my dad play.

“Wow,” he said. “You have some eagle ears.”

“Uh-uh. Dolphin ears!”

The music… oh, the music. The beautiful, chiptune music, alien and inviting, cold and unforgiving.

Much later, Dad ended up calling the SEGA gameplay tips hotline for help beating the Vortex Queen. It had taken him quite a while to figure out the trick with the Asterite, and apparently the Queen was just too much. According to him, the hold music was the track that plays during the endgame sequence and credits.

Two years later, Tides of Time was released, and was gobbled up eagerly by my family. Mostly, though, I again watched Dad play. We beat it, and were treated to the secret password…

Then, of course, Ecco proper dropped off the planet for years. We still have yet to find out what happens. We probably never will. One of gaming’s greatest tragedies, our hero lost in the tides of time.

I did love Ecco Jr., though, as a youngling. I read the manual and figured out thus how to open up the “parents’ menu”, and spent a good while reading the dolphin facts included therein. I also remember being frustrated and a little insulted when the folks turned on auto-sonar. I could play better than that.

Years passed. The Dreamcast came out. There was only one game, only one game, that got my family to buy it: Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future. We must have got it on or near launch day; I whiled the time waiting for it to drop playing and enjoying the original Sonic Adventure.

I was disappointed that Ecco’s story from Tides wasn’t concluded, but I had a fun time playing the game. It would be the first Ecco game I beat on my own, and one of the first I beat before my father. I don’t think he ever did beat Defender, actually…

The Internet was just coming into people’s homes at that time. I remember spending time on Defender’s GameFAQs board, hunt-and-pecking the Dreamcast browser’s onscreen keyboard to communicate.

There were others. There were others who had played these games.

I remember the Undercaves, the first Ecco fansite.

I remember being singly confused by the sheer dysfunctionality the fandom was eventually plunged into… and now, I’m pleased that, fragmented and small though we are, the past is the past and bygones are bygones.

I discovered Wikipedia. I realized they didn’t have an Ecco article. So, I wrote one for them. Someone gave me a Barnstar for defending it from vandals.

Years later, after fighting over another article (coincidentally enough, the one about the Baiji river dolphin) finally made me break contact with Wikipedia as an active contributor, I would repeat this process with TV Tropes.

So many memories tied in with this series. Let me thank it for the following things:

One, a lifelong love of cetaceans. The education these games hand out through simple gameplay mechanics is beauty itself. Dolphins are not fish, they breathe air, they fear sharks, they live in family groups, they use sonar. They are intelligent. Ecco Jr. went a step further and outright included data points about dolphins. Yes, I had to go outside the games and actually read and learn something. But these games lit that spark, a fire that burns brightly still.

Two, a love for xenofiction. It’s amazing just how bizarre Ecco’s world is, especially in the Genesis games, and the games do not shy an inch from how alien our protagonist and his friends and foes are. I loved it then, I love it now, and I seek similarly and proudly strange stories to this day.

Three, a love for and patience with piss-hard games. Beating the original Ecco and Defender of the Future are proud marks of honour in my gaming repertoire, and I instantly respect anyone else who has. Tides still eludes me. One day…

I’ve written fanfic, edited fanvids, doodled fanart. Ecco is one of my heroes, and I know I’ll be thinking of him for years further to come, no matter how little the rights owners seem to care about this diamond they have, the misshapen, weird little diamond that shines brighter than a star, this diamond they’ve left to languish in the corner of the pool.

Ecco, thank you. Thank you. And thank you, to everyone who was involved in bringing his stories to us. Thank you, a thousand times, thank you, for the beauty and the wonder these games still show us, and the fear, and the triumph.
Here’s to another twenty years. And here’s me hoping, in my heart of hearts, that we will one day be able to use our secret passwords.

Musical nicknames

I have a set of nicknames for various songs from the original Ecco the Dolphin, primarily but not completely based on level descriptions. Did anyone else do this?

* Title Theme = Songs of Wisdom (From Cold Water’s description)
* Undercaves = Songs of Great Danger
* The Vents (CD version) = The Singers’ Lamentations
* Open Ocean = Cold and Dangerous
* Ice/Atlantis Theme = Mysterious Songs
* Prehistoric Theme = Ancient Songs


The Ecco the Dolphin game on SEGA Genesis was  so traumatic to me at an early age it was impossible to finish. The  music, sound effects and crippling loneliness of poor Ecco gave me  nightmares.


The Ecco the Dolphin game on SEGA Genesis was so traumatic to me at an early age it was impossible to finish. The music, sound effects and crippling loneliness of poor Ecco gave me nightmares.