The Nintendo Switch has been an instant hit, with over 2.4 million units sold already since the release date of early March this year. These staggering sales are, of course, in part down to the fact that this product is a total innovation in the gaming world. But it is also due to the fact that the developers are preying on people’s love of nostalgia. They have released reboots and new chapters of classic games such as Zelda, and the immense popularity of the title has clearly helped to boost sales of the new device. Now there is speculation of other legendary games getting a modern makeover, with Sega’s Ecco the Dolphin possibly emerging as a contender to make a shock appearance on the Switch.
Ecco the Dolphin was developed by Novotrade International and released for the Sega Mega Drive in 1992. The game centres on the dolphin Ecco, as it travels through space and time to battle enemies by emitting sound waves from its nose. Adversaries could also be vanquished by having Ecco ram into them at high speeds. The game was hugely successful with a 94% score from MegaTech, and Mega Magazine placed the adventure at number 24 on its list of the greatest Mega Drive games of all time. Subsequently, it was released on a number of other platforms including Nintendo’s Virtual Console, Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade, Steam, iOS, and Nintendo 3DS.
The ‘90s classic has also provided inspiration for a number of other games. Along with the other four games in the Ecco series, titles like Derrick the Deathfin, Fish Face, Aquaria, and Jaws: Unleashed clearly took ideas from Novotrade’s game. None of the above could quite emulate the success of the Mega Drive game, however. Casino game developers iSoftBet also appreciated the creativeness of Ecco, and spawned their own underwater adventure in the form of a 5-reel online slot game. Dolphin’s Island is available as one of the Sun Bingo hosted slot games that come with the chance of winning free spins, with a cartoony, scenic backdrop that shares a lot in common visually with the Mega Drive classic.
There is no denying the popularity of Ecco the Dolphin and similar games, but why is the time now ripe for a reboot? The success of the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (see video above) is one major reason. There is little argument that Zelda is a much better-known franchise, but the fact that a game that has been going since 1986 can seamlessly work on the new console is encouraging. The latest offering from Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka has received incredible reviews across the board, with a score of 96% from Metacritic.
The reason why rumours are circulating that everybody’s favourite virtual dolphin could be appearing on the Switch is down to the fact that Ed Annunziata, the creator of Ecco the Dolphin, recently tweeted that he was outside the Nintendo studios. However, nobody is sure yet as to whether Annunziata has successfully managed to reclaim the rights for his game from Sega.
The game would certainly have to undergo a serious makeover to appeal to today’s generation of gamers. The platform-style 2D levels of old just wouldn’t cut it in this era of open world epics. But there is definitely a gap in the market for a revitalised version of the ocean and space adventure in this more detailed format. There are already fictional worlds such as the wastelands of Fallout 4 or the rolling meadows of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. But, as yet, no developers have ventured into creating a massive open world universe in the depths of the ocean. With the mysterious nature of the massive blue expanse, the opportunities are endless and the game designers could get really inventive.
If Ecco the Dolphin does make it to Switch, it could attract a lot of old Sega gamers who enjoyed the series the first time out. It could also influence other games to move away from land-based open worlds and explore the ocean. Above all, it could spark the reboot of a number of other old classics like James Pond, Donkey Kong, and Streets of Rage.