Nintendo 3DS

3D Ecco the Dolphin Has Rebalanced Difficulty And Two Versions In One


Originally posted June 26th, 2013 on Impress Watch. Siliconera is coordinating with SEGA to share these in-depth interviews about classic games like Ecco the Dolphin and the Sega MegaDrive. Translated by SEGA. Edited by Siliconera.


From the left: Naoki Horii, (M2 President), Ryoichi Hasegawa (Original Localization Director), Yousuke Okunari (SEGA CS3 Producer).


Super Dolphin Mode included to get you all the way through the game!


Yousuke Okunari: So straight away, I’ve brought 3D Ecco the Dolphin today, hot off the presses. Care to give it a try? I recommend “Super Dolphin Mode”, as you’re invincible and don’t need oxygen.


The Special mode this time is “Super Dolphin Mode”.


Naoki Horii: I agree, the original game was quite difficult to clear, so Super Dolphin Mode is a good place to start.


Hmm. It does feel different now that it’s in stereoscopic 3D, doesn’t it? But that’s not just because of the 3D, right? There’s… There’s something else. The game looks different.


YO: Do you remember the first time you played a MegaDrive game? Seeing the two-layer scrolling backgrounds and thinking how impressive that was? Like when you’re playing Alex Kidd and the Enchanted Castle and you see that two-layer background and say to yourself, “This is awesome!” Seeing stereoscopic 3D on the 3DS is really close to the feeling of technology advancing I had when I saw multi-layer scrolling for the first time.


NH: I think it’s probably a similar feeling.


I’m really impressed with how the water looks. It just seems unreal.  The graphics are the same as they ever were, but with 3D Sonic the Hedgehog as well, I remember thinking the sky just looked beautiful.


NH: That’s because you can really feel the space and depth within the game world.


YO: Moving through the labyrinths feels kind of like looking at an ant colony from the side.  If you use the Super Dolphin Mode, you can explore at your leisure without worrying about time limits. But we didn’t just dumb down the difficulty. Even though you’re invincible, all the puzzles are still the same. It’s just that now you can take your time while you figure them out.


The raster scrolling is gorgeous! [Continues to play]


YO: The MegaDrive always had some really pretty scrolling features, and that’s why I think this looks and feels as nice as it does.


Wow that was a lot of fun. [Ryoichi Hasegawa enters the room]


Ryoichi Hasegawa: Hey guys!


Ryoichi Hasegawa
Mr. Hasegawa has had two tours of duty at SEGA, spanning 1992 to 1998, and then 2007 to 2012. He is currently employed at CROOZ, Inc., a company that develops social apps, as a game designer and localization specialist.


After being hired at SEGA, he was assigned to a liaison group that managed domestic and internationally developed 3rd party titles. The first game he was responsible for was Ecco the Dolphin. He considers the Japanese release of this title one of his biggest achievements during his time at SEGA.


(As an aside, his personal favorite second-biggest accomplishment was during his time working on Burning Rangers. He also was in charge of writing English-y lyrics for the theme song, Angels With Burning Hearts. He hid a small Easter Egg where the first letter of each word in the line “Sight of night I cheer to embrace a magic” read together form a message.)


YO: We have a guest today, someone who was involved in the development of the original version. So let’s have him play it as well while we talk.


3D Ecco has a more three-dimensional impression thanks to added depth from the touch-up.


RH: [Already holding the game] Wow! The title letters are popping out of the screen! This is cool! Ooh, the surface of the water has depth now, and it feels like Ecco is poking his head up out of it. I’ve never paid attention to the water surface like this before. You can really see the depth when you jump. This feels great! … Ok, so what’s “Super Dolphin Mode”?


YO: Super Dolphin Mode is a super invincibility mode we included in the port so that anyone can pick up and play. [laughs]


RH: The sparking effect around him to show he’s invincible really looks like it’s moving around him. My DIY font is still there, I see. [laughs] Back when we were working on it there was no such thing as true type font, I used Ichitaro1 to make a handmade font dot by dot, and the developer added color gradation to it. I still think it looks weird [laughs]


1. Ichitaro is a widely used Japanese word processing software program, especially in the ’90s when Windows Japanese text support was lacking.


YO: Not only is Hasegawa-san one of the [original] developers, but he’s also one of Ecco’s biggest fans, so we’re really honored to be able to show him the 3D version.


Alright, so the fifth game in the series is Ecco, and once again I think you’ve probably surprised a lot of people with this one.


YO: When we went through and start picking out popular MegaDrive titles, we inevitably wound up concentrating on 2D side-scrollers. For arcade titles, we focused on 3D games, but for MegaDrive games, we wanted to do side-scrollers. So that led us to make 3D Sonic, followed by 3D Altered Beast, but we also had an underlying theme in our mind for the 3D Remaster Project: “Getting people to challenge the game one more time”. Giving the gameplay a totally new feel by implementing stereoscopic 3D was a given, but we can also wanted to lower the difficulty a bit, something we saw the value of with 3D Space Harrier.


That said, Ecco is a game that’s widely known for its high difficulty. We thought, “If we lower the difficulty a bit, hopefully people will give it another try and get to the end of the game this time.”


NH: We figured that there aren’t that many people out there who have played this game to the end. In that sense, changing that situation is one of the reasons behind selecting Ecco.


YO: Ecco is a particularly notable title in the MegaDrive library due to its stunning visuals and just how good it feels when you’re moving around. The water graphics pop so well, and we just really wanted to see it in 3D. On the other hand, and I don’t mean any offense to Hasegawa-san here, but not a lot of people got to the end of the game. I think the feeling of just swimming around the first stage tends to satisfy people, but there’s a really amazing story that unfolds through the second half of the game. It takes some really crazy turns, which I think few have experienced.


NH: I definitely want people to enjoy the story.


YO: The whole concept of the 3D Remaster Project is based on two points: take what made the original great and bring that into 3D, while lowering the barriers to entry. So for 3D Ecco, the first thing we did to reduce the difficulty was removing Ecco’s biggest weakness: His need to breathe. We basically made him a fish.


The original game had a cheat code where you could access a “Debug Mode” and give yourself unlimited life, which meant you could run into enemies and not take any damage. With “Super Dolphin Mode” we take it one step further, and it’s basically the same thing as having an invincibility item all the time. So when Ecco runs into enemies or obstacles, they’re defeated or the obstacles break. So people can now focus on solving the puzzles and whatnot.


All the puzzles are still there untouched, like the cliff you can’t break until you run into all the shells, or the water current at the ocean floor you can’t dive through unless you use the boulder. You still need to do all that. If you made two or three mistakes while trying to do these puzzles in the original version, you’d run out of oxygen and die. That’s all gone now.


NH: People can now play the game as an action puzzler. Our goal was for people who have the game in their backlog for the past 20 years to see the improvements and finally get around to enjoying it.


RH: [still playing] Hmmm, yeah, now that you mention it, this puzzle where you guide the starfish with the sound waves would be too difficult for people these days because of the air limit. I think the decision to put in Super Dolphin Mode was a wise one.


YO: I want people to enjoy Ecco as an adventure game as well. Nowadays, you can see a video of the ending online, so I think there’s probably people out there who have seen it. But how many people have really beaten the game? My hope is that people will want to try to beat the game and see the ending themselves.


NH: You can also keep going on the same game too if you’re using the Save/Load feature. Incidentally, how many copies did the MegaDrive version sell in Japan?


RH: I seem to recall it being around 70,000 units or so.


NH: If that’s the case, the number of people who’ve cleared it are probably in the thousands, I’d guess.  It’s possible a lot of people walked away from it just thinking, “Whee! Swimming in the ocean is cool!”


There are many who have the impression that “Ecco is a game that feels great, with a beautiful ocean,” but those who’ve played it until the very end…


I’m one of those players that ended with “Whee! The ocean in this game is cool!”


RH: But, you know how it was back then. You’d buy a game and play it to death until you beat it, especially if you are SEGA fan, right? So I’m sure the number of people who cleared it isn’t in the hundreds range. Still, I don’t think it’s in the tens of thousands either…


NH: I gave up halfway through myself.


YO: In any case, the hardest thing about Ecco was running out of oxygen.


ALL: Yep, yep.


YO: With the air limit removed, it’s wonderful to just move around all you want. Everyone should try it out.


And that’s what the 3D Remaster Project is for. You didn’t put this much work into it when the game was on Virtual Console, right?


YO: Well, the concept behind Virtual Console is to provide games as they were. There may be some situations where we want to add more or take something out, but we can’t. For the SEGA AGES ONLINE2 series we released last year, we were able to add in new ways to play with the idea of getting to people to compete, i.e. features like score attack which encourage people to master the game, but we didn’t do anything to the basic gameplay other than add save states.


2. Known as Sega Vintage Collection 3 overseas.


For the 3D Remaster Project we’re working on now, we’re putting these games onto handhelds, which means that people will be using different controllers compared to the originals, and they’ll need to be able to play them in trains and other places, so the idea was to maintain the game’s original fun factor while bringing down the difficulty level. Even for 3D Sonic, we hear there are people who reload their save states over and over and have finally cleared the game for the first time. They play a bit, then immediately save, and by doing that over and over can clear the game. Since we’ve made Ecco easier as well, I’m hoping people will play it in a similar way. All while stopping to take in the gorgeous backgrounds.


RH: [Still playing] You’ve got the animated bubbles from the water currents and the coral here in front all done up in 3D, huh. It’s not quite as in-your-face as it was for 3D Space Harrier or 3D Super Hang-on, but you really feel like you’re swimming through caves filled with seawater. And the octopus graphics still look as awesome as they always did.


The octopus graphics that Hasegawa-san praises is shown above. With Ecco’s emphasis on blues, the octopus is one of the game’s characters that really stands out with its color combinations. When he was first assigned to the project and saw it for the first time, he was so impressed with the graphics he sent a fax praising how awesome it was that said, “As a Japanese person, it looks deliciously realistic!”




YO: How awesome the octopus graphics look has nothing to do with the 3D though. [laughs] Wait, what!? You’re already at the octopus!?


A custom map editor created specifically for Ecco’s 3D.


YO: We think we managed to take care of lowering the difficulty pretty well, but similar to the previous games, when we first put the stereoscopic 3D in, it wasn’t all that great. [laughs]


NH: Yeah, it was similar to what we saw with 3D Sonic, but when we showed off the first ROM, it was bland enough that we thought SEGA might ask us to stop working on it.


YO: We touched on this in the 3D Sonic interview, but we added stereoscopic 3D by making the MegaDrive’s scrolling into multilayer raster scrolling to give the impression of depth. When we started on Ecco I thought, “Hey, this is pretty good,” but after getting a little bit further in and playing the ocean floor maze, the feeling of depth just vanished.


The maze that appears midway through. Previously, it was made with one background image, and range of activity was limited to collision detection. In 3D Ecco, the rocks that are in the front and walls in the background have a more realistic look with the added depth.


NH: Because there are parts of that area that have only one background layer.


YO: Since it’s a maze where a collision layer was placed over a single background layer, this part of the game reverted back into normal 2D Ecco. On top of that, it bothered me that half of the stage didn’t have any two-layer scrolling at all, so there was no sense of depth. I started thinking that doing a 3D conversion wasn’t going to be possible. Since the problem was too large on its own, we decided to push the development of 3D Sonic ahead of Ecco (Note: 3D Sonic and 3D Ecco had overlapping development schedules).


NH: Around the same time, one of our programmers started adding in 3D by directly messing with the binary itself. All by hand. And it was looked pretty good, too. Each stage is some fifty screens large, so having a programmer sit down with a designer and go through them all to do everything by hand was out of the question. Since we had no other choice, we decided that we should build a dedicated map editor, one that a designer could also use to a certain extent, so that we could add depth to 3D Ecco.


RH: Now that’s dedication!


NH: The end product would have been ‘meh’ if we hadn’t.


[Laughs] Dedicated Ecco the Dolphin game dev, huh?


NH: The approach changes with every game, you know?


RH: Does that mean you could go and make new maps for an Ecco v1.4 or v1.6?


ALL: [laughs]


NH: Well, we probably could, but we’d have to go through all the trouble of modifying the maps themselves. [laughs] …but anyway. We wound up building the 3D map editor, Okunari-san gave us the nod to proceed and thus we were able to give the game a 3D feel.


But even using the editor, don’t you still have to add depth settings by hand?


NH: Yes you do. For 3D Altered Beast, there were five stages and the scroll speed was slow, so there weren’t that many screens. So we managed to add depth to them. We also had an editor of sorts for 3D Altered Beast, but since everything moves so fast in Ecco, the maps are really big, and there are a lot of them. There were also places we had to put into 3D throughout the game. Even with the editor, our designer was dying.


YO: One stage in Ecco is bigger than all Altered Beast’s stages combined together.


NH: You speak the truth. [both laugh]


RH: That’s awesome.


It’s true though. In the strategy guides of yore, they used to have to take individual pictures of screens and lay them all out. I remember that shooting games with high-speed scrolling had really long stages.


YO: By the time the MegaDrive came around, the use of illustrations rather than photos was on the rise for magazine maps. There was just too much to deal with.


So you went in and added depth by hand to all these backgrounds.


NH: Well for the first stage, our designer was all fired up about it and did about 50 screens in a single night. And I started thinking, “maybe we can really put Ecco in 3D,” but you can’t expect that pace to go on for 5 days, or 10 days, you know?


The maze parts just keep coming, I suppose.


YO: Ecco does have a lot stages after all, so it was a slog, but once you start on something like this, you have to see it through to the end. You can’t back out. When we were working on 3D Sonic, we approached the game thinking, “we should add 3D to any of the game’s visuals that already have design depth,” or, “let’s add 3D everywhere there’s raster scrolling.” Yet for 3D Altered Beast, there were spots where we had no choice but to go in and add 3D by hand, like Stage 3. And Ecco was like that pretty much like that for half the game. So while I feel like the quality of our 3D implementation increases with every title, so does the amount of work we have to put into them.


NH: It’s like being buried in a really fancy coffin. When we picked out all the titles to port from the MegaDrive to the GigaDrive (refer to the article on 3D Sonic the Hedgehog for details on the GigaDrive), we made sure to choose ones that our staff wouldn’t have to die to finish, but Ecco left us in a predicament. Games like Gunstar Heroes, which lots of people ask for and I myself would love to do, would never see the light of day if we had to develop them under the circumstances in which we developed 3D Ecco. It’s not that we don’t know how we’d go about it at this point, but at the time we were making these decisions, it was completely off limits. We knew we needed to get much better at the basics first before something like that was even possible.


YO: Currently we have no plans for porting Gunstar, but it looks like Horii-san just thought up a kind of plan for a 3D implementation, so if the MegaDrive series goes well, who knows?


Development Woes Due to Differences between the Original and Japanese versions.


The 3D version of Ecco comes complete with both the International (Original) and Japanese versions.


YO: In any case, we were able to move forward with production thanks to the level editor. But just when we were able to see the end of the work on the horizon, another big problem cropped up: differences in the ROM versions. The thing is, we slipped in both the Japanese and international versions for all the games in the GigaDrive series. This was the case for both 3D Sonic and 3D Altered Beast. But for Ecco, the actual content of the Japanese and original international versions is completely different. So one day, M2 contacts me and says, “Um, you know, these ROMs are different,” to which I responded, “Well, yeah. Didn’t you know that?”


NH: If we’d known that when we were picking out games, we probably would have pulled Ecco from the lineup. [laughs] That’s how different they are.


YO: In other words, we thought we were about to cross the finish line, but it was just the turnaround point.


NH: Given that we already had experience porting the game at that point, we thought we could probably work more efficiently, but there was still a long way to run.


Huh. So since the games had different content, even if the map was the same, you’d still have to go back and add in the depth information all over again.


YO: The programming itself was actually a lot different than we imagined.


NH: We weren’t able to just take the data we’d done so far, drop that in, and touch it up. But I guess it’s is like when you lose all your work because you forgot to save, and then have to redo it all from scratch. You tend to move faster the second time for some reason. [laughs] It was kind of funny, looking back at it.


YO: Since M2 was working on the original and Japanese versions alternately, it was hard to determine if the differences in game specs were bugs or what. So right when we were stressing out over it, I went and paid a visit to Hasegawa-san here.




RH: He sent me a question via Facebook message, and I was like “What the—?”


ALL: [laughs]


RH: At that point in time, I’d already left SEGA and was working for a different company. That’s how serious these guys were.


NH: But hey, the best way to find out the differences between the international and Japanese versions is to ask someone who actually knows, right?


YO: And you know, while the 3D Remaster Project was my project proposal, at the time Hasegawa-san was my manager, and he was the one who actually circulated it for internal approval after all.


ALL: [big laugh]


RH: It’s not like I had no idea the project was going on, you know? I thought “Oh ok, they’re doing Ecco, huh?”


YO: So that’s how I had my former supervisor transform himself into a living game design doc. Alright, Hasegawa-san, I think it’s your turn to talk, don’t you?


RH: Sure. Let me start by saying I don’t have a lot of them but I still have some of the faxes about the game from back then, because this was in the MegaDrive days when there was no email. All the communication with developers happened over fax. So I went and dug out my own copy of the game, and tried playing both of them side by side. I looked for differences, listed them up and sent them over to Okunari-san. Then he would check to see if the differences were bugs or not.


Wow, Hasegawa-san! You must be good at holding onto things! [laughs]


YO: This “treasure map” put us back on the right track, and with his help, discovering differences between versions was easy. And there were quite a few differences.


NH: So Ecco’s localization must have been particularly memorable for you, then… It seems like it left an impression.


RH: Well, it was the first project I worked on after joining SEGA.


NH: If you hadn’t been there for us, 3D Ecco might not have made it as the 3rd MegaDrive title in the 3D Remaster Project.


YO: I know that when Hasegawa-san was localizing the English version into Japanese, he added some drama and flare to the Japanese translations of some of the staler in-game messages. But that’s just changing how the messages are worded, right? I had no idea that the difficulty and the way the game looks also changed during the localization work.


RH: I played a ton of games back when they first asked me to take charge of Ecco in the MegaDrive days. Despite that, Ecco was a still considerably challenging game, even for me. I didn’t feel it would be appropriate to release [a Western version of] the game as-is, so I had the developer cut down the number of enemies, add in a few air points etc. You know, tweak things in here as much as I could.


Ecco’s developer was a Hungary-based company called Novotrade, and there were things that they could and couldn’t do. For example, I’d say things like, “This section is really hard, so let’s get rid of it” But they would reply, “There are internal flags that rely on it, so we can’t.” On the other hand, for the original English version, the text screens that appear when you talk to orcas and other dolphins can have limited amount of text, and they expanded that for Japanese at my request. So we were able to insert lots of hint-like features into the game text which really helped.


YO: Here are some examples of the differences between the original and the Japanese version:


  • A dolphin call will play when the SEGA logo is displayed in the Japanese version.


  • When you pause the game, the Japanese version shows PAUSE text on screen and the music stops.


  • The Japanese version has more checkpoints. In the original version, if you lose a life, you have to start back at the start of the stage. The Japanese version lets you start halfway through.


  • Places where you can lose objects you have to carry are different. In the original version, if you move the screen past an object, it will immediately return to its original position. But in the Japanese version, it won’t immediately reset even if you move away by a screen or so.


Etc., etc…


YO: So in this way, there wound up being some intricate adjustments to the game balance.


NH: I think [Japanese] players who cleared the Japanese version of Ecco should give the overseas version a shot.


YO: Also, and similar to the situation we had 3D Super Hang-on, there was an issue where our QA staff couldn’t clear the overseas version for a while.


RH: I can recall almost crying when I cleared the English version back then.


How much time did you have to do all these localization and difficulty adjustments at the time?


RH: Not a lot, actually. If we had more time, there’s probably a lot more we could have done. We probably didn’t even get to spend one month’s time on the difficulty tweaking.


And during that time, you had to get your head around the game spec in general, decide what to improve, build a plan, then check the implementation…


RH: And all that was done over fax.


[laughs] Of course.


RH: Everyday, I’d type out text with Ichitaro, print it out, and then fax it over. But it was my first job so I was really into it. There was a time difference as well, and the peak time over at the developer was around 10pm in Japan, so I slept over at the office quite a few times. Back then, working late and sleeping at work felt like a responsible adult kind of thing to do. [laughs]


NH: I’m rather jealous that your very first job was swimming through Ecco’s beautiful ocean.


RH: When I saw those graphics, it sent a shiver down my spine. I was playing it on a company-issued TerraDrive3, and it looked gorgeous on the RGB monitor. Rumors of it spread not only through our CS (Consumer Software, console development) group but also over to our AM (Amusement Machine, arcade development) group, to the point that I had graphic artists coming over from AM to our office asking, “Hey, I heard you’ve got some amazing looking dolphin game.” I’d say, “Yes, right over here gentlemen,” as if I’d made it myself. I can remember saying with all the confidence in the world, “The blues turns darker and then change to deep blue as you dive deeper and deeper to the ocean floor.”


3. The TerraDrive was a PC built in cooperation between SEGA and IBM Japan. It was basically a IBM PC with an integrated MegaDrive.


ALL: [laugh]


NH: As we familiarized ourselves with Ecco, we came to see how much care was taken when the game was created.


RH: You know, one of the developer’s graphic artists once told me that when it came to the colors the MegaDrive could use, a lot of room was assigned to shades of blue, but the other colors didn’t have much gradation. There was some for reds and oranges, but most were allocated for blue.


NH: Yeah there are just a few accent colors for the reds and oranges.


A characteristic of Ecco is its color choices, with particular attention given to blue variants.


RH: The gradation for shades of blue is amazing. I think they really made a great call back then to focus on those colors. Oh, by the way, I actually brought the original release’s European limited edition with me. The game came with a T-shirt, a music cassette tape (featuring U2 and Erasure), as well as a letter of endorsement from the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society.


Meanwhile, one of the most obvious differences from the Japanese version is the package art. On the overseas version, he looks like he’s jacked up on steroids. He’s all muscly. It has some of the original ads in it as well, but if you open the flyer here from the Whale and Dolphin Society, you’ll see there are some pretty… visually explicit pictures of [violence towards] dolphins here. It seems like they mistakenly thought that the game was about world peace and loving dolphins so they gave it a letter of endorsement. This was a package created to memorialize that endorsement. I think they might have just played the first stage. They probably didn’t think you’d end up fighting aliens in the end. [laughs]


Limited Edition


Comparing the Japanese and European versions


YO: But Ecco isn’t a game about a dolphin engaging in acts of brutality, it’s the story of a brave dolphin who saves his friends.


You’ve got that right. [laughs]


YO: Anyways! So, we added a lot a stereoscopic 3D to Ecco, especially at the DNA part in the second half of the game.


Later in the game you can slide across the ice! Be sure to play the whole game!


RH: Aww crap. I can’t get that far right now, so I’ll have to buy it after it releases and play to the end. [laughs]


NH: We really did everything we felt we could do this time, so I sincerely hope everyone plays to the end.


YO: Unfortunately we weren’t able to include a stage select feature for this game. Since it’s an adventure game, we want to make sure players are able to enjoy the story in the proper order. However, all the cheat codes and other features that were there in the original are still there, like the passwords. So you can still use your passwords, if you still have them written down somewhere. Or you can probably look them up on the net, too. [laughs] If you hit a stage that you simply just can’t clear, feel free to go ahead and use those cheats to move forward. Still, I hope that players take the time to enjoy the story in the order it’s intended.


I know where you’re coming from.


YO: Also, we’ve left Ecco’s controls untouched, so they may take a little getting used to. 3D Ecco reminded me what it was like to get sore thumbs from a d-pad. Even from just playing around with the game a bit.


RH: That’s right. You end up really pushing the d-pad hard, don’t you?


NH: Everyone needs to experience that.


YO: Like when you jump over the waterside boulders, or speed up to burst out of the water in the prologue area, which is where you can practice some of the technical moves or what we’d call a tutorial these days. And that may be a bit of a barrier to entry for this game, but we left it as-is. So unlike 3D Sonic, just because you are diligent using the save feature doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily be able to clear the game.


If you mess with the controls too much, it becomes a different game. I could see that if you start making adjustments to them, you might wind up never being able to release the game. [laughs] I think you’ve made good decisions on what to tweak and what to leave alone.


YO: The game requires you to make some really technical jumps from the mid-game on, but now you have a plenty of time to do it, and you can also save if you need to.


Just the fact that you won’t drown now when you get lost is huge in my opinion.


NH: Yes, Super Dolphin Mode is a big game-changer.


Ah, it looks like our time is about up. Let me get a word about Ecco from each of you before we close.


RH: If I had to say one thing about Ecco, it would be this: the small fish are delicious.4 [laughs]


4. Since Hasegawa-san was the original localizer, his translation of the line “Charge small fish to feed and gain strength” into simply “Small fish are delicious” (kozakana wa oishii) is a line he is particularly proud of, since Japanese people, including himself, tend to think small fish are delicious rather than just a symbol of regaining energy.


NH: I’d say “Ecco is a crazy game where really you should just be able to play around in a peaceful blue world, but all of a sudden, aliens!”  We’ve really done our best to make this an experience that everyone can enjoy. I hope players pick it up.


YO: With this game’s 3D features, you can experience that feeling you first felt when you played Ecco twenty years ago. Now’s the time to take on the game again and get revenge on your 20 year backlog!


3D Galaxy Force II is a port from the arcade version!

Actually now that I think about it, you guys also announced 3D Galaxy Force II at the same time as 3D Ecco, didn’t you?


YO: Yes we started developing 3D Galaxy Force II after 3D Space Harrier and 3D Super Hang-on. It will be the third arcade port.


This game is one of the greatest SEGA arcade simulation games, and was a real challenge when we ported it to the PlayStation 2. I believe we had an interview back then as well, didn’t we? Well, it’s back! [laughs] Just to give you a simple comparison, the arcade versions of Space Harrier and Super Hang-on had two 68000 CPUs stack together, and were already at their very limit, whereas Galaxy Force II has three of them!


NH: At first we thought porting it to 3DS would impossible, but we’ve somehow managed to get the Y Board (Galaxy Force II’s system board) to draw 120 pictures a second. Chance of success? I can’t say it’s a certain victory, but we are definitely trying.


YO: Well, we’ve progressed to the point where we feel comfortable announcing the game. Our escape route is now blocked. While you’re waiting for the release, you can always practice up on the PS2 archive version of Galaxy Force II.


NH: Well, the road forward is blocked too, you know. But we’ll find a way to knock down the walls in front of us.


I can’t wait! Thanks again for your time today!



Ecco the Dolphin was originally created by Ed Annunziata.

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Ishaan Sahdev
Ishaan specializes in game design/sales analysis. He's the former managing editor of Siliconera and wrote the book "The Legend of Zelda - A Complete Development History". He also used to moonlight as a professional manga editor. These days, his day job has nothing to do with games, but the two inform each other nonetheless.