When Ecco was first released, there really wasn't anything like it. A game that featured a peace-loving dolphin as the lead character might sound like the most ill-advised release of all time, but Ecco had an undeniable beauty to it which won the critics over the resulted in the game shifting lots of copies of the game.
In this side-scrolling swimmer you have to explore the underwater world in order to find and rescue your pals who have been separated by a brutal storm. The levels you will face are vast and you have a lot of freedom to move about them. Ecco uses sonar waves to talk to his marine friends and can therefore get tips about the next objectives. The sonar can be useful later on to confuse those creatures that are not on your side. If an enemy gets in your way you can charge at them to cause injuries.
The game is a puzzler of sorts, the clues you are given force some exploration and a bit of lateral thinking in order to move on to the next scene. At times it can be frustrating when having to explore similar looking areas and avoiding the endless respawning enemies but that is really only a minor criticism.
The difficulty level of Ecco can often feel quite unbalanced. At times it is very easy, at other times frustratingly hard. The balance is significantly better in its sequel 'the tides of time' if you can wait for it to arrive on the Virtual Console. There's still some of the magic left, but don't expect this to live up to the hype from all those years ago.