A review of Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future (PS2). It has its flaws, but they aren't much compared to all else.
~Gameplay / Controls~ - 9/10
Gameplay is fantastic; though it's hard to get the hang of at first, it's smooth and easy to use. The game registers commands ninety-eight percent of the time; there are no real bugs in the system.
The only gripe I have is the homing feature, a PS2 version exclusive. In my experience, it's done more harm than good. Though it isn't a terrible flaw, the game could do without it.
When you press the circle button to preform a charge attack, you'll home in on fish, sharks, and other objects you can interact with. However it's a bit of a nuisance; by the time the game registers a home-in-on-able object, you'll likely have lost most of your momentum. This means you didn't catch a fish, get bit by a shark, or whatever else could happen in a situation.
~Story~ - 10/10
The story is amazing, plain and simple. It focuses on Ecco, a young dolphin in a "futuristic" setting. The dawn of the 30th century is at hand, and peace is as well. All humans and most dolphins left, to discover new places in the universe. An alien race known simply as the Foe come to Earth, seeking to conquer it. The few remaining dolphins have the Guardian; a creature who can project a shield over the entire planet.
But when one of the Foe attempt a suicide mission and succeed, literally smashing the Guardian to pieces, what becomes of the life on the planet?
That's the beginning of the story in a nutshell--I'll leave the rest to you. It's a very cool ride, to say the least.
~Difficulty~ - 8/10
The game is fairly difficult on the first playthrough. Okay, at some points you'll want to tear your hair out. Overall, the game offers a fair amount of challenge. The difficulty gets pretty high right off the bat, somewhere in the second level. After that, it's relatively easy, but be on your toes.
~Music~ - 10/10
The music is great, and hardly disappoints. The large majority of the levels have unique soundtracks, and those who share the same track all have similar moods. The musical score ranges from peaceful, depressing, ominous, downright creepy and literally everything in between.
~Graphics~ - 6/10
This is where the game falls down. Ecco's model looks really good; it's clean, polished and even has the effect of sunbeams-through-water effect on it, if you know what I'm talking about. Other dolphin's models, and most other things in general, not so much.
Some of the bosses don't look like much effort was put into them; the small visual things really do count. Another example is the many rock walls; among other objects, they're not the greatest part of the graphics.
The best part of the graphics can be summed up into two words: Hanging Waters. It's a wonderfully designed level, and saves the graphics score from being much lower. The visuals in the level are likely the most worked on, as they're just...stunning.
~Bonus Features~ - 7/10
While they aren't great in number, the game's extra features make up for quantity with quality. For example, take the Gallery. It's an extra in the game that allows for viewing of the concept art. Here's how it works, though:
In most levels, five "Vitalits" are scattered about. They serve two functions; increasing your health bar a tiny bit and unlocking concept art in the Gallery. For every level in the game you collect all the Vitalits for, you unlock a piece of concept art for that level. Cool, huh?
Aside from the Gallery, though, there isn't much to say. There is a hidden "Soccer" minigame in which you play dolphin soccer, but it's single-player only and gets boring quickly.
~Overall Score~ - 9.5/10
Though it has minor flaws, Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future is a great game. There are some glitches, but you really have to go out of your way for them--they mostly consist of nosing around corners in a wall to exit the level boundaries.
I highly recommend you buy this game. Overall, it's a fun experience. You don't need to have played any other Ecco games, as it is a story on its own, which is a plus.