The 1990’s were the time of innovation in gaming. Claustrophobic arcades were giving way to the convenience of sitting in one’s own living room, Nintendo and Sega’s console war began reaching critical mass, and the game’s themselves began to evolve, creating the genres we all know and love today.
Because of these advances in the field, and the development of genre-specific games, the subject of difficulty became somewhat of a variable. One specific game that shares these traits, and has always egged me on from afar, is Ecco: The Tides of Time, Sega’s cruel gaming joke, in my opinion.
I first held this (humourous adjective) of a game on Christmas Day 1994. With it being July of 2011, that means I first began dealing with (humourous adjective) sharks and jellyfish and (creator of Alien aliens) Vortex drones nearly seventeen years ago… and still have yet to beat it from start to finish.
At the rate it’s going, I’ll probably end up here soon, rambling about Asterites and warp rings.
I’m unsure why it has taken me this long, but I wonder if it has something to do with the fact this game has to be one of the most difficult ever. Any genre. Any system. Of all time.
I remember being captivated by the depth of color within the game, it’s graphics resembling what one could imagine fine art if Rembrandt’s silky hand was partnered with Dali’s sense of the absurd. Eclipses, floating islands, and sunken galleons tantilized the developing artistic side of my personality, and the behavior of the “monsters” lurking among the monochromatic scenery stimulated my established addiction to shock and fear.
Yeah, this thing always scares the crap out of me.
All of the ooh and ah aside, this game was incredibly frustrating, to the point where it drove me, on more than one occasion, to throw my remarkably durable Sega Genesis controller across the living room, at times turning some of my mom’s (synonym for lamps and such) into casualties.
“Just because you’re pissed that you died 38 consecutive times, does not mean my window should have to pay for your (synonym for inability)!”
During the summer of 1995, my cousins, my brother, and friends of mine got together and decided we were going to beat it. We were all staying at my cousin’s house every day of that summer, my mom serving as a babysitter. It was time. With God as out witness, that damn dolphin was going to save the world. Anything less would be considered a failure.
We were kind of like these guys…
… except without a dead body or a laughable Kiefer Sutherland.
After seventy-some-odd days, all we had to show for our efforts were nightmares about the Vortex Queen and a crinkled, stained piece of paper, a reminder that our desperation had led us to print level passwords from my mom’s old computer.
Yeah, I know this isn’t an Ecco screenshot, but it makes my point.
Even cheating, we couldn’t win.
Memories of that game, and the drive to complete it from start to finish, are still topics of conversation between myself and my cousin to this day. With the advent of the Playstation 3, my mom purchased Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection, a 40+ game compilation, comprising some of the best Sega cartridges from the late-80’s through the mid-90’s. When she showed it to me, she was quick to point out all of the Sonic games included in the disc, but it was when I read Ecco: The Tides of Time, I decided this was definitely a worthwhile investment.
When mom discovered it was included, she went around the entire house and gave a melancholy look to every vase, lamp, picture frame, and mirror, as if she was preemptively saying goodbye.
Sorry, mom, but we’ve been down this road before.