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Ecco the Dolphin (Genesis)

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Title Screen

Ecco the Dolphin

Developer: Novotrade
Publisher: Sega
Platform: Genesis
Released in JP: July 30, 1993
Released in US: December 29, 1992
Released in EU: December 23, 1992

GraphicsIcon.png This game has unused graphics.
MusicIcon.png This game has unused music.
TextIcon.png This game has unused text.
DebugIcon.png This game has debugging material.
SoundtestIcon.png This game has a hidden sound test.
LevelSelectIcon.png This game has a hidden level select.
RegionIcon.png This game has regional differences.

In Ecco the Dolphin, you control a dolphin with some unusual marks on his head. After a waterspout, his pod vanished, and he was left to roam the seas in search of it. After talking to an orca and a blue whale, he was told to visit the Asterite: a wise creature made of spheres. The Asterite is eager to help, but is missing some of his globes. Ecco is sent to the past to retrieve the spheres, and does so by kicking them out of the past Asterite's body. Hence, the Asterite only lost his spheres because he told Ecco to remove them in the first place. After that, Ecco is sent back to the past, now with a new power, and is sucked along with his pod to face the evil Vortex race. Yes, there are paradoxes, time loops and alternate timelines, but that's the least of your problems, given that the game is hard and usually ready to scare you. But hey, at least there's the kickass Pink Floyd-inspired soundtrack to keep you sane whenever the game really doubles down on you.

The stuff on this page is about the US version, except for the Japanese version's section.

To do:
Document the prototype. Source

Debug Menu

Notice how some tiles on the top-right are a bit garbled. Well, in some levels, almost all tiles are garbled.

In-game, turn to either side and pause the game while Ecco is facing the camera. Then, press Right, B, C, B, C, Down, C, Up. A screen titled "The Dolphin" will appear, and you'll be able to change some settings.

  • Stage Number – Goes from 0 to 27. Change this and press Start to be sent to the corresponding level. Some of them are meant to be used in cutscenes and might freeze the game.
  • Sound Number – Goes from 0 to 65. A sound test. Choose a number, and press A to listen to the song with that number, and B to listen to the sound effect with that number.
  • Music Tempo – Goes from -120 to 120. 0 is the default value, and plays the current song at normal tempo. Other values just add or remove BPM to the normal tempo of the song. Some values will work incorrectly for some songs.
  • Message Number – Goes from 0 to 54. Choose a number and press A or B to view that message. 22, 31 and 32 are empty and 43 gives you invincibility.
  • Unlimited Life – If set to 1, your damage and oxygen meters will not decrease.
  • Teleporter – Change the X and Y values, and when you press Start and you will be teleported into that place. It will be canceled if you choose out-of-bounds coordinates. If you get yourself inside a wall, there'll be no way out, as you can't turn around to face the camera and perform the cheat again.
Elementary, my dear Cactus.
This needs some investigation.
Discuss ideas and findings on the talk page.

By changing address 00FFB86F, one can change the options below the visible ones. The values for them (at least for the first 3) are 00FFF830, 00FFF834 and 00FFF838. Changing their values may cause you to go to different stages.

Unused Music

To do:
Can you hear the full Time Travel song normally? If not, add it here.

There are some unused songs in the game, accessible through the debug menu.


Sounds like it could belong to an island-related level.


Sounds like it could be used in levels that are mostly played in deep waters.


A bit similar to 18, but this one sounds like it belongs in the ending.

Unused Text


This (the top-left one) can be seen if you disable layer Scroll B High.

In the top left and top right corners of Origin Beach are 2 glyphs, hidden inside the walls. If you use your sonar on them, you'll get the following messages:

Left (27):

We hear song in
the ocean!
We hear our kind
in the sea!
Never have we
heard songs in
the sea!

Right (28):

You sing our song
under the waves
Who are you?
Could we sing in
the sea?
Could we live in
the sea?
Perhaps we will

Ed Annunziata said that this was the answer to a question put on earlier in the game, "Why do dolphins live in the sea?". These glyphs were meant to be ancestors to Ecco, but due to time constraints, they were simply moved out of the way.

(Source: Ecco the Dolphin: Caverns of Hope)

There are also other unused messages, without a source:


Great winds of
water pulled me
here - now I am
Please help me
to pass the
current below


Thank you...
I will give you
a song to confuse
the jelly fish


The Hungry Ones
will not let me
surface for
air...I am afraid


Some shells will
eat through stone


The Asterite is
very deep...
Fill your lungs
Swim fast


I will see you
again young singer
Good luck!


I give you a song
to open
the next glyph

Unused Graphics

Ecco the Dolphin turtle.gifEcco the Dolphin turtle 2.gif

A turtle with four animation frames exists in the game. It can be seen by going to ROM address 0x86642 and replacing the 97 with 0F, 10 or 11. Start a new game and check the unique shell under the entrance to the next level; it should be replaced with the turtle. (The stray pixel underneath the tail is present in the original graphics.)

Regional Differences

The Japanese version has several interesting changes.


  • The SEGA logo screen has a sound of Ecco using his sonar. There's only silence in the US version.

Ecco the Dolphin password sign.png Ecco the Dolphin new game sign.png

  • The main "menu" has signs telling you that to the left is the password screen, and to the right is where you start a new game. These are absent in the US version.
  • In the password screen, if you write an incorrect password, the sound of the Vortex Queen munching on you plays. Nothing plays in the US version.
  • When you pause, the word "PAUSE" appears in the middle of the screen, and the song's tempo gradually decreases until it stops. When you unpause, the tempo gradually returns to normal. In the US version, 2 blinking bars appear, parallel to each other vertically, forming the classic "pause" symbol. The music keeps going like normal.
  • Fixes certain bugs and glitches
  • At least one hint message was improved, helping the player.
  • Some barrier glyphs act as checkpoints now, so you don't have to replay a level from the beginning after dying.
  • Fewer enemies.
  • Enemies don't respawn by default.
  • There are two new levels: "Open Ocean 2" and "The Stomach".
  • There's an undocumented and broken "easy mode", accessed by entering "EASY...." as a password. It skips several levels, shortening the game, but it doesn't have an end (the last level gets repeated over and over - because they took this feature from the Sega/Mega CD version and forgot to correct the level numbers)
  • Welcome to the Machine was heavily changed between the US and Japanese releases. Three save point glyphs were added to the level in order to make it easier. Upon dying after reaching one of the glyphs in the Japanese version, a screen will appear allowing you to continue the level or restart it. Despite only appearing in the Japanese version, the options for this screen are in English.
  • The Vortex Spawn in Welcome to the Machine had their colors changed from green to gray in the Japanese version. This change also extends to the projectiles that are fired out of the walls. Strangely enough, this color change does NOT extend to the Final Battle. The Vortex Spawn in this level regain their green coloring, and the Vortex Queen appears green in both versions.
  • When the Vortex Queen eats you, instead of being taken to the Machine again, you're taken to a smaller, easier and not-auto-scrolling level called The Stomach. This uses a unique theme (read below). This level also features sprites for jelly fish that would later be used in Ecco: The Tides of Time.
  • On the fight with the Queen Vortex, you only need to drop her jaw twice, for a total of 8 hits. In the US version, you need to drop it 3 times, for 12 hits total. Before the ending credits, a few messages appear in Japanese:

Debug Menu

Much better. No garbled tiles now.
To do:
Find out what the 2 extra messages are. And for that matter, find out if some messages were added/removed/changed.

The debug menu doesn't overlap the current screen. Instead, it fades to black and changes the background to a regular ocean backdrop. And when you leave, the music continues where it left off, whereas the music goes silent in the US version.

The first option also starts with the value 0 instead of your current level number. When you try to view a message, the game shows it to you (in Japanese, obviously), and quits the debug menu, instead of staying on it. This version also adds 2 extra messages, as the number can go from 0 to 56.

Unique Songs

There are 3 songs that are only used in the Japanese version. However, these can still be heard in the US version's sound test.

This theme plays in Cold Water.

This wacky theme plays in Open Ocean.

This one plays in the extra level, The Stomach.