Ecco: The Tides of Time is an action-adventure video game developed by Novotrade International, published by Sega, and released for most of Sega’s then-supported gaming consoles in 1994. It is the second game in the Ecco the Dolphin series. The Tides of Time continued the story of the first game and featured similar gameplay with a few new additions.
The Tides of Time maintains the same gameplay as its predecessor. Ecco’s main attack is to ram into enemies at high speeds, while his sonar is used to communicate with other cetaceans and interact with certain objects such as crystal Glyphs, as well as bring up a map of the area through echolocation. By combining his charge and sonar, Ecco can attack enemies from a distance. As a mammal, Ecco is also required to surface for air at regular intervals.
New puzzles include following other dolphins through an underwater maze and a “scavenger hunt” in which Ecco must collect the Asterite’s missing globes. Two new power-ups were also introduced. The first is the “Pulsar”, which grants Ecco the ability to fire a multi-directional sonar attack at enemies for the duration of the stage. The second is the “Metasphere”, which transforms Ecco into different animals. The transformations are level-specific and include a seagull, a jellyfish, a shark, a school of fish, and a Vortex drone.
Some stages use a pseudo-3D effect. In these stages, Ecco must swim through moving rings while avoiding or attacking enemies. The player is forced to restart if Ecco misses too many rings or takes too much damage.
The Tides of Time continues from the ending of the original game, in which Ecco had saved his dolphin pod and the Earth from the Vortex aliens. Still wielding the powers granted to him by the ancient life-form known as the Asterite, Ecco has since returned to his peaceful life in Earth’s waters. One day, while Ecco is out exploring an underwater cave, a powerful earthquake causes an avalanche. As Ecco recovers, he learns that the Asterite’s powers have left him (indicated by the return of his need to surface for air). His fellow dolphins explain that something has killed the Asterite and is now spreading fear among the ocean life.
Soon after, Ecco meets a dolphin with unusually long fins. She is his descendant, Trellia, who takes him to the distant future to speak with “an old friend”. In the future, the ocean has developed its own mind and is connected across the planet by waterways traveling through the sky. The dolphins of the future have also evolved, as they are now able to fly through a combination of internal helium sacs and telekinetic powers.
After exploring the future, Ecco finds his old friend the Asterite, who explains the events that had transpired in Ecco’s time. Though Ecco had defeated the Vortex, the Vortex Queen survived and followed him back to Earth, where she killed the Asterite of Ecco’s time and now nests and feeds to restore her brood. The Asterite then tells Ecco that when he used the Atlantean Time Machine to save his pod, he split the stream of time in two. One possible future for Earth is a bright, happy world of flying dolphins, while the other is a dead, mechanical world sucked dry by the Vortex. As a result, Ecco is referred to as “the stone that split the stream of time in two”.
Once back in his own time, Ecco travels to the Moray Abyss, where he finds the first two globes of the Asterite after clearing out the giant moray eels. He then journeys to revive the Asterite by finding its many globes that have been scattered across the ocean. Slowly, the Asterite begins to recover, and eventually is able to hold a full conversation with Ecco. However, it cannot help Ecco, as the Vortex of the dark future took its last pair of globes back to their own time. As the Atlantean Time Machine can only go into the past, Ecco must find another way to reach the dark future.
Ecco makes his way to the Lunar Bay, which the Vortex have stripped of all ocean life as they continue to grow and multiply. As he explores, Ecco is ambushed by Vortex drones and taken to the dark future. Unlike the future of before, the Vortex Future is a lifeless planet-spanning machine consisting of water tubes, artificial gravity, and dangerous Vortex creatures. Ecco locates the Asterite’s last two globes in a chamber, where a bubble-chained holding device called the Globe Holder resides. After destroying it, Ecco obtains the globes and is warped back to his era.
With the Asterite complete again, Ecco’s former powers are restored, and the Asterite summons all of Ecco’s fellow dolphins to join in fighting the Vortex. As the dolphins and the Vortex do battle in the now-transformed Lunar Bay, Ecco swims to the deepest parts and infiltrates the Vortex’s New Machine, then finally confronts the Vortex Queen and seemingly destroys her once and for all.
As his pod celebrates their victory over the vanquished Vortex, Ecco returns to the Asterite and is told to go to Atlantis and destroy the Time Machine in order to prevent the stream of time from ever being split again. Arriving in the sunken city, Ecco discovers that the Vortex Queen is still alive as a larva after her supposed death, and the two of them race to the Time Machine. The Vortex Queen uses the Time Machine first and is sent to the Prehistoric Era, where she finds herself unable to rule over the creatures that reside there. Faced with the need to survive, the Queen is forced to adapt to Earth’s own life-cycles, and through the eons, the Vortex are integrated into the ecosystems of Earth as arthropods. Ecco chooses to use the Time Machine instead of destroying it, and vanishes into an unknown era.