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Friday, October 12, 2012

The Music of Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future

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9/10

Well, this is about as niche as you can get: an unreleased soundtrack from a little-played video game so difficult most never overcame its earliest levels, on a little-played system from over a decade ago. I gave serious thought to skipping this particular review, but that would be a disservice to this excellent work.
The great thing about Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future's soundtrack is that it doesn't sound like video game music (not that there is anything wrong with that). It is film quality from start to finish, something almost unheard of at the start of the previous decade. In a past tribute to the video game system the soundtrack was composed for, I described Defender of the Future's music as "a throwback to 70's New Age, Science Fiction, and Nature Documentary Soundtracks." That description was apt. To use more emotion-driven words, this soundtrack is mostly ethereal, sometimes thrilling, and always engaging on its own. The wonder is, this music wasn't originally heard on its own--it was backing up an equally ethereal, sometimes thrilling video game. Watch a second of this and see what I mean in action.

It is almost crazy that a game looked this good twelve years ago. It is crazy even now that a game sounds this good, period. If you played this track for a Battlestar Galactica fan and told them it was taken from that particular show, I don't think they would doubt you for a second.
The composer of the majority of Defender of the Future's score is Tim Follin. Follin handled a complete re-composition of the game after Attila Helger's score was rejected (a little of Helger's work remains in a few of the game's cutscenes).
Follin deserves a medal. This is incredible work. Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future is one of those games that is so hard, it can take months to beat, even with a guide. Thankfully, this beautiful music keeps the player going, even just to hear what Follin has composed for them next. It is little wonder that all these years later, a small cult is still celebrating Follin's work, continuously cleaning up and re-posting the songs for free...in fact, a new update was released just weeks ago. That's dedication, and I am immediately going to replace my lower quality soundtrack with these new files. You can check them out at Caverns of Hope, an Ecco Fansite.
You can also find them all on Youtube. That's dolphintastic. Dolphincredible? Dolphcellent? Dawesome?
I'm out.


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