After the Summer 1994 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), rumors were flying about an Ecco game for the 32x, and other rumors for the Saturn. At the show, Sega had put on a presentation of a 3D CG-rendered video that was dubbed by magazines far and wide, “Ecco the Dolphin 32X”. The following screenshot circulated around until basically every magazine with 32X preview coverage had shown it:
Other screenshots, all from the same video of Ecco jumping through the O in his logo, were published, but nothing else ever seemed to show up. Of course, this was about the time the 32X was beginning to tank. Because of difficulty in developing for the 32X, coupled with lack of consumer interest due to the Sega Saturn being on the horizon, game after game dropped from the lineup. These games were moved to the Saturn, or never got released at all. It became clear that “Ecco the Dolphin 32X” wasn’t coming out.
Much later, I found an individual on Google while doing research for this article and found someone who reported having a prototype Cinepack video of “Ecco the Dolphin 32x” from CES. After contacting him, I got an e-mail from the very friendly Alan Davis, who provided me with a photo of the EPROM board in question, which he obtained from a friend who had recently purchased some Sega development equipment. Below is the photo I received and screenshots from the Cinepack video on the EPROM board:
Summer 1994 CES Demo Board
Click the image to view full-size.
The Video Itself
|Here we see your generic Sega logo, the exact same variety used for the introduction to the original Ecco the Dolphin for MegaDrive / Genesis.|
|Out of the blackness fades this rapidly scrolling shot of the sun reflecting on some water. Remember, pre-rendered, folks. Note the dithering indicating it’s a compressed Cinepack video.|
|Some very awesome-looking light beams shine through the logo…|
|The beams shine right at the viewer as the logo draws nearer ..|
|And here’s the Ecco the Dolphin logo, with a wooden caption section, rendered in glorious early-90s 3D.|
|Ecco comes flying out of the water and through the O in the logo.|
|Look closely, Ecco’s polygonal model and texture appear to be the same as those used in the screenshots for the proposed Ecco Saturn game. He keeps going and flies toward the water as the video rapidly fades out, then starts over again from the beginning.|
CES 1994 Ecco 32X Demonstration ROM Binary File
A 32X and backup device or Sega Genesis/MegaDrive 32X Emulator such as KEGA Fusion is required to run this demonstration, in addition to the relevant 32X BIOS binary files.
Rumors have circulated around the net regarding this 32X demonstration and the supposedly-planned game. Let’s take a moment to disprove them.
- Ecco 32x would have 3D Cinematics – NOT TRUE. The 32X had the capability to play Cinepack-compressed video, as you see in the CES demonstration above. However, this little video clip less than ten seconds occupied most of 3,072 KB (3 Megabytes!) This one video was significantly larger than all of Ecco II for Genesis/MD was. Even ONE video of enough length to feature in the game would drive up the price of the cartridge well into the HUNDREDS of dollars. The only plausible way to feature such videos would be to make the game a CD 32X release, but given the dismal sales of the 32X and less-than-impressive sales of the Sega/Mega CD, there wouldn’t have been many people able to play that game.
- Ecco 32x was made into Defender of the Future – NOT TRUE. There is absolutely no evidence to support this theory, and the same team did not produce, or even author the story for, Defender of the Future.
So what happened to Ecco 32X?
Due to the fact that no true in-game screenshots ever surfaced, only pre-rendered video, I decided to get a definitive answer of whether or not Ecco 32X was ever really in development, I contacted Ed Annunziata, creator of Ecco and producer of the Genesis/MD games. He informed me that no Ecco title for 32X or Saturn had ever begun development. He went on to say that the videos “were used to ‘sell’ the idea of a 32X/Saturn game to Sega”, and that the videos (and screenshots from them) we’d seen were the basis for the CG videos used in Ecco I/II CD. After the poor sales of the 32X and Saturn, Annunziata said, they decided not to produce either.
So, there you have it– the true story behind the “Ecco 32X”. A big thanks to Ed Annunziata!