In these uncertain times, with social isolation the new norm and being unable to play out in the sunshine, I needed a new challenge. It seems that April 14th is, in fact, the National Day of the Dolphin. The challenge was therefore set – to create a piece based around this day, detailing the games you should be playing in order to celebrate this great day. Sadly, I could only find three games that I’d played that actually featured dolphins, so I decided to cheat a bit, grab a bit of artistic license and provide you with some of the best “Marine Creatures in Gaming”. So, come with me to the seven seas as I cobble together a list of my favourite gaming marine creatures for National Dolphin Day – and yes, it includes the good old dolphin. Obviously.
1. Ecco the Dolphin
There should be no surprise to the game that will kick this piece off, as Ecco is probably the most famous dolphin the world has ever seen, bar Flipper of course.
Sega’s dolphin simulator came along when I was a fresh faced teenager. The year was 1992, the Megadrive had pride of place under the giant CRT TV in the living room, and when I could elbow my dad out of the way (he loved a bit of Altered Beast) I was able to indulge all my dolphin related fantasies. Swimming, jumping, battling, and more often than not drowning, I loved my time with Ecco the Dolphin.
There were no guns, no explosions, and no real violence – just a crazy journey to find an ancient Blue Whale and to try and save the rest of his pod of dolphins from an alien queen. Just another day in the ocean.
It was unique in other ways too, especially in the way that echolocation is used in the game; something that was quite novel as it could be used to show a map of the surrounding area when the corresponding button was held down. The same button caused Ecco to sing, allowing him to interact with other creatures and even giant crystals called “Glyphs”, causing them to move, revealing a new path to take. Singing to clams also refilled Ecco’s air, as while this was a game, the basic physiology of the dolphin requires him to breathe air, and if he didn’t he died. And yes, that was fairly heartbreaking.
He could also die if he failed in combat, obviously, but here there was an issue: in order to do damage, Ecco would need to be moving at high speed and ram enemies, which took room to build up. Normally I’d be strolling around the levels at a slow speed, but then see an enemy, have to turn around, then come back faster in order to fight. Luckily, Ecco’s sonar can also be used to make enemies disoriented or frozen, and so a two-pronged approach could be effective.
Without a word of a lie, I loved Ecco the Dolphin and writing this piece has brought back many a good memory.
2. Mr. Dolphin from Final Fantasy VII
Yeah it’s only a cameo, really, but a dolphin plays a vital part in Final Fantasy VII.
After arriving in Junon, Cloud and the team wander about for a bit, then find themselves on a beach, next to the ocean, underneath the giant Shinra port. To their amazement, a young girl called Priscilla arrives, and it is she who has seemingly trained a dolphin to jump on her command.
Imaginatively known as “Mr. Dolphin”, he is showing his skills off when a boss fight occurs, causing Mr. Dolphin to run away and Priscilla to be knocked unconscious. Here is the one and only time I’ve ever had to do CPR in a video game: we have to breathe air into Priscilla’s lungs in order to revive her. Having done so successfully, we have to wait until she recovers enough to see us, but once she does, she bestows upon us the whistle that makes Mr. Dolphin jump. What more could you want in life?!
Luckily, the one way into the massive Shinra base that is on high alert because their President is coming is to have a dolphin lift us into the air so we can get onto the superstructure of the base. How did security not see that one coming? I mean, it’s so obvious, isn’t it? Proving once and for all that every good plan needs a dolphin clause included.
3. Sharks in Freediving Hunter: Spearfishing the World
Freediving Hunter: Spearfishing the World is the first game I’ve played where you have to wander the globe and spear fish in the face – well, not necessarily the face, but headshots score extra points.
Anyway, in Spearfishing the World there weren’t any dolphins, but there are some honking great sharks. And these sharks like nothing more than to steal the hard-earned catch that we have spent a couple of minutes stalking.
You see, as in real life, having a fish thrashing around on the end of a harpoon, bleeding into the water, excites the local shark population, and if you don’t get the fish into your custody in time it will disappear down the gullet of the nearest dead-eyed eating machine. Of course, having landed the fish, you’re still holding a bleeding lump of incredibly fresh sushi, and in real life a lot of spear fisherman actually still get attacked after they have stuck the fish in their pocket.
Of course, in the game, the worst that can happen is that you lose a fish as opposed to a limb, hammering home once and for all that it’s a lot safer to spear fish from the comfort of your sofa.
4. Dolphins in Hungry Shark World
Hungry Shark World is a game that I bought pretty much on a whim. Coming from Ubisoft, it tasks you with being a shark, and a hungry one at that.
Starting off as a lowly Porbeagle (incidentally, one of the sharks that swim in the waters around the UK, fact fans), it is left to you to eat as many things as you can to keep your shark going – fish, crabs, people.
Yes, that’s right, people are fair game in Hungry Shark World – depending on the size of shark you are currently playing as. There are many to choose from, all unlocked by performing certain tasks in the levels, such as surviving a certain length of time, eating a certain number of other marine critters in a certain period, or by finding fossils.
The way that dolphins tie into this game is a little gruesome mind, but remember, this is a piece about National Dolphin Day so I’m looking for an angle, so here goes – you have to eat dolphins. A lot of dolphins. In fact, there’s an achievement for eating 1000 dolphins on your mission to becoming the ultimate natural mincing machine.
5. A shark in Maneater
This one is a bit of a cheat, but I’m looking forward to Maneater from Deep Silver so much that I’m going to allow it onto my list.
You see, Maneater looks nuts, but it also looks like you get to play through the storyline from Jaws – just from the opposite point of view. It’s not so much “We’re going to need a bigger boat”, yet more “Let’s eat all the swimmers”.
Billed as a “shaRkPG”, which for those of you who aren’t familiar with the way that game developers like to smash genres together is a shark-based RPG, in Maneater you will be tasked with starting out as a lowly baby bull shark. As you grow and eat things, your shark will begin to evolve. And in true RPG fashion, as your your shark levels up you’ll be able to take on more dangerous prey and so on – there seems to be a lot to look forward to.
If you haven’t seen it, the trailer looks fantastic and I urge you to give it a watch. With news of a pre-order bonus allowing you to play as a tiger shark, the excitement for Maneater on Xbox One, PS4 and PC is certainly strong in my household.
So there we have it and these are my picks of some of the best games for you to play now that National Dolphin Day is here. There have been a few dolphins from the past, some sharks from the present, and even one from the future. But what about you guys? Do you have a favourite marine animal you’d have liked to have seen in this list? What are your top five dolphins in gaming? Let us know in the comments.