Opinions! We all have them. And we're repeatedly taught that they're all equally valid. It's a heartwarming bit of utilitarian thinking.
It's clearly b*llocks though, isn't it? We all know people going around making ludicrous claims like that the N64 controller wasn't brilliant, that Crash Team Racing is superior to Mario Kart, or that a Rich Tea is a perfectly palatable biscuit.
There are some things that are almost universally agreed upon—although that's increasingly impossible in the internet age. Opinions within gaming circles are rarely anything less than vociferous and hotly contested, but even in this veritable minefield, there's a certain selection of 'untouchable' titles which we all generally accept are bona-fide classics.
We're talking museum pieces here, the sort of cartridges that will one day stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the world's most culturally significant antiquities. Think Power Stone next to the Rosetta Stone, Bayonetta alongside the Bayeux Tapestry, and other belaboured puns which spring to mind.
Some of these classics have a status so hallowed that almost no-one dares suggest they might just be slightly inferior to their own sequels. I've reached a point in my life where I no longer fear death, and so I'm one of the few brave enough to venture such iconoclastic opinions.
It takes real conviction to p*ss off the fandoms of thirteen different franchises. But here goes...
13. Ecco: The Tides Of Time > Ecco The Dolphin
Is Ecco the Dolphin considered a classic in anybody else's mind other than my own? I'm quite sure it is, but I did grow up in something of a Sega-obsessed bubble.
Bubble! That's a relevant word. Because it's all like, underwater you see?
Anyway, Ecco was a brilliantly brooding adventure, its pelagic setting totally distinguishing it from the multitude of mascot platformers clogging up consoles during the period. There was little else like it.
But it was hard. Damn hard; the inability to breathe seldom makes things easier. The cetacean's second soirée, Tides of Time, was just as difficult. In fact, it was an even more punishing porpoise puzzler. As a result, few people had the wherewithal to see it through to its conclusion, instead telling the frustrating game to shove it up its blowhole.
It's worth fighting against the current though, if only for the portentously sombre ambience which thickly pervades every cubic centilitre of Ecco 2's watery world. The brimming oceanscapes—as elegantly depicted as the softest of oil paintings—feel alive at the surface. The tone drops and the pressure gradually ramps up as the player plunges to the ocean's lowest depths. (Then there're some bits in a sort of, sky tunnel, just ignore those.)
The mood is densely enveloped by an unreal, Pink Floyd-esque soundtrack, easily the best on the Mega Drive, and perhaps the most gloomily atmospheric ever employed in a video game. The opening sequence alone is enough to leave anybody wet. Because it's in the sea, you see.