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Ecco II: Sentinels of the Universe (and its prototypes), when SEGA's most famous dolphin was to return to swim in the Dreamcast's virtual aquarium for a sequel.

The big blue thrill was finally back on Dreamcast. After years of silence, Ecco the Dolphin made a perfectly mastered transition from 2D to 3D. With sumptuous graphics, dazzling lighting effects and bewitching music, Ecco was born again from its ashes. Appaloosa's title was a showcase for SEGA and its latest home console.

The players felt as if they were really underwater. Immersion was total. More than a game, Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future Dreamcast was above all a sensory experience.

Following the release of Ecco 1 on Dreamcast in the summer of 2000, Hungarian development studio Appaloosa couldn't leave it at that. The company's hundred-strong workforce set about designing a sequel entitled Ecco II: Sentinels of the Universe. Unfortunately, nothing went according to plan, and the title never saw the light of day...

A brief history of the Appaloosa development studio

Appaloosa Interactive (formerly Novotrade International) is a corporation, founded in 1983 in Hungary, that produced numerous console games, computer programs, many books and Hungarian TV-commercials.

The society was created by four banks and ninety-three Hungarian companies to attract foreign currency, the supply of which was low in the Eastern bloc. The government of the day would not even recognize the existence of the company, which was only able to transform itself into a joint stock enterprise because of a legal loophole.

András Csaszar and Stephen Friedman are the founders of Novotrade International. The first had made a name for himself with the development of a little game, Caesar the Cat, which was to be the first game developed by the Hungarian company. And the second was a computer specialist as well as a businessman. Csaszar was company president, while Friedman was CEO. Other personalities such as Robert Stein and Gábor Rényi contributed to the foundation of the development studio.

Between 1983 and 1989, the two men developed Novotrade's international activity by seeking out publishers who would entrust them with porting arcade games to Spectrum and Commodore 64. An office was opened in California, while the studios were located in Budapest.

Appaloosa studio Dreamcast ecco the dolphin (5).jpg

A photo tour of the Appaloosa building

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In 1989, the fall of the Berlin Wall brought about a change in the Hungarian company's status. Csazsar and Friedman settled permanently in California, and Novotrade became a private company. Several games were in development at the same time. The company achieves international success with Ecco the Dolphin, created by Ed Annunziata.

In 1996, the studio grew from a cottage industry to a multinational corporation. A new name was needed for this company, where English had become the main language: Appaloosa Interactive replaced Novotrade.

After a successful run on the Dreamcast and this generation of consoles, Appaloosa went bankrupt in 2006.

Appaloosa studio Dreamcast ecco the dolphin (7).jpg
Appaloosa studio Dreamcast ecco the dolphin (1).jpg

Appaloosa was a company of talented employees. The firm specializing in aquatic games was able to exploit the Dreamcast's capabilities to the highest degree. The graphics of Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future and its cancelled sequel Ecco II Sentinels of the Universe left no one indifferent.

Ecco II: Sentinels of the Universe

Planned for Dreamcast and Playstation 2 (and possibly Xbox), Ecco II: Sentinels of the Universe was at an early stage of development, only 30% complete. Graphically, the game was beautiful, and the know-how of Appaloosa's developers was already apparent. Textures were crisp and animations meticulous. However, game design was still in its infancy.

Tamás Bakó (Artist) : «I think the PS2 and Dreamcast versions were similar, and maybe the DC version was the main platform. So the PS2 version shouldn't be any more advanced. We used GD (Game Designer, internal editor/engine like Unity/Unreal these days), development was done in the editor on PC and builds were sent directly to the test/development kits. In this respect, they should be synchronized.»

Work on Ecco II: Sentinels of the Universe began in September/October 2000. All the studio's employees, approximately those on the Ecco 1 credit list, were assigned to this major title from the Hungarian company. By mid-2001, Appaloosa's management had taken the unfortunate decision to abandon the current project. A minimum of 1 years of development remained before it could be launched on the market.

Mihály Sáránszki (Level Designers & Graphic Artists) : «The basics of the levels and story were planned, but things evolved in the meantime. All the levels have been started, but none have been completed.»

The title is, of course, unfinished, with no sound effects or music. The Dreamcast version was cancelled 1 month after SEGA's announcement that it would stop supporting the console, a tragic announcement that came at the beginning of 2001. The Playstation 2 version could have been released, but the reasons for its cancellation are still unknown. Since then, several versions of Ecco II: Sentinels of the Universe DC have been discovered, all fairly close to each other.

Tamás Bakó : «We all love Ecco and it's a good memory. We always hope that someone will bring back the franchise.»

Prototypes of Ecco II: Sentinels of the Universe (Ecco 2 Dreamcast) feature similar gameplay to Ecco the Dolphin Defender (Ecco 1). Builds launch on a level selector, specific to games in beta format, allowing players to teleport to the level of their choice. Although the environments are fully explorable, there are few objectives to achieve. The biggest innovation in this new episode was Ecco's ability to pick up objects and give/use them.

Zsolt Prievara (Programmer) : «I wrote the program for the Desolate Port level, where you had to communicate with a parrot and bring it jewels from Ecco's mouth. There was a boat wreck at the bottom of the ocean, and it was dark inside.»

Video of a Dreamcast prototype of Ecco 2

Following the abandonment of Ecco II, the development team launched other projects which also never saw the light of day, including:

  • The Smurfs (more information here) was a platformer planned for the Dreamcast and Playstation 2. It was not very advanced, but playable, and was at 30% of development. Appaloosa Interactive had been unable to license Peyo's famous comic book for video game adaptation. With differing opinions as to its cancellation, the game's development had undoubtedly not been able to proceed to completion following the cessation of Infograme, which may have been the title's publisher.

  • The Parrot project was a mysterious TPS (Third Person Shooter) featuring an exotic bird named Lory. No information about the game has been revealed, and few people seem to have worked on it. There is, however, some conceptual material, artwork and sketches, representing the game in the pipeline.

Lory, the parrot, is cute.

  • Mermaid was an Ecco-like game designed after Ecco 2, this time featuring a mermaid. Appaloosa had specialized in aquatic games. The idea was to invest as little money and work as possible to start, perhaps, a new franchise based on the game style that had made the development studio so successful.

Two videos of the Mermaid technical demo

Tamás Bakó : «The Smurfs, Mermaid and Parrot games were all created by the design team. This was a separate team made up of a handful of very talented artists and programmers who worked on the prototypes.»

Ecco 2 sketches

Ecco the Dolphin Sentinels of the Universe sketch
Ecco the Dolphin Sentinels of the Universe artwork

The last time an episode of Ecco The Dolphin appeared on a home console was over 20 years ago. In 2002, Ecco The Dolphin Defender of the Future, the same game released on Dreamcast, was released on Playstation 2. Since then, SEGA has been discreet about the future of the most famous video game dolphin of all time.  What is the blue hedgehog fime waiting for to resurrect the IP?

Levels in photos and videos

Mihály Sáránszki (Appaloosa's graphic designer) presents us, to our pleasure, a video showing archives of Ecco 2. We can admire unpublished levels such as Vulcano or the Dinosaur level. He shows the level editor used by Appaloosa for this game, and explains a few details. Since Ecco is the property of Appaloosa, we'll have to be satisfied with this video, which reveals a lot.

Mihály Sáránszki : «As the developer of Ecco and Ecco 2 (Dreamcast and PS2), for Comby Laurent's request, I've collected video elements of Ecco II: Sentinels of the Universe from the available archives. I worked on the Vulcano level (and pimped Atlantis).»

Dans la vidéo d'Ecco2 - Sentinels of the Universe Unfinished Game Archives :

HANGING CAVERNS : 0.19 secondes

ICETEST : 4 minutes 20

HOLY FOREST : 6 minutes 30 (with sketch)

CAVEFIN : 9 minutes 12 (with sketch)

ATLANTIS (variante) : 13 minutes 31 (with level editor demonstration and comments)

ANCIENT CITY : 18 minutes 44

GALLEON PORT : 22 minutes 29 (with sketch)

VULCANO : 25 minutes 41 (with sketch and real-time water accoustics on the walls)

Vidéo de présentation des niveaux d'Ecco 2 avec explications par Mihaly Saranszki

Interface de l'éditeur de niveau

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All Ecco 2 levels were under construction (the selection of levels was not complete).

In the Vulcano level, the spider is Ecco's friend (she had to help the player repair a water pump).

In the Ice Edge level, Ecco had to save a baby (by pushing ice blocks).

Many of Ecco 2's levels can only be played on the PC, using the level editor. Don't expect to be able to play them, one day, on a home console. In addition to this video, photos have been taken from Game Designer (Appaloosa Interactive's in-house editor/engine), here they are:





















Download links

The analysis of the builds below was done by comparing them with the prototype that the Hidden Palace site had found in 2016 or with each other.

Cloning the Dev Kit's hard disk

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In all prototypes, the CONF. TXT file is used to configure how the game will react. For example, by modifying the text of the file, the prototype will load at the desired location (such and such levels, level selector etc.). An explanation of how to use it can be found in the section "research on my builds of Ecco II: Sentinels of the Universe".

In terms of gaming, these two new builds don't add anything we already know. They are important for the preservation of the videogame heritage.

All three prototypes in the game show the same build date and time. This should be ignored.

The two new prototypes of Ecco the Dolphin Sentinels of the Universe Dreamcast were found in a Katana Development Kit used by Appaloosa. There were also 4 builds of Ecco 1.

Download the SET5 Dreamcast Dev Kit used by the Appaloosa studio:

Appaloosa Dreamcast Katana Dev Kit

Ecco the Dolphin Sentinels of the Universe build 1 (Feb 21, 2001) 16:41:38

Two previously unseen levels from the game, not present in the first prototype discovered in 2016, are present in the game files. These are 180_Atlantis and 120_Creef_North. They are impossible to run and do not load. Loading remains frozen.

The loadings would have to be hacked, removed in order to run the new levels. They may simply be incomplete and therefore non-operational.

If you select level 1 (100_Atlantis) in Ecco 2's level selector, it doesn't load and remains blocked on the loading window. The other levels do not cause any loading problems.

The audio (the AUDIO64.DRV file) seems to have some additions, but nothing very important in my opinion.

A DSP.FPB file (utility unknown) is included in this prototype, whereas it is not in the 2016 prototype.

Level selector

Ecco 2 Dreamcast Prototype Level Select.jpg

Comparison of build 1 (left) and the Hidden Palace prototype (right)

Ecco 2 Dreamcast release.jpg

The differences with the well-known prototype published online by the Hidden Palace website are to be found in the 100_Atlantis and 110_Ancient maps, not forgetting the 2 levels specific to the build.

100_Alantis loading problem


You can download this build of Ecco 2 below:

Ecco the Dolphin Sentinels of  the Universe build 1 (Feb 21, 2001)

Ecco the Dolphin Sentinels of the Universe build 2 (Feb 21, 2001) 16:41:38

Please note that the time and date of the last file modification are the same between build 1 and build 2. However, there are some differences. They can be found in the 180_Atlantis and 120_Creef_North maps, which are unfortunately still not playable!


This build seems to use earlier models of the 180_Atlantis and 120_Creef_North levels.

Comparison of build 1 (left) and build 2 (right)


As the CONF.TXT file is set to load the game on level 180_Atlantis, this prototype remains locked during game loading (you may need to modify the file in question to launch it on the level selector).

Research on my builds of Ecco II: Sentinels of the Universe:

Ecco 2 rajmadar texture.jpg

"As I was digging through the files of Ecco: Sentinels of the Universe. The dangers of the coral reef exist, but it's impossible to access because the second version is inaccessible in-game. But with PVR Texture Viewer, we have found a strange bird in the level as well as building textures labeled Atlantis in the names. Here is the bird and his name is Rajmadar. "

I investigated these two constructions at the request of Laurent C.

There are three differences between version 1 and version 2:

  • 180_ATLANTIS.GDE (Atlantis level) is different - but neither version loads (both crash)

  • 120_CREEF_NORTH.GDE is different - but neither is in the main menu

  • CONFIG.TXT - this file determines how the build runs

Build 1 has a CONFIG.TXT to load the menu screen, Build 2 has a CONFIG.TXT to load Atlantis directly (which crashes)

I can change Build 2 CONFIG.TXT to load in the menu instead of the Atlantis level, but that doesn't help because the only different map (CREEF_NORTH) is not listed in the menu anyway.

I have configured CONFIG.TXT to load 120_CREEF_NORTH directly. Unfortunately, it also crashes. Both versions of the file

I don't think there is anything left to do with this game unless someone can hack the levels without loading and get them to work, but that is outside my area of expertise.

Hidden Palace has two different downloads for Ecco II (one GDI and one devkit dump) - I tried looking at the devkit dump to see if I could get the Frankenstein files from this version and the dump from Laurent. It includes another level (IceEdge), but none of the files in this devkit load except Galleon - it's different from Laurent's GDs, but it's just Ecco stuck at the bottom of a well or something. dead end thing ??

Ecco 2 Dreamcast in game.png

It sounds like a dead end to me ... but that's about it. If you want to play with this dead end level, here is a GDI of this level:

Feel free to look at " other canceled games " that I found. For the most curious of you, I have created a " list of all unreleased from theDdreamcast ".

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