Spheres (alternatively Globes, not to be confused with the Asterite's Globes) are a critical story element in Ecco: Defender of the Future, and each contains a Noble Trait. The Foe, when it disabled the Guardian, stole these spheres and when Ecco attacked them the spheres were scattered throughout time.The absence of each Noble Trait changes the future of the seas, depending on what traits are missing.
The Noble Trait of Intelligence was retrieved in Man's Nightmare, in the level Blades in Motion directly before the boss fight. Without intelligence, the three dolphin pods present (Movers, Crimson and Circle) continued their aimless tasks forever, unaware of man's extinction and the fate that befalls them. Upon retrieving Intelligence, Man's Nightmare adjusts and the three pods are now aware of this extinction and the purpose of the Engine of Salvation was now known; it was an object meant to destroy the Foe, though since Man and Foe had killed each other, it would now be a deadly object if it activated.
The Noble Trait of Ambition was retrieved in Man's Nightmare during the level Sleeping Forces of Doom. When the Engine of Salvation was stopped from activating, this sphere appeared and returned the courage and ambition in dolphins all over. With Intelligence and Ambition, the history of the ocean shifted into the Dolphin's Nightmare scenario.
The Noble Trait of Compassion was found in the Outcast's lair in Dolphin's Nightmare, deep within the Caverns of Hope. The Outcast hid it from the Clan, and the Clan were well aware that it lurked there and tried many times to infiltrate the den and capture Outcast to interrogate them. Ecco picked up this Trait and then set his sights on the Clan's sphere.
The Trait of Wisdom is the sphere held by the Clan. The Clan, a selfish race that wanted all the spheres for themselves, hid this sphere in the Hanging Waters. Ecco would have to infiltrate the den, activate the Hanging Waters Generator and travel through the Hanging Waters to reach it. Upon defeating the Clan's supreme leader Mutaclone this sphere is retrieved.
This final sphere is held by the Foe Queen. This sphere was retrieved when Ecco breached the Foe's lair and defeated the Foe Queen, retrieving the last Noble Trait of Humility and restoring the balance to the oceans.