# of Players:
Live (online play), Memory Unit, Custom Soundtracks, In-game Dolby Digital,
HDTV 480p, System Link
was originally developed by Microsoft Studios Japan and was released
in Japan late in 2004. Microsoft had no plans to bring this title to
other markets, but Majesco stepped in and acquired the publishing
rights for North America. Released at the $20 dollar price point,
Phantom Dust is one of 2005ís budget titles that should be in
every gamerís collection.
possesses an addictive and enjoyable core gaming experience that
masterfully blends strategy elements with action. Essentially,
Phantom Dust is a card battle game (think Magic: The
Gathering or something similar) set in an action environment. To
many, including myself, the card games that Phantom Dust
draws from are boring or dumb, but this game manages to put all of
the reservations in the back of your mind and allows you to enjoy
the title. The basic gameplay is combat in a post-apocalyptic world.
Players create an arsenal from skills they obtain and drop into a
world with an arsenal. Skills appear in the form of orbs that the
player must pick up to gain that particular skill. You only have
access to four skills in your inventory at a time, as well as three
orbs on the map at any given time. Arsenals have 25 slots in them,
and these slots must be split between attack, defensive, ability,
and aura particles. Aura particles may seem useless at first, but
these are required to build up your aura (magic points), which is
needed to cast spells. Arsenal building is limited by school
requirements. There are five schools of spells, each with their own
advantages and disadvantages. Arsenals can only possess a certain
number of schools, so players must figure out which combination
works in certain situations.
The game looks
great, especially during the battles. The battle stages are filled
with destructible environments that cause damage to players, and
this adds to the strategic element to the game. Thereís nothing
better than blowing the floor from underneath your opponent, or
causing the roof to collapse on him. The environments also allow you
to dodge attacks without using a defense skill. The graphical style
used is fairly standard post-apocalyptic, but it looks amazing.
There is an extensive amount of detail to the world and the
character models, not to mention the flashy spells being thrown
across the map. The music in the game is strange, and tends to be
remixed classical arrangements. Itís interesting, and I actually
liked it. It adds an almost eerie environmental feel to the game.
single player mode is mediocre at best. Here, you face a traditional
anime, post-apocalyptic plot filled with the typical moping,
betrayal, and lies thrown around by the non-player characters. While
this may not necessarily be a bad thing by any means, the
application is. Between missions, you have to walk around your base
and talk to about 12 characters that mostly spout out fairly useless
information. The reason you have to do this is to actually find
missions. There was many times where I spent 20 minutes circling
around the base looking for the next mission. This is really
distracting and only serves to frustrate players who just want a
quick battle fix. It takes too long to actually get to tinker with
arsenals, and even then, the game almost drops you into the arsenal
building process. For gamers with a lot of time on their hands, this
isnít a problem, but the developers should have included an
ďautomatically build an arsenalĒ option for casual players.
My main gripe
is with the main character in the story mode. Heís a silent,
generic, unnamed character that simply acts as a drone for the NPCs.
He has no personality, and that is directly due to the fact that he
has no dialog. While this may have worked in games like Chrono
Trigger, it doesnít work today, especially in a game where
characters are having full-blown conversations with someone who
doesnít answer back. Lack of custom options for the characters seems
out of place for this title, especially for the direction that it
takes the main character. If a game is going to treat the main
character as a quiet observer, at least give gamers the ability to
change his appearance as well as his name. The game does allow you
to choose a name, but the choices are ultimately bad and it really
fails to make a difference since I donít think anyone mentions your
name outside of the text boxes. Would it have been so hard to allow
people to type their own name into the game? It surely would have
been better than some of the idiotic suggestions they gave and
forced on me. If that was too much, at LEAST give me the option to
use my Xbox Live gamertag as my name.
the dialog in general feels like its something Iíd see on an 8-bit
or 16-bit RPG title. Sporadic voice use combined with text boxes
seems really dated on a modern system in 2005. In all honesty, there
isnít much to even make me care about the story mode, as I can
tinker with my arsenals and buy skills in the online mode.
mode is excellent, although the number of people who go online tends
to change almost daily. Some days I found numerous games, while
others I only found two other people playing this game. Online modes
include team battles, battle royals, and one-on-ones. There are
different rule presets that can limit or expand schools and health.
One mode allows you to bet a random skill on the outcome of the
match. Another excellent feature of the online mode is the
trade/sell screen. Here, gamers can sell or trade their unneeded
skills for skills they may not have or require more of. There are
also Xbox Live exclusive skills that are only gained when a player
wins 30 matches.
The one thing
that drives me completely insane about this game is the menu setup.
This game is Xbox Live Aware, so your friends can see you online and
invite you to other games. However, there is one major problem. In
order to access your Friends list, you need to completely exit out
of the entire game and go to the main menu. This is disturbing, and
I canít think of any other title that forces you to do this.
Considering this is a late-generation title seemingly built for Xbox
Live, I find no reason why I shouldnít be able to access my Friends
list in the middle of a game.
Strategic action based title
Addictive, especially when trying to create a perfect
Music is great
Multiplayer is fun
Single player mode in general
Canít access Friends list in-game
Lack of voice/customization
Learning curve with arsenal building may be too
high for casual gamers
This game is
an interesting take on the card-battle games. I enjoyed the near
flawless blend of strategy and action, and as a result, this game is
really fun when in the battles themselves. That being said, the
single player mode is horrendously tedious and only works on the
patience of players. If it were simply just straightforward when
assigning missions or even just acted as a tournament-style training
mode for online, it would have been much better. Even with its
flaws, Phantom Dust is one of those games that people should
take the $20 dollar risk and play.