Phantom Dust

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Phantom Dust
Phantom Dust Coverart.png
Developer(s) Microsoft Game Studios
Designer(s) Yukio Futatsugi
Platform(s) Xbox
Release date(s)
  • JP September 23, 2004
  • NA March 15, 2005
Genre(s) Action, strategy
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer
Distribution DVD

Phantom Dust (ファントムダスト Fantomu Dasuto?) is a 2004 action strategy video game developed and published by Microsoft Game Studios and produced and directed by Yukio Futatsugi (director of Panzer Dragoon for Sega Saturn) for the Xbox console. The game was released in Japan on September 23, 2004 and in North America on March 15, 2005, licensed for release in the U.S. by Majesco.

Phantom Dust is a pseudo-card-based action/strategy game in which the player collects skills (over 300 total) and takes missions to attempt to discover why Earth is in the condition it is. Players construct "arsenals" (similar to decks of cards) from their acquired skills and then use them to battle against other players.[1] The game incorporates strategy and action elements in to a game that requires both mental and reflexive skill, and remains a cult hit.[2] As of July 24, 2014, however, the Xbox Live servers no longer support online multiplayer for Phantom Dust, or any other Xbox original game.

At E3 2014, a Phantom Dust remake was announced for the Xbox One.


There are four aspects of gameplay in Phantom Dust: interaction, Arsenal building, mission assignment within the underground city, and combat in various arenas on the surface of the planet.

Within the underground city, the player can interact with other non-player characters to learn of missions, buy new skills, arrange and alter their Arsenals, and review memory boxes recovered during exploration. Once a player accepts a mission, they may have the opportunity to take a second friendly NPC to the field, though many times, the mission requires a specific NPC.

On a mission, the player and companion are put into a field with up to two enemy foes and the match begins. Each participant generally starts with 20 health points, but this may vary for weaker foes or stronger bosses. Due to the nature of the dust that fills each field, each match is limited to 15 minutes of game time, though if either all enemies are defeated, or the player's health drops to zero, or other special conditions are met, the match can end sooner.

Each participant will start with 4 random skills selected from their arsenal, and three orbs near their spawn point representing random skills with their color representing the type of skill, such as red for attack skills, blue for defensive skills, and white for Aura Particles. The player can learn what the spawned skill is by stepping over it, and subsequently can pick up by pressing one of the 4 colored buttons on the Xbox controller to assign it to that slot; any skill previously existing in that space is removed and lost for the rest of that match. After some delay, a new skill will replace one that has been picked up at the spawn point.

Skills typically require 1 or more Aura points to activate. The player starts with minimal Aura, but can increase their maximum capacity by collecting and using Aura Particles from their spawn point. When a skill is used, the aura is temporarily drained from the player but will recover slowly up to the maximum capacity. Skills themselves fall into 5 Schools describing the type of damage or effect they do, the amount of damage that they deal or protect against. There are 6 types of skills available in the game:

  • Attack skills perform direct damage against the opponent. These skill have a strength value (STR) from 1 to 10 or X amount, a range, and a trajectory or attack type (such as direct shots, falling from the sky, striking in an arc, or sliced like a sword blade). Attack are not guaranteed hits; if the opponent moves to the appropriate type of cover, uses a defensive skill, moves out of range of the attack, or simply moves out of its way, the attack will fail to hit.
  • Defense skills protect the player by certain means, sometimes limited to attacks from skills in specific classes.
  • Status skills can alter the statistics of a combatant, such as increasing or decreasing attack power.
  • Erase skills can remove loaded skills from other players or from players spawn points.
  • Special skills typically allow the combatant to alter the playfield somehow, such as by flying, teleporting, or changing spawn points for new skills.
  • Environmental skills affect all combatants directly, generally restricting certain actions, such duplicating Aura regeneration speed or disallow skills that deal >3 damage, until someone removes the Environmental Crystal from the playfield.

Skills are generally one-shot; once the skill is used, it is removed from the combatant's loaded skills and lost for the rest of the match. However, some skills have two or more uses and other skills can be used indefinitely.

When an opponent takes damage, they are given a few seconds of invulnerability (indicated by a translucent appearance) which they cannot be damaged.

While manipulating and using skills, the combatants can freely move across the highly-destructible field. A player can rotate the camera as needed though they can also lock on to an enemy combat or ally as well. It is quite possible for a combatant to fall out of a field, such as falling through a destroyed floor or knocked off a ledge; the combatant will reenter battle at their respective spawn point but with a loss of 3 life points.

From the nature of combat, a player can create and adjust their Arsenal back in the underground city using existing and new skills they can earn or purchase. An Arsenal has a maximum of 30 skills and will have a limit on the number of Schools represented by the Arsenal; for example, a player will start the game with an Arsenal limited to 2 Schools.

The five Schools that skills can be categorized in are:

Skills that use telekinesis to move objects for both offensive and defensive abilities.
Skills that use and manipulate light to the benefit of the player.
Skills that use nature and the environment for attacks and defense.
Skills that rely on psychological effects to protect the player and weaken their foe.
Skills that often consume part of the player's own life and aura for larger offensive and defensive benefits from the other schools.


Phantom Dust supports multiplayer through split-screen (on the same console), System Link or over Xbox Live, allowing up to 4 combatants to battle with an Arsenal based on their progress within the game.


In Earth's far future, the surface has become a uninhabitable dust-ridden wasteland, forcing the remains of humanity to take shelter underground. Some humans are Espers, gifted with the ability to control the dust, allowing them to survive the surface for limited periods. All humans lack much of their memories with no records for how Earth has become this way, and so Espers are sent to the surface to find artifacts of the past and to seek out the fabled Ruins, the only shared memory all humans have.

One day, a team of Espers from the main human underground complex find a pair of capsules in one of the ruined structures, containing two men: the player protagonist and a man named Edgar. Both lack memories like the rest of humans, and have Esper-like powers. Edgar wears a locket with a picture of a young woman in it, his only connection to his past. The two agree to help explore the surface. During one mission, the protagonist and Edgar encounter Freia, a freelance Esper. Edgar realizes she is the woman in the locket photo, and feeling a strong connection to her, leaves with her. The next time the protagonist encounters Edgar, Edgar claims that the protagonist had betrayed him sometime in the past and fights against him.

Later, the protagonist encounters Freia alone, and after battle, recovers a memory box that has stored a set of memories that have been lost. In this case, the box shows that Edgar was an astronaut from a time prior to Earth's desolation. He flew too close to the event horizon of a black hole, and though the trip was only three days to him, he found that 10,000 years had passed on Earth, humanity having wiped itself out long ago leaving the empty Dust-filled planet. Edgar found he was able to control the dust to a point where he could create self-aware human constructs, including Freia, his girlfriend before he left Earth, and the protagonist, his best friend.

On seeing this memory, many of the human characters, realizing they are just constructs, are unable to hold themselves together and disintegrate; the memory box was meant to be kept from to prevent this self-awareness from happening. A second memory reveals that Edgar became pessimistic after creating the illusions of humanity; he sent out a large wave of energy that wiped most of the memories of those illusions while instilling the memory of the Ruins, a site that he and Freia last saw each other before he left for space. Freia later provides another memory box that shows that Freia had tried to stop Edgar before he could release this wave, and the protagonist came to help. He and Edgar got into a large battle that rendered both of them in a coma, upon which Freia placed them in the capsules to protect them.

With Freia having provided this last memory box, she believes Edgar has no more use for her, and her construct disintegrates. A furious Edgar confronts the protagonist, but loses out in the end. From the fight, the protagonist learns that this Edgar is himself a dust-made construct; the real Edgar's body succumbed to the dust ten years after returning to Earth, but before passing away, had created a dust-clone of himself to continue to recreate humanity from the dust. The clone was flawed with overly pessimistic manners, and instead of rebuilding the Earth, sought instead to destroy it. When the Edger dust-clone learns of this, he too distingrates, leaving the protagonist as the only remaining character.

The protagonist, now aware of Edgar's goals, begins to start to rebuild the Earth as the original Edgar wanted after burying the real Edgar's skeletal remains. The final shot of the game shows the protagonist walking into the desert, leaving a trail of footprints in the sand that suddenly fade away.

Development and release[edit]

Lead Director Yukio Futatsugi and his team developed an English version concurrently with the Japanese version.[3] A United States release had originally been planned until August 2004, when Microsoft announced the US version's cancellation, but left open the possibility of US sales if Western demand was high enough.[3] In December 2004, Majesco and Microsoft signed the deal to bring Phantom Dust to North America.[4]

In June 2013, Futatsugi revealed that he hopes to make a sequel, possibly using Kickstarter for funding.[5] Microsoft Studios' vice president Phil Spencer stated in a November 2013 interview that discussions for a possible Xbox One reboot of Phantom Dust were ongoing.[2][6]

Xbox One[edit]

On June 9, 2014, it was announced at E3 2014 that a new Phantom Dust title is in development for Xbox One.[7]


In-Game Title Original Title
01 Phantom Dust [Title]  ?
2 May 18, 1976 [Highway]  ?
3 February 29, 2xx1 [Strange City]  ?
4 August 31, 1982 [Palace] Le Quattro Stagioni Op.8 No.1 "La Primavera" Allegro by Antonio Lucio Vivaldi & Minuet in A major (from String Quintet No.11, G.308) by Luigi Boccherini
5 March 9, 1991 [Panorama]  ?
6 October 10, 1986 [Lane] Kagome Kagome
7 July 20, 1975 [Plant]  ?
8 June 6, 1666 [Sein]  ?
09 Your Choice [Option]  ?
10 Face to Face [War Mode]  ?
11 Plastic People [Vision Headquarters] Piano Sonata No. 14 (Beethoven)
12 Arsenal [Arsenal] "Invention No. 13 in A minor" by Johann Sebastian Bach
13 Memories [Box of Memories] Trois Nocturnes No. 1. Op.9 by Frederic Francois Chopin
14 Mac's Shop [Mac's Shop] Russian Folks Song "Troika"
15 Club Baroness ~Goodbye~ [Bar] Habanera (aria)
16 Strange Apparitions [Boss 1]  ?
17 Hallucinations [Boss 2]  ?
18 Dream [Last Boss 1]  ?
19 Untitled [Last Boss 2] (Unused)  ?
20 Wanderers [Main Floor] Greensleeves & Rêverie & Polovtsian Dances & Scarborough Fair & Sakura Sakura
21 All These World [Advertise Demo]  ?
22 Yes I'm Lonely "Yes, I'm Lonely" by Vincent Gallo


It has received generally favorable reviews, which praise its level of graphics and innovation. It has currently been given an 8.5 on IGN, an 81 on Metacritic, and an 82 on Game Rankings. The game was also well received with Edge magazine giving an 8/10.


  1. ^ Futatsugi, Yukio (March 4, 2005). "Entry #2: What Is Phantom Dust?". Retrieved 31 December 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Wilson, Aoife (November 27, 2013). "Phantom Dust reboot "in discussion" for Xbox One, says Microsoft Studios boss". Official Xbox Magazine. Retrieved 31 December 2013. 
  3. ^ a b "Left In The Dust". Xbox Nation (18): 49. September 2004. 
  4. ^ Van Autrijve, Rainier (December 14, 2004). "Phantom Dust Coming To North America". GameSpy. Retrieved 31 December 2013. 
  5. ^ Sinclair, Brendan (June 2013). "Phantom Dust Creator Wants to Kickstart a Sequel". USgamer. Retrieved 31 December 2013. 
  6. ^ Totilo, Stephen (November 25, 2013). "What's Next For the Xbox One". Kotaku. Retrieved 31 December 2013. 
  7. ^ Corriea, Alexa Rae (2014-06-09). "New Phantom Dust is coming to Xbox One". Polygon. Retrieved 2014-06-09. 

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