|Developer(s)||Microsoft Game Studios|
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. The game incorporates strategy and action elements in to a game that requires both mental and reflexive skill, and remains a cult hit. 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, to be developed by Darkside Studios. However, in 2015, Darkside shut down, and Microsoft put the remake on hold, but with the option to bring it back with a different developer. A remastered version of the game is under development and is expected to be released in 2017 for the Xbox One and Microsoft Windows.
Phantom Dust is a video game that combines elements of third-person shooters with collectible card games. The players takes the role of the unnamed protagonist, an Esper that can control the Dust that covers the earth to use in combat. The game is divided between combat stages, and non-combat gameplay that includes interactions with non-player characters, reviewing and optimizing the Skills in their Arsenal (the equivalent of cards in a collectible card deck), and obtaining missions that lead to combat situations. The player may have the opportunity to select a non-player character to assist in combat from allies.
In combat, the player, their ally, and their opponents use various skills powered by Aura that is collected around the level as the match proceeds to try to take their opponents' health bar to zero. 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 include both attack moves, defensive moves, restorative elements, and buff and debuffing skills. Skills themselves fall into 5 Schools describing the type of damage or effect they do, and the amount of damage that they deal or protect against; each School has general strengths and weakenesses to other Schools. 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.
If the player falls in combat, they will have to retry the mission. Surviving combat can earn rewards such as in-game money that the player can used to improve their Arsenal. 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, but can later gain Arsenals that can utility more 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 Edgar 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
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Lead Director Yukio Futatsugi and his team developed an English version concurrently with the Japanese version. 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. In December 2004, Majesco and Microsoft signed the deal to bring Phantom Dust to North America.
In June 2013, Futatsugi revealed that he hopes to make a sequel, possibly using Kickstarter for funding. 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.
At the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2014, Microsoft announced that a new Phantom Dust title was in development for the Xbox One. At the time, Darkside Studios were announced as the developers for the title. In February 2015, Microsoft announced that they had ended their working relationship with the studio, though they still intended to produce the title.
In June 2015, Microsoft stated that since the removal of Darkside, the project was placed on hold until they could find a studio to work with to develop the title, but they remain committed to producing a new game. Phil Spencer, the head of Microsoft's Xbox division, stated in a February 2016 interview that he loves Phantom Dust and felt the mechanics in Original Xbox version was "ahead of their time" which could be better released in more modern gaming systems. Spencer admitted that they likely announced the game too early in 2014, but feels confident that they will release another Phantom Dust game with the involvement of Yukio Futatsugi, the game's creator, once they decide on the best studio to develop the title.
Microsoft announced its plans to re-release Phantom Dust in emulation for the Xbox One during its press conference at Electronic Entertainment Expo 2016. The re-release, to be developed by Code Mystics will use the original graphics and other assets updated for better resolution, and improve support for Xbox Live. The game will work also run on Windows 10 as part of the Xbox Play Anywhere program. This version is expected to be released in 2017. In an interview with Polygon following the announcement, Spencer said he had only learned of this remake three weeks prior, as the effort to craft it was led by Shannon Loftis, the head of publishing for Microsoft Studios. According to Spencer, Loftis was able to use internal funds to support its development, keeping it a secret outside of Microsoft Studios, and then revealed the trailer to Spencer prior to the Expo, noting that the game was almost done at that point.
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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.
- Futatsugi, Yukio (March 4, 2005). "Entry #2: What Is Phantom Dust?". 1UP.com. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
- Wilson, Aoife (November 27, 2013). "Phantom Dust reboot "in discussion" for Xbox One, says Microsoft Studios boss". Official Xbox Magazine. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
- "Left In The Dust". Xbox Nation (18): 49. September 2004.
- Van Autrijve, Rainier (December 14, 2004). "Phantom Dust Coming To North America". GameSpy. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
- Sinclair, Brendan (June 2013). "Phantom Dust Creator Wants to Kickstart a Sequel". USgamer. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
- Totilo, Stephen (November 25, 2013). "What's Next For the Xbox One". Kotaku. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
- Corriea, Alexa Rae (2014-06-09). "New Phantom Dust is coming to Xbox One". Polygon. Retrieved 2014-06-09.
- Futter, Mike (17 February 2015). "Phantom Dust Moves Forward, But Darkside Games No Longer Helming". Game Informer. Retrieved 22 June 2015.
- Futter, Mike (22 June 2015). "Phantom Dust Isn’t Canceled, But It Isn’t In ‘Active Development’". Game Informer. Retrieved 22 June 2015.
- Robinson, Nick (1 March 2016). "Is Phantom Dust dead? Phil Spencer says no". Polygon. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
- "Phantom Dust for Xbox One and Windows 10 Fact Sheet". Microsoft. June 2016. Retrieved June 21, 2016.
- Good, Owen (June 13, 2016). "Phantom Dust is back on for Xbox, arrives in 2017". Polygon. Retrieved June 14, 2016.
- Robinson, Nick (15 June 2016). "Microsoft's Phantom Dust re-release announcement was a surprise — even to Phil Spencer". Polygon. Retrieved 15 June 2016.