A Sequel in Development Hell: Was Phantom Dust Too Ahead of it's Time?
Looking back on a forgotten "digital collectible" card game on the original Xbox.
The Xbox holds a special place in my heart; after all, it was my childhood. I remember many afterschool nights playing Blinx the Time sweeper or pummeling my friends in Halo 2.
The console was well known for its online functionality with Xbox LIVE and the countless multiplayer shooters that flooded that market, and with it, a lot of games that used Xbox live are forgotten.
Around 2004 Microsoft realized they had no real market in japan, so they decided to fix that by getting Yukio Futatsugi of Panzer Dragoon fame to produce and design a game for them with that goal in mind. They wanted to make a game that caught the eye of the Japanese market and encouraged the consumer to play on Xbox Live. The game had been showcased alongside Blinx 2, with the plan being for the game to release for Japan and US Markets in August 2004. Microsoft later postponed the US release and released it in 2005 instead.
So let’s talk about the game…
Phantom Dust Is a real-time strategy game that plays like a mix of an arena brawler and a card game. Players use “skills,” like cards in a deck. You assign a skill to one of the four face buttons by pressing the button you want to map the talent to while touching it. You have a starting area on the map where you will have three skill orbs available to assign to your hand. You have to balance out your skills based on specific schools and aura particles, giving you an additional point to your maximum Mana for the game. The rules are simple, each player in a match has 20 life, and you have to kill them while also not dying by other players or running out of skills in your arsenal(or you’ll slowly lose health). While the game has a bit of a learning curve, it has many fun things in it. The single-player story is about humanity in a post-apocalypse where everyone has amnesia and is trying to figure out what happened to them as a lot of crazy stuff happens. As much as I could gush about the Story, the show's real star is the Multiplayer!
You see, every day, the game gives you a random skill as a reward for returning, and there are a lot of skills to play around with. There is also a credit system for the online, and when you get enough credits from beating your friends to a pulp, you can go to a skill shop where you can buy a specific skill or a junk crate of 5 random skills. The types of Moves could be throwing a fireball, healing yourself and everyone around you, or even erasing opponents’ skills out of play. The game has various skills at the end of the day, and you could even make different builds depending on how you want to play.
Looking back at this game, the potential of a multiplayer arena brawler/card game sounds like something that should’ve made the market and blown the world away. But reality can be cruel sometimes. The game was given good reviews, but unfortunately, it didn’t sell well. A game like this has the potential to have tournaments like Yugioh or Magic with players competing with their builds and could do wonders in this day and age.
Hell, even Yukio said in 2013 he was interested in doing a sequel, and even Microsoft vice president Phil Spencer said he thinks the game was ahead of its time; we even were going to get a soft reboot in 2014 that was canceled. While it is a shame, the game is at least on the Microsoft Store for free. So hopefully, unlike humanity’s memory in the story, the game won’t be lost in the dust of time…