Not every great game gets a lot of press. That was especially true back in the olden times of the sixth console generation. Nowadays people will slap the “cult hit” label on anything, but back when the Xbox was big, not everybody had one and word of mouth was often the only reliable source about lesser-known titles, it’s not surprising that a few good games would fall through the cracks.
Phantom Dust was one of those, an exceptional take on the collectible card game that was largely passed over on account of being on a console that wasn’t especially known for this sort of thing. Good news for those of you who missed out: it’s back on PC and Xbox One, it’s moderately remastered (don’t expect miracles), and most importantly: it’s free.
The world’s ended. It ended a long time ago, honestly, and it’s hard to say when it all happened. The bottom line is that the surface is now covered with an inexplicable memory-erasing Dust. If that’s not bad enough and you’re still willing to explore, there are mutants and monsters to contend with as well. Not just anyone’s going to make it in this world…so it’s fortunate that some people are able to control the Dust, whipping it up into supernatural weaponry and using it to enhance their natural abilities to godly levels. As a member of the Visions, an organization dedicated to exploring the surface world, you’ll use these powers to try and learn more about what happened, as well as your own forgotten past.
Phantom Dust is essentially an arena battler with card game elements. You’ll set up a deck, or Arsenal, before each match, then launch into combat. Your chosen cards, or Skills, appear near your starting position, and you’ll collect them to unleash Hell on your foes. Empty spots in your Arsenal produce Aura, a resource needed to fuel your attacks, so a balance between low-cost Skills for the early game, high-cost Skills for later on and empty spots to use any of them is vital. There’s a nice variety of abilities to choose from; you’ve got your close-range martial arts, your long-range lasers and plenty of projectiles to fling at ranges between the two, as well as psychic staples like levitation, teleportation and super jumping.
As you play you’ll earn Credits to purchase more Skills and additional Arsenal slots; in this remaster, you’ve also got the option of selling out a few bucks to immediately unlock everything, which is a great choice if you’ve already played through the story and would rather just get to multiplayer.
This wasn’t an especially bad-looking game on the original Xbox. As mentioned, you shouldn’t expect miracles from the remaster, but it looks and sounds great – so long as you keep in mind that it’s over a decade old at this point. Little touches, like the use of remixed public domain music and fully destructible environments, help Phantom Dust continue to feel fresh even today. Naturally, you can play online with this version as well, though it’s worth noting Microsoft’s Teredo interface can be a little fussy with certain systems and can be difficult to troubleshoot.
The price is right, of course, and that’s probably the biggest reason to give Phantom Dust a shot. If you missed this game back when it was available on the original Xbox, now’s your chance to give it a try; even the Xbox 360 backwards compatibility option had issues here, but the remaster works well and should satisfy. Given that the entirety of the game is available for free, with microtransactions being entirely optional, it’s tough to argue against huffing some Dust.