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Phantom Dust is a highly original action-RPG brought into the world by Microsoft Game Studios for the X Box. Since it's an Xbox RPG-like game that wasn't created by BioWare, it will never see a sequel. The core gameplay consists of building "arsenals," each composed of thirty different skills of your choice. There are 320 such skills to choose from, plus the mandatory aura capsules you need to insert in your arsenal to use these skills. Like Magic: The Gathering, most skills require a specific amount of aura to use. Once the skill is used, your aura level goes down and starts to recharge. This is to prevent mad spamming of powerful skills. With the exception of the beginning of the game, you are randomly given four of these skills to each of your four main buttons (A, B, X, Y), plus three more random ones positioned near your spawn point that you can switch out with skills that you can't use at the moment or have been used up. Once you use one of the three, another random one will appear in its place until you've had access to all thirty of your skills/aura capsules.
The basics of combat are relatively simple, but it takes dozens of hours of gameplay practice to discover how each skill can be used and how each skill can best benefit your arsenal as a whole. At it's simplest, the fights consist of the you (and usually a teammate) locking on and fighting against one to two opponents in various arenas; all with their own arsenals. The skills themselves cover a wide range of abilities, from buffs, to various projectiles, to energy blades, to super-powered melee attacks, to erasing other players skills, to abilities that affect everyone's gameplay. Additionally, each skill has an optimal range to be used at.
Like the combat engine, the story of Phantom Dust seems simple but hides a lot of depth. The game starts off by explaining that everyone in the world, save one person, has lost their memories thanks to the eponymous substance. The phantom dust, poisonous particles that have the potential to erase peoples' memories and very identities, now covers the earth, forcing people to flee to underground cities to escape the dust and the monsters that came with it. Thankfully, the dust isn't all bad. Certain people, when exposed to it, can transform their will into energy. These people, called Espers, search the surface world for clues to what happened to humanity and to find a way for humans to resettle the surface so the human race won't go extinct from something as pathetic as rickets. In the opening cutscene, several Espers fight their way to two cryogenic capsules on ledges hanging over a gigantic crater. Inside these capsules the protagonist and an apparent acquaintance of his, named Edgar, sleep. Once they are brought down to this group of Espers' underground base, it is discovered that they are exceptionally gifted at controlling the dust (who saw that coming?!) and they are initiated in to the Espers' organization. The rest of the story is told via missions various characters give the protagonist and through certain memory boxes containing background information, which are obtained by beating missions.
Although it was a budget game, the unique gameplay of Phantom Dust earned it a cult following thanks to multiplayer via Xbox Live, which sadly ended coverage for all original Xbox games in April, 2010.
Phantom Dust contains examples of:
- Blood Magic: Many faith based skills require you to sacrifice health in addition to the standard aura cost. A basic but effective faith strategy is to use health absorbing skills to compensate.
- Deflector Shields: Many of the defense techniques.
- Energy Absorption: More like "projectile absorption." Depending on the skill, it can either turn the absorbed energy into health or aura.
- Fireballs: Bullet of fire is the first skill the player ever uses.
- Flaming Sword: Swords of fire, lightning, and ice are in the nature skill set. You can see one in action in the opening video.
- Hellfire: A few faith skills, like demon's flame and fire of gehenna. Both cost health to cast and deal more damage than standard fire skills.
- Hospital Hottie: Mikkan runs what is often referred to as the clinic of the Visions. Based on the extremely filthy and downright dangerous accomodations and the fact that she neither does nor can know anything about medicine, one can assume she got the job just because she looked good in the outfit.
- Ki Attacks: The ki school, which consists of the most close-ranged skills out of any other school and allows for superhuman martial arts and energy attacks.
- Laser Blade: The long-range focused optical school has laser blades as one of their only means of close-range offense. Psycho has psycho blades, swords evidentally made from psychokinetic energy, and the faith school has abilities like muramasa, blades made from God knows what.
- More Dakka: Octolaser, predictably, shoots eight lasers. It's the most projectiles any single skill can put on the screen at once.
- Playing with Fire: The nature skill set contains a few fire-based techiques.
- Shock and Awe: Lightning skills are within the nature set. They're usually single-use abilities that inexplicably erase enemy skills.
- Static Stun Gun: paralyze and paralyze barrier may count, though they're optic skills instead of part of the standard nature skill set. When afflicted, enemies jerk about in place while being zapped by electrical currents.