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donkeyspaceman avatar 1:36 PM on 03.12.2009  (server time)
Phantom Dust: Great Game or Greatest Game?

So, I've recently started playing Phantom Dust for the original Xbox (which, admittedly, I've had lying around for months) and I can't even believe how awesome it is.

If you haven't heard of it before, Phantom Dust is a weird action/strategy/card game mix that is completely amazing in every single way. In the game, you play as an Esper, a person who can use crazy awesome skills to fight monsters up on the surface of the Earth (most of the humans were forced underground because of the Phantom Dust, which erases their memories if exposed to it for an extended period). I was a little confused about how the game was supposed to be so TCG-like until I hit the third chapter, where you get to construct your own arsenal of skills. I suppose you could also call it your deck of cards. :P

When you get out into the action, four skills randomly selected from your arsenal are assigned to the four face buttons of your controller. From then on, three additional skill orbs from your arsenal spawn at your starting location. You can pick up these new skills orbs to overwrite your current ones by walking to them and pressing the button you'd like to assign them to. These orbs will respawn every so often with another random set from your arsenal (kinda like drawing new cards from your deck).

The combat is just as fun as the building your arsenal is, with so many different skills to try out. It's a lot like Magic, where you get all kinds of cool cards and get to pull of fun combos under the right conditions. There are different ranged attack skills, from sword slashes to sniper shots, and different defensive skills that can defend and sometimes deflect your opponent's attacks. There are a bunch of other skills, too, that can erase your opponent's skills or inflict odd status effects on them (like inverting their controls) to really change things up in the heat of battle. My skill pool is pretty small right now, so I haven't gotten to try out any of the really cool stuff, but I'm still having a lot of fun with it.

I can't even believe how similar the game was to Magic after learning about the arsenals and everything. There are five different schools of skill (lol, five different colors of mana) and your arsenal can only handle one to three of these schools (mono-colored deck? mutlicolored deck?). You can hold 30 skills in your deck, but they advise you to leave about half of it to aura particles (lol, land) in order to gain the levels you need to use the skills in your deck (lol, mana costs). They even have a store in-game that you can buy individual skills from (lol, singles) or buy Junk packs that give you five random skills of random rarity (lol, booster packs).

The absolute best part of Phantom Dust, however, is the fact that it supports Xbox Live. You can hit the internets with your custom-built arsenal and take on your friends (one on one, two on two, free for all.....there's even local splitscreen!) or you can place your spare skills (yes, you can get doubles) on the auction block and trade them with others. The coolest part (I think) about playing online? There are something like 74 ultra-rare skills that can only be attained by playing online. For every 30 matches you win, you're awarded one of these skills at random. This makes it a little difficult to collect each of them, but hey, at least you can trade. :D

Sadly, the game is pretty old now (it hit the original Xbox in 2005) and didn't sell too well from the start, so the online community isn't exactly booming these days. The good news about it being so old is that you can buy the game used for nearly nothing (It was $20 new when it came out, so you can imagine how cheap it is used now). It's backwards compatible on the Xbox 360 (which is likely the selling point for most of you) with pretty good emulation, aside from a little slowdown when the environment starts taking a serious beating from all the skills being thrown around.

Anyway, the main point I've been trying to make is this: Phantom Dust is amazing and I think anyone who doesn't hate fun should play it. I also think anyone who plays it should let me know, so we can get an awesome little group together and have some fun online. I would love to take you all on and try to rack up enough wins to get those ultra-rare skills while I'm at it. It'd also be nice to be able to trade each other and such.

I highly recommend Phantom Dust to all of you, so go out and buy it, right now!

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