Phantom Dust

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a game by Microsoft Game Studios Japan
Platform: XBox (2004)
Editor Rating: 8/10, based on 2 reviews
User Rating: 9.0/10 - 2 votes
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See also: Action Adventure Games, Action Games, Sci-Fi RPG, Cyberpunk Games, Board Games
Phantom Dust
Phantom Dust
Phantom Dust
Phantom Dust

For what felt like decades, the real time strategy genre of video games fell into a bit of a negative place. Innovation became sadly rare, and many of the attributes that made RTS so fun in the early 2000s seemed to vanish. One title that came out with relative interest in it was Phantom Dust. 2004 seen this console game released for the Xbox, with the game developed and published by Microsoft Game Studios.

What came out was an intriguing combination of action and strategy, as well as having some minimal trading card game elements. The game itself provided you with the chance to bring a post-apocalyptic world back into order, fusing the disparate human outposts that remain into some form of remembrance about what happened to the planet. Was this as good as it sounded, or were there some limits to what Phantom Dust could provide?

A hidden gem of the 2000s RTS genre

While Phantom Dust was headed up by the likes of Yukio Futatsugi, the director of Panzer Dragoon, the game itself did not see too much in the way of media acclaim. It was a title was well-received, though it was not really one that you would see in the shelves of mainstream gaming stores. While it would share some similarities with the aforementioned Panzer Dragoon series, Phantom Dust did some of its own things as well.

A cult hit in more or less every way, the game was seen as an innovative enough idea that kept some pretty interesting blends between third-person action and collectible card gaming. Taking control of an Esper, you are able to control the Dust, a substance that covers the entirety of the planet and contributes to the global amnesia about what happened to the world itself.

Combat and non-combat situations are fluid and fun, with an engaging world that keeps evolving and changing as you go. Thanks to the card-based nature of the combat, too, there was quite an intriguing range of skills and innovations that simply were not seen in other card-based battlers until games like Slay The Spire. While Phantom Dust is obviously very different to StS, the card-based gameplay was definitely an innovation at the time.

A deep plot and game covered up by poor marketing (8/10)

While you might not have heard of Phantom Dust at the time, it was a very well-liked game for various reasons. It lacked the kind of marketing and hype that should have come along with the game, but what was developed was a very satisfying game indeed. A decent standard of visuals paired with an interesting storyline and unique gameplay loop ensured that Phantom Dust was well-received with good reason.


The game was well-liked at the time, with impressive graphics and gameplay that stood out for 2004. While many of the innovations that made Phantom Dust so enjoyable have been used in other action and RTS games, this particular combination seemed to fall flat from a commercial standpoint. This is a shame, as what exists is a very enjoyable RTS-action title.


  • Excellent visuals and gameplay loops, especially for a console RTS title
  • Storyline had a lot more depth and detail than most RTS are/were afforded
  • Quality overall gameplay and card battling system feels unique even today


  • Lack of hype meant the game probably was not as expansive as it could have been

Download Phantom Dust


System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP

Game Reviews

If you have been tuned into the gaming sphere in the last few months, you’ll know that Microsoft is still buying up any third party companies that are willing to join their ranks. It’s a move that’s been widely criticised but we can only assume that Microsoft are making too much money to care, sometimes to the point that they cast out unwanted assets before their time. One such studio produced Phantom Dust. A wonderful action meets strategy game that is well worth your time and attention.

This game plays like other strategy based titles such as Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, Torchlight III, Eternity: The Last Unicorn, Final Fantasy: Dissidia and Lost Kingdom. This game combines action with card based strategy offer something completely unique for it’s time. However, is this game a little too out of the box? We find out in our review of Phantom Dust.

Skill Meets Strategy

When you play a strategy game, you assume that a lot of the work that goes into winning the match happens well before the battle even begins. In games where cards are used as a game mechanic, deck building is the foundation for a successful match. Well, in Phantom Dust, this is still the case. However, even with a great strategy, you still need the execution in battle to seize the opportunity.

Phantom Dust combines card game nuances with the simplistic and action-heavy gameplay of FPS shooters to give an overall experience that tests the player both in terms of tactical acumen but also their twitch reactions. The game offers the players over 340 different skills to choose from, each with their own benefit in battle. It’s like a pre-planned battle system that you can change on the fly to apart to certain scenarios. Think Yu-Gi-Oh meets modern Final Fantasy.

Aside from the incredible variety and emergent gameplay the game provides. The player will also appreciate the destructable and varied level designs, the live features that allow for multiplayer action and an overall approach to the genre that is so unorthodox that it is impossible to ignore. The only thing that we found issue with was the incredibly mundane and trivial single player mode that seemed like a mode made purely out of obligation.

The Verdict

Overall, Phantom Dust provides one of the most strangely compelling, deep and varied strategy games of it’s time. It is a game that perhaps didn’t receive the love or critical acclaim that it perhaps deserved at the time years on looking back with the power of hindsight, it’s clear to see that this game had something special.


The format is incredible, the gameplay is as deep as it comes and aside from a lack lustre single player mode, the majority of the content is a joy to behold. So if you have the time, dig out this old relic and give it a try.


  • Wonderfully unique format
  • Great level design
  • Multiplayer aspects are well implemented


  • Single player was a obligatory but pointless addition

Snapshots and Media

XBox Screenshots

See Also

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