Welcome to Morning Music, Kotaku’s daily hangout for folks who love video games and the cool-arse sounds they make. Today…well, you know how it’s been going. Ugh. And I’m playing Phantom Dust to try and think about something else for little stretches.
Yep, Phantom Dust (playlist / longplay / VGMdb), 2005’s late-release Xbox fan favourite that didn’t sell for jack and got a long-awaited (and free, go grab it!) PC / Xbox One revamp a few years ago. I’ve always wanted to play this game and when I was desperately seeking a distraction last night its name popped into my head. Perfect, I thought. Let’s finally do this.
Phantom Dust is a third-person action / shooter / deck-building (!) game about psychics battling each other on a post-apocalyptic Earth in which everyone’s lost their former memories. Insert joke about the election here, I’m too tired. It’s very unique, not really like anything else. There’s a 15-hour single-player campaign, which is what I’m interested in, and four-player online competitive / team play, which is what has kept its diehard fanbase showing up for 15 years and counting.
Oh, and it’s by Yukio Futatsugi, the guy behind Panzer Dragoon, so more than most original Xbox games — guess I’m revealing my regional biases here a bit — Phantom Dust has some legit artistic chops. That’s on full display in its eclectic soundtrack, which I’ve listened to a few times over the years but am only now enjoying in its original context.
Have a listen:
Microsoft / Forixiom (YouTube)
Opening demo track “All This World” is a great example of the game’s sometimes jarring mish-mash of sounds. This soundtrack goes a lot of places, and I imagine the heavy use of radio static throughout is meant to tie in with the wispy, half-lost memories always flitting through the characters’ minds.
Some tracks — my early favourites — adapt classical pieces like Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” (“Plastic People”), Chopin’s “Nocturne in B-flat minor” (“Memories”), Bizet’s “Habanera” (“Club Baroness, Goodbye”), and Bach’s “Invention No. 13” (“Arsenal”). Love that last one, very “switched-on” feel. The combat tracks are more energetic and abrasive, dominated by electronic noise and industrial clamor. They have intriguing titles like “May 18th, 1976” and “March 9th, 1991”; I hope playing through the story will help contextualize whatever that’s referring to, if anything.
While some parts of the Phantom Dust OST are easier listening than others, it’s all equally evocative, and suggestive of a game that has a viewpoint and something to say, which I look forward to experiencing. The music’s all credited to Yoshiyuki Usui and Yuko Araki, who (intriguingly) have next to no other games credits. Oddly, the hard-to-find credits track — here’s one version — is attributed to famous art-film sucky dude / arch-conservative gargoyle Vincent Gallo. But crap, now I’m back to thinking about fascists…
That’s yer Morning Music for today, ma’am, enby, and/or sir: an interesting game for the interesting times we’re living right now. How are you holding up? The comments are open if you feel like chattin’ — shout out to all the Phantom Dust fans — and we’ll see you tomorrow. Be kind to yourself.