Phantom Fighter (NES)

Phantom Fighter Box Art

Phantom Fighter

System: NES

Release Date: April 1990

Developer: Marionette, SRS

Publisher: FCI

Genre: Action

Chinese phantoms are terrorizing the countryside in Phantom Fighter! Take on the role of the titular Phantom Fighter, Kenchi, and free the villagers from their plight. You are accompanied by your incompetent assistant, who thinks he’s a funny guy if you die. The Phantom Fighter must jump, kick, and punch through dozens of phantoms in his quest through eight villages to calm the spirits.

Each level has a number of houses, gardens, and graveyards that you can enter. Pressing the A Button in front of the entrances gives you the status of the building. The first stop in each level should be the temple. After liberating the building, you can come back for free healing whenever you need. Other messages you might see are “Kyonshies are here”, letting you know you can find ancient scrolls, or an item at the end. “Danger’s in the air” alerts you to the existence of a jade orb. You need to collect three of these in each town to unlock the cave of the boss Kyonshi.

Stepping into battle with regular Kyonshies begins as a harrowing experience. You have only a weak punch and kick. You’re slow and your jump is low. You can duck, but you can’t move or attack while crouched. All of these issues are addressed throughout the game by training halls you find in the towns. In order to learn new techniques, you need to pay with ancient scrolls found at the end of certain buildings. You’ll spend a decent amount of time grinding for scrolls, but as the cost of techniques go up, so do the number of scrolls you earn. If you miss a technique, you can find it in the next town. You don’t just get to waltz right in, though, and have to answer a question to get in. I didn’t miss one, but I know some questions had multiple correct answers.

There are four items you can pick up, but I didn’t really find a ton of use for them. The tailsman freezes a Kyonshi for a moment. The Tonten knocks your enemy backward so you can regroup. The sacred sword give you a bit of range on attack, but not much power. The bell summons a child Kyonshi that you control, but it’s super slow and weak. Really, the trouble you end up having is staying out of the enemy hit range. They can jump short or long at you and you need to figure out a distance that lets you get an attack off without taking damage. This is easy if you’re knocking them down with a punch or kick, but if you don’t you’re going to get hurt.

There is a password system so you don’t have to play in one sitting. This would probably make the game more enjoyable, as the repetitive gameplay wears quickly. If you were playing another game or two while putting this in every few days, it would probably be more fun. When you’re grinding, it’s also important to turn the text speed to fast by pressing the Select Button in town. But switch it back to normal when you go somewhere new.

Graphics: 2.0

There’s some details in the backgrounds and the fighting sprites are bigger than average, but there are sparse colors.

Sound: 1.0

The music and sounds are passable, but drag on and get annoying as you keep playing.

Gameplay: 2.0

Upgrades are earned by taking part in the fighting. The fighting isn’t really that tight.

Difficulty: 3.0

You gradually become stronger through new techniques which are needed as the number of battle in a row increase, too.

Fun Factor: 1.5

The repetition had me bored pretty quickly, but I soldiered on.

Overall Grade: 1.9

Phantom Fighter earns a C. It’s not a bad game, but it doesn’t do enough to be a good game.

Phantom Fighter Video Review on YouTube