phantom.jpgSaturday morning cartoons are a staple of every child’s life. Nearly every good (and even some not-so-good) Saturday morning animated feature had a video game tie-in to go along with it. Along with kid-favorites such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers, there were also shows such as Exo-Squad and Gargoyles which, while they were still intended for children, contained themes which were more complex than what one would find on shows like Pokemon. Phantom 2040, which debuted in the mid 90s, was one of the shows in the latter category. It told the story of Kit Walker, who was the 24th Phantom. In the distant future, he was charged with saving the city of Metropia from collapse. It was bought to an end after only 2 seasons, mostly due to it’s themes of environmentalism, corporate greed, and social structure going over viewer’s heads. This was especially unfortunate considering that the show had a lot going for it. It had a stylish art style (thanks to Aeon Flux creator Peter Chung), solid writing, and a vocal cast featuring the likes of Mark Hamil, Margot Kider, and Deborah Harry to name a few. Most impressive of all, it featured a 16-bit era video game tie-in that didn’t suck. This was indeed impressive, especially given the dismal track record of 16-bit games based on existing intellectual properties back then.

Developed by Hearst Entertainment and published by Viacom, Phantom 2040 casts puts players in the shoes of the ghost who walks as he attempts to stop Rebecca Madison from amassing a robot army and destroying Metropia. While the game borrows many different plot elements from the series, it doesn’t necessarily stick to any particular plot from the cartoon, thereby making the game a bit more free form. The gameplay is reminiscent of Super Metroid as it places a heavy emphasis on exploration, along with several upgrades and weapons that can be collected. However, unlike Super Metroid, the upgrades are optional, and the story is used to move the game along rather than having access to the next area being dependent on having the right weapon or gadget. The game is broken into seven chapters, although there are multiple routes through each level. Depending on what choices you make, you may end up with a completely different mission or weapon. There are 20 different endings, making this cartridge high on replay value. The only major fault with this game is the password system, as it’s long and tedious to enter the passwords. However it does nothing at all the detract from the gameplay.

Like the TV show is was based on, Phantom 2040 featured top notch action, superb animation, and story telling. Unfortunately, also like the cartoon it was based on, the game too would fail to achieve mainstream recognition. Due to licensing issues, this game has a zero chance of hitting virtual console, so your best bet is to go bargain bin hunting. If you were ever a fan of the show, or if you’re a fan of Metroid’s exploration-style gameplay, you can’t go wrong if you run with the ghost who walks.