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Phantom 2040 is a side-scrolling action-adventure video game developed by Hearst Entertainment and published by Viacom in 1995 for the Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo and Game Gear. The game is directly based upon the animated television series Phantom 2040 but follows a plotline not strictly taken by the show.
The game follows primarily side-scrolling action elements not unlike those of the SNES game Super Metroid, but other aspects of gameplay are considerable different. While Super Metroid has the player focus on collecting necessary weapons and upgrades in a set order, Phantom 2040 instead makes upgrades optional and has the player focus on following the story of the 24th Phantom, who the player controls. However, this style of game progression draws the game back to Super Metroid's style, due to the way further locations are unlocked as the game goes on without previous locations becoming unavailable. At several points in the storyline, players can make a direct choice about which path they take.
Also like Super Metroid, Phantom 2040 has a heavy emphasis on exploration. Each area is colourful, distinct and vast, and it is up to the player to locate the area's objective or exit. Some areas are larger and more expansive than others, and every area offers large amounts of optional exploration to recover helpful restoration kits or powerful weapon upgrades. Some areas are locked by numbered gates that must be opened by destroying the remote lock of the same number, located elsewhere in that area (additionally, some locks can only be accessed if the area is reached by a secret underground network of sewer systems which connect every area). Most exploration is completely optional, and players can go directly to complete the area's objective, which may include locating a keycard, dealing with a boss or simply finding access to the next area. The majority of areas can all be revisited at the player's leisure anytime after they are unlocked.
The game is divided into seven distinct chapters, three of which are further split into two completely separate paths the player can follow (in each case, the paths reconvene at the next chapter for a major storyline advance). Each chapter or choice takes the Phantom to a new location with a new goal, such as stopping dangerous Harvestor biots in a jungle environment, destroying an illegal factory mass-producing combat biots or preventing a catastrophic Orbital particle beam from decimating the Earth.
Depending on what choices the player makes, only certain areas and weapons may be available to them, and the player's choices mean a distinct array of bosses may be fought every time a new game is started. Ultimately, each and every choice the player makes results in a unique ending, meaning over 20 different endings are available. A select few of these endings are classified as successful endings, while all others result in negative outcomes for the city of Metropia and present the player with the message "Try Again".
NTSC VS PAL Versions
The story line in Phantom 2040 is presented differently in the NTSC and PAL versions of the game. In the NTSC version of Phantom 2040 in the options menu the player has the choice of having the games story presented to them in full or in summary. The full version provides cinematics between levels and dialog between characters. The summarized version gives a short point-list of what happens in those cinematics.
In the PAL version, however, there is no option to have full or summarized versions of the story. Rather, in this version of the game only the summarized story line is available and the option in the Options screen that would allow to choose between the two story options has been replaced by the choice of what language the game's text is displayed in.
While the backstory Phantom 2040 is exactly the same as the backstory of the television series, the video game doesn't specifically enact any of the series' episodes but instead borrows elements from various episodes and sets out a start-to-finish, almost movie-like story of the Phantom's mission to stop Maximum, Inc. from dominating Metropia.
It is the year 2040, and environmental disasters and the economic Resource Wars of the early twenty-first century have had catastrophic effects upon the Earth's fragile ecological balance. Ever-increasing polarisation of wealth, along with the development of humanoid, robotic "biots" (Biological Optical Transputer Systems), have resulted in a social demographic that leaves the majority of the world's population scavenging in the undercity slums while a select wealthy minority live luxurious lives in exclusive, towering skyscrapers. The Earth's population continues to rise, but without the resources to support them or the jobs to sustain them, they are cast onto the streets of the over-urbanised mega-cities.
The megalopolis of Metropia, a reformed and renamed New York City, is the world's most powerful city-state and within it are the headquarters of the world's most powerful corporation, Maximum Inc. Maximum's mass production of biots and its influence upon the world's corrupted leaders has allowed it to shape Metropia into a cold and metallic urban center, where technologically-advanced buildings and transport systems have replaced any natural plant or animal life. Maximum's chairperson, Rebecca Madison, driven by the violent death of her husband Maxwell Madison Sr. and a desire for revenge against the Phantom who she believes killed him, has plans to construct an impenetrable fortress called Cyberville where the elite wealthy can retreat once Earth deteriorates beyond hope of restoration. Maximum's hidden underground biot factories are illegally constructing Maximum's personal biot army, which Rebecca will use to guarantee the world's collapse so that she may literally take control of the world through Cyberville.
Humankind's last hope for survival rests on a gigantic, hidden stretch of jungle twisting through Metropia's ruins and underground: the Ghost Jungle. It is here that Kit Walker discovers his true heritage: he is the 24th Phantom, sworn to bring an end to piracy, greed, and violence, a role passed from father to son for 500 years. Kit's father was killed with Maxwell Madison Sr. in a mysterious toxic train wreck, and now it's up to the Phantom to stop Rebecca Madison's plans of worldwide domination. Now, the world is the Phantom's jungle...because someone has to care.
The game's storyline revolves around multiple threats against Metropia. Rebecca Madison seeks to find the fabled Black Panther, the last of its kind, to use its blood in an infusion that will allow her to trap her dead husband's captured brainwaves inside a living body. Once Maxwell Madison Sr. is revived, Maximum will be unstoppable.
However, a rogue smuggler called Tracker has captured the Black Panther and both Maximum and the Phantom will do anything to rescue it. The Phantom succeeds first, but must decide between keeping the Panther safe in the Ghost Jungle or exchanging it to the shady information broker Mr. Cairo for the whereabouts of the Phantom's friend and mentor Professor Archer, who has been kidnapped by Maximum.
Meanwhile, Maximum is secretly harvesting rare Ghost Jungle plants with photosynthetic properties for use in particle laser technologies. Rebecca Madison is constructing a giant battleship under the facade of protecting the Political Summit, which is soon to meet in Metropia, but in actuality plans to destroy the Summit before it can outlaw combat biots of any kind. The Phantom manages to warn the Summit and destroy the battleship Prometheus, but further plant shipments are being sent to Sean One, terrorist and leader of the Orbital colonies who will go to any lengths to achieve independence for the Orbital people.
The Phantom must find a way to stop both Sean One's deadly particle beam cannon and Rebecca's use of the Panther in restoring her husband's brainwaves, but there are multiple other threads to deal with in the process, including:
- Experiments with mutants in secret laboratories below the city
- Massive combat biot factories building new, dangerous types of biots
- A missile launch targeting a suburban area
- Rebecca's Madison's disturbed son, Max Madison Jr. in his virtually-controlled Legion biot
- A group of telepathically-mutated women called the Triad
Differences between the game and series
The game ignores several important plot "twists" revealed in the cartoon: for example, in the game, Mr. Cairo is not yet completely loyal to the Phantom; additionally, Maxwell Madison Sr, who is revealed late in the series to have been good friends with the 23rd Phantom up until his death, remains unquestionable antagonistic in the game's last chapter (though it could be explained that because he is still fragmented brainwaves, he blindly acts on Rebecca's orders). The most noticeable difference, however, is the absence of Sagan Cruz's allegiance with the Phantom (though she is seen reporting on events within the game). Otherwise, the game's characters remain very accurate to the characters seen in the series: Dr. Jak arrogantly and enthusiastically reports events between chapters, Graft's loyalty to Maximum wavers multiple times, Maxwell Madison Jr. has the same cool and uninterested attitude, and Sean One remains coldly apathetic towards humankind on Earth.