Spend even five minutes with Phantom of the Kill, and you’ll be stricken with an immediate sense of deja vu. This feels familiar. You’ve done this before. You’ve played this before. Except you haven’t, since this is an original game. But, it’s also a new mobile strategic RPG that draws very heavily from Nintendo and Intelligent System’s Fire Emblem games. While all the commonalities may give you some pause, as it can feel like it’s doing more copying than honoring, the similarities also help make it more comforting.
The first likeness is obvious. Both Phantom of the Kill and Fire Emblem have you send units onto a grid-based map to rout enemies. Before a battle begins, you pick which warriors go with you. Phantom of the Kill differentiates itself by limiting who can and can’t go with you based on power. You only have a certain point allotment, which increases by leveling up or paying real money, to increase the strength of your party and number of deployed units. As an example, I had 52 points at level 14. If I went with silver star units or gold star units below three stars, I’d have been able to take five people into a battle. Since more stars equal stronger characters and better stat growths, I decided to go with a 4 gold star Sword Princess Laevateinn, a 5 star Sword Prince Laevateinn, a 4 gold star Sword Princess Amenonuhoko, and a four star Sword Princess Eros. While it may have been better to settle for weaker units to allow more on the field at once, having a smaller army of stronger characters can work to your benefit here.
The two games have the same weapon triangle. Swords beat axes, axes beat lances, and lances beat swords. Your characters are even distinguished by their equipment in the units section, with an icon showing their weapon of choice next to their level and stars. You can also find archers, with bows and arrows, sages that use guns to deplete their health in exchange for magic attacks, and bishop characters that can heal allies or deal magic attacks to enemies. This means that, like Fire Emblem, you want to have a well rounded party for every Phantom of the Kill fight. With the group I mentioned above, I have two sword wielders, one woman with a lance, and an archer. Though, if you’re just starting out, I recommend including the 2 star Sword Princess Gambanteinn everyone gets until you’re comfortable with the game.
Phantom of the Kill and Fire Emblem have similar classes for characters too, though there are important distinctions. In Fire Emblem, you have one character and he or she will always be that class, have that skill growth, and wield those weapons. Phantom of the Kill may give you the same character, but it’ll be a different type or class. As an example, one of my 3 star Sword Princess Naeglings is a Sword Master vitality type character. The 4 star version of her I have is a Gladiator and dexterity type. Both wield swords, but they have different art and stat builds. It allows for a little more variation when building your army. There’s a character design you may like, but you might want to wait to use him or her until you get a version with a class and type you like. You can’t promote characters in the same way you do in Fire Emblem, but it is possible to fuse characters for stat boosts, evolve them when you’ve collected the right materials and they’re at a certain level, or reincarnate a character.
Friendship is critical in both Phantom of the Kill and Fire Emblem. Having your own characters next to each other will provide stat boosts in battles. After fighting alongside one another for enough time, the friendship will level up and provide more bonuses. There are no support conversations, but the points added are substantial enough to make a big difference in a fight.
Which is helpful, since death can hurt in Phantom of the Kill. While it doesn’t have Fire Emblem’s permadeath system, you can lose weapons equipped to your party members when they fall in a fight. Since these are hard to get, and some requiring fusing five weapons in a recipe, you want to avoid that. Also, every campaign battle I’ve played offers one Lapis Lazuli, the real cash currency, for completing a fight without losing any characters. Caution is incentivized, just as it is in Fire Emblem.
Phantom of the Kill also allows you to highlight danger zones as Fire Emblem does. You can keep an eye on range to keep characters safe and control the battlefield. It’s handled in the same way, too, with a red hue added to spots where your characters could get attacked.
Much of Phantom of the Kill looks the same. The character stats are laid out in a similar fashion. When a fight begins, it switches to a view where you see the attack, accuracy, and critical stats, if the weapons leave you at an advantage or disadvantage, every participant’s health, and a view as characters rush toward one another, attack, and receive damage. The perspective is identical, but the character and environment designs are different enough to keep it from feeling like you’re actually watching Fire Emblem characters duke it out.
Basically, Phantom of the Kill and Fire Emblem are similar. This is absolutely a game that’s targeting the same audience and doing many of the same things. That could put off some, since it can feel like it’s the same old, same old, I didn’t mind it. The campaign maps tend to get pretty challenging, once you reach the third chapter, and the acquisition of heroes and need to grind them up on past maps to reach your current party’s level keeps things interesting. I think it’s executed well enough to keep it interesting without too much pandering.
Phantom of the Kill is immediately available for Apple iOS and Android devices.