Written by Morpheus Kitami
Unfortunately, it does not look like TBD will be able to play this game as promised. I hope that I will be an acceptable substitute. I hope you will all join me in wishing a swift and beneficial resolution to whatever problems ail him.
|American cover, from Mobygames|
Return of the Phantom is the third adventure game developed and published by Microprose, though the second developed through internal team MPS Labs*. Microprose, if you don't know, was founded by Air Force Reserves member Bill Stealey and some unimportant programmer named Sid Meier. That the developer of some mediocre racing game would somehow turn making the same flight sim three times** into making landmark games and slapping his name on titles he wasn't even primarily responsible for is something impressive.
*However, they also distributed the first three Legend games, no doubt why the manual for Rex Nebular was written by Steve Meretsky.
**Hellcat Ace, Spitfire Ace, and Mig Alley Ace, okay, one is actually written by someone else, but they're practically the same game anyway.
Indeed, some of my fondest early memories of games are playing, or even wishing to play Microprose titles. If not the main man himself, it was one of his friends. For every Pirates! or Covert Action, you had Sword of the Samurai or Darklands. Sometimes they would make a sequel to a game Sid worked on, because they had a great idea on how to improve it, and they usually worked. It's perhaps a romanticism of a time and place I would never be in, the truth probably less impressive. Nevertheless, it remains that Microprose was one of the greatest computer companies of the '80s.
Return of the Phantom comes at the end of the company's great period. Not too long after the company had tried and failed to enter the arcade market, but it was not yet in dire enough straits for their purchase by Spectrum Holobyte. I wonder if this, rather than the direct sales of Legacy - Realm of Terror, was responsible for the lack of any sequels or follow-ups.