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Phantos are large, seemingly-living masks that can often be found guarding various treasures, most often keys. Its name appears to be a shortened form of the word "phantom", another word for ghost or spectre. Phantos appear as semi-common enemies in Super Mario Bros. 2, often in caves or in vases. Phantos simply remain immobile unless the key they are guarding moves. Once this happens, they ceaselessly chase whoever stole its key. Phantos cannot be avoided and can only be escaped by using the key it was guarding to unlock a door. If the player simply drops the key while a Phanto is chasing them, it flies away and leave them alone, at least until the key is picked up again. Phanto can follow the player through different screens and rooms, even into Subspace. Phantos can only be defeated with a combination of a Stop Watch and a Super Star, as the Super Star alone does not affect it. After destroying a Phanto, however, a new one replaces it if the player enters another room while still carrying the key. A number of Phantos are also shown in various rooms, like the keys' rooms and Wart's room, though they do not do anything.
Phanto is depicted in two ways; originally, Phanto sported a very solemn demeanor in Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic, while in Super Mario Bros. 2, it is given an evil grin. The former representation is often used in character art. In the NES version of Super Mario Bros. 2, Phantos are red and white, but in the SNES version and other subsequent remakes, they are golden. In addition, larger versions in the SNES and GBA versions can be seen in the background of certain vase interiors that feature keys, which have their eyes glow red repeatedly once the key is grabbed. In Super Mario Advance, if the player drops the key or loses a life, the Phanto appears enlarged as it flies away, creating the illusion of it flying towards the camera.
Two Phantos made appearances on The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! The first one appeared in the episode "The Ten Koopmandments". This Phanto lived in a pyramid that Koop Tut had trapped Mario, Luigi, Princess Toadstool and Toad inside. Upon discovering the four heroes, it proceeded to chase them until they managed to escape from the pyramid. Another Phanto made a brief cameo appearance in the episode "Escape from Koopatraz", as a member of Judge Koopa's jury.
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