Universe represents a few firsts for the long-lived series. This will be the first time it's appeared on the PlayStation in the US and also the first next-gen entry of the franchise. Fans of so-so voice acting will be pleased to know this will be the first game to feature full voice work, most of which takes place during cutscenes that explain the extremely "out there" storyline (magical space-entity called SEED is turning people into monsters... or something).
If you're totally uninterested in playing alone, Universe lets you jump right into the online portion - though the single-player story kind of sets up the online world, so plot-centric gamers should take note. Once online, you're free to choose from three distinct races (Casts, Newmans and Beasts) and have even more freedom with character design. Mouth, ears, hair, weight... it's all your call.
The offline and online games are totally separate - if you head straight to the internet without ever playing the solo game, you're still on the same page as someone who's beaten the whole damn thing. The online game just takes a more typical MMO, party-friendly atmosphere, forcing you to join beater groups and make some online pals. Oh, and design your own living quarters for everyone in the world to soak in.
Phantasy Star Universe will see a multiplatform release on PS2, Xbox 360 and PC in October.