Phantasy Star Universe

It's been a long time coming, but the first true sequel to the best online RPG to ever hit a console is finally nearing completion. Sorry, EverQuest Online Adventures, we're talking about the classic Phantasy Star Online and its soon-to-be follow-up, Phantasy Star Universe.

Sega was recently kind enough to drop by with the latest versions for PlayStation 2 and Xbox 360, so we'll be sharing all of the juicy details in the coming weeks. While the preview copies are currently limited to offline play, we've got a shocking amount of details and new info to share.

Phantasy Star Online's single-player experience was merely competent, so the developer put a lot of work into creating a more compelling single-player game in Phantasy Star Universe. This makes for some unusual changes, such as the fact that you play a pre-made character in the single-player adventure.

The character in question is 17 year-old Ethan Waber, and as the game begins the space station he inhabits is attacked by a monstrous alien force known as SEED. After repulsing the attack and saving his sister, he decides to become a GUARDIAN, something of a planet-hopping peace keeper.

Together with his new GUARDIAN allies, Ethan begins taking missions on the three planets of the Gurhal solar system, trying to figure out how to stop the ongoing SEED menace.

The offline adventure feels like PSO's online game but with a linear mission progression and a lot more cinematic scenes, both pre-rendered and real-time. After meeting his allies Ethan receives their guild cards, which he can use to summon them to his party at any time. The GUARDIAN space station serves as the base of operations, and there's also a large city on the lush, green world of Param.

The solo game is split into chapters, and each one so far seems to revolve around one long mission down to Param. (We haven't gotten to visit the other two worlds yet.) In a cute twist, each chapter is presented like a television show, complete with a teaser at the end previewing what'll occur "in the next episode of Phantasy Star Universe."