While Phantasy Star Universe is a hack and slash role-playing game similar to the Phantasy Star Online games, it takes place in a different time period and location and has many new features. Like most of the PSO titles, PSU is playable in both a persistent online network mode and a full featured single-player story mode. Phantasy Star Universe was followed by the standalone expansion Phantasy Star Universe: Ambition of the Illuminus.
The universe is the Gurhal Star System, which consists of three planets. Each planet has its own unique culture formed by its inhabitant races. The history of the Gurhal Star System is filled with conflict amongst the different races. However, after the Final Conflict 100 years ago, a union was formed between the three planets. This led to the birth to the Allied Army, and ultimately to peace for the Gurhal Star System.
At the start of the game, Ethan, the main character, and his little sister Lumia, are at the celebration of the 100th year anniversary of the Alliance Space Fleet on the GUARDIANS Space station. The celebration is interrupted when a mysterious meteor shower almost destroys the entire fleet. During evacuation, Ethan and Lumia split off of the main evacuation route, and collapsing rubble separates Lumia from Ethan. Ethan then meets up with a GUARDIAN named Leo, but they are attacked by a strange creature. The creature paralyzes Leo, and Ethan takes his handgun and kills the creature. Leo then tells Ethan to find his sister, and that a rescue team is on the way.
After killing multiple creatures and saving people, Ethan finds Lumia, and they both leave the station. After a conversation between Leo and Ethan, Ethan reveals that he dislikes GUARDIANS because his father died when on a mission. Leo, impressed with Ethan's abilities, convinces Ethan to join the GUARDIANS.
Ethan and his classmate Hyuga are trained by a female Guardian named Karen, who leads them against the SEED, the strange monsters that came from the meteors. After being hired to accompany a scientist to a Relic site of an ancient, long-dead civilization, they find out the SEED are attracted to a power source (A-photons) the ancients used and that the solar system has just re-discovered.
Karen finds out she is the sister of the Divine Maiden (the prophet of the Holy Light) and takes over that position when her sister dies at the hands of her estranged father who intended to kill Karen to increase the original Maiden (Mirei)'s power.
After befriending rogues, guardians, and casts alike, Ethan angers Magashi, a CAST who heads the Endrum Collective and has been kidnapping scientists who know about the ancient power source. After Ethan and a rogue named Alfort Tylor kill Magashi, Ethan helps activate an ancient weapon the prior civilization used to survive the SEED before they were almost completely wiped out.
Ethan then gathers allies against Guardian orders to attack the last SEED outpost standing where two of his friends and the scientists are being held. In the outpost Magashi claims to be brought back to life by the SEED, where in reality he is a CAST incarnation of Dark Force who controls the SEED itself and controls whatever they infect. With the help of Karen, Leo and Tonnio, Ethan defeats Magashi once and for all.
PSU has the following features:
Strafing - characters may strafe, in addition to the movement options available in PSO
Dual-wielding - characters may wield weapons akimbo, or even carry a different weapon in each hand
Player-controlled vehicles (Sega has stated that these will be customizable in some way; featured offline and during some online events).
Partner Machinery (pm) that evolve both in appearance and abilities when fed items.
20+ dungeons which the player may explore
15+ bosses to battle
Four character races: Humans, CASTs (Androids), Newmans, and Beasts (the latter two of which are races of genetically modified humans).
Three different classes to specialize in (similar to PSO) but with the ability to change classes at any given time and back again, while any bonuses gained are retained for later if you do change class.
An additional seven advanced classes which can either be specialists of the three main classes, or different hybrid versions.
An additional two advanced classes were provided upon the expansion's release, although they do not require the expansion to play.
A 40-hour offline RPG component with characters and events to complement the separate online game. Both use the same engine, although your customizable character can only be used online.
Extra Mode: A new offline mode that functions similar to online mode, with character customization. The "Extra Mode" character can only be used offline.
Character Customization: In addition, PSU features a character creation system with many more options than the original PSO, allowing players to customize the style and color of their characters' clothes, hair and facial features, height and body proportion as well as their voice at any time in the game provided they have enough of the game's currency, meseta.
An open beta was held for Xbox 360 users a few weeks before it was released in North America. The software was available on the marketplace for Xbox Live Gold subscribers for download for two days starting on October 13, 2006. The trial originally ran until October 18 but was eventually extended to October 21. As of January 15, 2007 it has now been put back onto the marketplace, and the server is up and running, for players who have Xbox Live Gold to download and try. Their policy states that they will reset the servers at the end of each month, however, from the period of September 2007 to April 2008, Sega did not reset the servers.
The PC/PS2 servers were merged together while the Xbox 360 played on a server on its own. The PC/PS2 servers were region locked, while on the Xbox 360 servers people from all over the world could play together.
Assisting Team Leads: Athony Banks, Orville Bongat, Omar Woodley
Compliancy Test Lead: Stephen Akana
Compliancy Assistant: Lawrence Mann
Compliancy Testers: Steve Fleming, Joe Floyd, Jason Mahar
Testers: John Bonyhard, Jamil Hale, Mike Castillo, Jake Holub, Tristan Corbett, Nick Makovkin, Tim Erbil, Ken Nacua, Matt Girard, Seneca Roux, Alice Grunstra, Mike Sliva, Teresa Guest, Camden Tayler, Kyle Uberman