While we await the epic arrival of Phantasy Star Universe, Sega of America has thrown Phantasy fans a tasty morsel this morning in the form of Phantasy Star Online Blue Burst, a free MMORPG which is currently going through a beta phase.
Blue Burst looks to be an offshoot of the Phantasy series and takes place seven years after Pioneer 1 touched down on planet Ragol. As Pioneer 2 arrives to continue the settlement of this new world, contact is lost following a massive explosion on the surface and you'll take on the role of either a Hunter, Ranger, or Force user, who is commissioned to investigate the mystery
You can join the beta by hitting the Blue Burst site, and enjoying six whole weeks of play for free, before Sega rushes you a fairly reasonable $8.99 a month from the full launch on June 9.
Server side character storage means you'll be able to play from any PC and more episodes and ongoing content are promised too, with Sega unveiling Episode IV later on in June. PSO fans should certainly find something to entertain them before the full launch of Phantasy Star Universe later this year.
"We've saved the best for last; the PC version of Phantasy Star Online is the most graphically detailed, content rich version of our popular action-RPG," said Yosuke Moriya, of Sega America. "And now, there's no price barrier for those interested in trying it - downloading the game is free, and everybody can explore the vast world of PSO at no charge for more than six weeks."
These first three screens should certainly whet your appetite. Enjoy.
UPDATE: Sega has just announced the following pricing guide for PSO BB for UK gamers: PSO BB can be downloaded for free with a free 14 day trial Hunters License subscription. After the initial free trial period purchase a further 30 day Hunters License Subscription with a valid credit card and payment of £5.95 / €8.95 (price still to be confirmed).