SEGA is launching Phantasy Star Online 2 open beta this week, giving the pioneer of online console gaming a long overdue chance to shine again.

Phantasy Star Online was one of those magical games which proved how far ahead of the curve the SEGA Dreamcast really was. SEGA was on a mission to prove that online was the future of console multiplayer with a string of strong titles lined-up for their built-in 56K modem, but the tragic death of the Dreamcast delayed online multiplayer by several years. Why didn't we listen to SEGA sooner?

SEGA nearly derailed the series after the poorly received Phantasy Star Universe focused more on an offline story mode and yet still demanded an subscription for its half baked online gameplay. Subsequent PSP and DS releases failed to recreate the lost magic, and repeatedly got hammered by Monster Hunter on the Japanese sales charts.

Now, free-to-play has given the series a second chance for a comeback. MAGs, Phantasy Star Online's assistant robots, are coming back as well as all the races and rare weapon drops made popular in the original.  Hopefully the open beta will reveal more of what this game has to offer.

The PC version is scheduled to launch later this summer, and the PlayStation Vita will be released next year. A simplified version of the game will also be released for smartphones this winter. Considering Phantasy Star Online invented to online console RPG, SEGA has not yet announced a console version, but possibly could should the game become a success.

[via Sega]