Gamerang actually had this in my mailbox the day before its retail release. Go figure.
I've never been able to stick with any of the FF games (or JRPGs in general), but I think that this could be the first FF title I actually finish. I spent a few hours with it last night and despite the fact that it starts out slow, I'm definitely looking to spend a lot more.
I know these things probably seem like minor adjustments, but doing away with random encounters and battle screens and allowing the player to freely control the camera and character movement during battles feels huge, as far as my play experience is concerned. This is probably the first JRPG I've played (not that I'm an aficionado, by any means) where the combat doesn't feel locked-down and really comes across as dynamic and visceral. I don't know if longtime fans of the series appreciate the changes, but I think they're awesome.
It's also the first FF title I've played where the voice acting and writing (and all other aspects of the localization) are superb across the board. Visually, it's beautiful. Load times are surprisingly brief. Technically, the games seems rock-solid. Again, I'm only a few hours in, but still, in every sense, this appears to be a very smart, highly refined game.
Add to all this the (expected) overall high production values, and I'm pretty much hooked. I'm just beginning to toy around with the gambits and other features, so there's still a lot to play around with. I don't know how long my interest will last--if the grind gets ugly, that might end it for me--but so far, I'm really interested in seeing where this game goes.
I'm wondering what you longtime FF/JRPG fans out there think.