Gameplay: I am liking this aspect a lot more than I expected to. Thanks to Wait Mode, I feel like I'm in the best of both worlds between turn-based and real-time battle. Vaan in the sewers by himself was tough, but it's really an excellent way to manage a party. I like not having to worry about individual XP, and I love that there are no specialists -- having four people in a battle, all of whom can succeed at both melee and magic, is beyond awesome. About halfway through the corridor between the dungeon and Rabinastre, we had our "duh" moment with that, gave Vaan and Balthier the basic elemental and cure magic, and went to town on those flans and mimics. So much more efficient than any other battle system I've ever used. Gambits are looking excellent, too, and I can't wait to start getting more complex ones.
Characters: So far I am cautiously optimistic. Vaan has impressed me so far -- he's got the heroic streak and his "just an ordinary kid" side and I like watching how they interact. Penelo I want to see more of, but she made a fabulous first impression on me and has given me no reason to feel differently. I adore the way she tried to stand up to the guards when Vaan was taken. Like everyone else, I was immediately taken with Balthier. Fran seems to have great potential for awesomeness as well, although I want to get to know her better as well. Same with Basch. As for Ashe -- I mean, that woman in the sewers, whatever fake name she gave herself -- the jury is out. We'll see, once we get to know her for real.
I could say more about the story and such, but T is calling to go play some more. And when it comes to playing the game versus writing about it, well, you know where my priorities are. Whee!!