So the first question of course is how are the graphics, and the answer is: oooooh. Easily the best graphics ever. As they ought to be, but I was disappointed with FFXII, so I am relieved to be so pleased here. The cutscenes are, as expected, spectacular, but I'm even more impressed with the gameplay rendering, which is almost as good as the FMV rendering in FFX. Hopefully that keeps up as we go forward into more complex environments. Thumbs way up on the visuals so far. Definitely glad we upgraded the TV.
Too soon to say anything much about the characters, or the story, but I must say that I do like getting the backstory dump through the info menus rather than via lots of awkward character exposition. There's an interesting new twist on NPC chatter, too: instead of walking up to people and hitting "X", people just talk when you're around them. A much more natural way to interact with the world. I think I'm going to like that aspect.
It's really linear, of course, but that's to be expected: the first few hours of nearly every FF game are about setting up the party and presenting the story, the world, and the (first) goal. I kind of appreciate that we're skipping the "explore random dungeon or city" part; instead, the game is bringing the characters together at a measured but brisk-enough pace in a way that tells a story. I have a feeling that this game is going to be even more about the storytelling than usual, which is more than fine by me. I play FF games for story, characters, and world-building, and so far I like what I see.