I, personally, love random encounters and disc swapping, especially if they're done correctly. Now, disc swapping is simply a neccessary evil due to disc space. It may have lessened a bit from the days of CD-Roms, but it is by no-means dead. With the increase of real-time graphics in cutscenes, a lot less disc space is dedicated to videos. However, polygon maps, bump maps, and full voice-overs have increased the need for data storage quite a bit, so we're still seeing many multi-disc titles. I don't mind them in the slightest, as they serve to really highlight different acts of an adventure.
As for random encounters, depending on how their dealt with, I can absolutely love them or hate them. Some of my favorite games have random encounters. If the encounter rate isn't too high, they can be a very effective way of spacing out combat vs. exploration. Relieving the player of the choice of whether or not to avoid a fight sometimes makes the game a little less stressfull. On-screen encounters always force the player to have to decide whether to fight or not, which can be aggrivating after a while. You start to feel like you're cheating if you are just avoiding everything, you feel guilty, and start to not enjoy the game so much. That's not always the case. If the battle system is good enough, I love diving into fights, or dungeon clearing. Grandia II, I couldn't get enough of running into enemies and kicking their asses. But sometimes I just feel obligated to dungeon clear with boring battle systems. So I guess it depends upon the game.
I will, however, second the statement that if there are random enounters, puzzle rooms should NEVER have them. Skies of Arcadia did a great job with this, and the GameCube version recognized their high encounter rate flaw, and fixed the problem. Kudos to Sega for that.
Agreed with the random encounter bit, but I'll have to say I wouldn't call it cheating if you wanted to avoid the battles if given the opportunity. The game I loved that had the best random encounter was Wild Arms 2/3.
You were given the opportunity to fight any battle if you chose so in 2, or just cancel out. Only problem was that bosses were colossal pests if you weren't leveled properly.
The 3rd wild arms had a migrant seal system where you begin with a 10/10 random encounter counter (Dr., Dr., Dr., Dr.) that went down after every cancel until forced battle. You could level up the level of the migrant seal counter and pick up a booster to 20/20 also. The more migrant seals you had, the more chances where you could avoid a battle without diminishing your Encounter Counter. The bosses were pretty simple enough that I could avoid a good number of encounters.
Back to the topic for me... I don't think FFXIII will redefine Japanese RPGs. If they did- wait one second let me go find it... *FACE PALMS
*. I better see Red XIII in there for some kicks.