though DQ8 is a grinder.
Not really, and even then only for the first dungeon, unless you're absolutely OBSESSED with having the latest weaponry as soon as you can get it.
DQ8's story is a bit cliched but it's also not pretentious and retarded.
DQ8 also doesn't play exactly the same as DQ1, and anyone who says the games haven't changed that much over the course of the series or lacks innovation probably hasn't actually played any of them that much or is just assuming that because every game uses a fairly similar battle system, all of the other gameplay mechanics are identical (they aren't).
Meanwhile something like FFXII's story, while solid, isn't that well regarded by many people at all,
My thought's on FFXII's story is that on one hand, it's probably the best story in the FF series by a good margin, and on the other it's one of the least enjoyable.
I'm playing Tales of the Abyss right now. It's action based, the cities are pretty decently sized, and the story actually seems pretty good.
Persona 3's world is larger than you think. Sort of. There aren't as many areas but they change, I guess. Persona 2 and 1 have fairly large worlds.
and see whether I can get past the 'rescue the princess' story.
She doesn't really need RESCUED, really.