"I know that playing this game is worth it--or should be worth it, but damn, I really don't like having to sit around listening to my characters talk so much or spend so and so many hours grinding or so forth."
This is basically why I like western RPGs more a lot of the time.
I was thinking about this earlier today, actually. I find a lot of JRPGs to be kind of abusive. Go to this dungeon now! Kill this boss! Go to this town immediately and view this cutscene! NOW! NOW! NOW!
Western RPGs are more like "Well, you could go further the story, but if you're too weak for this storyline boss, there's some side dungeons you could play around in. Or you could go do something else. Whatever floats your boat."
The irony is that it was Dragon Quest IV that made me realize this. See, I was having a hard time fighting Baalzack and... whoever you fight before the. Instead of grinding, I just took my boat of and started exploring. Found the Liquid Metal Sword location, got some decent armor ahead of time, revisted some old towns and did a few sidequests. Came back after having leveled up naturally just in the course of messin' around, and beat Baalzack pretty easily.
Basically, RPGs stop being fun for me when you hit That Dungeon and you can't do anything else but do That Dungeon. Norturne was the most memorable That Dungeon for me. Or That Boss.
Basically, any snag that seems insurmountable without either a lot of grinding or otherwise jumping through hoops.
RPGs also have a problem with monotony, though. It's a genre where games last 40 hours and don't introduce any new gameplay after about 2. This is why I think dungeon design needs to be a lot more central so that dungeons are seen as *fun* to explore and getting to SEE a new dungeon is it's own reward. Additionally, actually introducing new stuff as the game goes along is nice. This is why Zelda and Metroid have done so well. You get new toys every few hours to string you along. In most RPGs, swords and bows basically behave the same way--they do damage after you pick "attack" in a menu somewhere. In Zelda games, swords and bows are very different entities.
Also, I really don't have a problem with long games, though I switch games around a lot. For instance, I've been playing Dragon Warrior 7... sort of consistently since I got it last September, and I'm about 60 hours in. Then again, I think sticking with a single 40 hours game from start to finish without, like, playing other games or switching off requires an ungodly amount of dedication and patience.
I tend to like open ended games with a simulation type aspect to them. That way there is no overall goal that you are forced to follow, you can create your own. A good example of this is something like the Unreal World. It's a wilderness survival game with no real ultimate goal. It's great. There are tons of different ways to play and different activities you can do to gain satisfaction.
URW also let's you survive however the hell you want to it's not like you NEED to set up a base camp every time you start a new character and start hunting hobos for food immediately thereafter. The game even facilitates this by providing something like, uh... 8 startup scenarios?