Just like a lot of modern Final Fantasy games, eh?
Funny you say that because my personal problem with modern Final Fantasy games is they're entirely *too* focused.
Final Fantasy XII and XIII are both just a long chain of combat. I mean, XII had that stupid foot race mini-game but it only served to highlight how few distractions there were to take away from all the fighting.
FFXIII, sure. But when I read comments like this about FFXII sometimes I seriously wonder if I played the same game...
FFXII was probably the most exploration and puzzle-heavy game in the series. There was tons of stuff to find (including substantial and 100% optional dungeons), and it had the best use of puzzles in dungeons since FFVI's phoenix cave (Though admittedly that was more in the latter half of the game. The early dungeons were nothing special...though that's true for FFVI too). On top of that I also loved the hunting sidequests. Yes they also involved combat (you had to kill the creatures at the end), but you also had to put in some footwork to actually find your marks and many of them had special requirements to deal with them. Basically there was a lot more going on than just "a long chain of combat".
Sure it didn't have much in the way of minigames...but then, neither did any of the games before FFVII. And personally I've never really cared for minigames.