Almost exactly 1 year later, after crashing and burning from overplay last year, I picked up and beat it.
Honestly? Maybe I needed it to sit with me for a while and let it ruminate, but I came back loving it more than I started out for some reason.
The battle system is a TON of fun (despite each attack being brighter than the 4th of July), the skills/titles system is clever and very different. But what I love the most is the sheer amount of added affects to the titles and the "square-scroll" features (and how you can manipulate it: like with Piggybacking, making the "next attack be added to your own" can help you kill Rocknagong in one hit).
I love how in-depth it all is, and I love when Tales games do more with less characters. Each character is very versatile and great for different situations.
The dungeons are terrible and the world is basic, and there is generally NOTHING to love about your visit to Zehvert/Fendel (it's dark, depressing, and dreary), but the light-hearted cast brightens it up a bit, and the addition of discoveries make things a bit interesting in that Skies of Arcadia way. I also love the amount of extras, and I was really happy with Zhonecage's version of an off-beat bonus dungeon. Overall, a keeper.
The new Grade system was brutal. Not dying ONCE is an almost impossible condition, and half of the points can be rewarded with spending time with the game -- which counters the points you can get for beating the game in less time (which, me thinks, just isn't worth it). Some of the INN requests suck serious ass too (Medicine at Warrior's Roost...that's just head-in-ass annoying). I had a chuckle that you can pay 10 points to skip the childhood arc. Even the dev's know that it went hours longer than it needed or players would probably want.
EDIT: Anyone else read "Amarcian" as "American"??? I did...and I never learned.
Kyuu: everone says that, I might have to watch an LP. I'm glad Cortana looks a little less plastic-y.