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Star Ocean 4 was one of the worst games I have had the displeasure of playing. Imagine Star Ocean 3 with a slightly better battle system, but with none of the charm/character/music/fun. Some of the absolute worst characters I have ever had to interact with, and a story that makes SO3s' twist look pedestrian.
A good JRPG? Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, Xenoblade Chronicles, Final Fantasy XII (the good version), Nier, Devil Summoner...there's quite a few if you look hard enough.
"Death's vastness holds no peace. I come at the end of the long road. Neither human, nor devil... all bends to my will"
For PS3? Tales of Graces f is a lot of fun, though bear in mind it's one of the lighter-hearted Tales games (still has some darker moments, though, especially in some of the sidequests). So, it depends how you feel about that, the humour is good though, it has made me laugh a lot, the characters aren't my favourites in the series but their interactions are entertaining. It arguably has a slower start than some too, even by JRPG standards, but I personally really liked the child arc, it works well with the story. As for stuff to do, well, it's a Tales game, so yeah, there's plenty. Optional dungeons and bosses, plenty of sidequests (some are missable, not as many as in most Tales games though), and the inn requests, which often require you to craft an item to fulfil. I'm currently 70 hours in and still have a lot to do in the main game, plus then there's the epilogue section.
Not exploration or loot or anything...you know the things it's praised for.
Is that why it's praised? I don't really get it then, I don't think those things are usually what makes a JRPG good (a MMO, yes). It seems like it doesn't make sense to compare it to others and call it the best this gen if it's so different.