- I'm still not far into Chapter I (the Prologue having taken six hours), but I see it as a sort of Bildungsroman. The main character starts off as a tomboyish, hot-headed teen, but already shows signs of growth. I've already encountered all sorts of characters – a boy wise beyond his years, an alcoholic mentor, a flamboyant gay who hits on almost everything, wise father figures etc.
The characters start out a bit cliché and gradually become more fleshed out and less tropey through this game and the sequel which is coming this winter. Estelle is initially a sheltered, tomboyish and naïve girl who's quick to speak her mind and usually the last person to know what's going on. (most of the jokes early in the game are at her expense) Despite her inexperience she comes across as very sympathetic right off the bat and gradually grows more mature as the story goes on.
Joshua, the co-protagonist, seems wise beyond his years and is usually the one keeping Estelle in line, but there are also some hints spread out here and there that give one another perspective on him.
A word on the "flamboyant gay", his name's Olivier btw (who's probably closer to bi since he also tends to hit on any female he lays eyes on...except Estelle), he's a good example of a character who's more than he appears at first. When the party first meets him, he instantly identifies them as bracers despite the group not wearing their badges at the time. Joshua gets slightly suspicious of him, asking him how he was able to identify them with a mere glance and Olivier instead responds by telling him how attractive he is. The result is Joshua being completely weirded out and Estelle blowing a fuse. Eventually the dust settles, the party leaves and nobody remembers what the conversation was about again before Oliver started putting the moves on Joshua. Olivier's actually perfectly capable of acting normally when he wants to, but he likes to put on antics to get a reaction out of people or, just as often, to redirect the conversation away from himself. And he's actually quite good at that.
Regarding the world: there's a lot of stuff going on in the background while you're trekking the country. Each NPC in town has a name and their dialogue changes after each story event. In each chapter there are usually several mini-stories going on in the background, like a woodcutter struggling to gain the approval of his father-in-law, a pilgrim and his shopaholic wife who are travelling the country at the same pace as you or a female factory worker who gets drawn into a triangle relationship between herself, her struggling boyfriend and her enamoured colleague. You can focus completely on the main story or try to get to know these little mini-stories going on in the world around you, but the fact that they exist is a credit to the creators. It's one of the most thoroughly developed and well-fleshed out worlds in JRPG history.
The main plot is a bit slow at first, but picks up about half-way through and ends with a major bang that'll have you aching for the sequel.
I'd say definitely buy it. It's a real jewel that deserves more love.