PS4 - 4/5
Hmmmmm. There's a load of stuff I really like about this game but at the same time it's just brought down by its own weight, quite a lot. In a way, they've really painted themselves into a corner in terms of the number of characters you end up having to know. This is compounded by a script that at times is infuriatingly half-arsed, constantly falling into the same lines and vocal patterns (they managed to get the roof standing and constant comparing of how long it's been since the last meeting under control at least).
Ultimately the main character is kind of what has brought the series down. I don't rate Koki Uchiyama much as a voice actor, though he does seem to actually put in more effort this time around, and the way everyone surrounds him, as well as them bringing back romance events with pretty much any girl in the game, really pulls me out of the whole thing a lot of the time. I know what they're trying to achieve, but unlike the earlier games there's too much scope left open at this point and it just isn't as successful as it was with Lloyd.
Fundamentally, though, as a JRPG it is still a really good one. The world is huge, with lots of (albeit significantly reused) locations, the most playable characters I've seen in this kind of game (the last bit of the game is just pure fanservice for people who have played the previous games) and loads of stuff to do - mostly packaged up very considerately for people to find for themselves, rather than having to rely totally on guides. In many ways it really is Sen 2-2, which means the middle is quite baggy, but given the scope they've set for themselves I can't think of a more elegant way to try and cover everything.
Which leads me into my hopes for the next series. The number of characters involved directly in the story is just too many at this point. The first Sora no Kiseki had you playing the first chunk of the game with just two characters, and you never got more than a few joining you at once. There is a point in this game where you can choose from nearly forty - and for most of it you have to choose a team of 6-8 from twenty characters. Sora, Zero and Ao worked so well because they mostly kept things relatively small, and I hope they go back to that rather than having a core of 11-12 characters and then adding another 5 to that later on.
Whatever happens, I just hope they take their time and give the whole thing another pass before sending it out. Ys and Tokyo Xanadu, while having their own occasionally painful scripts, did their own thing and were successful enough that hopefully Falcom can just let this one stew a bit more and wrap things up properly in two games - maybe even one!