First of all since it wasn't clear, i don't equate battle transitions with random battles. I confess i have a bit of a masochistic attraction to random battles, but i can live without them. Chrono Trigger did away with random battles but kept the battle transitions and i was quite happy with that system. (You would see the enemies on the main map, but if you got close/touched them both the enemies and the characters would arrange themselves in battle formation and the battle music would start up.)
After discussing the issue a bit more it seems that i have three key criteria for what is necessary in terms of gameplay to make what is in my opinion a good Final Fantasy game.
1) Battles should have distinct beginnings and endings
2) During at least part of the game you should have control of multiple characters, and it should be both possible and feasible to fully control all of them
3) Killing the enemies and winning the battles should result in unambiguous bonuses.
Of course i figured these things out via FF games that violated those criteria. The 3rd rule was violated by FF8, which was designed so that the enemies gained levels in proportion to the characters. In theory this negated most of the advantage of leveling up, in practice it often made the game impossible if you leveled up too much. They reverted on that change pretty quickly with 9.
The 1st and 2nd rules of course were violated by FF12, which has no distinct battles and makes it very difficult if not possible to effectively control all your characters all the time.
It's possible there are other personal rules that i haven't figured out yet because no FF game has broken them yet. However outside of the three things i've already determined i've been enthusiastic or at least tolerant of every every gameplay change they've introduced in the Final Fantasy series the first one.
So from what i've heard already it seems that FF13 will be going back to battle transitions, in fact it sounds like they'll be using a system very much like Chrono Trigger's, which i applaud. However it also seems that you won't be able to control anyone aside from the main character at all, so they're screwing up rule #2 even more as far as i'm concerned.
From the art side everything looks much better to me than FF12. Except for that one doofus with the incredible stupid looking hat. (Snow?) Other than that the characters look potentially interesting (there's even girl with dark hair this time! Yay! =) and i really like the more vibrant colors.
In other news, after posting the poll on friday i asked shelleycat about the midnight release thing, and she thought i ought to go to that instead of Wumpskate, so that option wins the vote :) (Of course the fact that she can actually hang out with me at the mall may have influenced her decision.)
(And this is also why everyone should go ahead and fill out polls about what i should do without worrying about responsibility for the results =)
So i am about to head off for that now. Hopefully in a little over four hours i will have the game and be heading home to give it a quick try before sleep!