I''ve been playing a little known but awesome Japanese RPG/life-simulation (???) game for the Wii called Opoona.
The layouts of the "domes" (ie towns) are unbelievably confusing and poorly thought-out, there's lots of running around and back-tracking, and boss battles can be inordinately difficult compared to the rest of the game, BUT- and this is a big but-
The characters and the world!
They are so delightful! Though palette-swapped, NPCs are unusual, varied, and slightly disturbing (kind of like Earthbound, but more sci-fi). The lovable, slightly terrifyingly characters range from midget grannies, to super-hero-looking guys with four big cones for hair, to zen-masters, to freaky children.
The monsters are also a delightful mix of new creature designs you've never seen before, although you'll be more likely to want to hug than fight them. They're much less terrifying than the NPCs.
The environments are unique, pleasant, and fun to explore. What's more, they're full of artwork that you can discover to boost your "Arts" stat, and the art in the game is actually awesome! Like I want someone to make it in real life. How incredible is it that they made up a world with its own art history and really cool ideas for art installations and paintings? Pretty dang incredible, I'd say!
Despite all the frustration and back-tracking, it's a delight to discover each new area, complete jobs and make friends with the characters. I wish more games would put as much effort into being original in their character and world design, with the icing on the cake of interesting artwork and EVEN amusing TV stations!
Sadly, few American games attempt to create this kind of colorful new world; it's mostly the domain of Japanese games, of which Opoona is a shining example.