The main character is (looks-wise) sort of on the male end of a cross between Squall and Kid.
Transitions into random battles (the monsters drop equipment rather more randomly than in previous games, though some areas are a bit too long) are done via a XenoGears-esque shattering picture effect; plot battles barely look like transitions at all (the screen blurs, and *poof*, you're in battle).
There were noises as though the game was going to be more technology-oriented, like FinalFantasyEight. On the contrary, however, the game is one of the most fantasy-like of the series. Scarily enough, it actually has a plot, as well.
(if you'd like to avoid game mechanics spoilers, stop reading here; I don't believe I spoil anything that you won't find out in the first five hours of gameplay/by reading the manual) Battle is ... different. It's explicitly turn-based, insofar as time stops when each character's turn comes up; there's a neat little display showing who's getting turns next, and it is dynamically updated depending on what your next action will be (for example, choosing a character to cast Haste on moves them up in the order). The party consists of three, but characters may be substituted in more or less at will (but when one dies, you have to resurrect them if you want that slot back), a la BreathOfFireIV?. Experience is given to anybody who participated in the battle, and doesn't seem to be divided by the number of participants, so that there's some emphasis on getting all the characters into each battle, the one down-side of things.
For all those of you who like to abuse the "Steal" command, rest assured that it is still possible and pays dividends. Enemies may carry a finite number of objects, but I've not seen the bottom of anybody's well (it gets progressively harder to steal with each attempt, though, and I haven't really tried). Objects stolen are fairly highly useful; they allow "Customization" of weapons/armor -- use X of some item, get property Y on an empty slot. They may also be used in battle (by the thief character) and also as part of the "Mix" (reminiscent of FF5) "Overdrive" (aka LimitBreak?), which produces some rather sickening effects...
It should be added that this game is rather easy, and subject to massive breakage. Its also remarkable hard to come up with reasonable challenges; for instance, "no magic" proved (with one minor exception) to be even easier than playing through normally. And apparently ludicrous things like No Sphere Grid No Summoning No Customization are possible, though cheesy.
Blitzball is kind of amusing, but entirely too easy. If you take the time to recruit decent players and level them decently, you stop losing. Ever. Unless you want to. In which case you can, but its tricky. Conclusions? A 99th level team is amusing, but not worth the effort.