Like so many other entries in Namco's long running yet still relatively obscure JRPG series, Tales of Graces F often hides its light under a bushel. An HD makeover of a 2009 Wii game that never saw a western release, it does a great job of following the broad strokes of its genre, but it can take ten hours or more before the ingenious little curlicues that it doodles in the margins take centre stage.
To begin with, however, it's easy to be misled into thinking that it's business as usual. There's a cheesy power pop anthem over the intro sequence, all manufactured uplift and X Factor warbling. There's Asbel Lhant, our tousle haired hero, whose rebellious streak keeps landing him in trouble with his disapproving father, the lord of a dazzlingly colourful, whimsically sketched kingdom. There's a girl who appears out of nowhere, all amnesia and unfeasibly long purple pigtails, her slightly autistic demeanour an obvious prelude to a display of amazing supernatural power.
The gameplay in this early introductory stretch is limited and frankly a bit dull. The characters are all ten years old, and the narrative follows Asbel as he gets into one scrape after another. Enemies are simple monsters, and you beat them up with a wooden sword. There's absolutely no freedom to roam, as the game blocks off every path but the correct one with unapologetic invisible walls.