Handheld gaming consoles have been a comfortable home for the Japanese Role-Playing Game genre since the green-screened Game Boy days. With a focus heavily on storytelling and menu-heavy turn-based combat, JRPGs don'€™t suffer much from the relatively limited graphics and controls on a handheld system. So while the Final Fantasy series, one of the cornerstones of the genre, has always been released primarily on home gaming consoles, a new game from the same publisher – Square Enix – is bringing an experience even closer to the original Final Fantasy games to Nintendo's handheld 3DS. Bravely Default, released here in the United States on February 7, may not carry the Final Fantasy name, but it carries the spirit even better than the more Action RPG-style Final Fantasy XIII or the MMORPG Final Fantasy XIV. The game focuses on four characters, Tiz, Agnès, Edea and Ringabel, as they go on an adventure to save their world'€™s elemental crystals from a mysterious darkness. This echoes the original Final Fantasy, released all the way back in the 1980s for the Nintendo Entertainment System, which was also about four heroes saving the world'€™s darkening elemental crystals. It’s a story element that shows up occasionally in more recent games, but is more often discarded. True to JRPG traditions, the story here is a definite focus. The characters are strong and memorable, and there are mysteries scattered about that keep you playing not just to achieve in-game goals but to uncover more about them. Read the amnesiac Ringabel'€™s cryptic, seemingly time-displaced journal all the way through – then fight the urge to look up spoilers to find out what it all means. Another link to the earlier FF games is the robust Job system. You get to choose which characters are warriors, which are mages, and which are bunny-eared Performers. Similar to the classic Tactical RPG Final Fantasy Tactics, each character can retain the skills from one previous job, allowing for a decent amount of customization. They can also retain selected passive abilities from previous classes, so a Warrior who was once a Thief can still keep a speed boost. Something new but not obtrusively so is the Brave and Default system, which takes the old Defend command and makes it useful. You can use Brave to take several turns in advance or Default to save a turn for later in exchange for a defense boost. The game forces you to make good use of it, too, as some bosses will KO your entire party if you don'€™t Default at the right time. It adds a new element to combat without fundamentally changing it. The game does suffer a little from uncomfortable amounts of fanservice and squicky Japanese pervert humor. Some of Agnès's and Edea'€™s Job-specific outfits had to be tweaked a little for the Western release, and their ages were bumped from 15 to a more appropriate 18-plus. Some scenes with a perverted old hermit-slash-dressmaker went on far too long. It would have been nice not to sit through 10 straight minutes of him and Ringabel trying to coax Agnès into a miniscule bikini. Sadly, that sort of thing is still the price of entry into the video game world, and that'€™s a problem too big to pin on a single game. There have been re-releases of some older Final Fantasy games for the Nintendo Game Boy Advance, the DS, and even iOS and Android, but often this just makes these games show their age. The much-adored Final Fantasy VI got an iOS/Android release recently and was panned for looking like someone took a smoothing tool to the pixels. Bravely Default offers that classic FF game play without looking like a mediocre port. The 3D looks good without being obtrusive and the character and environment art is just plain beautiful. The 3DS took its sweet time accruing enough great games to be worth buying, but Bravely Default deserves a place alongside Pokemon X/Y and Fire Emblem: Awakening as a must-have game for the current handheld generation.