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SDCC 2017: We Tried The ‘Final Fantasy’ Trading Card Game! Did Square-Enix Summon A Hit?

Friday 28th July 2017 by Josh Jackson

With as many properties that have developed card games over the years, it was only a matter of time before Final Fantasy got in on the action. With decades worth of characters, creatures and lore to pull from, it seems natural that players would want to gather their favorite heroes and do battle with fancy, glossy decks. At the Square-Enix booth at San Diego Comic Con, the company offered demos to new players who wanted to see how well the game translated to the TCG format. Not being one to shy away from a new card game, I took the time to see what kind of spells I could conjure the heroes from Final Fantasy IX.

Each player starts with a deck of exactly 50 cards made up primarily of Forward and Backup characters. Forward characters are your main line of defense, taking the front of the field as they use their abilities and strength to fight off the opposing deck. Except for the first turn, players can summon as many characters as they want as long as they have the CP for it. This number, which is at the top-left of every card, shows you how much you need to pay, as well as which element it needs to belong to. The exception to this rule are Light and Dark cards, which can use any element.  CP is gained by either dulling, (the FF equivalent to tapping), or discarding cards from your hand to gain 1 or 2 CP respectively. From there, your line of defense is set.

Fortunately, unless the character has the Haste ability, each new summon suffers from summoning sickness, which is TCG speak for not being able to act on the turn they’re summoned. When they can act, you have the option to either defend, which subtracts from their HP for that turn only, or take the damage, which results in you taking one damage point. The first player to deal seven points of damage wins, but each time a player takes damage, they get to draw one of seven damage cards that they set aside at the beginning of the match. If that card has an EX Burst ability however, they can trigger that move immediately without cost, potentially turning the tide of a game. Even when you see an opening, you might want to be careful about attacking with your whole party. Each Forward that attacks becomes dulled, meaning they can’t act until their next turn. So if you attack with everyone you have, that means you won’t have any way to defend yourself if the opponent mounts a comeback.

Aside from the main characters, Summons are one time use characters that disappear after being brought on the field to use their powerful abilities. Most Backup characters feature the DS remake versions of the Onion Knights from Final Fantasy III filling the roles of generic jobs like Monks, Thieves and Mages, with their own abilities to trigger if not being tapped for CP. This helped make every card feel special, even the ones that might serve as fodder for your Forwards. Speaking of special, although the cards that I’ve seen break away from conventional TCG thinking by having no holographic versions, each one uses thick, glossy paper with some of the most iconic art from the series taken from the games.

In my brief time with the game, the only major concern I have is the flexibility allowed to customize your decks. In the game that I played, many of the Final Fantasy IX characters relied on each other to get stronger. For example, Stiener’s strength increased depending on how many IX characters fought alongside him, while Zidane had a similar skill. In other words, they would be far less effective if paired with a mixed deck. I hope that the booster packs allow for more flexibility than I’m seeing here, but either way, the game was a blast to play.

I’m looking forward to seeing the game’s growth in North America and seeing what the cards can do once we have all of the expansions. For now, I’ll just wait patiently for a Final Fantasy VI deck and dream of the day I can clean house with Celes. Do you have room in your binder for the Square Enix’s card game? Share your thoughts with us below!