What if I told you that there's an exciting new Final Fantasy game that you can play right now. What if I told you that it combines the greatest characters from across the entire Final Fantasy universe, with incredible designs and artwork, but it's not on any console? What if I told you that it's a fantastic multiplayer game, but it's not an MMO; that you can play anywhere you want, but it's not on mobile?
Have I piqued your interest? I'm talking about the Final Fantasy Trading Card Game, and it has quickly become my favorite Final Fantasy game of the season. Square Enix recently released the "Opus II" series of cards in North America, and after falling in love with much of the art featured on the front of these cards, I decided to see what this game is all about. I'm so glad that I did, and if you're a Final Fantasy fan, I urge you to see for yourself why series fans around the world have snatched up over 3.5 million packs and spent countless hours playing this tabletop treasure.
Keep scrolling to hear why you need to pick this one up and revive the tabletop night with your buddies.
Resource Harvesting Is Fast and Fun
Whether you're playing Magic: The Gathering, The Pokemon TCG, or Hearthstone, one of the necessary evils is resource gathering and management. Several turns are spent laying down the terrain or gathering the points you need to play certain cards, and it can be a bit of a grind.
In the Final Fantasy TCG, you begin every turn with 0 "crystal points," and every turn you'll be generating them and spending them quickly. You generate CP by tapping out certain cards on the field, or by discarding cards in your hand, and stronger cards rarely require more than 4 or 5 CP to play. This means that within a turn or two, you and your opponent can have multiple powerful hero cards on the field, and impressive summons can be played fairly early on.
The best part is when you're finished with your turn, you don't have to keep track of anything at all. Your resources are generated and spent when it's your turn to play, and then they're gone; you start your next turn with a clean slate and a brand new strategy.
The Cards Are Gorgeous and Sturdy
I'm going to be completely honest. When I first started covering the Final Fantasy TCG back in November, I wanted to get my hands on the game solely to stare at the beautiful and nostalgic character art. If you grew up playing card games like Pokemon and Magic, then you very likely collected card packs (even if you didn't play regularly) just to marvel at the artwork.
Whether you're into old-school Final Fantasy titles or more recent remakes and films, there are sets of cards featuring your favorite heroes, villains, summoned entities, and monsters in a variety of styles. And yes, there are plenty of those shiny holographic style cards that you treasured so much growing up, and they're beautiful.
The cards also feel incredibly well-produced and of the highest quality. Playing with a friend, the very first thing that he noted was how great the cards felt in his hand. They're made from fairly thick stock, and they're textured in a really classy way which makes them feel durable and "premium."
Easy to Pick Up, Difficult to Master
Any truly great game is easy to start playing, but will also eventually yield to a learning curve that must be mastered for more gratifying, complex gameplay. Turns can go very quickly in the Final Fantasy TCG in the beginning as you're learning, simply because the game is easy to learn. Attack and defense are wrapped up in a single power level. Powers and skills are plainly explained on the cards. Managing your Crystal Points and elemental affiliations is a breeze, and attacking and defending is a simple but gratifying transaction.
After your first few hands, though, you'll realize that you could be doing so much more with a competent deck.
The Final Fantasy TCG is very cleverly designed in such a way as to encourage players to "build" decks around certain elements and hero cards. Some of your "back up" cards (non-fighting cards) have special abilities that will buff all forwards (attacking cards) of a certain element. Some heroes will buff other heroes. Some spells only affect certain types of cards. As you draw and play more cards, you'll very quickly see all of the cool attacks and setups you could be pulling off if you had only slipped certain card combinations into your deck beforehand.
Your deck will always contain 50 cards, and before you know it you'll be fine-tuning those last 10-15 cards based on a single strategy that may or may not play out in your favor, depending on what your opponent has in store. Things get very competitive very quickly for players who like to win, but if you want to take it easy and just slap each other around with beautifully illustrated Final Fantasy characters, you can absolutely do that.
We've Only Tapped the Surface
I'm still building that perfect deck. I'm still addicted to buying booster packs, tearing them open, and thumbing straight to the holographic card to see who it is. My friend and I are still discovering new strategies and new incredibly useful skills with every hand we play, and I can't wait until the next evening we get to sit down and play together.
Square Enix will be releasing an whole new set in Opus III this July, and I hope more of you will pick up a starter back and dive in before then so we can get hyped together. We'll continue to cover the Final Fantasy TCG going forward, so be sure to chime in on Facebook or Twitter to let us know what you'd like to see.
In the meantime: grab a started pack, grab a friend, crank up that Final Fantasy OST compilation on YouTube to set the tone, and play a few hands. We have a feeling that you'll love it just as much as we did.