Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Final Fantasy Trading Card Game - Introduction

Final Fantasy is a name of a game series that you've probably heard of even if you have no idea what it is. FF is a famous JRPG series from SquareEnix. The very first Final Fantasy game was released in 1987. For those who have no idea about the worlds and 'magic' of Final Fantasy I would recommend you to watch a CGI movie FFXV Kingsglaive. It is a prequel to the Final Fantasy XV game that came out last year in summer.

Many of FF players wished for a card game with FF theme. Seven years ago, in Japan, they actually got it. The game - Final Fantasy Trading Card Game - was first released in 2010 and over 2000 cards were printed during the six year period the game was in print (15 distinct sets named Chapter [number]). Last year the western world got an English version of this game. The game also is being reprinted in Japan so the cards would be the same for all regions. Few years ago I read the rules of the game but it did not really caught my interest. Since I couldn't get my hands on the game itself I couldn't try it out. This time though I was sent a copy of this game to review it.

The designer of the game is Taro 'John' Kageyama which is a name that some of you might know. He is a former Magic pro. He won Japanese Nationals, top8ed a GP and played in several PTs. If I tell you that FFTCG is similar to Magic, it won't be a surprise to anyone. FFTCG is produced by SquareEnix itself which is a good thing. There won't be any kind of license problems (and premature end of the game).

The new FFTCG came out when people were still playing Final Fantasy XV and probably because of this fact the game was sold with more success. It spread after its release at PAX in Australia. The question is who buys the game? Collectors that buy the FFTCG packs because they want to collect their favorite character, similarly to why people buy Weiss & Schwartz booster packs? Or players of other TCGs like Magic: The Gathering? The answer is: Both. For the time being there are three Starter Set decks available - Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy XIII. These games were chosen for the western market because those were the games with the most success in Europe and United States. Then the very first set named OPUS I is available. It contains 216 cards which of 186 are new cards. The set contains cards from Dissidia Final Fantasy, FFVII Remake and World of Fantasy. The next set will contain cards from FFXII, FFVIII, FFIV. The set will feature 148 new cards.

The game is very easy to explain but has a great tactical and deckbuilding depth. The games do not take long in general (20 minutes even if you struggle?). Those that know how to play Magic won't have problems learning this game and will have much deeper understanding of the game than new players to TCGs. The simplicity of rules is something that surprised me because I can't really remember a game that would have such simple rules but would have such a depth as well. When I was playing the game for the first time it reminded me of Cardfight Vanguard and Duel Masters (with ofcourse Magic rules).

Each player tries to win the game by dealing 7 damage, milling their opponent or dealing damage when there are no cards left in opponent's deck. Each player uses cards that represent characters from the games and Eidolons . Some characters are meant for attacking - Forwards, and some are support characters - Backups - that produce CPs primarily but they have abilities of their own. Eidolons have immediate effects on the game. Each of the characters/Eidolons have a certain element. All this tries to represent what we know from the Final Fantasy games. Snow will be Ice, Shiva as well. Leviathan is going to be a Water card etc. Lightning is Lightning^_^.

There are eight elements in FFTCG and won't be any surprise to a JRPG player. Ice, Fire, Wind, Earth, Lightning, Water, Light and Dark. Light and Dark are rather special elements and use different rules. Fire is very straightforward, it deals direct damage, has strong characters. Ice is the opposite. It stalls the game, can tap characters or discard cards. Earth is capable to pump Forwards and protect them, but it can also deal some damage globally. Wind can untap characters and mill. Lightning can destroy Forwards unconditionally, has fast Forwards. Water is the control element, it can bounce or counter for example.

Final Fantasy TCG uniqueness is in its resource system. Cards are played by using CP (Crystal Points). 1 CP paid has to correspond to the card's element and the rest can be paid by generic CPs meaning any element CP. CPs can be generated in two ways, either by discarding a card and gaining 2 CP of the element of the discarded card or by tapping a Backup character that produces one CP of its own element (note that the Backup character has to be already played and thus paid by those CP). This system may not sound complicated or special but when you actually try to play the game you will find out that there is way more to it than it seems.

FFTCG is a fast paced game that has a very competitive feel even if you play with the Starter Set decks. The game punishes its players for badly reading the board state and resources' total. I don't think that this is a bad thing but it means that for some casual players this game might be too 'complicated' or 'harsh'. Those players that want to just chill out and play the cards they like without their game being disrupted by their opponents might not like it. But players with a bit more competitive attitude might love the game. The game has a random effect that may be a target of hate or love. It is called EX Burst. Some cards have EX Burst effects. Whenever a player is dealt damage, the top card of their deck is put into their Damage Zone. If the card has a EX Burst ability, the effect may be immediately used during Damage Resolution. EX Burst effects are often very strong and can turn a winning game into a losing one.

When OPUS I was being released there was a series of (pre)release tournaments. After this there were tournaments throughtout the world with 50-70 participants which seems pretty good.

The only thing I do not currently like much is the card design (I mean graphically speaking), it was redesigned a bit but that did not help much. I always loved Final Fantasy games for its awesome CG rendition and art be it by Amano or Nomura. But the cards seem to be rather 'bleak' even when it features screenshots from the game or the art by the mentioned artists. There is something that is missing. It does not have the awesome feeling as the Final Fantasy digital games and I find this to be a little bit sad. Otherwise the game is 5/5 for me but because of some things I don't understand how it came to them I would give it just 4/5 (for example no worldwide release on the same date, graphics, no comprehensive rules etc) but even this can get better (I'd like to actually see the FFXIII Eidolons in their 'normal mode' rather than the Gestalt one)

Apart from these little things, if you are wondering what kind of a game to pick up next, I can recommend this game. I don't know if it is sold by your LGS or anywhere in your country, but if it is available, give it a try, because it is totally worth it.

If the tournament scene will flourish we will be able to play both constructed and limited. Packs in this game contain 12 cards and 4 packs are drafted. Sealed deck is also possible and is played with 9 booster packs. This should also help people get the cards they need.

Here are few useful links.
Official English site ->
Card database can be found here ->
Official Japanese webpage ->