What is a Final Fantasy game without it’s many distractions from the main quest?
Over the years, the Final Fantasy series has packed in all kinds of side quests and optional mini-games. But perhaps some of the most fond are the card games of the PS1-era FF games. Triple Triad (from FFVIII) and Tetra Master (FFIX). A common debate among fans is which one of these two games is the best? I’m here to break it down and figure it out!
We’ll start with a brief summary of each game and how they’re played.
Triple Triad may seem at first like a very simple game, but through the course of FFVIII, new rules are introduced that make it a bit more challenging. Being capable of challenging almost everyone you meet in the various towns of the game, you collect cards of monsters, bosses, summons, and even plot characters and battle them against each other.
On a 9×9 grid, players take turns laying down one card at a time, with the goal of “flipping” more cards in their favor by the time the grid is full. The way to do that? There is a number assigned to each side of the card, and if the number is bigger than the number of the opponents card that it lines up against, that card is flipped to your color.
The simple formula makes the game easy to pick up, but it’s the addition of special combos, elemental properties (which either +1 to all your numbers if you match up with the element on the board, or -1 to all your numbers if you don’t match), and the dreaded Random rule which randomly selects your five cards for you, instead of letting you choose. Learning to master these rules takes skill, and sometimes you may end up losing your rarest card to someone because of a bad Random hand or poor elemental fields.
But what’s the point? That’s where the Triple Triad card game really shines. Through the GF ability Card Mod, a player can turn the cards they’ve collected into various important items. These items range from necessary components for weapon upgrades to magic items that can be refined again into some of the best magic in the game, even hidden GF summon monsters such a Doomtrain! It’s almost impossible to get the most powerful aspects of the game without dabbling in the Triple Triad game. Not to mention, if you’re feeling like you’re a bit behind and need a boost, a few hours with the card game can go a long way towards building up your party.
A few small side quests related to the card game, including going head-to-head with the Queen of Cards and Balamb Garden’s Card Club make it so you can easily lose hours of gameplay trying to snag the rarest and best cards for refinement. And some of the one-of-a-kind characters cards are actually quite hard to find! Not to mentioning: MiniMog Card!
How popular is the game among fans? Even today there are online programs that have been made so players can play Triple Triad over the internet. Hundreds upon hundreds of custom fan-made cards featuring characters from the entire series have been generated. There are many sites out there to play Triple Triad with other FF fans. Sites such as Triple Triad Extreme. Some have even gone so far as to make real-life Triple Triad cards based on the ones in the game!
Riding the popularity of Triple Triad was not going to be easy. So in FFIX, Square set off to develop a slightly more complex, in-depth card game. Continuing the concept of cards based on monsters, summons, and characters, Tetra Master layered on a few more complex, strategic elements to make the game a bit harder to master.
Instead of numbers associated with only the four edges, cards now have arrows on either the four edges or the four corners. If an arrow lines up with a edge that is blank, the blank-edge card is instantly flipped. If the arrow lines up with another arrow, the cards begin to “battle”.
The four numbers at the bottom of each card represent a cards power, it’s class, it’s physical defense, and it’s magical defense. The card then gets a set number of HP assigned to it. The class of the card, for instance a “P” or “Physical” class card will attack the other card based on it’s Physical Defense number. Where as a Magical class card will attack based on the opposing cards Magical Defense. Other, more complex classes, such as the Flexible battle class and Assault battle class can also be found.
The real key to winning is to execute combos. If you flip an opposing card, that card then flips all the cards it’s arrows are pointing to, starting a possible chain reaction of flips. Being able to play these to your advantage can quickly turn the tide of a battle. Also, the grid itself is bigger, allowing for more freedom of where you position your cards and how you plan your strategies and battle field layout. Also, there are such things called “Grid Blocks” (the grey square in the picture above) that gets in the way and takes up one of the spots on the grid. Using these to your advantage is also an important key to victory.
The card game itself doesn’t have as much pull on the systems in the game. You don’t refine the cards, but there are a few fun side quests associated with the card game. And as with Triple Triad, there are plenty of online versions of the game with characters throughout the series. There was even an official physical version of the game released in Europe for a short time:
So, Which One’s Better?
This one is tricky. While the Tetra Master card game in FFIX is more complex and interesting, it doesn’t have as great of an impact on the actual game as Triple Triad. For that reason, I have to give the edge to Triple Triad. Being able to get important magic for junctioning and build up items to get the ever-awesome Doomtrain GF are just too awesome to ignore.
But if you’re going strictly by gameplay, Tetra Master is far more fun and requires a lot more skill to truly master, making it the better complete stand-alone game.