Every TCG Has a Story: Final Fantasy

Posted on 3/7/2024

The Final Fantasy TCG celebrates the classic JRPG series using an array of artwork styles and gameplay mechanics reminiscent of the flagship video game series.

Final Fantasy is one of the most celebrated and influential Japanese role-playing game (JRPG) series in the world. Released on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1987, the first Final Fantasy game was a critical success, and is credited for playing a major part in popularizing JRPGs in the West. Since then, Final Fantasy has grown from a standalone game to a multimedia franchise, including several video games, films, anime, manga, novels and, of course, trading card games.

The Final Fantasy TCG covers nearly every piece of Final Fantasy media in TCG format, from the main series games to spin-off titles. Each of the TCG cards come in a variety of designs, including basic artwork, full-art cards, legacy artwork (just look at that beautiful portrait of Cloud and Aerith in the classic Final Fantasy style!) and even Theatrhythm-style art.

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Chapter Series vs. Opus Series

The Final Fantasy TCG was first released in Japan in 2011. The first iteration of the game was called the “Chapter” series, and it was exclusive to Japanese audiences. This version of the game was a two-player face-off in which each player uses Crystal Points to play cards to deal damage and add cards to their opponent’s Damage Zone. When a player’s Damage Zone has seven cards in it, that player loses the game. Chapter series cards were simple in design, with a white back and thin texture.

In 2015, Square Enix discontinued the Chapter series in Japan. A year later, the company announced a reboot of the game with a new series name: the “Opus” series, and that the game would be translated for overseas audiences. While rebooting the game, Square Enix made several changes to the cards, including expanding the game to include 2-4 players, overhauling several card designs and revising the card production process.

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Unlike Chapter series cards, Opus series FF:TCG cards have a black back and a thick, durable texture. Much of the same character artwork was reused in the Opus series, but backgrounds were overhauled and improved. Textbox frames were touched up, background colors were added based on a card’s elemental type, and the “Category” attribute was added as a new mechanic.

Square Enix continues to release new Final Fantasy TCG sets within the Opus series to this day, with each set focusing on certain characters from each Final Fantasy game. The latest set — Beyond Destiny — was released in November 2023 and focuses on Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin, a 2022 video game released for PlayStation, Xbox and PC.

How to play

Players begin by building a deck of 50 cards consisting of several types, including the following:

  • Forwards
  • Backups
  • Monsters
  • Summons
  • Items

Collectively, Forwards, Backups and Monsters are considered Character cards, which are used for attacking, providing CP (Crystal Points, which are like Mana from Magic: The Gathering) and support. Meanwhile, Summons provide instant effects that can be played at any time, and items are used to strengthen Character cards.

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During each turn, players Dull (or tap) their Backup cards or discard a card to charge CP, and then use that CP to play either a Character, Summon or Item. Next, the player attempts to attack their opponent using their Forward cards. Opponents can block with their own Forwards. If two Forwards clash, the one with the higher power amount wins the clash, while the loser is put into the Break Zone. If the opponent chooses not to block, they put a card from the top of their deck into their Damage Zone.

In addition to basic combat, Character cards may have abilities, which are broken into four categories: action, field, auto and special. Each type of ability helps the player that controls the Character get closer to victory by either spending CP for the ability, activating it automatically upon playing the card or following text rules to activate the ability.

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Finally, players who are defending against an attack have a saving grace: the EX Burst. When flipping over the top card of the deck for the Damage Zone, a defending player may flip over a card with “EX” printed in the top-right corner. When the player turns over this card, the effect of the card happens immediately. This gives the defending player a chance to turn the tide of the game by either giving their opponent an immediate disadvantage or helping out the defending player in some way.

CGC Cards began accepting Final Fantasy TCG cards in 2021. Since then, CGC Cards has certified 1,588 Final Fantasy TCG cards, according to the CGC Cards Population Report. Most of these certified cards are from the Opus I-V era, though CGC Cards has certified Final Fantasy TCG cards from every era of the game, including Chapters.

Would you like to learn more about Final Fantasy and other related collectibles that have been certified by CGC Cards and CGC Video Games? Check out the video below!

About CGC

Since revolutionizing comic book grading in 2000, CGC has grown to include certification services for a vast variety of pop culture collectibles. These divisions include CGC CardsCGC Video Games and CGC Home Video. CGC Cards provides expert card grading for TCGs, sports cards and non-sports cards. CGC Video Games is dedicated to video game grading for the most popular consoles, including Nintendo, Sega, Atari, PlayStation and more. The newest division of CGC, CGC Home Video, provides expert VHS grading in addition to other types of home media.

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