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Lo, what is this oddity? A tiny game-within-a-game becomes one of our much-vaunted Game of the Week entries? Don’t collapse to the floor in paroxysms of horror and/or confusion at this decision, weeping into your carpet as your goldfish Barney looks on with amusement and scorn intermingled on his face. DON’T do that. Instead, retain the respect of your water-dwelling friend -who often leaves pendulous strands of excrement protruding from its fishy-buttocks, which is really not dignified at all, so don’t dwell too long on his opinion anyway- by reading on.
Triple Triad, as ardent Fantasy-fans will attest, features in Final Fantasy VIII. It is much akin to the following title’s Tetra Master, an innocuous little trading card game. Said cards depict monsters, GFs and characters from the game (in ascending order of rarity). Each has four stats, one for each ‘edge,’ as you see here, and the two players place cards on the 3×3 grid alternately. Upon making direct contact, the two stats will contest, and the higher number will ‘flip’ the other card, placing it under the victorious player’s control. When the board is full, the possessor of the most cards wins. (You may opt to accompany this with a little victory dance. With your pants off. You may, conversely, not.) In summation, then, you’d be forgiven for thinking this is a mere distraction, a ludicrously-compulsive-though-ultimately-worthless sideshow. Only begrudgingly forgiven, though, because you’d be wronger than the wrong-est wrongness that was ever wrong.
Nevertheless, that conclusion is applicable to Final Fantasy IX’s Tetra Master. That title featured a fleeting -and compulsory- card tournament, implemented into the main story. A less-than-grand total of three matches later, you could abandon your cards on the dark, chilly streets of Treno, or set them on fire or something, vowing never to play the game again (not in a literal sense, granted. If you so chose, though, this could be your only engagement with Tetra Master for the game’s duration). It offered no tangible advantage in-game, serving primarily as an OCD-bating minigame for completionists and nothing more.
Not so with Triple Triad. The controversy-courting junction system that the game employs (which still induces furious fury-bile to erupt from the mouths of internet nerdsassins across the globe) is key to the card game’s utility. Quetzalcoatl’s Card Mod ability allows you to transform the collection you’ve accrued into items. This is paramount to obtaining the most precious materials, for weapon upgrades, junctioning magic to stats and more. In summation, the most effective manner of bolstering your characters to tiny-gods-in-awful-shorts-terrible-hair-and-inexplicable-cowboy-hats proportions is by collecting and modding cards.
There is potential, then, to wield sufficient power to conquer the game whilst still in the first area. It’s a monstrously long, soul-destroying process (many hours of the jaunty Triple Triad theme will make you fervently wish to punch your own eyes and ears in the face), but it’s a possibility. These card-flailing shenanigans are infinitely useful, and deceptively convoluted when the disparity between different regions’ rules come into play.
Screw you, random rule. Nobody loves you, and your breath is terrible.
Whether you’re endeavouring to abuse the power-up system to its fullest, or simply accrue all the character cards, Triple Triad is quite remarkable. I’d venture that it’s the most enjoyable minigame of its sort in the franchise, and engaging in it actually pays dividends.