Final Fantasy 9's card game, called Tetra Master, is a very immersive and complex game. Though it hardly reaches the complexity of Final Fantasy 8's Triple Triad, Tetra Master is still a fun and very interesting game to play. Though it only becomes a necessity in one part of the game, it is still a fun mini-game to pass the time.
Quite a number of people, though not everyone, in the world of Gaia love to play Tetra Master. As you progress through the game, people's playing skills gradually get better and better. And, indeed, as people's skills increase so do their card collection. Once you reach the final area of the game, many of the characters you can play cards with will have fantastic cards!
Gaining cards is simple enough. A number of them can be found merely through beating enemies, or inside treasure chests. Many of the best cards, however, can only be gained through beating other characters. We strongly recommend playing other in-game-characters as often as you can, because there is a card tournament at one point in the game that you must pass through.
To begin a card game against another character (and assuming they're willing to play), press the SQUARE button while facing them. If they wish to play, they will confirm the challenge. If not, they'll merely talk to you.
Tetra Master's card system is slightly difficult to understand at first, though after a short time makes perfect sense. Each card in the game has its own own stat and arrow combination, which can be changed through diligent playing. A Tetra Master card generally looks something like this:
All cards have 4 different stats. The layout of the stats follows these guidelines:
Each card also has between 0 and 9 arrows. As a general rule, if a specific card has a great deal of arrows, it does not necessarily make it a fantastic card. While, indeed, it allows for easy attacking of other cards, it also allows your opponent to attack your card from many more sides.
As previously stated, cards gain power after playing a number of games. The stat that is upgraded is completely random. Once any of the four stats becomes an "E", it cannot raise past that.
Your entire card inventory can be accessed at any time from the Main Menu, by selecting "Card". There are 100 spaces in total on the Grid, and only 100 cards can be held at any given time. If you ever end up with more than 100 cards, you must discard any already-owned cards, or completely skip the gaining of a new card.
"Rare Cards" are, without a doubt, the best cards in the game. Most rare cards can only be gained through a great deal of work, though some can be gained by fulfilling side-quests, opening treasure-chests, or just killing enemies.
As an example, one of the rarest cards in the game is the Namingway card. There are only two Namingway cards in the game. The first can be found in Kuja's Palace, just under the pile of books in Kuja's study. The other can be found in the Treno Card Tournament.
One of the best ways to get rare cards is through the Chocobo Hot & Cold game. Several of the Chocographs found within that mini-game wield fantastic cards. Be sure you have room in your card inventory before you go Chocograph hunting, though! If you dig up a chocograph with cards and don't have enough room for another, that card will be lost.
Most of the Rare Cards are cards that are not the "standard" Monster cards. Most are, for example, weapon, armor, airship or city cards.
When a game of Tetra Master begins, and your cards have been chosen, a 9-spot grid will be place down and several gray blocks will (most likely) be placed over some of the grid spots. Your cards will be shown in blue, on the right. Your opponent's cards will be facedown on the left, in red. As the game begins, a small coin will be flipped to decide who goes first.
Winning a game of Tetra Master merely involves being able to place cards in the right spot, and understanding if you have a chance of "overtaking" other cards. This depends majorly on the arrow arrangement on both cards in question, and the stats that make them up.
Each card has up to eight arrows pointing outward, positioned on the sides or the corners of each card. These arrows determine what happens when a card is placed next to an opponent's card. If the arrow on your card points to your opponent's card, you can convert the enemy's card to blue. If there are no arrows on the two sides or corners of the two opposing cards that are touching, nothing happens. If the enemy card has an arrow, but the card you just played does not, then nothing happens. However, if a card is placed so that an arrow is pointing at a side or corner of an enemy card that does not have an arrow, you capture the enemy card.
When two or more arrows are facing each other, a "card battle" begins. Card battles use the stats of both cards to decide who wins. For example, if a card with a physical attack of 7 took on a card with a physical defense of 3, the opponent card would definitely be flipped. If arrows on your card are facing arrows on more than one card, you must pick which card you wish to "battle" first. Sometimes, after a "battle" has been won, a combo can also take place.
Once a card game is over, the player with the most cards in their color wins. Immediately after the game, you will be able to pick one opponent card. Alternatively, if all of the cards on the grid are blue, a "Perfect" mode happens which allows you to have every single one of your opponent's cards.
As you collect cards, your prestige in the world of Tetra Master also increases. Your Collector's Rank, a number between 0 and 1700, is a fine way to find out how you're doing.
Your collector's rank raises when you collect cards and when your cards are upgraded. The only way to reach 1700 is to have 100 card with completely unique arrow combinations, and have all of them with an "EAEE" stat range. Reaching 1700 does not achieve anything, though. If you reach it, you deserve a pat on the back though!