The whole point of the “card” system is for cards to be nicely designed and full of all the information you could want at a moment’s notice. Right now, they are… not that. That still hasn’t changed, but I have taken a few first steps towards that end. Specifically, I’ve added card styling (in the form of card and header colors and textures) to Final Fantasy for the NES, in addition to images for monsters, weapons, and classes. This doesn’t actually address the main lack in these cards, which is important information that isn’t on them (in the case of FF1, this means things like who can equip an item, a monster’s elemental vulnerabilities, and so on). But it’s a first step.
I do hope the coloration is at least vaguely intuitive. I know the “type icons” in the upper left aren’t – if I had real graphic design skills, I’d create actual icons for those. As it is, it’s more about consistency than being intuitive – for instance, armor is a blue square across every guide. Once you notice that, hopefully it becomes a useful reference.
For the actual card and header colors, though, they should be somewhat intuitive. The big problem is that the color and texture meanings vary by card types. For spells, the colors represent the spell’s element, and for monsters they represent the opposite of the monster’s weakness (so it’s clear that if you see a red monster, it is vulnerable to ice, even if it isn’t actually a fire creature). However, the colors of area cards are mostly arbitrary, and have nothing to do with elements. Headers have similar issues – for many tables, the color represents rarity or uniqueness (so bosses or items that can’t be purchased tend to have gold headers, for instance). For areas, though, the headers represent area type – black means dungeons, for instance.
It’s certainly confusing to describe, but I hope it makes sense visually. If you have any suggestions for a way to make all this clearer, I’m all ears. As it is, I’m going to continue tweaking FF1 as a sort of Guinea pig, then move on to the popular guides like FFXIII.