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Distant Worlds IV - Dalmasca Estersand from Final Fantasy XII
(Up Next: Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age - Eruyt Village)

Still More Surfing:
The Lost Art of Final Fantasy IX

May 1st, 2013 by Tony Garsow

Coffee, anyone?

Believe it or not, it’s been nearly thirteen years since Final Fantasy IX released in North America. Okay, maybe it’s not that hard to believe. The last Final Fantasy title for the original PlayStation served as a reflecting point for the franchise, and interwove elements and themes from the classics with the gameplay of the new (at the time) titles.

NeoGAF member Mama Robotnik has a penchant for digging up relics from the past, and has uncovered a veritable treasure trove of concept artwork and pre-rendered backgrounds from the game. I’ve chosen just a few to feature here from the dozens available, but you can view them all by reading their post here.

The game itself started development in 1998 at Squaresoft’s Honolulu office, in the middle of Final Fantasy VIII‘s development in Japan. At first, the game was planned to be a spinoff, but it was eventually given a proper Roman numeral as development progressed. In around 1999, most of the staff that had wrapped production on Final Fantasy VIII were moved to the Final Fantasy X project such as: Yoshinori Kitase, Kazushige Nojima, Yusuke Naora, and Tetsuya Nomura. This, of course, was due to Final Fantasy IX being deep in development. The game’s staff, including character designer Toshiyuki Itahana, eventually moved on to different projects like Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, who conceived the game and wrote its scenario, regards it as his favorite in the series.

What fond memories do you have with Final Fantasy IX? Would you like to see Square Enix revisit this world at some point in the future — or would you rather “let memory be a memory”? What about Final Fantasy IX stood out to you as an example of what a Final Fantasy game should be? Do you agree with the decision that Final Fantasy IX should become a numbered title? Leave us a comment with your thoughts below!

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  • alexsam

    If I were forced to name one FF title as my favorite, I think this might be it. I have so many fond memories of this; it was the first FF I played from start to finish (yeas, I was probably a little late to join the party, but I didn’t own a PSX when VII and VIII were released). So many nights spent in Treno, Alexandria and Lindblum. And one shocking turn of events after another. The one thing I felt could’ve been pointed out a little more in this game was Madain Sari. It was so sad to find out that such a powerful race had been reduced to a couple of little girls. They could’ve at least kept Eiko’s grandfather around so that he could properly tell us what happened in the village. My favorite character in the game was Amarant. He seemed to stand out from the rest of the party for some reason. The days of VII, VIII and IX really were the golden days for square! I doubt anything will surpass those games.

  • TheBadass

    I personally hope that the FFIX director is directing FFXV.

  • Exirias

    For me Final Fantasy IX is THE definition of Final Fantasy. I think it has everything a FF game should contain!

  • AnimaMagna

    The only FFIX character I can connect with in any way is Kuja, and that’s only because I feel sympathy for his plight. They look too cartoony to be taken seriously. I don’t mind the high-fantasy medieval thing, it’s just they treated the visuals like a N3DS title or some silly cartoon series, so that spoiled it for me.

  • Defrift

    @lol Kind of hard to treat something like a 3ds title when the 3ds did not even exist when FF9 came out.

  • AnimaMagna

    Alright, so maybe I was a little harsh about the 3DS slight. But I think you know what I mean: huge heads (Zidane, Vivi), silly physiques (Quina Quen), occasionally gormless expressions (Adelbert), a weak woman in a central role-modelling position (Garnet) and clothing that makes you topple back onto your bed laughing (the whole cast). I just can’t…get round that silliness.

  • AntagonistGB

    What’s wrong with the 3DS? I love FFIX’s art direction, personally. It adds to the charm so much, and keeps it from feeling bland. And when it comes to games I can’t take seriously because of the art direction, FFX tops that list, easily.

  • alexsam

    I, too, felt like it was a bit too cartoony. Especially in the beginning. But as the story continued and I got used to the art and surroundings, I started to like it. And it was the story itself that set the tone of the game. I mean, what’s there to laugh about when you *spoilers* see all of Cleyra destroyed by Odin. At that time, I remember I was so caught up in what was going on that I didn’t even have time to stop and check out the scenery! And that’s the magic of FF. I hope there’s a story like that in one of the new FF games, with twists and turns at every corner.

  • Defrift

    @anima The cartoony style never bothered, what bothers me is something almost all the mainstream FF’s share and that is a least one character in skanky clothing..in FF9’s case its Kuja but you get the idea.

  • rattyinc

    If you look back at the sprite based FF’s they had similar physique and clothing style, it was a point of recapturing this style in 3D. I think they pulled it off well.

  • freemason

    ff9 is the best!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    the system, story, score and everything is perfect.
    I cried a little at the ending
    I hope to see any ported version, HD version or remake version would be best.
    A lot of memory I want to remind

  • Guilherme Marques

    My favorite Final Fantasy, without a doubt <3 I'd be really happy with a remake of this one, the PS1's FFs were the best!