Final Fantasy IX is my favourite in the franchise. It’s a tremendously imaginative, funny, touching, effervescent journey through two colourful worlds. It’s unpredictable, enthusiastic and allows for generous and plentiful exploration – and overflows with optional secrets and locations. It’s a fantastic experience that doesn’t take itself too seriously: Consider that you start the game as a thief with his own tail – who then meets a princess demanding to be kidnapped from her obese mother – and then you crash-land a flying boat in a forest that turns to stone – while being hunted by two evil court jesters - and things just get madder from there.
Full disclosure if you haven’t played it: some contemporary gamers struggle with the battle speed – I don’t find it to be a problem, but it’s worth keeping in mind.
You might have seen my Metroid, Soul Reaver, Dark Prophecy and Silicon Knights threads – I’m getting better at unearthing things. Today I turned my scrutiny onto Final Fantasy IX – in particular the contributions made by the now-defunct Square USA. I wasn’t expecting to find much. I have been very, very surprised by what I discovered.
Some context: Here is what Final Fantasy IX looks like running at its native resolution on the PlayStation – the only format in which the game was released:
Emulators, whether on the PS3, PSP or PC, tend to sharpen and filter to smooth out the image quality, resulting in something like this:
Regardless of whether you think this post-processing is an improvement, upscaling and filtering cannot add to detail that didn’t ship on the game discs.
In my research, I unearthed artwork that show a ludicrous level of detail went into the game – detail that never made it into the final product due to the limitations of the target format. The “lost art” referenced in the thread title isn’t meant to describe this content as having been lost and found – it refers to the art details that were lost when the graphics were downconverted to a limited 32-bit console.
The following pieces are the highly-detailed environment art from a selection of Square USA staff. The intense details were eventually downscaled to the 320x240 native resolution of the PlayStation to become pre-rendered in-game backgrounds. As you can seem much was lost:
(CLICK FOR FULL SIZE)
(CLICK FOR FULL SIZE)
EDIT - FURTHER IMAGES
More thumbnailed images here:
Some of these pieces are stunningly detailed – which I find astounding given the inevitable loss of detail and clarity necessary to get the artwork onto the PSX disc. It is evident that if Square Enix have kept this material in their archives, they could produce a wonderful Resident Evil Remake –esque remake of Final Fantasy IX.
I’ve also found some detailed concept pieces – I’ve had a look through fan-sites and it seems most of them have not been given any mainstream attention.
First, the final character designs that the in-game and CGI cutscene models were based on:
Next, some really brilliant concept pieces. Some of these are dramatically different to the final product, and some are accompanied with revealing notes from the artist.
"THE LAST DUNGEON"
This is an enormous structure made out of petrified human beings.
"EARLY IFA TREE"
(looks like my Dad)
"IFA TREE" / Brain Tree
I wanted to give the tree a brain-like appearance. The final model ended up as a combination of two of my production paintings.
(Perhaps the “Crystal World” at the end of the game was meant to be a literal tree?)
The following pieces are without comment:
More thumbnailed images:
Additional discovered images added to OP on 3rd May:
That's everything I've been able to find, I hope you enjoyed it. I'll bump with an update if I find anything else.