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The lost art of Final Fantasy IX (Mama Robotnik Research Thread)

EDIT - I'd advise scrolling through the thread, I've posted further images as I've unearthed them.

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:




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.


This is an enormous structure made out of petrified human beings.



(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.




Bravo! Excellent work uncovering all of these! Makes me want to replay FFIX. It's the only FF game I've beaten.


Thinks buying more servers can fix a bad patch
Thanks for the arts. Its always fascinating to see such forgotten/unseen stuffs that didn't end up in the final game personally.

Are these included in the "The Art of Final Fantasy IX" book?


ff9 has really good backgrounds, you could tell a lot of details were lost in the art. looking very nice.


The background artwork is really lovely. I can't imagine the amount of details pour to it only to be resize for a 320x240 display.
I'm not even much of a fan of FFIX's somewhat cartoony art direction, but this is pretty amazing. Wow. I can't believe the quality of the original art before it was downscaled. From the year 2000, it looks like it could have been produced today.

Great work; you're a super human.
I wish someone would do this for VIII


wow, all that art is super impressive. I just recently played FFIX for the first time but reading this has made me want to play it again.


Why did I open this thread as my Night shift is almost ending and am gonna to bed within the hour?
Subscribing so I read this later, FF9's my fav. FF game and learning more about it's development interests me.


I can't *believe* these lazy developers keep making file sizes so damn large. Btw, how does technology work?
Wow!! Love these threads - I know you put a lot of work into them. But this is the first time - I believe - that you've covered one of my favorite games of all time.

FFIX is easily in my Top 10, ever. Can't wait to sink my teeth into this thread. Man, what a freaking amazing game - beautiful for a title that's running on hardware now 18(!) years old.
Holy... wow this is incredible. Thanks for this. FFIX is one of my favorites. The nasty shit I would do for an HD remake... just nasty.


Kills Photobucket
Wonderful thread. While FFVI is my favorite, this is a not-too-distant second. I loved just about everything about this game.


Wow, so many wonderful memories of this game. Second PS1 game I ever personally owned. (Had to borrow 7 and 8 from friends)

Art direction of the PS1 Final Fantasy games are really wonderful. IX is particularly astounding. I miss this era of Square. =(
wow, some of those are great, some of the CG actually looks like paintings at that resolution.
Does anyone remember those sketches and concept art from FF9 that thegia.com discovered before the game was announced? I remember one of them being a chocobo powered airship or something like that.
Well since Square doesn't want to do HD towns, they would just need to remodel the characters and dig up these old backgrounds. I'd pay $20-$30 for a PS1 FF 'remake' with HD backgrounds, models and reencoded video.


Sucks we dont see more experimenting with pre-rendered backgrounds these days. Can you imagine how detailed characters could look even on 360/ps3 with all the power used just to render them? Its not like most backgrounds are even interactive these days..

Awesome art collection here. Some talented mofos thats for sure.


Mother of god.

Wonderful digging, and thanks you for finding so much art at relatively high resolutions. It's honestly not surprising that that art was created at a far higher resolution than the PlayStation could support, but based on what I know of Square's practices at the time, I doubt they have all of those assets available to do an easy HD re-release. They probably would've done it by now.

I'd love to be wrong, though.


I've always found the art of FFIX to have a distinct, haunting beauty to it. Thank you for bringing a brighter light to it.

Fantastic thread!


That is amazing! Imagine if VII and VIII also had an archive of highly detailed backgrounds? If Square were a better company we would be getting HD collections of their PS1 Final Fantasy games.


Amazing thread. LOOOOOVE Freya. I always thought this was one of the more underrated FFs, though it's not without its problems. Thanks for taking the time to compile all of this.

Alias Greed

Neo Member
When is kotaku or any major blog going to hire you like they did with Wario ? Your investigation pieces are amazing and the closest thing to "videogame investigative journalism" that exists.

I probably just made a word but you get my point.

This pictures are great, saving.


I was going to go to bed too. Damn, this is fine work man.

FF9 is pretty much my favorite FF as well and has a style I wish Square would return to. Those high rez pics; give a HD remake on the vita instead of the FF10 deal SE.
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