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

PedroPanache

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I'd love a HD take on the PS1 era Final Fantasy games. Beautiful pre-rendered backgrounds with 3D characters. With the big budget Final Fantasy games taking forever to come out, perhaps Square should have developed a game in the style of the PS1 games as a Final Fantasy Classic of sorts; it's that era that has the most resonance, considering how much Sony pushed those games as flagship titles. We're probably never going to see a modern Final Fantasy with the kind of depth and detail those PS1 games had in terms of towns, villages, sidequests etc. Also, Chocobo Hot n Cold was a great mini-game.
 

Dunan

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Mar 6, 2010
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Mama Robotnik, my hat is off to you. What beautiful concept art this game had, and what an effort you put in to find it all.

[Now has anyone done this for FF8 or 12?)

This reminds me of the beautiful FFXII background art that only reveals itself when we run the game at a high resolution -- only in the PS1 era the high-res stuff was downscaled before it made it onto the disc.

Trivia: remember how, in the opening of this game when the camera pans over a map of Gaia, Lindblum is misspelled "Lindblum"? Looks like that misspelling was by the original artists and not whoever made that map:

About a -3 on the mind-blowing scale, but fun to notice nonetheless.
 

B-Dex

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But I thought Square said HD Towns were hard? But I guess making them in HD then downconverting and losing all detail is easier? ...:(
 

Psxphile

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Jan 5, 2012
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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.
What a beautiful game. Thanks for the research, Mama Robotnik.

I also remember seeing some artworks waaay back then...like a dark-skinned character and a "chocobo copter". Are they related to FF9 somehow?
Looking for the concept art that The GIA unearthed before this games release that no one believed. Left disappointed.

I want the sexy dwarve!!! Anyone remember that?

You're in luck, someone archived it.
 

orioto

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Awesome Mama!

I've studied the game graphics recently for an art (that i'll probably release tonight due to canceled commission anyway..) and it's an amazing exemple of downgraded backgrounds. Not only due to resolution of the prerendered art, but especially due to the limitations of the real time part in combats.

And i was thinking, looking at some of the amazing prerendered bg.. This is just a perfect level of detail to showcase a next gen console..



I mean something like that is just tailor made for a real time port now.
Now of course... if Square don't keep assets...

Anyway see you later for the art, this thread can't come at a better time :p
 

synce

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Sep 18, 2012
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The backgrounds are beautiful, nothing will ever top pre-rendered for me... Would die to see this kind of discovery for Parasite Eve 2
 

PedroPanache

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I loved the atmosphere of the towns. Each one had a distinctive style and tone, but my favourite was Burmecia. It was so depressing and miserable with the rain eternally coming down, it was glorious.

 

Dragon1893

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Feb 20, 2013
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IX is also my favorite.
God bless this thread.
This game had such a great atmosphere, the game was full of charisma, from the characters to the towns, everything had so much charm.
It's sad that I don't see square ever coming close to doing something like this again.

Edit: now I'm getting an urge to play this again.
 

mojo2

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Dec 13, 2012
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This game, this thread.
Square make it happen <3

Also, I can imagine the *hnnngghh!* those artists had when they've seen their fine art in PS1 resolution.
 

Zanasea

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Mar 28, 2007
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Very nice. We always need more FFIX love in this sad world where people only think of VII.

It must be noted that many background designs in FFIX were created by a team of international designers—mostly from Japan and the US—which was a first in the series. This is because the game was developed in Square Honolulu. I remember checking some names on the Internet a while ago, I was amazed to see some of these designers later worked on Jak and Daxter, Uncharted series, The Last of Us, Company of Heroes, Killzone, Heavy Rain, Call of Duty, Lord of the Rings games and God of War, among others.

Oh, and the main characters were designed by Toshiyuki Itahana, who later designed FF Crystal Chronicles.
 
Jan 28, 2010
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This game is so hot.

Among my favourite Final Fantasy ever, along with IV and VII. It was so unique, with all those weird characters.

It would be nice to talk about how the game went in development. I just read it was developed in the Hawaian branch of Square Enix, is it the same that created the movie?

Thanks for the research, anyway. Those artworks are wonderful. I already noted at the time how detailed the environments were, in line with the medieval setting (VII and VIII were futuristic in a sense). The worldmap was great as well, maybe one of the best worldmaps in a jRPG ever. And that theme!

Finally, one of the best artwork:

 

Soma

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Wow. This thread.

Welp. Looks like I'm gonna be doing another FF IX playthrough this weekend.

Hands down some of my absolute favorite art direction in any video game.
 

DaBCGang

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Mar 20, 2012
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I've always wondered why they erased half of freya's face in the cg art. Just makes it look odd.
 

pa22word

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Still the swan song of the Final Fantasy series as far as I'm concerned. I know people (for some reason) love FFX, but it's kinda hard to deny that this game is, in more than just aesthetics, pretty much the "last of the old guard" putting together an FF game.
 

Chev

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May 4, 2010
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Relevant to this thread, a link about the hidden message I found on one of the FF9 models

If only Square had kept the original render files they could do HD remakes for an insanely low cost.
Actually probably not, for three reasons. For starters pretty much every render went through additional 2D touch-ups, so you'd have to redo them. Second, a common problem is not having software that can read the old render files anymore in the first place. Third, even companies that keep them usually don't sort them. When the project's over the last thing devs want is more work that won't benefit the game itself, so they'll just dump everything on a server and you'll need tons of work to just make sense of what was left.
 

orioto

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Actually probably not, for three reasons. For starters pretty much every render went through additional 2D touch-ups, so you'd have to redo them. Second, a common problem is not having software that can read the old render files anymore in the first place. Third, even companies that keep them usually don't sort them. When the project's over the last thing devs want is more work that won't benefit the game itself, so they'll just dump everything on a server and you'll need tons of work to just make sense of what was left.
That's sad to hear..
 
Sep 2, 2007
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FFIX is my favourite Final Fantasy game, and in my top ten of favourite games ever, thats how special is for me.
So thanks Mama Robotnik for all the awesome art you discovered, Im going to pass it also to a friend that is a great FFIX fan.

Im going to add no other RPG has the amazing and numerous towns FFIX has, that is what I most hate of RPGs, that nobody is trying to do this types of towns anymore all around their world map (and not a big one, that doesnt even look as cool as some of the cities of FFIX, and some small shitty villages). Even the small villages designs were amazing (like Dali).

And the characters were so fun and the story so lighthearted, it would be a breath of fresh air even if released right now.

Im sad like this is the cult game of the FF, because it surely need more love than the overrated FFVII.

Talking about art, some years ago I met one of the artists that worked on FFIX, Christian L Scheurer, on an exposition made in my university called Swiss Design in Hollywood (John Howe was also there). He was a great guy and I asked some questions about him working in FFIX that he gladly answered (he worked a lot on that game), and at the end I bought the book of the exposition and he signed me "To a big FFIX fan!" with a small drawing.
 
Jan 28, 2010
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FFIX is my favourite Final Fantasy game, and in my top ten of favourite games ever, thats how special is for me.
So thanks Mama Robotnik for all the awesome art you discovered, Im going to pass it also to a friend that is a great FFIX fan.

Im going to add no other RPG has the amazing and numerous towns FFIX has, that is what I most hate of RPGs, that nobody is trying to do this types of towns anymore all around their world map (and not a big one, that doesnt even look as cool as some of the cities of FFIX, and some small shitty villages). Even the small villages designs were amazing (like Dali).

And the characters were so fun and the story so lighthearted, it would be a breath of fresh air even if released right now.

Im sad like this is the cult game of the FF, because it surely need more love than the overrated FFVII.

Talking about art, some years ago I met one of the artists that worked on FFIX, Christian L Scheurer, on an exposition made in my university called Swiss Design in Hollywood (John Howe was also there). He was a great guy and I asked some questions about him working in FFIX that he gladly answered (he worked a lot on that game), and at the end I bought the book of the exposition and he signed me "To a big FFIX fan!" with a small drawing.
Please, share :D
 

Chev

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Im sad like this is the cult game of the FF, because it surely need more love than the overrated FFVII.
As much as I like that game, it set itself up that way, it can't be anything else. FF7 and 8 both were the poster children of a "let's try things that have never been seen before!" mindset right when the console market had been irrevocably changed by the PS1, while FF9 was "let's do things like we used to in the old days". Technologically, it does nothing FF8 didn't do, and thematically, it deliberately tries to call back to the previous eras. So naturally it's not gonna be particularly remembered when all the surrounding games were exploring new directions.
 
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It set itself up that way, it can't be anything else. FF7 and 8 both were the poster children of a "let's try things that have never been seen before!" mindset right when the console market had been irrevocably changed by the PS1, while FF9 was "let's do things like we used to in the old days". Technologically, it does nothing FF8 didn't do, and thematically, it deliberately tries to call back to the old days. So naturally it's not gonna be particularly remembered when all the surrounding games were exploring new directions.
VII will always be remembered for its wow factor, which is fine. It also made jRPGs massively popular in the West. IX came late during PS1 lifespan, but in my opinion is the less criticized among the three games.
 
Sep 2, 2007
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I dont remember a lot of the details he told, some of the things that I remember.
-He was very pleased that I told him during the round table that I was a big FFIX fan, because he loved working at that game and very few people talk about it with him, something that makes him sad.
-He is is a big friend of Sakaguchi and also did the art of Lost Odyssey, becuase Sakaguchi wanted him to be in the team.
-He was one of the main designers of the theater ship of the queen. If IRC he said they were showed flying ships of the older FF games and they had to make gigantic and luxury versions of it, and that it was a lot of fun making it.
-Also the marriage scene of FFIX is pretty similar to what he did when he got married, because he loved drawing the scenery on that scene.
The majority of his art can be found in the last images Mama Robotnik put in the OP, the ones after the marriage scene and the old coffe man (also done by him). You can see a lot of his art in the CG videos in the game.
 

Suikoguy

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I'd love a HD take on the PS1 era Final Fantasy games. Beautiful pre-rendered backgrounds with 3D characters. With the big budget Final Fantasy games taking forever to come out, perhaps Square should have developed a game in the style of the PS1 games as a Final Fantasy Classic of sorts; it's that era that has the most resonance, considering how much Sony pushed those games as flagship titles. We're probably never going to see a modern Final Fantasy with the kind of depth and detail those PS1 games had in terms of towns, villages, sidequests etc. Also, Chocobo Hot n Cold was a great mini-game.
The mismanagement of SquareEnix has made this impossible.
Assuming they still have their old assets, this would not be a tremendous undertaking. It's quite obvious, based on these pictures, that way more detail went into (at least 9) then was needed.
 
Jan 28, 2010
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I dont remember a lot of the details he told, some of the things that I remember.
-He was very pleased that I told him during the round table that I was a big FFIX fan, because he loved working at that game and very few people talk about it with him, something that makes him sad.
-He is is a big friend of Sakaguchi and also did the art of Lost Odyssey, becuase Sakaguchi wanted him to be in the team.
-He was one of the main designers of the theater ship of the queen. If IRC he said they were showed flying ships of the older FF games and they had to make gigantic and luxury versions of it, and that it was a lot of fun making it.
-Also the marriage scene of FFIX is pretty similar to what he did when he got married, because he loved drawing the scenery on that scene.
The majority of his art can be found in the last images Mama Robotnik put in the OP, the ones after the marriage scene and the old coffe man (also done by him). You can see a lot of his art in the CG videos in the game.
Cool, thanks! It'd be nice to know more about the development process. For example, we know that some original ideas on FFVII went to PE, something like that.

The mismanagement of SquareEnix has made this impossible.
Assuming they still have their old assets, this would not be a tremendous undertaking. It's quite obvious, based on these pictures, that way more detail went into (at least 9) then was needed.
I also remember that FFIX budget was incredibly high, around $40mln.
 

Zanasea

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Mar 28, 2007
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It would be nice to talk about how the game went in development. I just read it was developed in the Hawaian branch of Square Enix, is it the same that created the movie?
Yes! Square Honolulu didn't last long but they developed Parasite Eve, Final Fantasy IX and The Spirits Within. I think they also worked on their Animatrix segment before closing.
 

Kule

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Thank you for the great collection of artwork! I'm amazed at how much atmosphere they managed to pack into this game and the characters are so full of life. I think i'm definitely overdue a replay.
 

Mr. RHC

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Apr 16, 2012
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As beautiful as the game is, so is this thread OP!

Mhmhmmm, I need to replay this game so bad. It's on my RTTP backlog, waiting, slumbering.
 
Dec 20, 2005
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Replayed this last year and was surprised by how much it holds up, the pacing is what impressed me the most, puts a lot of current jrpgs to shame.
 

Terra

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I need to replay this game so bad. It's on my RTTP backlog, waiting, slumbering.
No reason to wait! It is worth every hour spent. Replayed it two years ago, and finished Chocobo hot and cold, wich I did not do back in 2001-2002.
 

Pyrrhus

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Is it me or is there a slight water color filter to the rendered images? That sort of thing was completely lost when they downsampled it to 320x240. I love FF9, though it's been some time since I last played it. It was the last "original style" FF, before the style mutated heavily from FFX onward.
 

Mr. RHC

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Cecil Kim was a concepter on Final Fantasy IX - Some of his contributions can be seen here:

http://www.cecilkim.com/portfolio/portfolio_detail.asp?portfolioID=176&MainCategoryName=Professional&MainCategoryID=1&CategoryName=Others&CategoryID=13&God_of_War:Final Fantasy IX

Interesting that the same man went on to become a concepter at Santa Monica for God of War :)
Oh, that's a really cool concept, the place is bigger and it feels more alive, I could totally see this in FF IX -2.
:(