New Final Fantasy revealed?

[03.15.99] » Intriguing design documents promise a radically different direction.

   Final Fantasy has become Square's flagship "cinematic RPG" series. But there was once a simpler time, when Final Fantasy focused not on FMV, but on elemental crystals, job classes, and pointy-hatted mages. Aside from Final Fantasy Tactics' design, it seemed that Square had forgotten these games of yore ... or had they?

   Take a look at these design documents:

   Interesting, no? A few months ago, the GIA heard from a reliable industry insider that claimed to have seen early video of Final Fantasy VIII and IX. The insider said that Final Fantasy IX looked nothing like the realistic VII or VIII. Instead, it was said that "IX is all about 'hobbits.' [super-deformed characters] Actually, the little guy with the big hat with a wide brim and a pointy top (from some Chocobo game) appears to be the main character." The GIA trusts this source implicitly, but we found this shift in direction rather hard to swallow. After all, Square has proven that the more realistic, cinematic-style RPG sells well. Why would they re-tool their flagship series when it isn't broken?

   More recently, the GIA received the aforementioned design documents, and they were labelled as "FF9." This trustworthy source had provided us with information in the past, but these documents were hard to believe. They looked authentic, but were of a drastically different style ... then we remembered our first contact's words. Stylistically, the two enigmas fit.

   The design documents hint at a very "old-school," system-based title similar to Final Fantasy I, III, or V. Many of the characters and locations seem to be allusions to previous, more"traditional" titles. Is that blind woman in the magic shop Matouya? Will those dancing brooms teach you a spell? Has Garland been hitting the Meta-RX? And just where do all these pointy-hatted fellows come from?

   The GIA finds it highly unlikely that Square will release this title under the name "Final Fantasy IX." Too much time, energy, and money has been spent redefining the brand name to confuse the many "new" players with this shift in style. It is possible, however, that Square has been developing this title internally under the name "Final Fantasy IX." The GIA thinks that several other possibilities are likely:

  • Final Fantasy "Gaiden." This series would appeal to younger audiences and old-school fans that enjoy the super-deformed look and traditional job systems. While the main Final Fantasy series would remain cinematic in style, this "gaiden" would be a fallback to the medieval RPG days of yore.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics II. The jobs and graphical style are similar to that of the first title. The various locations, however, would suggest more detailed non-battle gameplay than the first's.
  • Final Fantasy I "remix." Many of the locations and characters seem not only traditional, but taken directly from the first title. Perhaps the success of the Final Fantasy Collection has encouraged Square to "remix" their original title with new graphics, music, plot, and gameplay.
  • Nothing. It's possible that some overzealous character designer deep in the bowels of Square Japan tossed these off in a fit of boredom. It's also possible that these are just preliminary sketches for a title that never made it past the drawing board.

   Nevertheless, the GIA is sure of one thing: these are authentic design documents for some Final Fantasy title. As such, they are worth sharing with our visitors -- even if they eventually come to nothing. And if they are of Square's next title? Then the future has never looked ... older!

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