New Final Fantasy revealed

[05.24.99] » Design documents promise a radically different direction for "Final Fantasy IX"

   If you haven't seen it already, check out the GIA's previous story on Square's new Final Fantasy title. As mentioned then, two extremely trustworthy sources have revealed that Square is referring to this new title internally as "Final Fantasy IX." The first insider saw early video of Final Fantasy VIII and IX (well before FF VIII's release) and let loose this shocker: Final Fantasy IX looked nothing at all like the realistic VII or VIII. Instead, he said, "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 - at the time - found this shift in direction rather hard to swallow.

   Soon afterwards, the GIA received the aforementioned design documents (labelled "FF9") from another trustworthy, frequently contributing source. These pictures matched up with the first contact's game description, so we ran the story.

   Since posting the first batch of design documents (with our reservations), two more pieces of the puzzle have fallen into place. First, the second contact has contacted the GIA with 31 new design documents. While six well-drawn pictures might be an elaborate hoax, over three dozen, detailed documents are beyond reproach - especially from a trusted source such as this. These new documents are far more detailed than the first batch, and include several full-color pictures and even a CG render. The source also reconfirmed that these documents were for the title Square is calling "Final Fantasy IX."

   Second, in a recent interview with Next Generation Online, Shinji Hashimoto, Square's Senior Vice President of Software Development and Character Licensing and lead producer for Final Fantasy VIII, said something interesting regarding Final Fantasy IX:

NGO: Speaking of part 9, is it in the works?

Hashimoto: Whether it will be called Final Fantasy 9 or not is not yet decided. At Squaresoft, we are always looking to come up with cutting edge storylines and systems. Whether that new storyline will be called FF9 has not been decided.

   In other words, Final Fantasy IX was something so different for the series that not even Square is sure if it should be called "Final Fantasy IX." Square's own doubt helped quell our own; Square had their own potential misgivings regarding the title's name. While it's likely that this title will see release under the Final Fantasy name, it may not be published as a "main series" Final Fantasy title, but rather a "gaiden" (such as Final Fantasy Tactics). It should be made very clear that this game is not necessarily Final Fantasy IX.

   The first of the new pictures, wantonly stamped with the Japanese character for "Secret!," describes the new battle system. Although much is obscured by the large red stamps, what can be read offers a few tantalizing details. What the GIA can make out of the text describes "attack," "defense," and "eight-way movement" abilities for the "minigame boss battle system" - taken in conjunction with the clear movement arrows and visible "Boss Enemy" energy bar, the game (or at least its battle system) appears to be far more action-oriented than its predecessors.

   The second picture is an early render from one of the game's CG sequences - it's certainly up to Square's standards, and, with its multi-propellered airships, promises as much of a return to the Final Fantasy games of yore as the rest of the design documents.

   The third picture describes the Lolo, the "new mascot" for the Final Fantasy game. Lolos are small, flying, fish-like creatures that can phase through physical matter. "Children like to catch them," says the picture, although anything which passes through matter would likely be a difficult catch. But this picture's most noticable feature may very well be the poster examined by two characters, in the bottom-lefthand corner. Read the text at the top of the poster; if it's too small, this graphic may make things clearer. The top of the poster is clearly labelled "Final Fantasy IX" - while this proves nothing by itself, it does lend more credence to our trustworthy scoopers' claims.

   The next four pictures give a cursory glance at the title's main roster: the idealistic young hero, the spunky female companion, the enigmatic old wizard, and the rat-like dragoon. The "Bahamut Dragoon (Male) + Liviathan Dragoon (Female)" portrait hints at a potential new "system" -- will "junctioning" with a summoned monster actually change a characters' appearance? The two dragoons, each with "elemental" armor, would suggest so. Also note that the dragoons are the hero and female from before, and not mere placeholder artwork.

   Chocobo and Shiva round off the colored sketches - Shiva appears to have metamorphosized into a punk rocker version of her Hindu self. The remainder of the pictures outline various characters, NPCs, enemies, jobs, and scenarios (the "Talk, Battle, Dinner" Dragon triptych is particularly amusing). A large variety of available jobs (some not seen since the Famicom's Final Fantasy III) lead the GIA to speculate that this game will be a return to the "odd-game" style of Final Fantasy: heavily "system" oriented.

   All in all, this new Final Fantasy title is a definite throwback to the "old-school" Final Fantasies with job systems, sages, dragons, knights, and jobs all returning to the forefront. But everything "traditional" about Final Fantasy has been updated with a new sensibility; instead of super-deformed, these characters are almost hyper-formed. It's as if the designers got high on PixiStix and re-envisioned the Final Fantasy universe - and the game has emerged as all the more interesting. Square's hesitance to label this quirky title "Final Fantasy IX" is easily understood. But whatever the final name on the box may be, it is from Square, and it is Final Fantasy. This alone should be more than enough to excite gamers. Count on the GIA to bring you the latest on this intriguing new Final Fantasy title.

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