The making of FINAL FANTASY IX

Get an inside look at the classic FINAL FANTASY IX - direct from the creators themselves.
By Duncan Heaney

Our new video series looks at the creation of some of the most famous games in the series, starting with the fan-favorite FINAL FANTASY IX.

We spoke to some of the creative minds behind the game, including Producer Shinji Hashimoto, Event Designer Kazuhiko Aoki, Event Planner Nobuaki Komoto and Artist Toshiyuki Itahana about their memories of working on the game, the creation of the amazing characters, the technical challenges and more. Take a look:

Below are just some of the interesting facts unearthed in the video:

On making the game distinct from FINAL FANTASY VII and VIII:

Producer Shinji Hashimoto: FINAL FANTASY IX director Sakaguchi-san wanted it to be completely different from FINAL FANTASY VII and VIII, with a story and flavor that was distinctly his. That left an impression on me.

…There was FINAL FANTASY VII, which was kind of steam punk sci-fi. FINAL FANTASY VIII is a school story, a love story, and a really human story set in a realistic city.

For FINAL FANTASY IX, Mr Sakaguchi wanted to go back to the action-movie like adventure fantasy of the first six FINAL FANTASY titles, and those elements are abundant in this game.

On the themes of FINAL FANTASY IX

Kazuhiko Aoki, Event Designer: Ultimately, what we did was to set an overall theme for the game, and that was “living!” with an exclamation mark!

We felt that if we showed how the different characters strived and lived their lives to the fullest, it would make the game more interesting. Rather than worrying about the little details, we thought that creating a big theme like that would make it fit better as a FINAL FANTASY title.

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On the inspirations for FINAL FANTASY IX

Toshiyuki Itahana, Artist: Part of the inspiration for the design for FINAL FANTASY IX was The Dark Crystal. It’s actually a pretty old movie now. It has classic designs, and a very unique sort of world feel to it.

Using that for inspiration, we went on to create this sort of literary, imaginary world… something like you would have in a fairy tale. We wanted to create the sort of world a child might dream up.

Using that, we were able to come up with some quite interesting and original characters. Charters with interesting shapes - all sorts of shapes and sizes. I kept this in mind while designing the characters.

On creating Zidane and the rest of the cast

Toshiyuki Itahana: When I started working on FINAL FANTASY IX, Mr Sakaguchi came to me with a request.

He said he wanted me to design characters that had a feeling of life, and of actually living within this imaginary world.

So trying to convey that sense of life within that world came down to things like their clothing, the textures… I had to consider how their clothing was sewn together, the way their fur or feathers or hair lay…

It was all in the details.

On Garnet’s impromptu haircut

Kazuhiko Aoki, Event Designer: I personally didn’t make the scene where Garnet cuts her hair, but it was something I felt was very important for the story.

The events leading up to it were very frenetic and everything is in motion, and then when she cuts her hair, it’s a very quiet moment with a lot of gravitas.

She then makes her big decision and events start moving again. I have an attachment to this scene, as it’s a very important scene for the pacing and flow of the story.

From a more technical perspective, I was a little worried that we might have to ask the team to make two versions of the character - one with long hair and the other short.

But all things considered, I knew that it was needed for the scene, and those changes that she goes through are very important to the story. So I needed to convince everybody to be okay with the fact that they needed to make two Garnets.

On Garnet vs Dagger

Nobuaki Komoto, Event Planner: Of course, there were difficulties in making those two versions of Garnet, with short hair and long hair, but what struck me more than the difficulties was how different players tended to have different images of Garnet in their heads.

I think which one each player remembered had to do with how they felt about her.

One other factor influencing that is how she also went by the name “Dagger” as well as Garnet. Pretty much everybody in the dev team referred to her as Dagger, but we started realizing that most of the players were referring to her as Garnet.

So it was not just that scene, but the player reactions in general that showed us how different players interpreted the character differently.

On the ‘problems’ of working in Hawaii

Toshiyuki Itahana: Hawaii was where we developed the game, and we were really busy with development, but as soon as you stepped outside, there was ocean and blue skies spreading out in front of you. It was an amazing sight.

There were people that would come in after having gone surfing in the morning, and being able to create in that sort of free and open environment was a lot of fun and a great memory.

But we all ended up really tanned. And then when we were slightly short-staffed, we went to Japan and asked for more staff, for more people from Tokyo.

However, we were so suntanned that they said, “You guys are clearly not working! You’re just having fun! You need to put your noses to the grindstone and actually work!” So they didn’t really give us any more people.

Mr Komoto’s favorite scene

Nobuaki Komoto: So the scene I wrote that I’m most fond of is the scene where Zidane is heading to Pandemonium and his friends are coming after him.

What sticks with me about that scene is that until writing it, I was not sure I even liked Zidane as a character. I didn’t know how I felt about him, or what kind of person he was, but as I was writing his lines, even though it was me making up the dialogue, I started to see things like “oh, so he has that side to him as well” and I really began to realise who this character was.

On top of that, Mr Uematsu wrote the background music for this scene, but it wasn’t a song he had written for it specifically. He had written this piece ahead of time and liked it a lot, so asked if we could use it somewhere.

I discussed it with Mr Aoki and felt that it had to be this scene we used it for, although the scene had not been finished yet. So we put it in, and the moment we heard it playing felt that this was the perfect scene for the track.

It was called “You’re Not Alone” and it absolutely made the scene what it is. I can remember that the whole time I was writing this scene, even though I tried my best, I kept thinking that there is no way I can live up to the power of this song.

Mr Aoki’s favorite scene

Kazuhiko Aoki: My favorite scene would have to be the ending credits.

As I said earlier, we decided what the overarching theme was going to be and then we went and made the game to that theme.

If you’re making something like a novel, that theme might be important, but what I feel is most important for a game is something different. When a player is close to finishing a game, I want them to feel that they still want to stay in that world, that they don’t want it to end.

The player should feel that way as they go through and be in a bit of daze when the credits finally roll. For me, that’s the most fun way to experience a game.

When we finished making FINAL FANTASY IX and I was watching the final credits, I had that same feeling myself.

That really is just a small sample - there are loads more facts and anecdotes in the video, including the creation of Vivi, the way the team actually built the game, and what the creators think of it 19 years later.

Once you’ve gone inside the game with the video, you can then go inside by actually playing it. FINAL FANTASY IX is available on all major platforms:

You can also share your thoughts on the documentary in the comments or on social media: