Final Fantasy IX might not be the best Final Fantasy game, but it's definitely the most stylish.
Yep, even before FFXII's massive world and FFXIII's jaw-dropping hair particles, Square's popular series was blazing a trail in art direction, putting its own inimitable spin on fantasy and steampunk. And Final Fantasy IX, the last game in the main series to appear on PlayStation 1, had some of the most fascinating environments you'll ever see in a video game.
Don't believe me? Check out this great concept art, uncovered by NeoGAF sleuth Mama Robotnik, who dug through the web and found a whole bunch of images that most of us probably haven't seen before.
First up, a selection of high-res environments from artist Jake Rowell, all of which had to be scaled down for the PS1's low native resolution. This stuff should look very familiar if you've played Final Fantasy IX—and it'll probably make you angry that there hasn't been an HD remake.
Here's some concept art from Cecil Kim, a designer who now runs a company called Section Studios. You might recognize some of these scenes from the cities of Lindblum and Madain Sari.
This is concept art by longtime designer Christian Lorenz Scheurer, showing off some of Final Fantasy IX's more surreal locales, like Terra and Memoria.
Finally, here's some character design by Francisco Cortina, featuring some early versions of protagonists Zidane, Dagger, Steiner, and Freya (and a special appearance by Zidane's buddy, Blank).