Final Fantasy IX is one of my favorite Playstation games, and I loved the art direction. Going back to the more fantasy style of things over sci-fi, and having a very diverse cast of characters in every aspect of their design(s). People on the street came in all shapes and sizes. Some would have long arms with huge hands, while others had stubby legs and heads that were engulfed by their fancy hats. Rather than making things more serious, the artists had a field day with character design. Locations got a good variety too. When I bought The Art of Final Fantasy IX years ago, I loved it, and probably would've gave it 5 stars back then. But looking at the book now, I realize that it could've been so much more.
The book is divided into a couple of sections. The main characters, secondary characters, monsters, locations, weapons and then a few pages with screen shots from the FMVs. Where the book shines is in the secondary characters and locations sections. You'll get to see some clear drawings of Tantalus, Sir Fratley, black mages, nearly everyone you encounter in the game. Characters with one line of dialogue appear here, and you can see that most of them have their own unique look while still fitting in with where they live. Some characters are shown in multiple angles, to show a specific detail on their clothing or something with their hair, and I appreciate that. The locations portion of the book shows you just how intricate the buildings and airships in Final Fantasy IX are. I notice something new every time I look at a shot of a house or shop. I've never liked drawing or designing towns myself, because I never have the patience to do it, but looking over these pages, you have to respect the people who give characters a place to live. Especially when they're not just generic huts or anything, but huge kingdoms.
All of the artwork is beautiful, and I hate giving this anything less than 5 stars, but tell me, shouldn't the main characters have more than 2 pages of designs for each one? Yep, even the main heroes: Zidane and Garnet have just 2 pages each. You get Yoshitaka Amano's usual fancy drawings (which oddly enough, look exactly like some of his FFVI drawings: Locke and Celes in particular) for each of the main characters, then the final artwork that you see on the game's case, and maybe a few sketches here and there. This is a huge letdown, as I like to see how a character's design evolves over time. There's a -beautiful- sketch of Freya on her page and I would've loved to have seen more like that. Amarant has some really cool sketches of him wearing a beanie, maybe suggesting that his red hair is really a wig? But that's all- a few sketches of his head at different angles, and nothing more. Why don't these main characters, the characters you spend most of the time in the game with, only get 2 pages each? Well, you see a few of them a couple more times in the FMV images at the end of the book, but come on. Show me some more sketches, no matter how rough! Look at the cover of the book- it has a nice drawing of Garnet, looking pretty. You don't get anything like that of her aside from what's on the cover. Why not?
Still, The Art of Final Fantasy IX is a must for any fan of the game, and any fan knows that there's barely anything to buy as far as FFIX merchandise goes. It's usually pretty cheap too, so hurry and get a copy before it suddenly jacks up in price like many art books tend to do.