Final Fantasy IX's original soundtrack was very much a successful tribute to the classic days of the series, and in similar fashion Final Fantasy IX Piano Collections successfully emulates the best of earlier piano collections, not only in the style of arrangement but even in the track selection and overall presentation.
Had I studied the track list before buying the CD (it was an impromptu purchase at a live performance for the album release in Tokyo), I probably would have been a little skeptical, since not all of the selected tracks exactly count as my favorites on the OST. But as is the case with any well designed piano arranged album, the producers chose to include not only the tracks that work best in the OST, but also ones that would flourish in piano form. Perhaps most improved is "You're Not Alone!", which sounded overly simplistic and cliched in its OST version, but thanks to a less serious yet much more elaborate arrangement in FFIX Piano Collections is more accessible and enjoyable. "Final Battle" surprisingly comes across much better than the OST version as well, once again sounding less cliched thanks to an arrangement slightly toned down from the overly eager original.
Another logical but not necessarily successful tradition in FF piano collections is giving tracks that were piano synth in the OST a live performance. Though this does little to salvage the boring "Sleepless City Treno" theme, "Rose of May" retains all its wonderful beauty in a more elaborate arrangement and performance.
Then there's the question of whether stand-out OST tracks can maintain their quality when performed by only a solo piano. In the case of "The Place I'll Return to Someday", the dignified and lovely sound of the piano indeed adds to the already pretty OST melody, although the just slightly jazzy turn the arrangement takes halfway through is in my opinion not the best choice. Most would agree that "Vamo' alla flamenco" is one of the more memorable tracks from the OST, and its piano version manages to keep much of the energy and liveliness of the original. Lastly, who can question the inclusion of "Melodies of Life"? Although it lacks Emiko Shiratori's lovely (in Japanese, at least) vocals, the melody works well in the new arrangement and the piano adds a loveliness of its own.
The main complaint I can imagine piano aficionados levying against FFIX Piano Collections would be that the arrangements are too simple. There are certainly times where I can envision the arrangements being more elaborate, but they're a clear step up from albums like Final Fantasy IV Piano Collection and Ys Piano Collection, and for people who like a good piano game music album but don't require Classical caliber arrangements I believe they'll very much suffice.
Final Fantasy IX Piano Collections is almost as much of a pleasant surprise for me as the OST was. It doesn't manage to tug at my heartstrings the way some previous series piano arrangements like the Final Fantasy 1987-1994 version of "Dear Friends" and several tracks from FFVI Piano Collections did, but it makes for a faithful and in some way equally enjoyable piano version of a favorite Final Fantasy OST.