I read, reviewed, and wrote more about artbooks than I did manga throughout 2019. From Street Fighter to Megaman, there’s something beautiful and satisfying about having a well-organized, complete collection of the visualizations of a favorite series. As we head deeper into 2020, it looks like that trend will continue as I explore the contents of one of the store's latest releases featuring the inimitable Final Fantasy.
Like many people my age, I grew up playing some iteration of Final Fantasy. For me, that game was X. While the tenth entry in the series wielded graphical power far beyond pixelated sprites, I was fortunate enough to find a way to work my way backward and get my hands on the first six bit-rendered titles. My interest in Final Fantasy has waned over the years, but I still have a nostalgic spot in my heart for some of the earlier titles. Upon cracking open FF DOT, I was happy to see the perfectly captured pixel art of the warrior character class, but at the same time, I was left feeling a little hollow.
First I should give credit where credit is due. Dark Horse has done a great job of transferring the classic characters, monsters, locations, items, and even special effects from Final Fantasy I-VI into a single package. Analyzing the evolution of the sprites from the eight to 16-bit eras is a lot of fun, and taking a closer look at how such imaginative creations were brought to life under such technical constraints is impressive if not inspiring.
Unfortunately, there are some glaring omissions. Not all of the bosses and characters, some being fairly prominent in their respective games, receive inclusions. While the book doesn’t outright state it is a complete collection of works, some of the decisions made during the selection process are a bit confusing from a reader’s perspective. Worse still, some of the game artwork isn’t actually from the original rendition of the games they were plucked from, adding to the feeling that FF DOT is more of a Final Fantasy pixel art grab bag.
Most disappointing of all is the exclusion of captions or any kind of insight into the artists’ work. The various visualizations that populate the pages are literally pasted onto white or black background pages (with a few different colored pages popping up here and there), and that’s it. No commentary. No blurbs. Not even a table of contents. Just the artwork. Flipping through the pages feels lifeless, which is a shame because the source material is anything but. I do feel the need to mention that there is an excellent interview included at the end of the book, providing a taste of what could have been.
I wish I had more to say, but that is a product of me having a dearth of content to critique. The Pixel Art Of Final Fantasy is just that: pixel art from Final Fantasy. If no-frills pixel artwork is all you are looking for in your artbooks, then Dark Horse’s hardcover release will meet your expectations. If you are like me, and you enjoy the bells and whistles of other recently released art compilations, then FF DOT will likely leave you feeling unsatisfied.
FF DOT: The Pixel Art of Final Fantasy features the intriguing evolution of pixel art from the Final Fantasy series produced by Square Enix in this hardcover book.
Containing detailed sprite sheets that showcase the pixel composition of Final Fantasy’s beloved characters, maps of Final Fantasy’s most popular highlighting tools used by the developers, and a special interview with Kazuko Shibuya, the character pixel artist for the Final Fantasy series, FF Dot is a one of a kind product that immerses readers into an iconic aspect of the Final Fantasy experience.
Dark Horse Books is proud to collaborate with Square Enix to bring fans FF Dot: The Pixel Art of Final Fantasy, translated into English for the first time. This localization of the original Japanese publication holds nearly 300 pages of colorful pixel art, and is an invaluable addition to any Final Fantasy fan’s collection.