Dark Horse Books and Square Enix have collaborated to publish FF DOT: The Pixel Art of Final Fantasy in English, 280 pages of nostalgia and surprises showcasing the pixel art of the first six numbered Final Fantasy titles. And to sweeten the deal, the book concludes with a lengthy interview with Kazuko Shibuya, the “Pixel Master” of Square who was responsible for a significant portion of the pixel art in those games (sans IV). Basically, this book should be a slam dunk for lovers of sprite art or this iconic RPG series — but there are some oversights that leave FF DOT feeling incomplete.
For starters, the content distribution is strangely uneven. The first three Final Fantasy titles — the NES/Famicom entries — receive about 150 pages, compared to only about 86 pages for the three titles on SNES. Why the early titles with simpler 8-bit pixel art receive so many more pages than the later titles with more complex 16-bit art is unknown, but if I were to hazard a guess, it would be that it was because Shibuya was more directly involved in handcrafting the art assets of the early titles. That’s an arbitrary explanation, especially since all the art in the SNES titles is spectacular, but that’s my point — there’s no good reason for it.
The result of this uneven distribution in FF DOT is that a lot of beloved and iconic pixel art from Final Fantasy IV, V, and VI didn’t make the cut. Next to no environmental art from IV and V is showcased. Boss sprites for Golbez, Zeromus, Tritoch, Kefka, and so many other iconic enemies are absent as well. Fortunately, the few bosses that do appear look spectacular, including the likes of Zemus, Exdeath final form, and the “tower” of FFVI final bosses preceding Kefka.
Yet another, albeit mild, disappointment with FF DOT is that the pixel art receives absolutely no commentary. Excluding the interview with Kazuko Shibuya, where she discusses her evolving style and approach to pixel art in broad strokes, there is almost no text whatsoever in the book. It is exclusively pixel art that you are left to dissect and study on your own. But on the bright side, the Shibuya interview is thoroughly entertaining and inspiring. Even though she’s mostly talking about herself, she still really makes you want to open up an art program and start putting pixels together, if you aren’t already.
But the strangest problem of all with this book is something I did not see coming. To commemorate the creation of FF DOT: The Pixel Art of Final Fantasy, Shibuya created an abundance of brand new “2018” pixel art for the main characters of every Final Fantasy all the way up to XV. Every one of them is created in a “modern” pixel style that makes use of a richer color palette and more faithfully depicts artist Yoshitaka Amano’s original illustrations. This, in and of itself, is awesome and a real treat for the buyer.
Unfortunately, rather than be a bonus, this new 2018 pixel art sometimes replaces the original pixel art in this book. More specifically, the original art for all of the heroes from Final Fantasy IV (in their battle form) and Final Fantasy VI are absent from FF DOT — an absolutely shocking exclusion.
So in conclusion, FF DOT: The Pixel Art of Final Fantasy is delightful for everything that it includes and disheartening for everything it omits. The art contained herein is awesome, including the brand new sprites created just for this book. The Shibuya interview too is a delight. Unfortunately, the uneven distribution of content and the absence of original pixel art for so many iconic heroes and bosses is jarring and disappointing. It’s honestly difficult for me to outright recommend this book. It really just depends upon what you’re looking for in a Final Fantasy art book.
The review copy was purchased by the reviewer at his own expense.