Final Fantasy Ultimania Archives catalogs 25 years of JRPG history
The prestigious guidebook series heads westward for the first time.
As a Saturn-owning, Fighters History Dynamite-importing whelp, the Final Fantasy explosion of the late '90s completely passed me by — I couldn't play the games, I didn't want to play them, I didn't get it — but somehow, despite my antipathy, the Final Fantasy Ultimania guidebooks managed to lodge themselves in my brain as something to be respected. Part strategy guide, part compendium, part behind-the-scenes archive, the Studio Bent Stuff-produced Ultimania books were revered by Final Fantasy fanatics as a must-have Japanese import item and envied by those of us whose beloved games weren't popular enough to inspire such all-encompassing supplementary material, and dedicated fans are still scavenging those old books for tidbits to this day.
Now, Dark Horse Comics, the Oregon-based publisher behind recent and upcoming gaming publications such as The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia and The Art of Metal Gear Solid I–IV, is giving the Ultimania books their long-awaited English debut. Announced at New York Comic Con, the Final Fantasy Ultimania Archives is a three-volume series of books chronicling the visual history of the main-line Final Fantasy series, from the original Famicom game through to the massively-multiplayer Final Fantasy XIV — the original, not the do-over — with the first volume, a compendium of material from Final Fantasy games I through VI, due out in North America June 2018.
Not to be outdone, French publisher Mana Books is producing a French-language version of 25th Memorial Ultimania for release in Europe and it's due out very, very soon: within the day, in fact. Interestingly, they've decided to start with the second volume that covers the Playstation trilogy (Final Fantasy VII, VIII and IX) rather than releasing them in order — it's a little confusing, but there's some logic in starting with the heavy hitters, I suppose.
The Ultimania Archives releases are based on the Final Fantasy 25th Memorial Ultimania books released in Japan in 2012 and as such, I'm led to believe they skew a little closer to art/design books than the full-blown compendiums of yore, but one would have to imagine these releases, if successful, will pave the way for the translation of previous game-specific Ultimania books, including other non-Final Fantasy Ultimania books (and it's not as if they're lacking in material, these things have been in production for twenty years.)
You can pre-order Ultimania Archives Volume 1 from Amazon US and Amazon Germany right now, should you be so inclined; UK and other countries should have the English version up for pre-order shortly. Rest assured, the moment Tobal No.1 Ultimania is announced, I'll make sure to let everybody know.