By ALEX IRISH
Dark Horse Comics: they're not just about comics anymore. For the last few years, the publisher has struck deals with video game maker Nintendo to distribute these art-filled encyclopedias out of Japan into the west, translated in full. As the medium grows in stature, so too does the appreciation of the art that goes into making these interactive experiences. The books Dark Horse has released for Nintendo are few but impressive. So, removing all pretense, here are the Nintendo “art of” books you can totally buy from Dark Horse Comics right now (with one major exception that was supposed to be out).
Also, be sure to get your tickets for SUPER FAMICON 2017 to meet PATRICK THORPE, the editor behind Hyrule Historia, The Art of Fire Emblem Awakening, and The Art of Splatoon! CLICK HERE TO ORDER TICKETS.
Hyrule Historia is an indispensable resource to the average Legend of Zelda fanatic, and a worthy tome on its own. For years, fans were asking about the existence of a “Zelda Timeline” to tie all the lore and story of The Legend of Zelda together, and Nintendo's line was nonexistent. Cut to 2011, and fans finally got their answers, and then some. The book includes a definitive Zelda timeline up to Skyward Sword and tomes of concept art, interviews, and an excerpt from the Skyward Sword manga. Originally released in late-2011 in Japan for Zelda's 25th anniversary, it made its way west in 2013. To sweeten the deal after a year-long wait, Dark Horse produced a limited edition with gilded pages and a special cover; 4000 exactly. It's been widely available since its first printing, including a bundle with the Wii U in September 2013 as a downloadable PDF.
The Legend of Zelda: Art & Artifacts
Hyrule Historia is a hard act to follow if you're a Zelda encyclopedia. Cut to Zelda's 30th anniversary and we get The Legend of Zelda: Art & Artifacts, a 400+ page collection of artwork, including art from the newly-released Breath of the Wild. What you get is illustrations spanning box art, the margins from instruction manuals, and in-game sprites, much of which hasn't been presented in this high of quality before. As with Hyrule Historia, Dark Horse pulled the stops with 10,000 limited edition copies for the western publication, its cover inspired by the Master Sword with a scabbard-themed slipcase.
The Art of Fire Emblem Awakening
2012's Fire Emblem Awakening was at risk to be the final entry in Nintendo's seminal turn-based strategy series, meaning developer Intelligent Systems gave it all that they got and put in the best parts of the franchise in one definitive package; marriage, team-ups, waifus, the works. Fortunately, the gamble paid off and Awakening made Fire Emblem popular once again. And so, here is the art book that celebrates the artistry that pulled it all off. This includes a wealth of concept art, storyboards for the game's CGI cutscenes, character profiles, and the game's entire script. This one took four years to come to the west in 2016, but worth the fuss, just like the game itself.
The Art of Splatoon
Splatoon is a recent staple of Nintendo franchises, and already it has inspired a collection of artwork. The team-based shooter had a real funky fresh visual style when it hit the scene on Wii U, and this book celebrates the art that brought it to life. Get a taste of early designs for the Squid Sisters, model sheets for the colorful denizens of Inkopolis, and even original manga among its content. Released in Japan when the first Splatoon launched, it just released here in the States in July, right on time for the sequel on Nintendo Switch.
Special mention has to go to the upcoming Super Mario Bros. Encyclopedia, which Dark Horse has licensed but has yet to launch. The Mario equivalent to Hyrule Historia was released in Japan in 2015 for Mario's own 30th anniversary, collecting artwork and designs from 17 games in the Super Mario canon. It was originally due in the US for a June 2017 publication, but has been pushed back for unknown reasons. Fortunately, German Mario fans are getting the book this coming September courtesy of TOKYOPOP, but we can only hope the book will jump over to the rest of the west soon, via the champion of Nintendo's art books that is Dark Horse Comics.