Otaku USA Magazine
Final Fantasy 25th Anniversary Books Disappoint

Fans of Square Enix’s Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts game franchises have likely heard tales of the legendary Ultimania-branded strategy guides released in Japan by Studio BentStuff. Frequently boasting full-color page counts in excess of 500, with attractive layouts and levels of detail at times bordering on the absurd, the Ultimania books set something of a benchmark for what these things could be like: Less strategy guides, more paeans to works of pop culture that folks continue to identify with and obsess over years after their release. Much like Square’s game output in recent years, however, it appears the series may be suffering from diminishing returns.

Studio BentStuff’s latest releases are the Final Fantasy 25th Memorial Ultimania books, which arrived in Japanese bookstores on December 18. 3 volumes in all, the series attempts to chronicle the entire history of the long-running role-playing game franchise’s 14 main entries, with each volume covering 3 to 6 games on average.

So far, the reviews on Amazon have been lukewarm to frigid. One reviewer writes of Vol. 3 that “close to 80 percent of the content in here is recycled from other previously-published books, and all of the interviews are taken from the official site.”

Reviews of Vol. 1 and 2 are not much different. “I expected to see a lot of retrospective interviews about the ‘80s and ‘90s,” reads one review of Vol. 1, “but the interview section is just 4 pages near the back, and there isn’t a single interview with (series creator) Hironobu Sakaguchi or (music composer) Nobuo Uematsu.” Oh dear.

“I remember excitedly reading and re-reading Final Fantasy X Ultimania, but these recent books have all failed to make me feel the same way, and I don’t think it’s because I’m getting older,” reads another review. “I turned to the section on my beloved Final Fantasy III, but instead of graphics from the original Famicom version, I see characters from the recent DS remake. Who exactly did Square think they were making this book for?”

Who, indeed?

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