Love it or hate it, Final Fantasy VII Remake had a ton of love poured into it by both the original creators and fans turned developers. While you can certainly see this in the game itself, the Final Fantasy VII Remake Material Ultimania lays it all out over 333 pages. I’ve reviewed a few Final Fantasy XIV art books, but this is by far the largest and most comprehensive I’ve ever seen.
Starting with the exterior, this meaty tome is hardcover and comes with a protective sleeve. The front has some very nice art of Cloud, and if you’d prefer to look at him without the title you can simply remove the sleeve. Opening up the book, which is all printed on some high quality paper, the first thing you see is sheet music for the song “Midgar Blues” complete with lyrics. I haven’t tried playing it myself yet, I’m still learning how to play piano, but this is a big sign of how comprehensive this book is.
The first section covers key art; a lot of these pieces were used for promotional materials like the full shot of Midgar or Sephiroth walking into an inferno. A few shots are spread out over two pages, a pet peeve of mine given you can’t see the whole thing clearly with binding, but those pieces are easily viewable elsewhere. A lot of this section shows off characters in A poses and a bit of the initial design process before modeling begins. The team actually took the time to make a few characters’ outfits in real life to make sure they got all the details right and ground the fashion in reality. Aerith and Reno’s stood out to me because, well, for one I really want Aerith’s jacket and the developer commentary on Reno’s is incredibly interesting. They try to convey his hot headed professionalism without making him look sloppy, and I think they succeeded in that effort.
This section also contains close ups of the major characters, so you can see all the little details like Tifa’s charms on her gloves, Barrett’s dog tags, and the scuffs on Cloud’s pauldron. It’s cool to see these more clearly outside of the game, and as usual I love the developer commentary present throughout the book. The next chapter is Illustrations, starting off with the initial designs for the main characters. Given that this is a remake of an already existing game, these art pieces mostly focus on adding detail to Nomura’s original designs. Still, it’s nice to see these concepts and compare how they translate to the models in game. Barrett actually looks somewhat different than the art here, which is really interesting. There are a lot of outfits and NPCs here, including all of the dresses for Cloud, Aerith, and Tifa along with art detailing Avalanche’s equipment all the way to the most minor of things like all the photos in Jesse’s house or a happy moment between Aerith and her mother in a Shinra facility. You can even check out the train schedule in Sector One, the detail here is mind blowing.
This is far and away the largest section of the book, showing off everything from advertisements littered through the city, almost every item and piece of equipment, vending machines, buildings, graffiti, and even visuals for boss fights. This is by far the most comprehensive art book I’ve ever seen, and as a huge fan of the game it’s a ton of fun to see the thought process behind many of these pieces and how they contribute to the larger whole the game is going for.
Next up are planning materials like a simple map of Midgar, guidelines for the design of each sector, a timeline of the city’s construction, the gameplay flow of certain sections and how characters play/interact with the environment, and even cutscene storyboards and more. As a game developer trying to get into the industry (please hire me, Square), it’s incredibly cool to see all the steps taken to make the game a reality and how much detail they put into every little thing. For example, there are some major differences between the storyboards, the cutscene first pass, and what we see in the final game which actually motivated me to play through the game a third time to see it all.
The last two sections are a full soundtrack list in order of appearance along with album art for each of the in-game singles and a Q and A with the japanese voice cast. If that doesn’t show how high a bar this book sets I don’t know what will. While I would have also liked to hear from English, French, and German casts it’s cool to hear how a lot of them grew up with the original game and put those memories into their performances. This is the perfect companion to the game and honestly I think the rest of the industry needs to step up their game for art books.
Final Fantasy VII Remake Material Ultimania
One of the best art books out there, Final Fantasy VII Remake Material Ultimania contains everything a fan could want and more. From minor details like train schedules and graffiti to the character design process, this is the perfect companion to revisit the game with.