I'm always on the lookout for good Final Fantasy art books. It's incredibly difficult — Japanese arts especially — to differentiate game guides, screenshots books and concept art books.
The first Final Fantasy art book I had was Final Fantasy IX Visual Arts Collection, which was sold away because it's basically a screenshot book with a few sketches. Yoshitaka Amano did the character designs in there too, if I remember correctly.
Dawn: The Worlds of Final Fantasy contains the development sketches of the first four Final Fantasy games, I to IV. All the characters in this book are foreign to me since my first acquaintance with the game was Final Fantasy VII. All with the exception of the monsters and summons which are also used in later series. An index of titles is provided to identify the characters.
This is a character design book. Right at the start are a few foldout pages that unfold into larger illustrations. Most of the illustrations are done in pencil and watercolour. The designs are filled with detail although they are really sketches with furry pencil lines. A few black and white designs towards the end of the book.
If you're played the games before, you'll see familiar characters like Cecil Harvey, Rosa Farrell and Cid, just to name a few. There are of course lots of creatures — high level ones — like dragons, Leviathan, Ifrit, Odin, Bahamut, Chocobo, etc. It's interesting to see how the designs of these traditional legendary creatures have evolved since the first game, which was released in dot matrix. I'm really glad to see that Chocobo is now cuter in the later versions (original Chocobo in the pictures below).
There are no game screenshots or highly polished splash pages in this book. All are concept art by Yoshitaka Amano.
This book is recommended to character designers and game artists with reservations. Whether you like the book will depend on how much you like the style of Yoshitaka Amano.
Check out the Kusanagi art books if you're into Final Fantasy background art, those that are used in game anyway.
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