Zelda: Art & Artifacts is an enormous art book for Hyrule explorers

The Legend of Zelda: Art & Artifacts is a mammoth book containing art and errata from practically every Zelda title ever released. Having spent a mere afternoon with it, I feel I've experienced an adolescence-worth of missed gameplay.

I've never gotten around to immersing myself in the Zelda games, but was always struck by the their' precision and economy, a world crafted more than built. There's a mysticism, even a darkness to Zelda that seems out of place in Nintendo's cutesy-poo lineup.

A heroic cycle, with a eternally-recurring hero and nemesis, every generation of the mythos is a strange echo of another, and the star is a stoic mute boy defined by his tools and under fate's control. Hyrule and its hero are less standard RPG fantasy than a uniquely Japanese new wave murmur, an Elric in Arcadia who brings sunshine rather than storm and never has a single brooding thought and gets to live silently ever after.

Published by Dark Horse Books, it's 424 pages long and weighs 6 pounds. It's 12.3 x 9.3 inches long and wide and two inches thick. Notes and other documentation are translated by Aria Tanner, Hisashi Kotobuki, Heidl Plechl and Michael Gombos.

Organized roughly by release date (the canonical continuity seems rather murky), there's early animation-style cels, box art, instruction booklets, and even some work from the latest title, Breath of the Wild, released a couple of weeks ago.

It goes from exquisitely painted concept art right down to detailed sprite sheets from classic 8-bit outings, and the print quality is outstanding. It's heavy; you could flatten a cat with it.

I can tell that the selections are far from exhaustive, though: this is clearly an official Nintendo item made by and for people who like the word "franchise." While it's good and fair that atrocities such as the Philips-licensed CD-i Zelda games are not included, it also means no Katsuya Terada, for example, a brilliant artist whose Zelda work is among the best and the most off-brand going—but which thereby carries less nostalgia value for its audience, perhaps.

Beyond some fascinating interviews with the creators, there's not much context, either; it's a companion volume to the "Historia", a similarly bulky book dealing with the world's history in detail.

But I have to get it, now, as the art's sucked me in, and I don't have time to play 20 video games to understand what the Hyrule is going on.

PROS

• Big, beautiful book.
• Impeccable color reproduction.
• Unfussy page layouts that don't crowd the art.
• Get shown a fantasy world, rather than told it.
• See an artistic formula evolve over 30 years

CONS

• Demands a prior interest in Zelda, will probably bore everyone else.
• Seriously, it's mostly pictures of Link.
• Just making super clear here that there is a high "androgynous lads in green leather" noise floor here to contend with, if it's not your thing.

The Legend of Zelda: Art & Artifacts [Dark Horse Books at Amazon]

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