Alas, the long awaited art book for Zelda fans has arrived! The gilded details on the deep red cover are glorious, and hint at the waiting beauties inside. Like Hyrule Historia before it, Art and Artifacts is published by Dark Horse. Consisting of over 400 oversized pages, it’s the newest (and largest) Legend of Zelda book so far.
For clarity’s sake, I will be writing this review in sections. These are the same sections the book itself is divided into. Also, this is not a sponsored review—I purchased this art book with my own money.
The Table of Contents
To start, this was my favorite section- despite a few tiny flaws. There’s some marvelous art in the beginning. It’s fun to see iconic game art compared to preparatory sketches. However, there are no credited artists. Not just for these designs, but any artwork in the book. As an artist, I wanted to know who the artists were behind these powerful images.
The double page spreads (exampled in the slider above) are stunning. It makes it a shame, then, that there is deep crease in the middle of the image. There’s no way to avoid it, but the size of the book makes the interruption of some pictures tragically obvious. Still, there was a certain evocation of nostalgia and excitement through this section. It served as a wonderful overview to the games featured in the other sections.
While not every character is included, they might as well be. Main characters understandably are given more space, but bosses and minor characters alike are featured extensively from each game. I appreciated learning the names of recognizable characters, like the iconic owl Kaepora Gaebora, who weren’t necessarily identified in-game.
An assortment of monsters from the first game, The Legend of Zelda
Some of the more remote games have an image or two. Even Link’s Crossbow Training is mentioned, which is nice. No CDi games, though (understandable, given their reputation as potentially the worst video games ever made).
For some of the more popular games, there’s a page for each that shows all of the interactive objects Link finds on his adventures. Although initially simple for the first games, it gains fascination as an evolution from the early days of a few pieces of equipment and items to all of the masks and more in Majora’s Mask. (See the slider below.)
Perhaps my favorite page of the Character Illustrations was of Tri-Force Heroes. I’ve yet to play the game, but seeing all of Link’s costumes was hilarious.
Fun cosplay and goofy outfits
Temple of Time
If you love box art and vast amounts pixel art, these are the pages for you.
In a book covering the “art and artifacts” of the series, it would be lacking without this content. Box art is a part of the real life artifacts we bring into our homes, symbolizing the start of the next adventure. Flipping back and forth, it’s simultaneously insightful and a bit repetitive at times to see the promotional art and the game packaging.
North America had more basic cover art at first
The first of the pixel pages
As a series whose beginnings lie on the 8-bit NES, the inclusion of pixel art is also essential. What surprised me was just how many pages of it there were.
This mish-mashed section contains the most welcome but unexpected art. It includes Link’s popular crossover into Mario Kart 8, as well as promotional content for social media. The section is brief, but has some fun images. I wish Hyrule Warriors was included. Like Mario Kart 8 it’s not canon, and deserved a mention at least, in my opinion.
A Link Between Worlds and Mario Kart 8 art
Breath of the Wild
Sadly, there are only a few pages dedicated to the newest installation in the series. As someone who has been following Breath of the Wild prior to its release, I was already familiar with all of the images. A tiny disappointment, but what pictures are here are gorgeously printed.
A breathtaking foldout of a Breath of the Wild vista
For more, it seems like you’ll have to look at the game’s official game guide. Personally, I’m hoping for an exclusive Breath of the Wild art book, however small. It’s such a massive world it could make for a terrific book.
Featuring a few artists from the Zelda creative team, the ending interview provides an appreciated look into the series. It’s a stark contrast from the previous 300 pages of pictures. But as an epilogue of sorts to the illustrations, though, it concludes the book nicely.
Art and Artifacts is a fantastic book for long-time, dedicated fans of the Legend of Zelda. Like never before, characters, promotional materials, and more are brought together into an incredibly extensive collection. For that’s what this art book is: a collection of previously released images.
Importantly, it never claims to be something different. What this massive book is is a volume of beautifully printed images that gives a closer look at different elements of the series. While some books include comments from creators throughout, Art and Artifacts refrains from such insight besides the concluding interview.
Art and Artifacts’ greatest strength and theme is evolution. In the second volume of the series-wide collector books, we see the growth from simple yet creative pixels to sweeping landscapes, and classic characters emerge and develop through the ages.
The only things missing in this book are the various figures, statues, and amiibo. I, and likely many collectors, would consider them to be as much ‘artifacts’ in the series as the box art, especially the amiibo. It seems strange to include a near encyclopedia of characters and not mention the tangible artifacts produced alongside the games. For this reason, it seems like the ‘artifact’ portion is lacking.
Nevertheless, Art and Artifacts is a wonderful tribute to the art of the Legend of Zelda. From beloved characters to iconic images, fans will have plenty to admire in this follow-up to Hyrule Historia.
If you are looking for concept art and more behind-the-scenes info, I highly recommend Hyrule Historia.