By Matt Hawkins . April 4, 2013 . 11:20am
UDON will publish the revised version of R20+5 later this year, which is the revised version of the Japanese Mega Man + Mega Man X 20th Anniversary Art Book (which was also localized by UDON, but split into two book, each dedicated towards each series).
This time, UDON is keeping both halves together, and it will feature the same material as before, along with all the updated material, naturally. It’ll be published under the name MM25: Mega Man and Mega Man X Official Complete Works.
Alongside MM25 will be SF25: The Art of Street Fighter, Asura’s Wrath: Official Complete Works, Dragon’s Dogma: Official Design Works, and Monster Hunter Illustrations 2. Aside from these, however, PAX East 2013 was also where a number of other books finally made their official debut.
First you had Takehito Harada Art Works Volume 1. Harada is best known as the primary illustrator behind Disgaea, and UDON last year published DISGAEArt!!! Disgaea Official Illustration Collection. This latest volume encompasses all the games that Harada has been involved in, including the Disgaea spin off Prinny, Phantom Brave, and Makai Kingdom.
Chris Butcher, UDON’s marketing manager, explained to me that Takehito Harada Art Works Volume 1 is noteworthy for showing the process that Harada uses. Everything from the original line work to how the colors are laid out.
Next was Atelier: Artworks Of Arland, which collects all the art from the Atelier trilogy: Atelier Rorona, Atelier Totori, and Atelier Meruru. Ash Paulsen, associate editor for all the books on hand, cited Artworks of Arland as being a prime example of all the improvements that UDON sometimes undertakes.
An extra fifth color has been added, described as “warm neon pink” by Paulsen, one that was designed to enhanced skin tones. Which it really does; it’s impossible to convey the effect via photographs, one simply needs to see the printed page in person. When asked how the original publisher felt about such an undertaking, Butcher explained that they were surprised, since it’s such an expensive process.
Moving on was Growlanser Art Works, featuring the work of Satoshi Urushihara. It covers six of the Growlanser games, four of which have managed to come to America.
When asked about the changes that are sometimes employed, Butcher reiterated one of the core mantras of UDON: “The rule is to reproduce books that are just as good, if not better, than the Japanese editions.”
That being said, it was explained that, for the most part, UDON aim for a 1:1 reproduction. Any alterations are often to simply accentuate the material itself, and not to re-create something.
It would appear that covers are what are played around with the most. Both the Mega Man Zero and Star Force books were also cited; each had foil added to their covers, to make them more eye catching. There have also been rare cases in which the cover art has been completely changed, because the original design didn’t speak to American gamers.
Next was Valkyria Chronicles Volume 3: Complete Artworks. Paulsen was quick to point out that it represents the only localized material for the game. The book includes pretty much every single facet pertaining to the game, including the story. For the time being, it might be the only way to gain closure to the trilogy, until Sega decides to bring the game it is based upon to the west.
I asked if UDON is viewed as source of spiritual solace for fans of games that have been ignored by western publishers, and the answer was “absolutely”. I also asked if game publishers inquire as to how well a particular book does, to gauge any interest as to whether the source material should be released as well. According to Paulsen, “they’re certainly interested, but it’s not the only factor that they use.”
He adds: “There’s not always a correlation. Want to know our most popular book? Believe or not, it’s Okami. We’ve had the most reprints of that of any of our other releases. But the game itself did terribly, sales-wise.” [Editor's note: Capcom might say otherwise.]
Both men at UDON are also quick to point out that the business of publishing games is a complicated one, and they were by no means representative of Capcom, when it came to their Mega Man line.
Butcher stated, “When you’re outside of the industry, it can look like no one cares, but there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes… Capcom is trying to get that series back on its feet. In the meanwhile, we’re thankful that we can continue to publishing Mega Man books. I think it shows that they care about the character, and his fan base.”
But art books that are originally from Japan aren’t the only things that UDON publishes, they do engage in original projects. Like the Art of Brutal Legends. Described as their biggest book, both in scale and scope, pages feature two layers of foil, for that extra shine, there’s also silver ink, which allows for hidden messages throughout. It also features cloth binding so the book lays flat, and the entire thing is 12 x 12, shaped like a record.
All of the books described above have release dates that have not happened yet, but some are currently available via Amazon. Others can be pre-ordered.