Supplemental media for video games has become increasingly frequent, and I’d argue that’s for the better. Expanding on story elements, learning about development, and simply having more lore to dive into can keep fans satiated between releases. Books, in particular, are often used mediums for delivering this information, and Square Enix is known for their key franchises wielding this media.
Kingdom Hearts has a history of having several book releases, dubbed Ultimanias. These lengthy page-turners contain an astronomical degree of information, from the most common knowledge to the most intricate. Details like early stages of concept art to comprehensive breakdowns of story events and other game features make owning these compendiums every hardcore fan’s dream.
Unfortunately, these books have never seen official English releases and have remained Japanese only, that is, until just recently. In an unexpected turn of events, Square Enix partnered with Dark Horse Books to release Kingdom Hearts Ultimania: The Story Before Kingdom Hearts III in English in late June. This, by all accounts, was absolutely joyous news for the fanbase. These books, which have remained Japanese exclusive for well over a decade, are finally being given a shot in the West. However, fans must show the demand for these volumes to receive further global releases.
Kingdom Hearts Ultimania: The Story Before Kingdom Hearts III contains over 250 pages of lore-filled goodness and is, I’d argue, an essential buy for any dedicated fans of the series. It’s also a rather lucratively clever move for this Ultimania to be officially released first, as it covers the titles leading up to Kingdom Hearts III, granting a slew of varied insight across the series for a rather modestly priced purchase.
Each of the worlds, characters, weapons, and far more are given their own individualized sections in admittedly more concentrated depth than I was expecting. Additionally, having a hub of character renders and official pieces of artwork lined up one after the other is a convenient boon. There is an endless sea of content here that can be perused for hours upon hours on end, so much so that detailing it all would take tens of thousands of words. Needless to say, I think most, if not every fan, can learn or see something new from this goliath of a compendium.
Another Kingdom Hearts-related book that has remained Japanese exclusive but is receiving an English release this October is the Kingdom Hearts Character Files. This book contains several stories from the perspectives of the franchise’s numerous characters. When this was initially released in Japan, there was a monumental fan effort to translate the contents of these stories, which blatantly demonstrates how undeniably vigorous the collective fan desire is for everyone to experience these books in their entirety. Likewise, the Ultimanias have received fan translations for years, but usually only for select passages and sections. While sincerely appreciated, knowing that these books still had potentially more intriguing content that global fans would never see was consistently frustrating.
Kingdom Hearts isn’t the only Square Enix property with these types of releases, either. For example, Fantasy VII Remake has received its own Ultimania in Japan dubbed the Final Fantasy VII Remake: Material Ultimania. Thankfully, it, too, is receiving an English release this December. It holds trivia and information I doubt most players would have ever known with the inclusions of staff commentary, interviews, and more behind-the-scenes stories. This Ultimania will only serve to enhance the appreciation and respect for the Remake effort from the Western audience.
The official western release of Kingdom Hearts Ultimania: The Story Before Kingdom Hearts III and the other upcoming books shows that Square Enix is cognizant of fans’ desires outside of Japan, but these books will assuredly have to sell well for future global releases to be considered worthwhile in their eyes. With that said, if you are a fan of Kingdom Hearts, consider picking up the recently released Ultimania and the upcoming Character Files. And, if you enjoyed Final Fantasy VII Remake, I guarantee its Ultimania will be a valuable purchase.
Above all else, as thankful as I am for these books to be releasing in English, I do not want this string of pleasing astonishments to be one-note and never repeated. Ideally, all supplemental media should be equally accessible to fans regardless of location, and purchasing all of the official comprehensive volumes this year en masse will take us one step closer to that dream being realized.
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