Mega Man, in all its forms, is truly a spectacular gaming franchise. A lot of aspects about the series are truly iconic, its extremely charming, stylistic art design not least of all. The Mega Man Zero series is no exception. I personally love the Zero series for many reasons, but one of the most compelling aspects for me has always been its spectacular art. To be able to have a book with the sole purpose of showcasing that art is truly a brilliant idea.
It's pretty interesting to see progression in a gaming series' art direction. In the Classic Mega Man series, you had more of an old-school, classical cartoon anime vibe, with Mega Man X taking it in a slightly more detailed, hardcore direction. Zero continues that trend, but instead of just adding a bit more edge and mature details to an already established design, it literally redefined the very core of the art design itself, taking it into radically new directions. It definitely still retains the spirit of Mega Man though. Personally, I find the art of the Mega Man Zero series to not only be some of the best in the Mega Man name, but in video games as a whole. It's that good.
The organization of the book is intuitive and the lay-out is quite pleasing. It's organized by categories, like main characters, bosses, enemies, cyber elves, extras, etc. The characters are truly brimming with life and personality. The enemy designs are super compelling. The action shots are absolutely overflowing with kinetic energy and genuinely convey just how epic the events and battles are in the Zero series. In addition to art depicting finalized designs for characters, bosses, enemies, items, cyber elves, environments, and anything you can imagine, you also get to see some sketches and pieces so you can see the progression some things went through before a final design was decided upon. It helps you give you perspective on the series and its development. Throughout the whole book is commentary by the artists who helped shape this universe, and for the most part, it's all quite interesting.
There are quite a few things included in this book that I didn't expect for an art book. Sketches from the initial proprosal Inti Creates sent in to Capcom to get the greenlight for the game in the first place are included. There are extras in the back that are totally unexpected, like a group interview with four members of the Zero series team at Inti Creates, one of which could be give most credit for the art direction in the whole series, as his name constantly pops up in the book when accredited for his works. The interview gives some really great insight into what it took to make these games and gives a new perspective on the games themselves. That was a real highlight for me. There are other extras, like screen-shots depicting memorable moments/conversations in the game, a list of what possible ranking titles you can get in the various games and how to get them, a section showing what each character audibly says in-game, different logos used in the various region releases of the games, and art that came with the Inti Creates made remastered soundtracks to the titles (all of which are incredible, by the way). It's a great book, full of variety and including things I really didn't expect but was delighted to see in there. Some things like the ranking information is actually helpful when playing the games!
As far as the quality of the publication of the book itself, this is actually very high. Udon books have a tendency to have binding that wears out quicker than I'd like, but since this book is a reasonable thickness with 180 pages in total, that isn't a problem at all. The cover art is particularly worthy of mention. Not only is the picture incredible in its coloring and composition, it also has a glowing, almost ethereal sheen to it. It really catches the eye and entices you to pick up the book and enjoy its contents.
I have one single complaint that I must voice here. There is a lot of art that is repeated in the book, sometimes with one or two minor details changed, and sometimes literally copied and pasted again. Oftentimes these pieces are literally on the same page, or one or two pages away from each other. I am sure there was more work that went into these games' art direction than what was used in this book, and that's a big complaint. There's also virtually no environment designs either. It's pretty much a character design artbook. Again, it's some of the best video game chracter/boss design, period, but still, Zero's in-game universe is fascinating, and more would have been better. This was the first "Official Complete Works" art book Udon made for Capcom, and that lack of experience shows. Their later Capcom art books are much better in terms of content choice. It's still a great art book though, so don't let these complaints hold you back.
Overall, this is one of my favorite official release art books, and in my opinion is on-par with my other two favorite Udon video game art books, Okami Official Complete Works and Mega Man Tribute. That is entirely due to the incredibly imaginative, beautifully inspiring art design that fuels the Zero games. Now I just wish they'd release an art book for the ZX series, which continued in the same art direction of Zero. I hope enough ZX games are made to justify an art book, but I digress. I know I keep saying this, but seriously, the Mega Man Zero series has some of my all-time favorite art design, of any game, period. It's awesome. That been said, this book gets my highest recommendation. Buy it, take in its glorious splendor, and marvel at some of the very best art design in Mega Man's iconic history.