Astrolabe

By Aidan Moher

Check out the cover for "Fight, Magic, Items" at Nerdist!

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Astrolabe
Check out the cover for "Fight, Magic, Items" at Nerdist!
By Aidan Moher • Issue #48 • View online

Cue Victory Fanfare
Cover art for Fight, Magic, Items: The History of Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and the Rise of Japanese RPGs in the West by Aidan Moher
Cover art for Fight, Magic, Items: The History of Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and the Rise of Japanese RPGs in the West by Aidan Moher
Y'all know Fight, Magic, Items: The History of Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and the Rise of Japanese RPGs in the West is coming this October, but now, thanks to an exclusive reveal at Nerdist, we’ve got our first look at its gorgeous cover art.
When I first started writing Fight, Magic, Items, I had all these grand ideas for a cover. I wanted bold colours, details you could sink into for days, easter eggs for longtime fans, and everything between. This cover from artist Sara Alfageeh (whom we’ll meet momentarily in a Q&A!) is so far above and beyond my expectations. It’s brilliant, and just the right cover for this book. I’m obsessed with the way the book’s title mimics the iconic battle commands from classic JRPGs. Those commands were obvious inspiration for the book’s title, so to see Sara and Running Press’s design team not only get that, but run with the idea is such a thrilling moment. If you know, you know—and I think anyone who sees this cover will know exactly what they’re getting inside.
Interview with the artist, Sara Alfageeh
The cover illustration was created by the wondrous Sara Alfageeh. I admired her art from the moment I saw it, and her previous work on stuff like Avatar: The Last Airbender is the perfect fit for me and this book. I absolutely adore Sara’s attention to detail, gorgeous use of colour to add energy and narrative to the piece, and how she nailed the JRPG aesthetic.
Sara’s also just released a terrific graphic novel called Squire, which I highly recommend, especially if you like her art here. For fun, I caught up with Sara to chat about her art and this cover!
Q. Tell me about your illustration for the cover—what were your inspirations?
SA. I knew Fight, Magic, Items was going to cover a whole array of JRPGs I absolute loved when I was growing up— characters, settings, games that gave me much of my visual vocabulary as an artist if I’m honest! I wanted to tap into that nostalgic factor so many fans have. I worried less about trying to get caught up in mimicking known art styles, like the soft wash of color often found in Final Fantasy or distinct linework of Dragon Quest. This is more about the feeling and immersion of falling so deeply into a story that stays with you for years and even decades later. It was a daunting task! 
Q. You mentioned on Twitter that if you “showed 10 different nerds the same image, they would list 10 different characters.” What are some of your favourite Easter eggs and details in the illustration?
SA. So this is personally where I got very self indulgent, pulling from some of my own favorite design tropes. I’ll be revealing that I may be among the younger fans of the genre too. Some more keen eyes may notice the easier ones like Lightning shoulder pauldron, in Final Fantasy XIII. The hair was inspired by Lucina from Fire Emblem Awakening. The water submersion theme? That’s Kingdom Hearts all the way, c’mon now. You can practically hear Utada Hikaru in the background. The color palette is also very Final Fantasy, with those softer washes of colors. I grew up on anime and JRPGs, but hardly ever get to indulge in that style. This book cover was a real treat to lean hard into that type of linework. 
Q. What tools did you use to create the cover?
SA. Thumbnails I drew on some post it notes, but I do all my work digitally. Photoshop, my MacBook, and an iPad + Apple Pencil. I travel quite a bit so I like to have a work set up I can pack up easily. 
Page sample and cover art for Squire by Nadia Shammas and Sara Alfageeh
Page sample and cover art for Squire by Nadia Shammas and Sara Alfageeh
Q. You’ve recently released a beautiful graphic novel called Squire—what can you tell me about that?
SA. I did, alongside my co-creator Nadia Shammas. Squire is a fantasy YA graphic novel set in an alternate history Middle Eastern setting. It is about a young girl born on the wrong side of a border, who joins the army with dreams of becoming a knight. As she rises in the ranks, she realizes the “greater good” may not include her. Squire is about the stories that make empires, and how we fit into them. 
Definitely for fans of Mulan, Full Metal Alchemist, and Avatar the Last Airbender
Q. Where can readers find your work?
SA. I’m on Twitter and TikTok, and you can poke through my stuff at sara-alfa.com.
The "Fight, Magic, Items" Blurb
Take a journey through the history of Japanese role-playing games—from the creators who built it, the games that defined it, and the stories that transformed pop culture and continue to capture the imaginations of millions of fans to this day.
The Japanese roleplaying game (JRPG) genre is known for unforgettable characters, rich stories, and some of the most iconic games in the industry. Inspired by early western RPGs and introducing boundary-pushing technology and artistic styles, they’re responsible for many of gaming’s boldest and most successful games—and have the fanbase to prove it. In Fight, Magic, Items, Aidan Moher guides readers through the fascinating history of JRPGs, exploring the technical challenges, distinct narrative and artistic visions, and creative rivalries fueling the creation of countless classic games and their quest to become the best—not only in Japan, but in North America, too. 
Moher starts with the origin stories of two classic Nintendo titles, Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, and immerses readers in the world of JRPGs, following the interconnected history through the lens of their creators and their stories full of hope, risk, and pixels. From the tiny teams and almost impossible schedules that built the foundations of the Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest franchises; Reiko Kodama pushing the narrative and genre boundaries with Phantasy Star; the unexpected team up between Yuji Horii and Hironobu Sakaguchi to create Chrono Trigger; to the unique mashup of classic Disney with Final Fantasy coolness in Kingdom Hearts. Filled with firsthand interviews and behind-the-scenes looks into the development, reception, and influence of JRPGs, Fight, Magic, Items captures the evolution of the genre and its continued hold on millions of fans, decades after those first iconic pixelated games released.
How to preorder "Fight, Magic, Items"
For more information, and links to purchase from your favourite online book retailer visit Fight, Magic, Item‘s official page on the Hachette website.
If you can, please consider supporting your local bookstores with a preorder for Fight, Magic, Items. This helps not only the book, but also supports the small businesses and booksellers that are the heart and soul of the bookselling industry.
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Credits
Astrolabe banner photo by Shot by Cerqueira on Unsplash
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