HAL Laboratory, Inc. (株式会社ハル研究所, Kabushikigaisha Haru Kenkyūjo, formally shortened as HALKEN) is a Japanese video game developer that was founded on February 21, 1980. Though mainly independent, it has strong ties with Nintendo throughout its history.
HAL Laboratory began its career with developing games for the MSX and Commodore VIC-20, including such titles as Rollerball, Super Snake, Eggerland Mystery, Radar Rat Race, Jupiter Lander, and Avenger. The company eventually encountered financial problems following the development of the Famicom game Metal Slader Glory. Nintendo offered to rescue HAL from bankruptcy, but on one condition: their employee Satoru Iwata be promoted to company president. HAL agreed and Iwata was appointed president from 1993 to 2000. He would soon become the president of Nintendo in 2002, succeeding Hiroshi Yamuchi.
In August 2001, HAL and Nintendo co-founded Warpstar, Inc. in a joint venture. Much like The Pokémon Company, it was created to manage the license and offer supervision regarding the Kirby property in terms of merchandise and adaptations, starting with the anime series Kirby: Right Back at Ya!
In August 2003, a company restructuring occurred following the company's relocation to its own office building in Kanda Suda-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo. In 2020, HAL came back to its old office in Nintendo's Nihombashi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo building, now sharing it with Nintendo EPD, Nintendo PTD, 1-Up Studio, and Game Freak.
In 2017, HAL began developing and self-publishing their own series of mobile games under the HAL Egg brand. The mobile games are done in a different style from the rest of their console titles and feature brand new characters made specifically for the brand. Their first release as HAL Egg was Part Time UFO, with the main character becoming the brand's unofficial mascot.
Name and logo
The company's logo, a dog incubating eggs, is named Inutamago ( 犬たまご Dog Eggs). It was commissioned by Satoru Iwata and designed by Mr. Akiyama. The idea's conceptualization was handled by Shigesato Itoi, the creator of the Mother / EarthBound trilogy, who created the idea of the dog and eggs as he wanted the theme to be centered around an "unexpected bond...one that brings the birth of something new". The logo was adopted in 1998, first seen in Kirby's Super Star Stacker.
The name HAL was initially believed to be named after the fictional character HAL 9000, the antagonist of the novel and film 2001: A Space Odyssey. It wasn't until an interview with Iwata that he revealed that the name is a pun on the IBM Company as it would "put them one step ahead" of them (the letters H, A, and L come before I, B, and M). During the mid-90s, HAL often credited themselves as HALKEN, which is a shortened portmanteau of its Japanese name (Kabushiki gaisha Haru Kenkyūjo).
Development of Super Smash Bros.
The development of the first Super Smash Bros. for the Nintendo 64 was started by longtime HAL employee and Kirby creator Masahiro Sakurai alongside Satoru Iwata. It began as a prototype called Ryuoh: The Fighting Game and featured no Nintendo characters. After the initial build was rejected by Shigeru Miyamoto, Sakurai decided on including several Nintendo characters in order to provide "atmosphere", which he felt was necessary for a home console fighting game. A reworked build featuring Mario, Donkey Kong, Samus, and Fox was presented and his idea was approved. Initially a Japan-exclusive title, its immense success lead to an international release.
Sakurai returned as director for the GameCube sequel Super Smash Bros. Melee. It featured a heavy focus on improved gameplay and graphics due to the improved hardware. Its development cycle, however, was tumultuous as it was developed in 13 months with Sakurai cutting his weekends short and taking little to no breaks; he later called it “an extremely grueling development cycle” and the worst of his career.
Shortly after the release of Melee and Kirby Air Ride two years later, Masahiro Sakurai left HAL Laboratory on August 5, 2003. He believed it would be difficult for him to continue creating games under the company, voicing his tiredness in an interview of the games industry's focus on sequels. Due to his departure, it left the Smash series' fate in question, while HAL continued development of the Kirby series. Two years later on September 30, 2005, Sakurai formed his own independent development company - Sora Ltd. Since then, the company has overseen development of the Smash series starting with Super Smash Bros. Brawl, thus leaving Melee as the last entry with HAL's direct development. However, HAL still has a much more minor involvement with the series, as they still lend the characters and music from the Kirby series as well as the remixes and original compositions from the first two Smash games. The company's representation would expand further outside of the Kirby series in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate with the inclusion of BoxBoy, who makes a cameo as a Spirit.
- Crimmins, Brian (21 November 2017). Why Does HAL Laboratory Only Make Nintendo Games? (English). Vice. Retrieved on 18 August 2020.
- Satoru Iwata - 1999 Developer Interview (English). Used Games Magazine. Archived from the original on 08 July 2016. Retrieved on 18 August 2020.
- HAL Laboratory - Corporate Info (Japanese). HAL Laboratory. Retrieved on 18 August 2020.
- Romano, Sal (22 August 2017). HAL Laboratory launches smartphone game brand HAL Egg, first title due out this fall in Japan (English). Gematsu. Retrieved on 18 August 2020.
- Madden, Orla (29 November 2012). Iwata Explains Where The Name HAL Laboratory Came From (English). Nintendo Life. Retrieved on 18 August 2020.
- Wii.com - Iwata Asks: Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Retrieved on 31 January 2008.
- Super Smash Bros. Melee. N-Sider.
- PushDustIn (29 March 2016). Timeline of Masahiro Sakurai’s Life (English). Source Gaming. Retrieved on 18 August 2020.
- PushDustIn (23 June 2015). “I’m Quitting Hal Laboratory!” (English). Source Gaming. Retrieved on 18 August 2020.
- Wikipedia's HAL Laboratory article
- HAL Laboratory, Inc (Japanese)
- IGN page
- N-Sider page (HAL Laboratory company profile)