Sakurai in 2014
|Born||August 3, 1970 (age 53)|
|Super Mario–related role(s)||Game director, game designer|
- “It was tough for me to see that every time I made a new game, people automatically assumed that a sequel was coming. Even if it's a sequel, lots of people have to give their all to make a game, but some people think the sequel process happens naturally.”
- —Masahiro Sakurai, Nintendo Dream, August 26, 2003
Masahiro Sakurai (in Japanese: 桜井 政博) is a Japanese video game director, game designer, and songwriter. He is best known for the creation of HAL Laboratory's Kirby and Super Smash Bros. series and for the revival of the Kid Icarus series. Sakurai created the character Kirby when he was nineteen years old. In 2003, he left HAL Laboratory to pursue a career in freelance game design.
Original employment by Nintendo
After being employed at HAL Laboratory, in 1992, Sakurai created and directed his first game, Kirby's Dream Land, a game that is considered to be Sakurai's breakthrough, using his character Kirby as the protagonist. Eventually, he and Satoru Iwata, who was still an employee of HAL at the time, worked together to create the original Super Smash Bros. game, using Nintendo characters. After the success of this game, Sakurai was asked to develop its sequel, Super Smash Bros. Melee.
After completing this game and Kirby Air Ride, Sakurai left Nintendo on August 5, 2003, later citing Nintendo's desire for sequels as the reason for his departure. He had grown tired of being asked to create the next Kirby or Super Smash Bros. game and longed to have more creative freedom. He later coined the term, "sequelization" to describe the problem he saw not only within Nintendo, but throughout the video game industry. Despite his reasons for departing, he still continues to direct the Super Smash Bros. series.
After leaving HAL Laboratory, Sakurai created Sora Ltd. He stated that the reason he became a freelance game developer was that he felt bogged down by working with the same people with the same characters.
At E3 2005, Satoru Iwata, later a former president of Nintendo, revealed that his company was planning a new Super Smash Bros. game which was later named Super Smash Bros. Brawl. According to Iwata, the press read too far into this announcement, going so far as to ask Sakurai if he would develop the game. Sakurai was shocked, but Iwata invited his former employee to his hotel room to clarify the situation. Satoru said that he expected the new Super Smash Bros. to be a port of Super Smash Bros. Melee with added Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection features unless Sakurai would be involved. Sakurai later admitted that this served as a kind of threat to him. However, Sakurai had come to E3 looking for new ideas, so he decided to take the opportunity.
However, the traditional Super Smash Bros. team at HAL Laboratory was currently working on another project. Sakurai and Iwata decided that the best location for the project would be in Tokyo, specifically, Takadanobaba. Sakurai moved there for the project. The development team, part of Game Arts (responsible for, among others, the Lunar and Grandia RPG series), was introduced to Sakurai by Shigeru Miyamoto. Sakurai and his team of one hundred, also known as "The Studio," worked on the project, delaying it as necessary, until it was released in Japan on January 31, 2008. In addition to directing the game, Masahiro Sakurai also voiced King Dedede, one of the playable characters in the game. Sakurai has not commented on his future with Nintendo.
At E3 2011, Iwata revealed that a new Super Smash Bros. game would be developed for both the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, but the game would not begin development until Kid Icarus: Uprising, Sakurai's then-current project, was completed. It was also announced on June 2012 that Namco Bandai would be co-developing the game alongside Sora Ltd. Sakurai also oversaw development of the next Smash game, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
- On fighter reveal trailers for Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U:
"This reveal video is kind of like a race, with Kirby Air Ride vs. Mario Kart. It kind of has the feeling of a fight outside the ring.
"The mysterious sparkle in Rosalina’s eye is an extension of the things that she does within the Super Smash Bros. series. It’s inspired by how Rosalina is an alien, with her background being a bit different. "
- Bowser Jr.:
"Bowser Jr. is normally a cute (or maybe unlikeable?) character. But for this reveal video, we presented him in a cool way, with a proper villain role. I like the feeling of despair and the two sides clashing together at the end, too. However, because of this we had to refine all seven Koopalings in CG, and the video cost more to make than expected."
- On fighter reveal trailers for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate:
- King K. Rool:
"We knew that there was a lot of demand for King K. Rool to join Super Smash Bros., so we decided to tease the viewers, making them think he was coming, before revealing it was a fake – and then showing that he is actually coming. King Dedede appears because, as with the other reveal videos, we were trying to mix in fighters from other series, to give a feeling of it being a collaboration."
- Piranha Plant:
"The Piranha Plant reveal was an additional video for the early purchase bonus. So, there isn’t a CG part, only the in-game part. Piranha Plant isn’t included in the Fighter Pass, so you need to buy them separately. At the time, people were saying that they never expected Piranha Plant to join the battle."
- King K. Rool:
- Masahiro Sakurai created a microgame named Line Slash with WarioWare: D.I.Y. It was made available for download in the "Big Name Games" category in Japan on May 27, 2009 and in other regions in 2010. The game has not yet been taken off and is still available for download, unlike most other games developed by celebrities. A video of Sakurai developing his microgame is available in original Japanese and with English subtitles.
- N-Sider Media: Masahiro Sakurai Personnel Profile. Accessed 1-23-08.
- Iwata Asks: Super Smash Bros. Brawl Vol.1, pg. 1. Accessed 1-23-08.
- Nintendo Dream August 26, 2003.
- Iwata Asks: Super Smash Bros. Brawl Vol.1, pg. 2. Accessed 1-23-08.
- Iwata Asks: Super Smash Bros. Brawl Vol.1, pg. 3. Accessed 1-23-08.
- IGN Wii Super Smash Bros. Brawl Game Profile. Accessed 1-23-08
- Masahiro Sakurai. Smash Trivia. Smash Bros. DOJO!! (American English). Accessed 4-15-08.
- Gamestop - E3 2011: New Super Smash Bros. game in development
- IGN: Namco Bandai Developing Next Smash Bros.
- March 24, 2022. Take a look back at Super Smash Bros. fighter reveals with Masahiro Sakurai! – Part 1. nintendo.com. Retrieved March 30, 2022. (Archived March 24, 2022, 15:55:56 UTC via Wayback Machine.)
- March 31, 2022. Take a look back at Super Smash Bros. fighter reveals with Masahiro Sakurai! – Part 2. nintendo.com. Retrieved October 5, 2022. (Archived September 27, 2022, 00:53:17 UTC via Wayback Machine.)