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Masahiro Sakurai (in Japanese: 桜井 政博) is a Japanese video game director and former HAL Laboratory employee. He is best known for the creation of the Kirby and Super Smash Bros. series, and for the revival of the Kid Icarus series. Nintendo's HAL Laboratory hired Sakurai when he was nineteen years old in 1991. In 2003, he left HAL Laboratory to pursue a career in freelance game design.
Original employment by Nintendo
In 1991, Sakurai was hired by HAL Laboratory. A year later, he created and directed his first title, Kirby's Dream Land, a title 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. title, using Nintendo characters. After the success of this game, Sakurai was asked to develop its sequel, Super Smash Bros. Melee.
After completing this title 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. title 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. title 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 title. 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", 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 title, 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.