Masahiro Sakurai (born August 3, 1970), head of Sora Ltd., and creator of both the Kirby and Super Smash Bros. series. He created Kirby under HAL Laboratory when he was only 19 years old. Seeing how it was the nineties, and most of Nintendo's games were infamous for their difficulty, Sakurai designed the original Kirby's Dream Land to be relatively easy so players wouldn't be alienated by the game being too hard. He directed a number of Kirby titles from there, playing a smaller and smaller role in development as time went on, culminating in him simply voicing King Dedede in Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards. He worked closely with the staff for the series' anime, Kirby of the Stars, and he also worked as the designer on Kirby Air Ride, which was his final game in the series.
Sometime after the development of Kirby Super Star, Sakurai wanted to make a fighting game. It was developed again by HAL Laboratory, but during their spare time, with a shockingly small budget. He wanted to make it different from the others; not with combo based combat, and with simultaneous four player gameplay. Originally called Kakuto-Gemu Ryuonote , he felt it was somewhat bland. However, he added in characters from various Nintendo franchises, and the game was released as Super Smash Bros. in 1999. The game was a Sleeper Hit, and the game intended not to even leave Japan's shores was localized, where it also did well. Over the following few years, Sakurai made Super Smash Bros. Melee before his resignation, which he stated was due to HAL Laboratory continually making sequels. It looked as though he wouldn't make another game in the series, forming his own company, Sora Ltd., and working on original titles, such as Meteos, until he was approached by his good friend and president of Nintendo, Satoru Iwata, who persuaded him to make Super Smash Bros. Brawl. During development, characters, items, and stages were posted on the official website, leading to fans eagerly awaiting possible character reveals. The event was dubbed "Japan Time" by fans and remains one of many fans' most memorable times.
From there, Iwata and Sakurai wanted to work on an original game with both land and air combat for the Nintendo 3DS, but they realized that the Kid Icarus series would be a perfect fit, with its protagonist Pit and the goddess Palutena already having been given redesigns in Brawl. Kid Icarus: Uprising has been generally praised as a must have for the system, becoming its Killer App for early 2012.
At E3 2011 it was announced that Sakurai would be developing two new Super Smash Bros. games, one for the Wii U and one for the 3DS. Although he was uncomfortable with announcing a game before development had even startednote , but it allowed staff to be recruited. Around summer 2012, it was announced the game would be produced by a joint effort between Sora Ltd. and Bandai Namco Entertainment.
He also has stopped tweeting as frequently in order to focus more on the games' development, and also because he grew tired of posting a game and fans instantly thinking the characters would be in the next Super Smash Bros. title.
Works Sakurai has been involved in:
- Kid Icarus: Uprising (Nintendo 3DS)
- Kirby's Dream Land (Game Boy)
- Kirby's Adventure (Nintendo Entertainment System) and its remake, Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land (Game Boy Advance)
- Kirby Super Star (Super Nintendo Entertainment System)
- Kirby Air Ride (started on the Nintendo 64, later moved to the Nintendo GameCube)
- Kirby & the Amazing Mirror (Game Boy Advance) (Special Advisor}
- Kirby of the Stars (Anime)
- Meteos (Nintendo DS)
- Super Smash Bros.
Tropes commonly used by Masahiro Sakurai:
- Artist Disillusionment: Sakurai departed from HAL Laboratory as he was disappointed with the "sequelization" of the company (particularly in regards to Kirby) and the industry as a whole. Of course, this hasn't stopped him from developing four more installments in the Super Smash Bros. series, but even then, several interviews have given subtle hints that he is dissatisfied with doing so.
- Big Name Fan:
- Of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure; he's listed Battle Tendency as his favorite arc in the series, and even mimicked the Memetic Hand Gesture commonly used throughout the series during an interview in 2006. His fondness of the series even led to a few shoutouts to it in promotional material for Super Smash Bros. 4.
- Of Persona 5. During an interview with Atlus, he stated that he found the game to be "something truly remarkable", praising the game for its dynamic user interface in particular. Sakurai also mentioned that, despite his own heavy schedule, he played through the entire game while attempting 100% Completion.note He would later ascend to Ascended Fanboy status when he was able to make Joker a playable character in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
- Fan Nickname:
- Signature Style: He's developed a set of game features that are commonly associated with his games:
- Achievement System: A grid of achievements, some more significant than others, such that you cannot see what the other achievements are until you have completed achievements that border them. A few Effortless Achievements are thrown into the mix to get you started, and limited-supply items that automatically claim an achievement are often included - but often can't be used on certain goals!
- Boss Rush: The player fights several bosses with breaks in between with limited opportunities to heal. In later games this ended in a more advanced version of the Final Boss.
- Dynamic Difficulty: First used in Kid Icarus: Uprising then later implemented in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, players wager in-game currency to increase the difficulty and the value of potential rewards. Failure will lower the difficulty and the reward value, and the player loses part of the wager. There are also special areas that require a minimum difficulty level to enter.
- Also note the presence of large, colorful buttons on his more recent main menus. Meteos◊, Super Smash Bros. Brawl◊, Kid Icarus: Uprising◊, and Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS◊ all feature screen-filling, multicolored buttons designed by his wife, Michiko.
- A staple of his earlier games like Kirby and Super Smash Bros. is that they're designed to be more beginner-friendly than their genres were usually known for at the time. Kirby got around Platform Hell by letting the protagonist fly, and Super Smash Bros. averted complicated button inputs frequent in the Fighting Game genre by making all special moves into simple "direction + button" inputs.
- Trolling Creator: Almost as bad as fellow developer Hideo Kojima. This tends to show up especially in stuff involving Super Smash Bros., being rather aware of fan speculation, and using that to mess with fans.
- For Super Smash Bros. Wii U/3DS, he teased both fan favorite Ridley and the supposedly leaked Palutena several times in a very self-aware fashion, never doing reveals that outright confirmed or denied their playable presence for a long time.
- It should be noted that, objectively, Sakurai has almost never been outright deceptive. The Zero Suit Samus quote above was the only time he's stated something false to get a reaction - and even then, he came clean seconds later. Despite Sakurai's reputation as a troll, he's usually more coy than outright manipulative.
- Special mention goes to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, where the character he chose for early-adopter bonus DLC wasn't a highly-anticipated big-name hero nor a highly-requested fighter, but Piranha Plant from Mario Bros.
- Workaholic: Development for the Super Smash Bros. series alone has him burning the midnight oil. He and his team developed the first game as a side project while doing other full-time work, which required them to come in on evenings and weekends to get it done. Even after the game was a success and got a sequel with a proper budget and development schedule, he still rushed to develop Melee in just over a year to release it close to the GameCube's launch. He worked diligently on Smash 4 despite developing tendonitis in his right arm that made it difficult and painful for him to do his work. He's also returned to direct each new game in the series so far despite saying multiple times that the current game he's working on would be his last due to the heavy workload. He even lampshades this in the 11.1.2018 Smash Direct video.