Masahiro Sakurai was born the three of August, 1970, in Tokyo, and next year you’ll be fifty years old, and at that point I will have passed thirty-two to develop games. The same year came to light – among others – Hideki Kamiya, and yet Sakurai, who incidentally is able to name all the colleagues, class ’70 in memory, it is famous for a lot longer. Despite being so young, it is more than a decade that it is considered to be a veteran: in fact, his first worldwide success (Kirby’s Dream Land, Game Boy) arrived just twenty-two years, in 1992. Of her biography we know very little, but certainly not went to university, having been hired by HAL Laboratory in 1989, just nineteen years old. However, as we know from his weekly column on Famitsu, is a person antirinascimentale, who strongly believes in specialisation, in specific skills and in-depth, in such a way that these individual experts, collaborating, and optimizing the timing and quality of communication, can create a healthy productive environment.

Masahiro Sakurai

Belongs to the kind of developers who Miyamoto is, even estimating very Sakurai, criticized: Shigeru is convinced that – as he has done – the life should be brought in to the game, and not the opposite. For him, in the end, was quite simple: from small games would not have been able to test them, not even wanting to. However, his point of view is interesting, and is a position that multiple times, it was also expressed in the literary context: if Melville had not worked on the whaler Acushnet, Moby Dick would have existed? The barking dogs to Miyamoto have become Categnacci. His wanderings forest have generated the legend of Zelda. Its ants in the garden Pikmin. The arches of the shrine have led to Star Fox. You’ve got the idea: well, Sakurai does not work as well. Because, from what we know, Sakurai has a single passion, a single obsession: video games.

HAL and Kirby

The designer edochiano he started playing at five years, with a clone of Pong. From then on he never stopped, as we have said, even to breathe videogames all day, has not even completed advanced studies. A decision that the parents probably will be the opposite, but due to the instant and worldwide success of the son, will have easily changed my mind. The special relationship between Nintendo and Sakurai was born, at least according to the rumors, rather randomly: the video game Gall Force – adapted from the anime – he would have wowed so much by deciding to work with its creators, and that is HAL Laboratory. Those who expected some attraction due to the quote kubrickiana, given that the name of the software house pays homage to the computer of 2001: a Space Odyssey, well, will have to settle for Gall Force: as we have already anticipated, the culture of Sakurai is rather focused on a single topic. In any case, the young Masahiro is hired shortly after having delivered the application. The HAL know the programmer Satoru Iwata, who decreed that the sudden fortune, and forge the marks from predestined: the future president of Nintendo, offers to colleagues to submit a project for the Game Boy, of any kind, but with this specific target group.

Vita e giochi di Sakurai, creatore di Super Smash Bros.

To triumph is the draft of Sakurai, that Twinkle Popopo, then Twinkle Popo, then, for the intrusion (providential, in this case) of Nintendo of America, Kirby. In fact, in Kyoto, that project love it so much that they decide to publish it in the first person, and on a global scale. Sakurai, in summary, at the age of nineteen he invented Kirby, a brand that has just passed the threshold of thirty-five million games sold; the spherical shape of the character would have had to be temporary, but that piece with the passing of days conquers all, and in fact earns a place among the stars of the video game. Success as said is very extended, so Sakurai puts you immediately at work on a version for the NES, released the year after, in 1993: the game is still more beautiful than the previous, thanks to more advanced hardware, and in this work, Kirby turns pink, and it gains the ability to steal the powers of others. Kirby’s Adventure is a little more difficult than Kirby’s Dream Land, and it is even more beautiful, but the key principles remain the same: it is a platform for all, a relaxing game in which the protagonist is able to flutter.

Smash Bros. and Michiko

With the arrival of the Super Nintendo, Sakurai began working on a Kirby 16-bit. Out between 1995 and 1996, it’s called Kirby Super Star, and by many is considered the best episode of the series (if you play with Kirby’s Adventure, usually): it is with this title that Sakurai performs one of the fundamental traits of his style, till that time kept concealed. We refer to gigantism, from which he never freed: Kirby Super Star, as it says in the cover, is eight games in one. You don’t notice the similarities with the presentation of Super Smash Bros., Ultimate from last year? The characters “Are. All. Here.”. Behold, that phrase has been the sublimation of a trend where the first symptoms were emerged just with Kirby Super Star. But let’s go back to 1996, when the HAL Iwata is now president (without having to give up the programming), and when Sakurai starts working on the two projects for the Nintendo 64: an adventure and a fighting game for four players (called Ryuoh: The Fighting Game).

Vita e giochi di Sakurai, creatore di Super Smash Bros.

Iwata falls in love with the second concept, entrusts him with a budget and a staff worthy, and in 1997 HAL is finally able to present it to Nintendo, with a small detail: while remaining unchanged the mechanical, the wrestlers humanoids have been replaced by figures of the company kyotese. The presentation goes quite well, and Super Smash Bros., released in 1999, sells millions and millions of copies. During the processing of the game adds to the team a girl entry into HAL in 1998, which, unlike Sakurai has studied art at the university, and who works on the design of Mario and Yoshi, as well as to the creation of the main menu. Michiko Takahashi, this is his name, knows, Masahiro Sakurai during the development of Super Smash Bros.: before the game is released, it has now become his girlfriend. The life and video games, in good and in bad, for him, the concepts are separable.


When the success of Sakurai seems now unstoppable, and that is with the release of Super Smash Bros. Melee for the Gamecube, triumph’s international sales and critical acclaim, and the unexpected occurs. Sakurai in July 2003, he published the controversial Kirby’s Air Ride, and the month after leaving HAL. The official reason is that it does not approve the serialization savage, and unjustified, which is going to face the market. It is a stance that define abnormal is an understatement: we refer to the dismissal, certainly not to the utterances on the sequel to bound to. Sakurai leaving HAL’s claim to her position as a creative and, above all, a creator of video games: in the employment context, the japanese, it is good to keep that in mind, after a series of successes such as those of Sakurai, usually you become responsible to some department. You start to supervise, to train other people, moving away gradually from the concrete development of a game. In Nintendo, there are passed all, and they did it, considering it an honor to: Miyamoto, Tezuka, Aonuma, Koizumi (and there are only the most famous).

Vita e giochi di Sakurai, creatore di Super Smash Bros.

The morbid relationship of Sakurai with the game, which up to that time, had facilitated the rise, here creates a sort of inner conflict: to promote and not to be a game designer, or be a game designer, in spite of the canonical cursus honorum? The choice for him is not difficult. After HAL reaches Q Entertainment and Mizuguchi, which creates Meteos for the DS, a puzzle game. Is being developed by Sora, his new company, composed of only two elements: he and Michiko, who also this time participates in the graphic processing of the project. The same year, at the E3 2005, his friend Iwata announces, without anticipargli nothing, a new Super Smash Bros. for the Wii. Sakurai gets upset at the mere idea that someone could touch the creature, feeling responsible – so says… – for any drop in quality. Iwata with that announcement gets exactly what they want: there is no need to chase Sakurai, because he is the one to ask him to work on the new Super Smash Bros., And Satoru totally all over: budget, employees, and even the location of the dream team, composed especially for Brawl.

Iwata and the future

From then on the relationship with Nintendo remains unchanged. Or, it would be better to say, with Iwata: it is the personal esteem and mutual, as well as the obsession that someone else might ruin Super Smash Bros., to keep alive this connection. Sakurai, it is not possible to define it otherwise, is an exception to this: Nintendo would not allow to no other, or few others, a conduct of this kind. Touches on all the brands that you want, including the reboot of Kid Icarus for the 3DS, it must work every time with new staff, and every time is satisfied. Of course, the results are charged. Always. And this is another detail not to be underestimated. Sakurai bride, the wife, co-worker, it could not be otherwise, between Meteos and Super Smash Bros. Brawl: the latter in fact is the first game in which it appears in the credits as Michiko Sakurai. In this period, Masahiro begins to exhibit traits that qualify as mystical is exaggerated, but not entirely wrong: he conceives the development as an inevitable-flagellation, a japanese Sisyphus, who every morning wakes up and kills, vocation, work. And is proud to let us know the status. We show in the mouse that allows you to limit the tendinitis in the shoulder (because the head personally, and for a long time, its the same games). Show us her eyes, asked with a grim smile, if you have never days of rest. Tells us that it is imposed not to work more than the twenty-two. And in the meantime he continues to write weekly on Famitsu, where he speaks of video games, of all those who knows and play (and they are many), because it is also a remarkable collector (not only Nintendo).


At the funeral of Satoru Iwata, in 2015, Sakurai has a reserved place among the members of the family and knowledge more narrow. Tells the story, from Famitsu, which imagines the body of his friend inside the coffin, without his glasses, dressed in white. Sakurai remains there for as long as possible: this is the last time that you can stay with Iwata, and wants to exploit it to the full. Fails to realize that soon it will be cremated, and will disappear in the nothing. Tells us that in the past has supported, using the only metaphors for him possible, that when somebody dies, it is as if he has disappeared a character from a story; but for the deceased, it is as if the entire world would go. However, it believes Iwata is too large to define it as a character in someone else’s life. Assures us that, despite suffering, will not fall into depression, but it will behave in the only way possible. “I will complete what I have to do”. What you need to do is Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, on the Switch: we just discovered that Iwata if it was made a promise before he died, but he had sensed long before, as evidenced by our review. The we understood why Ultimate is realized, it feels right, with a love that Sakurai has never given to Super Smash Bros. for Wii U (although beautiful), and how The Star of Hope, the meaning of which is rather explicit, and gentle enough to not merit a prosaic banalities. Now his task is finished – or rather, it soon will be, once housed the DLC – and at that point, Sakurai will be on a location that is unusual. Will have to decide, without Iwata, if will still be the case to work with Nintendo. It is likely that it will go as well, but is not discounted. For sure, it will continue to breathe video games from morning to night, and create them on his own terms.