Monday, May 23, 2011

HAL Laboratory: Quietly Making Classics

One of the better pure multiplayer games to ever release on a Nintendo system was Super Smash Bros. for the Nintendo 64. It was developed by HAL Laboratory. While HAL may not be as well known as Bungie, Rockstar North, or EA Tiburon, they are widely respected as a group who's history goes back almost as long as the three major console manufacturers.

HAL Laboratory started in 1980 and cut their teeth making games for MSX and Commodore computers before taking the big leap onto the Nintendo Famicom. While they made a number of solid releases in the early day, the first major shot in the arm came in the form of a game for the MSX computer system called Eggerland Mystery. Eggerland Mystery was a quirky puzzle game that forced gamers out of the standard "kill whatever moves" formula that was prevalent with a lot of early video games. For those who know their video game history, Eggerland Mystery evolved into The Adventures of Lolo on the NES. In addition to Lolo, HAL created a number of incredible games for the NES, including ports of Joust, Defender II, and Millipede, and two of my favorite NES games, Kabuki Quantum Fighter and Air Fortress. All of those games were good, but it took a little pink fluff ball to give HAL their biggest success.

HAL released Kirby's Dream Land on the Game Boy in 1992, and was an immediate hit, leading to several sequels across several Nintendo consoles. The character not only became a gaming icon, but Kirby was also the unofficial mascot for both HAL and Nintendo.

HAL was always seemingly low key as far as their branding goes which leads to Nintendo getting credit for the development of a game they only published. With games like Earthbound of even Super Smash Bros., unless you pay attention at the very beginning, you'd never know the game was developed by HAL Laboratory, and that may be the company's strongest selling point. There is no flash, no Pomp and Circumstance, just a developer that quietly goes about it's business creating classic games, and even some 30 years after opening their doors, HAL Laboratory is still quietly making classics.

No comments:

Post a Comment