The Nintendo developer talks about Super Smash Bros Ultimate, the ‘eternal appeal of gaming’ and the challenge of appealing to casual fans and pros at the same time
Masahiro Sakurai is 48 years old, but looks almost ageless. In his face, you can see the prodigious teenager he once was. Sakurai was 19 when he directed his first game, Kirby’s Dream Land, at HAL Laboratory, a Tokyo developer that made a string of excellent games for Nintendo’s consoles in the 90s. His parents were perplexed; in their generation, video games didn’t exist. “They never supported me actively, there was a lot of uncertainty and fear,” he recalls. “That said, after I worked on the Kirby games, I noticed that all of a sudden my parents had Kirby paraphernalia hanging around the house.”
At his own company, Sora Ltd, Sakurai is now the director and public face of Smash Bros, Nintendo’s chaotic fighting game that features characters from throughout its 35-plus-year history alongside special guests from elsewhere in the gaming world, such as Final Fantasy’s Cloud, Sonic and Metal Gear Solid’s Snake. He is a calm presence in the Nintendo Direct broadcasts, which deliver a drip-feed of information to fans, going into almost comically deep detail on characters’ moves and animations, and occasionally betraying a deadpan sense of humour.