HAL Laboratory, Inc. (also known as HAL Labs and previously HALKEN) is a Japanese video game development company closely affiliated with Nintendo throughout its history. One of its founding members, Satoru Iwata, eventually became the president of Nintendo of Japan. Among the company's many creations are the Kirby series and Super Smash Bros. series.
HAL Laboratory got its start in 1980 developing games for personal computers, creating modest hits such as the Eggerland series for the MSX. Starting in 1984, they would begin developing for Nintendo's hardware, collaborating on NES Pinball and porting its Eggerland games to their consoles along with original titles such as Revenge of the 'Gator and New Ghostbusters II. However, the company underwent financial hardship after the release of Metal Slader Glory, a costly and elaborate adventure game that failed to recoup its budget. Nintendo would help HAL Laboratory repay its ¥1.5 billion debt on the condition that Satoru Iwata was appointed as its president. Under his leadership, the company would be restructured and its focus would shift solely to game consoles.
The original company split off in 1992 to become HAL Corporation. HAL Corporation would continue to independently work on PC-related products, such as new entries to the Eggerland series for Windows computers, and eventually closed in 2002. Meanwhile, HAL Laboratory focused exclusively on developing Nintendo products, such as their newly-introduced Kirby, while providing development support for other titles such as EarthBound and Pokémon Stadium.
By 1999, HAL Laboratory paid off its debt, and Iwata was offered a position at Nintendo as the Head of Corporate Planning. He later became Nintendo's president, and held this position until his death in 2015. In July of 2001, at the time of production of the anime Kirby: Right Back at Ya!, HAL Laboratory and Nintendo would establish a joint subsidiary, "Warpstar, Inc.", to manage the Kirby intellectual property and copyright. Warpstar, Inc. still exists and manages the Kirby brand in the present day. To this day, HAL continues to primarily develop for Nintendo platforms, and creates new entries to the Kirby series, as well as original titles such as Picross 3D, BOXBOY!, and Part Time UFO (the latter via its mobile development branch, HAL Egg).
HAL's main development headquarters are Kanda, a region of the Chiyoda ward of Tokyo. They share the building with Nintendo, its subsidiaries, and Game Freak. They also have a secondary branch in Kai, Yamanashi, which overlooks Mt. Fuji. The company was originally located in Nintendo's building in Chuo, Tokyo; from 2003 to 2020, its main headquarters were in a separate building in Kanda. HAL's headquarters, especially the Yamanashi building, are referenced in several of the company's products. As of July 2021, the company has 205 employees.
The corporate logo is known as the Dream Hatcher (a.k.a. Inutamago; 犬たまご "Dog Eggs"), which depicts a dog similar to a dachshund incubating several eggs. According to a 2003 Nintendo Power interview about Kirby Air Ride, producer Masayoshi Tanimura notes that the dog is a fictional creation and that the team does not think of the dog like a dachshund. Tanimura explains that the logo represents deep thought into "incubating completely new ideas that eventually hatch into incredibly fun games". The Dream Hatcher was designed by Shigesato Itoi, and has been the symbol of HAL Laboratory since December 1998.
Video game series produced by HAL
Notable video game series produced by HAL include:
- Eggerland / Adventures of Lolo
- Lololo & Lalala originated from this series.
- Super Smash Bros.
- Part Time UFO
- Released under HAL's mobile game brand: HAL Egg
- Later released on Nintendo Switch on October 28, 2020, under HAL Laboratory & Nintendo.
HAL was also involved in the creation and/or localization of EarthBound, Sim City 2000, various Pokémon spin-off titles, and others. They have also worked on hardware for Nintendo, including for their most recent console, the Nintendo Switch.
For the full list of HAL's works, see this link.
Notable staff of HAL Laboratory (past and present)
The following people are past and present Presidents of HAL Laboratory.
- Mitsuhiro Ikeda (1980/2 - 1984/3)
- Tsuyoshi Ikeda (1984/3 - 1993/3)
- Satoru Iwata (1993/3 - 1999/6)
- Masayoshi Tanimura (1999/6 - 2015/6)
- Satoshi Mitsuhara (2015/6 - 2018/9)
- Shigefumi Kawase (2018/9 - present)
References to HAL in the Kirby series
In many games of the Kirby series, HAL includes self-referential easter eggs, typical in the form of their name or the Dream Hatcher logo. The most famous of these are the hidden HAL Rooms, which appear in numerous Kirby games. The Japanese pronunciation of HAL (ハル) can be separated into 8 (は) and 6 (る). Some HAL Rooms can only be entered if the player waits in a certain area for 86 seconds. Furthermore, some games, such as Dedede's Drum Dash Deluxe and Kirby Star Allies, award a high score of 86,555 under special circumstances. In Japanese, 5 is pronounced as "go" (ご), making it "HAL go go go". Team Kirby Clash also awards 39,860 experience points upon reaching level ten: "39" is read as san-kyu, or the English phrase "thank you", making it "thank you, HAL".
Besides this, several names of characters, places, and objects in the Kirby series may be references to HAL, such as the Halberd, Halcandra, President Haltmann, and his Haltmann Works Company. The three levels in New Challenge Stages of Kirby's Dream Collection Special Edition are named Happiness Hall, Apricot Atrium, and Last Land, and in Kirby and the Forgotten Land, three major companies seen throughout the stages are named Holine, Alivel, and Lightron. Also in Kirby and the Forgotten Land, Fecto Forgo's ID number, ID-F86, is another reference to HAL. The race car used for Car Mouth in Circuit Speedway also has "86" on its side.
The Japanese version of Kirby Star Allies has many references to HAL through its fictional language. The fortress Jambastion is called ジャマハルダ (Jamahalda). The base Jambandra is called マジュハルガロア (Majuhalgalor), and the HAL letters can also be found on the surface of Jambandra. The Staff ability enemy, Jammerjab, is called ジャハルビート (Jahal Beat). The weaponless Jammerjab counterpart is called ジャハルビリーバ (Jahal Believer).
There are several references to HAL's other works within the Kirby series. For example, Lololo & Lalala come from the Eggerland series (where they are named Lolo and Lala), and Moto Shotzo is based on the main character of the game Trax. The Kirby Quest mode in Kirby Mass Attack references Arcana, which was Kirby's technical debut as a character; he cameos in the opening sequence. Symbols of HAL often appear in the Stone ability's transformations, such as the Dream Hatcher and HAL's Yamanashi headquarters.
- The name "HAL" is used because each letter is one before those of IBM. This in turn was based on the fictional HAL 9000 computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Stone Kirby's transformation in Kirby: Triple Deluxe of the Dream Hatcher
Archer Kirby in Kirby: Triple Deluxe camouflaging behind a cardboard illustration of the Dream Hatcher
Stone Kirby's transformation in Kirby Star Allies of the Dream Hatcher
- Official website
- Official Twitter
- Official YouTube channel (with footage of many video games developed by HAL in the past)
- HAL Laboratory: Company Profile - nsidr
- Satoru Iwata - 1999 Developer Interview - shmuplations.com
- To what extent is HAL Laboratory "Nintendo"? | NinDB Boards Jun 26, 2011
- Iwata Asks: Kirby's Epic Yarn - Nintendo UK
- This is what the Kirby: Planet Robobot Sticker depicting the logo is named.
- How Inutamago came to be - Interview about the Dream Hatcher symbol on the official website
- NP Interviews HAL Laboratories about Kirby Air Ride! | IGN Boards Dec 30, 2003