BOXBOY! did not hit the 3DS with the fanfare it deserved this spring. It's a brand-new game, with brand-new characters and it's published by Nintendo. Which is precisely the sort of thing the company's greatest detractors claim it's missing. Then again, even though the funny, little puzzle game is ingenious and addictive, it's also as quiet and unassuming as the studio that made it: HAL Laboratory.
Much like BOXBOY!, HAL does not have the reputation it should. For 35 years, the first-party Nintendo studio's pumped out games that are deeply traditional while remaining deeply experimental. The Kirby franchise, HAL's signature work, has been both a major sales success with more than 30 million games sold and a hotbed for creativity (as in Kirby and the Rainbow Curse) and old-school style (a la Kirby: Triple Deluxe.) That little pink puff Kirby tends to dominate HAL's output, which is what makes an original like BOXBOY! so exciting. So to get some deeper insight into the creation of this new Nintendo IP, I interviewed Yasuhiro Mukae, the director of HAL's first original in five years, via a translator through email. We discussed HAL's creative process, the secret to making expressive characters and what it's like making games at one of gaming's most consistent, if underappreciated, studios.
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