HAL Laboratory, Inc. (株式会社ハル研究所, Kabushikigaisha Haru Kenkyūjo) is a Japanese video game company that was founded on February 21, 1980. The company is most famous for its character Kirby, the protagonist of the eponymous video game series, as well as the Super Smash Bros. series. It is a second-party development studio of Nintendo.
HAL Laboratory's first games were made in the early 1980s for the MSX, PC-88, and Sharp X1 home computers in Japan, and the VIC-20 and Commodore 64 in Western regions. They were also known as a designer and manufacturer of computer peripherals, particularly trackball controllers.
Prior to the creation of Kirby, HAL Laboratory's leading video game franchises were the Eggerland puzzle-action game series, which made its debut with Eggerland Mystery on MSX in 1985, and the Hole in One golf simulation series. Their first title created for a Nintendo platform was F1 Race, a 1984 racing game for the Famicom that was published by Nintendo exclusively in Japan. It was programmed in part by HAL member and future Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata. In 1985, F1 Race was reworked into Mach Rider, which was made for both the NES and the Famicom. Using the same raster scrolling effect, it replaced the race car with a futuristic motorcycle, and added new gameplay elements like shooting enemies. HAL's work on both games went officially uncredited by Nintendo, though the development team of Mach Rider was able to hide their names in its default high score listing, along with a reference to Eggerland. 
The Eggerland series would eventually move onto the Famicom Disk System and then the standard Famicom, before it was brought to the NES for Western territories and renamed Adventures of Lolo. HAL later abandoned the Eggerland series in favor of Kirby, but it received two final entries on Game Boy and Windows PC that postdated the release of Kirby's Dream Land. Despite being a defunct game series, HAL Laboratory continues to pay homage to Eggerland within the Kirby series through the characters Lololo & Lalala.
Before HAL Laboratory was bought by Nintendo, a game titled Metal Slader Glory was released for the Famicom in 1991. Despite having a development of more than 4 years, having a 8 megabit cartridge (the largest at the time), and having advanced graphics, the game sold poorly, which led HAL Laboratory to bankruptcy. Nintendo then bought the company, ending HAL Laboratory's life as an independent publisher. HAL became even more closely tied to Nintendo in later years, and their sysdolphin game development software suite was provided by Nintendo to third-party GameCube developers.
In many of its games during the early to mid-1990s it used the name HALKEN (derived from their literal Japanese name "HAL KENkyūjo") as well as HAL Laboratory. Some of its early titles were also released as HAL America, a North American subsidiary of the company. At the time, HALKEN has two variations of its logo: one of them was the Spring mark. In Japanese pronunciation, "HAL" is "はる (haru)," and "春 (Spring)" is also pronounced "はる." "Spring" can also mean a physical tool, "バネ," so this logo was modeled on the physical tool, "Spring."
An important figure of HAL Laboratory is Masahiro Sakurai, who created the Kirby character and the Super Smash Bros. franchise, and now leads his own company, Sora Ltd. Sakurai resigned from HAL Laboratory in 2003 after criticizing Nintendo's handling of Kirby Air Ride's development, but continues to be involved with Nintendo through Sora Ltd.
On August 3, 1992, a related company known as HAL Corporation was founded as an independent video game publisher by Mikio Ikeda, the former and first president of HAL Laboratory. They were also listed as a designer of computer peripherals. While a separate entity from HAL Laboratory, the two companies had some degree of collaboration: HAL Corporation licensed intellectual property from the other HAL to develop and publish the final game in the Eggerland series, Fukkatsu! Eggerland. It was released for Japanese Windows PCs in 1996, outside of Nintendo exclusivity. Following a 2001 reprint of this game, there have been no further known releases from HAL Corporation, and it is presumed that they are no longer in business.
In 2017, HAL Laboratory made a return as an independent publisher with its new company brand HAL Egg. The brand was established to focus on new ideas and gameplay concepts outside of the Kirby series. The first game to be released under the HAL Egg name was Part Time UFO, a physics-based puzzle/action game starring the flying saucer character Jobski, who has a resemblance to the UFO Copy Ability.  Initially released on iOS/Android mobile devices in Japan in November 2017, it received a localized English version in February 2018, and later an expanded Nintendo Switch port in October 2020. HAL Egg's second mobile game, Housuu de Shoubu! Kame Sanpo, is a Japanese exclusive. It released in October 2019.
HAL Laboratory returned to the Japanese hardware market as a computer manufacturer in 2017 with the PasocomMini MZ-80C. It is a miniaturized recreation of the MZ-80C computer made by Sharp Corporation in 1979. Using software emulation of the original hardware, it is capable of freely running the user's own BASIC code, along with a selection of included programs. HAL's MZ-80C was followed up by the PasocomMini PC-8001 in 2019, a similar recreation of a 1979 computer by NEC.
Influences on the Kirby series
|Main article: HAL Room|
A recurring Easter egg in many Kirby games is a hidden area containing Star Blocks arranged to spell out "HAL." Not all HAL Rooms are hidden in obscure locations, nor do all make use of Star Blocks to spell out the company's name.
|Main article: Cameos|
Many of HAL Laboratory's other properties reference the Kirby series or are referenced in Kirby games. These include the following:
- Eggerland series (1985-2001)
- Revenge of the 'Gator (1989)
- Uchuu Keibitai SDF (1990)
- HyperZone (1991)
- Trax (1991)
- Arcana (1992)
- EarthBound (1994)
- Super Smash Bros. series (1998-)
- BOXBOY! series (2015-)
- Picross 3D: Round 2 (2016)
Other influences and references
- The current logo appears in the Paint Panic sub-game in Kirby: Canvas Curse. In Kirby Super Star Ultra and onward, it also makes a cameo appearance as a possible Stone transformation. It appears as a balloon sculpture Circus Kirby can attack with and as a camouflage Archer Kirby can hide behind.
- The level names of the levels in the Challenge Mode of Kirby's Dream Collection Special Edition (Happiness Hall, Apricot Atrium, and Last Land) spell out the abbreviation "HAL." This is one of the many level acronyms used throughout the series.
- The company's name may have had an influence on the names of several important elements in the series: Battleship Halberd in Kirby Super Star (and its remake), Halcandra in Kirby's Return to Dream Land, Haldera Volcano in Kirby Fighters Deluxe, and the Haltmann Works Company in Kirby: Planet Robobot.
- The platform number at the train station in Stage 3 of Patched Plains is L∀∀-H. When flipped upside-down, the number becomes H-AA˥, a possible reference to HAL Laboratory.
- Star Dream and Star Dream Soul OS use the letters H, A, and L to attack Kirby (though Star Dream releases them in reverse order).
- In Team Kirby Clash Deluxe, if Kirby purchases all weapons and armor, the Shoppe changes appearance. The crates beside the cart have the letters H, A, and L engraved on their sides.
- In Kirby's Blowout Blast, Score Coins appear when Kirby defeats each boss in the Secret Path. The coins that appear after defeating Masher, Kracko's Revenge, and Mega Masher form the letters H, A, and L, respectively.
- In Kirby Star Allies, the word "HAL" can be found on Jambandra Base in Far-Flung - Starlight Heroes's overworld map. However, it is very hard to see.
- In Super Kirby Clash, if Kirby purchases all weapons and armor, the word "HAL" rarely appears written in clouds in the sky of both villages. It slowly drifts from left to right.
- The president of Nintendo from 2002-2015, Satoru Iwata, was formerly president of HAL from 1993-2000, having first joined the company in 1983.
- The "HAL" in the company's name was chosen because, alphabetically, each letter was one space ahead of IBM, suggesting superiority over the technology corporation.
- As HAL sounds like the Japanese pronunciation of 8 and 6, the number 86 is featured on various occasions as a reference to HAL.
- In Stage 5 of Royal Road, Stage 4 of Access Ark, and Heavenly Hall, if the player waits for 86 seconds in certain rooms, a HAL Room can be discovered.
- In Dedede's Drum Dash Deluxe, the maximum score in C-R-O-W-N-E-D (Reprise) is 86555, which becomes "HAL GO GO GO" when the numbers are pronounced in Japanese. This number is also the score reward for defeating Void in Kirby Star Allies.
- In Team Kirby Clash, the maximum EXP is 39860, which becomes "Thank You HAL" when the numbers are pronounced in Japanese.
- Several Heroic Missions in Team Kirby Clash Deluxe have 86 Gem Apples as the reward.
- For their 40th anniversary, the employees of HAL Laboratory drew a plethora of characters from media they've created, which included Kirby series characters.
- A contemporary US-based developer group coincidentally known as "H. A. L. Labs", founded by Greg Autry, published an unlicensed clone of Namco's PAC-MAN known as "Taxman" on the Apple II computer platform in 1982. This company was entirely unrelated to the Japanese HAL Laboratory. Because of the extremely similar names, the Japanese HAL's own history of development for early home computers (which never included the Apple II), and some online databases mistakenly listing the two companies as being one and the same, misconceptions of a connection between Taxman and HAL Laboratory have been persistent.
- HAL Corporation and HAL Laboratory have been similarly confused in online listings. Although HAL Corporation developed an Eggerland game, they were an entirely separate company who were merely using a license for the series granted by the other HAL.