Yuji Naka Was Removed As Balan Wonderworld Director, Filed Lawsuit Against Square Enix

Image: Square Enix

Balan Wonderworld was a pretty big disappointment to many. Fans of Yuji Naka (the director of the platforming flop) and his work on various Sonic titles, Nights into Dreams, and Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg took one look at the Square Enix-published platformer on its announcement and were charmed with the music and visuals. It was evocative of a Dreamcast-era platformer, and we craved it.

Sadly, things didn’t go to plan, and Balan Wonderworld was dubbed the worst Switch game of 2021, but it sounds like a lot more was going on behind the scenes. Today, on Twitter, Yuji Naka revealed that he was in fact removed as the game’s director six months prior to its launch. Many still credited a lot of Balan Wonderworld to Naka, so this is pretty shocking, but the original Sonic the Hedgehog programmer didn’t just leave it at that.

Naka filed a lawsuit against Square Enix, which is now over, but in a Twitter thread, he covers how unhappy he was with many of the decisions both Square Enix and co-developer Arzest made. Naka knew that the game was unfinished and needed more work, and he wanted to help with that, but Square Enix’s removal of him meant he couldn’t.

Right now, we only have a machine translation via Nibel and DeepL on what Yuji Naka has to say, but even so, it’s clear that his thoughts are scathing on the matter:

Naka is deeply apologetic to fans who picked up the game throughout his thread while being particularly pointed towards Square Enix:

I think Square Enix is not taking good care of their game fans as retweeting, liking, etc. was also banned on social networking sites. There were many comments and very nice illustrations of Balan Wonderworld, and I am very sorry that I could not do anything about it.

It sounds like Yuji Naka was looking to give the fans what they wanted, and because he was removed as director, he couldn’t do anything about that. His closing statement summarises this sentiment perfectly:

For me, it is a real shame that you have released your unfinished work “Balan Wonderworld” to the world. I wanted to release it to the world as an action game in a proper form considering various things. I think Square Enix and Arzest are companies that do not care about games and game fans.

Square Enix or Arzest have not responded to these claims at the time of writing this, but given Balan Wonderworld’s poor reception — including our own 3 out of 10 review — it’s easy to understand Naka’s frustration. It sounds like now might be a good time to reread our own retrospective defence given this context:

If we find out anything more about the situation, we’ll let you know.

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