Theatrical 3D platformer Balan Wonderworld released last year to poor reviews, despite familiar names such as former Sonic Team head Yuji Naka taking the lead. Last week Naka took to Twitter to express his displeasure at Square Enix’s treatment of him and the game, concluding by saying that he believes “Square Enix and Arzest are a company that doesn’t care about games and game fans.”
Naka posted the tweet thread twice, first in Japanese then again in English, apparently by relying on translation tools like Google Translate. The quote below from the thread is taken from Naka’s English tweet, although Twitter user Cheesemeister has unofficial hand translation which may more accurately reflect the original Japanese intentions.
“Six months prior to the launch of #BalanWonderworld, a work order was issued to remove me as director, so I filed a lawsuit in court against Square Enix,” said Naka’s first tweet. Now that the court case was over, he was free to discuss it, he alleged.
“According to court documents, I was removed as director of #BalanWonderworld on two points. It was executed by producer, advertising, sound, director in charge and human resources,” Naka wrote. “First, a YouTuber was going to play the piano and publish a game song score for promotion, and I got into trouble because I thought it was weird that the music was arranged and a shadow writer wrote the score, and I insisted on publishing the original song score.”
“Secondly, according to court documents, what I said in response to Arzest’s game submission without fixing it despite disruptions in the development process,” continued the next tweet. “That my comments to make the game better interfere with my relationship with Arzest.”
Arzest is the main developer of the game along with Square Enix subsidiary Balan Company. Arzest was founded by Naoto Ohshima, who was the original character designer for Sonic the Hedgehog and who served as producer at Balan Wonderworld.
“I believe that a game should be made with the intention of making it a good game until the end, so that game fans can enjoy it when they buy it,” continued Naka. “I thought it odd to remove a director who commented on the game without consulting him because there wasn’t enough time to do so.”
“I’m truly sorry to the customer who bought my unfinished #BalanWonderworld,” began another tweet. Naka went on to offer an example of how the original Sonic The Hedgehog continued to be tweaked until shortly before release, leading to Naka’s vision of a better game. Another tweet started with Naka stating that “Game makers should have upgraded their games to the last minute, and preventing them from doing so is still not right.”
Game makers are supposed to step up their game to the last minute, and prevent them from doing so remains untrue. I asked a lawyer and tried to negotiate with them to at least comment until the end, but to no avail, so I filed a lawsuit in court.
— Yuji Naka / (@nakayuji) 28 April 2022
“It’s a shame we’re releasing the unfinished #BalanWonderworld masterpiece to the world. I wanted to release it to the world as an action game in proper form keeping things in mind. I think Square Enix and Arzest are companies that don’t care. about games and game fans,” last tweet said.
Video game development is a team sport, and all we have here is the Yuji Naka side of the story about what happened around the release of Balan Wonderworld and the real removal of Naka from the project. Still, it’s amazing to see a developer so openly criticizing their former employer, and going so far as to say they’re sorry for the customer buying their game. I’ve reached out to Square Enix for comment and will update this story when I hear back.