Balan Wonderworld has remained on the market for over a year now, with its legacy firmly established. The game became infamous for its lack of focus and overall polish, and many quickly labeled it as one of the worst games of 2021. During the height of its infamy, players shared an IGN interview with Balan Wonderworld creator Yuji Naka, in which he stated that the project represented his sole opportunity to craft a 3D platformer for Square Enix. Unfortunately, it seemed that Naka’s comments held true, as he departed from Square Enix shortly after the game’s release.
But as it turns out, we did not receive the full story at the time. According to a translated tweet thread posted by Naka himself, Square Enix stripped him of his position as the director of Balan Wonderworld six months before the game came out. He even sued the company shortly after, although the lawsuit is currently settled.
Naka indicated that his removal centered around two key disputes with both Square Enix and developer Arzest. One of these disputes had to do with a YouTuber playing an arranged song from Balan Wonderworld instead of the original score when promoting the game. The other dispute involved comments Naka made presumably in protest of Arzest’s decision to submit the game without addressing the glitches found during development. The court documents apparently claimed that these comments, despite their intention to help the game improve, harmed Naka’s relationship with Arzest.
Naka stated that he sued Square Enix after negotiations with a lawyer did not go over well. Additionally, he discussed his philosophy of striving to improve on projects until the last minute and felt that Square Enix and Arzest’s actions conflicted with that philosophy. He brought the example of when he worked on the first Sonic the Hedgehog installment and implemented the classic rule where just one ring will protect players from death, which he did only two weeks before the team finalized the project.
No warm feelings
As for Naka’s feelings regarding both Square Enix and Arzest, he did not hold back. He claimed that the two companies “do not care about games” and neglect to treat their fans with the respect they deserve. In addition, he apologized to both his fans and general customers who purchased Balan Wonderworld given its state at launch. He notes that he really did want to release the game in a finished state, and what ended up being the final result is something he views as “a real shame.”
Of course, this account from Yuji Naka only represents one side of the story, so it remains possible that others involved with the development of Balan Wonderworld have more accurate accounts of what happened. But the criticisms he levied toward Square Enix in particular do not come off as surprising considering some of the disastrous products it has put out recently. Whatever the full story may be, it is rare to see a game creator speak so candidly about their experiences with a company. Hopefully, his future endeavors in game development do not end up quite like this.
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