Balan Wonderworld is one of the more interesting releases of last year. The title marked the return of Yuji Naka, known for co-creating Sonic the Hedgehog and a wide variety of other notable Sega titles, but the final product was arguably one of the worst games to release last year. There were a lot of theories as to why, be it poor vision, dated ideas and a wide variety of other things, but there seems to be more to the story.
Earlier today Naka revealed he was removed as director 6 months before Balan Wonderworld released. As a result, he filed a lawsuit against Square Enix, which has concluded and he is able to speak about the situation.
“I was removed as the director of Balan Wonderworld about half a year before release, so I filed a lawsuit against Square Enix. Now that the proceedings are over and I’m no longer bound by company rules, I’d like to speak out.” #BalanWonderworld
“I think it’s wrong of Square Enix not to value games and game fans. According to court documents, I was removed as the director of Balan Wonderworld for 2 reasons. It was done by the producer, head of marketing, head of sound, managing director, and HR.”
“First, when a YouTuber’s arranged piano performance of the game music was released in a promotion instead of the original game track, turning the composer into a ghostwriter, I insisted that the original track be released and this caused trouble.”
“Second, according to court documents, [Naoto] Ohshima told producer [Noriyoshi] Fujimoto that the relationship with Arzest was ruined due to comments I made wanting to improve the game in the face of Arzest submitting the game without fixing bugs.”
“Also, in an e-mail from Ohshima to Fujimoto, he wrote: ‘I just told the staff about the demo delay. When I told them, ‘This was prod. Fujimoto’s decision. Let’s do our best for him,’ the staff applauded and cheered. This was unexpected, and I was moved…”
“The staff’s been down lately, but their spirits have been revived. Thank you very much. All of us on the staff will work hard.’ So the schedule wasn’t up to me, but the producer, yet the schedule being tight was the producer’s doing. Something was off.”Cheesemeister3k‘s translation of Naka’s tweets
“We were releasing an original game, but only putting out an arranged track was definitely wrong. I believe that the game music that everyone can hum out are the original tracks.”
“I believe that every effort must be put in to make games the best they can be until the very end so that game fans will enjoy what they buy. It wasn’t right to, without discussion, remove and completely disassociate from the project a director saying so.”
“Retweeting, liking, etc. on SNS and such was banned, so I don’t think Square Enix values game fans. There were many comments and wonderful illustrations about Balan Wonderworld, and I’m really sorry that I couldn’t react to them.”
“Myself, I’m truly sorry to the customers who bought Balan Wonderworld in an unfinished state. From this point onward, I will be able to react to posts tagging me or directed only toward me on SNS and such.”
“I believe that when making games, asking for fixes in order to make something good should be a given, and if that’s not possible, it should be talked over, but it looks like they can’t. I don’t think they value games.”
“For Sonic the Hedgehog, 2 weeks before finalizing, the spec was changed so that if you have even 1 ring, you won’t die. This now well-known rule was the result of improving the game until the very end, and people world-over have enjoyed it as a result.”
“Improving a game until the very end is what being a game creator is all about, and if that’s not possible, something’s wrong. I asked my lawyer to negotiate my just being able to comment until the end of production, but their refusal led me to file suit.”
“I think that the resulting Balan Wonderworld and the critical reception it received have a lot to do with what happened. I’m really disappointed that a product I worked on from the start turned out this way.”
“I personally regret that Balan Wonderworld was released to the world in an unfinished state. I wanted to consider all kinds of things and release it as a proper action game. I don’t think that Square Enix and Arzest value games and their fans.”Cheesemeister3k‘s translation of Naka’s tweets
After reading the long explanation of what happened, many players offered support, with others questioning various elements. One notable thing was the sheer number of people Naka admits wanted him gone suggests there is a lot of key information missing, with others wondering how different Naka’s actual vision would’ve been. Unfortunately, we will probably never get these answers, but it is certainly an interesting look into what happened with Balan Wonderworld.