One of 2021’s most infamously disappointing games was Balan Wonderworld. The game, which was a collaboration between Yuji Naka and publisher Square Enix, was met with a very negative reception at launch, with many criticizing lacking game design and a general lack of polish. It turns out one of the game’s biggest critics is none other than director Yuji Naka, as he has recently publicly criticized it and revealed that he has finished a legal battle with publisher Square Enix for removing him from his position six months ahead of Balan Wonderworld‘s release.
Balan Wonderworld was first revealed in August 2020. The game was touted as the return of Sonic the Hedgehog creator Yuji Naka, who would be teaming up once again with Naoto Ohshima, the character designer for the likes of Sonic and NiGHTS. The game was to be published by Square Enix, and was being co-developed by Ohshima’s studio Arzest and Balan Company, a new subsidiary of Square Enix founded by Naka.
When Balan Wonderworld launched however, the game was instantly met with negative reception, becoming one of the worst reviewed games of 2021. This was mainly due to bizarre game design decisions, uninspired level design, and technical issues across all platforms.
Now, Naka has revealed that he has been part of a quiet legal dispute with Square Enix since the game released, claiming that the publisher removed him from his position as Balan Wonderworld‘s director for criticizing its decision to release an outsourced version of the game’s soundtrack, and for requesting more time to develop the game. In a Twitter thread posted today, translated by Twitter user Cheesemeister, he slams Square Enix, claiming that the publisher does “not value games and game fans.”
Naka alleges that Square Enix also blocked him from publicly commenting on the game, hence why he has refrained from replying to fans and followers on social media regarding the game since his departure from the company. He ends the Twitter thread by mentioning that during the last two weeks of development of Sonic the Hedgehog, the game’s design was changed to allow players to avoid death even if they are only carrying one ring. This design choice would not have existed if Sonic Team was not allowed to polish the game up to its release.
Naka’s allegations against Square Enix highlight the growing outcry against toxic workplaces in the games’ industry, with many developers coming out to condemn industry standard practices like crunch for taking advantage of workers. Square Enix has had a recent string of critically panned releases, the most recent of which includes Babylon’s Fall from Platinum Games, further bolstering Naka’s claim that the publisher does not allow ample development time for some of its titles.
Balan Wonderworld is available now for PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.