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Yuji Naka: 6 months before Balan Wonderworld release he was removed as director and filed a lawsuit

the official logo for balance wonderworld

Updated with translation thanks to @Cheesemeister3K for the translation.

Famed video game director, Yuji Naka, has lifted the lid on why Balan Wonderworld was released in the unfinished and unpolished state it was in. Mr. Naka says that six months before the 3D platformer was due to be released he was let go as director of the game by Square Enix. When that happened he filed a lawsuit against Square Enix for unfairly dismissing him and the lawsuit has now finished. He says that he can’t believe that Square Enix and Arrest released Balan Wonderworld in the state that it was in. Mr. Naka has written a series of tweets in Japanese today and we should know more once an official translation appears.

“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.

“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 two reasons. It was done by the producer, head of marketing, head of sound, managing director, and human resources.

“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 [developer] 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.

“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 social media 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 social media 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, two weeks before finalizing, the specifications were changed so that if you have even one 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.”

7 thoughts on “Yuji Naka: 6 months before Balan Wonderworld release he was removed as director and filed a lawsuit”

  1. Well at least we know that Naka didn’t just pull an Inafune, took the money, and ran. The game was still semi (don’t want to say fundamentally) flawed though.

    I guess Square-Enix just hates 3D platformers, and anything that isn’t some lengthy RPG, but especially 3D platformers.


    1. Yeah, although we don’t know the full details the game shouldn’t have been released at all. I say this having owned the game on PS5 and even on there it is a real mess.

  2. I like to hear S-E’s side on this someday (even though I know they wouldn’t be honest on everything that went on), but I’m not really surprised, considering the way they are nowadays. That said, I don’t think Naka is entirely blameless here either. Both Naka and S-E dropped the ball at some point to create the mess that became Balan.

  3. So Naka actually fought to try to make the game better than what was released as the final product? I can find that respectable but I don’t know that I believe it 100%.

    But I remember playing the demo for it on Switch and HOLY HELL was it bad. At one point my entire screen had a blood-red tint that would just manifest at certain camera angles for no apparent reason. From the first level onward I kept thinking “they need to delay this, it’s not done!”

      1. I’m just baffled why Square Enix got them on board. It had to be because they were cheap and Nintendo didn’t need them anymore. It makes Yuji Naka’s claim that “…Square Enix and Arzest are companies that do not care about games and game fans.” valid and I feel bad for him that he was essentially screwed over and got undeserved hate for how this project ended up.

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