Yuji Naka has revealed he sued Square Enix after being relieved as director of Balan Wonderworld six months from its ill-fated launch.
In a 2020 interview with IGN SEA, as if to foreshadow his own downfall, Naka stated this was his “one chance” from Square Enix to make a full-scale platforming game. “I think Square Enix has an RPG image, but I don’t think I’d be good at making RPGs,” Naka confessed.
Naka launched the Balan Company, a subsidiary of Square Enix, with Naoto Oshima to develop Balan Wonderland stating at the time, “Such is my enthusiasm for continuing to make action games.” Ultimately Balan Wonderworld would be developed by them and Arzest.
Balan Wonderworld suffered poor initial reactions, with the game’s demo generating mixed reactions with many feeling the game’s controls were poor and levels were unfinished.
This seemingly prompted Producer Noriyoshi Fujimoto to speak out in a Square Enix blog post promoting the game. “There’s been a wide range of opinions and responses to the demo, and unfortunately at the current stage of development, it simply isn’t feasible to reflect every piece of feedback into the game.”
“However, to offer you all a more balanced gameplay experience, we will be implementing a day one patch for the full game,” Fujimoto reassured. “Specifically, this patch will adjust movement controls, camera movement, and rebalancing of the difficulty.”
This day one patch also fixed an epileptic seizure-inducing graphical bug, further harming the game’s reputation. Ultimately, Balan Wonderworld was lambasted by players and critics alike, stating the game felt outdated, and its core mechanics simply weren’t fun.
This issue stemmed in part from many of the game’s costume power-ups. They often reduced gameplay to a single button for their associated action, which for many costumes robbed players the ability to jump- in a platforming game.
It’s unsurprising that Balan Wonderworld proceeded to bomb shortly after launch. It reportedly failed to break into Famitsu’s top 30 selling games in it’s opening week in Japan, nor the top 30 of the Nintendo Switch eShop in Japan or North America.
It failed to break into the top 40 in the UK, reportedly being beaten by games that had been on sale for just under two years. Less than three weeks after launch, Balan Wonderworld’s demo was pulled from Japanese console stores.
Naka announced he left Square Enix on June 5th, 2021. On Twitter he revealed he had left the company at the end of April- roughly a month after Balan Wonderworld launched.
“I retired from SQUARE ENIX at the end of April 2021 because I received inquiries from the media and users,” Naka explained (machine translation via Google Translate).
“I can’t tell you the reason now, but I hope I can tell you when the time comes. As for future activities, I’m 55 years old, so I may retire. The photo is taken by Sega Hard Historia.”
However, new details have now come to light, with Naka claiming he was fired from Balan Wonderworld’s development six months before it launched, and that he had issued a lawsuit in retaliation.
“Approximately half a year before the launch of Balan Wonderworld, a business order was issued to be removed from the director of Balan Wonderworld,” Naka claims, “so I filed a lawsuit against Square Enix in court. I would like to talk about the fact that the trial is over and the business order is no longer in effect at this time. #BalanWonderworld”
“I don’t think Square Enix, which doesn’t care about games and game fans, is bad,” Naka stated. “According to the court documents, I was removed from the director of Balan Wonderworld at two points. Performed by Producer, Promotion, Sound, Director, and Human Resources.”
“One [was] that YouTuber will play the game music on the promotion and release the score,” Naka alleged, “so I thought that it would be strange for the ghost writer to write the score arranged to put out the original game, so the original song I got into trouble because I insisted that I wanted to put out the score of.”
“The other is, according to the court documents,” Naka claimed, “what I said about Arzest submitting without fixing even though there was a problem during development, and to improve the game I It is written that the relationship with Arzest has collapsed due to the comment by [Naoto] Oshima, and it is said that Oshima talked to producer [Noriyoshi] Fujimoto.”
“Another point, in an email addressed to Fujimoto by Oshima,” Naka asserts, quoting “‘I told you about the matter of gathering staff and shifting the trial version.’ This decision is made by Fujimoto producer. Let’s do our best for Mr. Fujimoto.’ When I told him, the staff applauded and cheered. I was impressed because it was unexpected.”
“‘Recently, the staff who tended to sink have revived. Thank you very much. All the staff will do their best,’ Naka said. “However, it doesn’t matter because the schedule is decided by the producer, not me, and the tight schedule is decided by the producer. Something is wrong, isn’t it?”
“I don’t think it’s good that only the score of the arranged music is released to release the original game,” Naka explained. “I think there is game music that everyone knows, but I think it is the original music of the game.”
“I think that the game is made by striving to make it a good game until the end, and wanting game fans to enjoy it when they buy it,” Naka defends. “I don’t have enough time for the director to comment, so I think it’s strange to say that I wouldn’t get involved at all without consulting.”
“Since retweets and likes on SNS [social networking sites] etc. were also prohibited,” Naka claims, “I think Square Enix cannot take good care of game fans. There were a lot of comments and very nice illustrations of Balan Wonderworld, but I’m really sorry that I couldn’t do anything.”
“I’m really sorry for the customers who bought the unfinished Balan Wonderworld,” Naka asserted. “In the future, I think that if you only mention or tag me on SNS etc., you may be able to react.”
“Since I’m making a game, I think it’s natural to make a correction request to make a good one, and if that’s not possible, I think it’s just a matter of discussing it, but that’s it. I can’t seem to do it,” Naka lamented. “I don’t think the game has been taken care of.”
“Sonic the Hedgehog has been changed to a specification that will not die if you have even one ring two weeks before the master up [launch],” Naka revealed, discussing the game he was lead programmer on, and thereby dubbing him a creator of the franchise.
“To reach this specification, which everyone knows, I was trying to improve the game to the last minute, so I think that everyone in the world is still enjoying it. #SonicTheHedgehog”
“It is the game creators who improve the game to the last minute, and I think it is strange to say that it cannot be done,” Naka explained. “I asked a lawyer to negotiate to just comment on the development until the end, but I didn’t listen at all, so I filed a proceeding in court.”
“I think that this matter has a lot to do with the results and evaluations that everyone knows about Balan Wonderworld,” Naka argued. “It’s really a shame that the work I created from the beginning has such a result.”
“Personally, I’m really sorry that I released the unfinished work ‘Balan Wonderworld’ to the world,” Naka apologized. “I wanted to think about various things and put it out in a proper form as an action game. I think Square Enix and Arzest are companies that don’t care about games and game fans.”
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