Balan Wonderworld co-creator Yuji Naka has lashed out at the game's publisher, Square Enix, in a lengthy Twitter thread. Naka revealed that he filed a lawsuit against Square Enix for removing him as the game's director and accused the company of not caring about its fans.
Why has Yuji Naka lashed out at Square Enix over Balan Wonderworld?
Balan Wonderworld was released in March last year, at which point it was promptly savaged by critics and fans alike. Criticism was leveled at its simplistic controls, wonky platforming, and nonsensical narrative, among other things. Now, the game's co-creator Yuji Naka (who also created Sonic the Hedgehog) has lashed out at Balan publisher Square Enix on Twitter. In a lengthy thread directed at the company (for which we're using a translation by Twitter user Cheesemeister), Naka attacked Square Enix for its decision-making regarding Balan Wonderworld, as well as what he perceives as the company's callous disregard for its fans.
Naka says he was removed from the director position on Balan Wonderworld for two reasons. First, Square Enix declined to use music from Balan Wonderworld for promotional materials, instead choosing to use music performed by a YouTuber. Naka objected to this decision and was summarily removed as the game's director. The second reason involves Naka's objection to developer Arzest releasing the game in a buggy state, with Arzest's Naoto Ohshima telling producer Noriyoshi Fujimoto that the relationship between Arzest and Naka was "ruined" as a result of this.
According to Naka, he wanted to make improvements to Balan Wonderworld right up until the last minute, but Square Enix prevented him from doing so. He calls Balan Wonderworld "unfinished" and apologizes to the game's fans for releasing it in the state in which it launched. In conclusion, Naka says he thinks Square Enix and Balan developer Arzest are companies that "don't care about games and game fans". Harsh words, but given the now-famous "play to have fun" letter released by Square Enix president Yosuke Matsuda, Naka might be onto something.
What went wrong with Balan Wonderworld?
Originally announced back in 2020, Balan Wonderworld is a collaborative work between legendary industry veteran Yuji Naka and studio Arzest, which has worked with Nintendo on titles like Hey! Pikmin and Yoshi's New Island. Nominally, it's a platformer in which you must collect a series of costumes to help you overcome the game's challenges, but it became more known for its negative reception than for any individual element of its gameplay. If Naka's comments are to be believed, it looks like we now know why that might be.
If you're morbidly curious, or you genuinely think Balan Wonderworld looks like the game for you, then you can check it out right now on PC and consoles. For his own part, Yuji Naka says he's now developing games by himself after his ordeal with Balan Wonderworld, and his next title is being created for smartphones in the Unity engine. We'll bring you more on that as soon as we get it, of course, but one thing's for sure: Yuji Naka almost certainly won't be working with Square Enix again.
Update: After this article was published, an improved translation of Naka's tweet thread was released by Cheesemeister. We've updated elements of our article to reflect this improved translation and credited the translator.