Theatrical 3D platformer Balan Wonderworld released last year to dismal reviews, despite familiar names like former Sonic Team head Yuji Naka at the helm. Last week Naka took to Twitter to air his displeasure at Square Enix’s treatment of him and the game, concluding by saying that he believes “Square Enix and Arzest are companies that do not care about games and game fans.”
Naka posted the thread of tweets twice, first in Japanese and then again in English, seemingly by relying on a translation tool such as Google Translate. The below quotes from the thread are drawn from Naka’s English language tweets, although Twitter user Cheesemeister has an unofficial by-hand translation that may more accurately reflect the original Japanese intention.
“Six months before the launch of #BalanWonderworld, a work order was issued removing me as director, so I filed a lawsuit in court against Square Enix,” says Naka’s first tweet. Now that the court case is over, he’s free to discuss it, he alleges.
“According to the court documents, I was removed as director of #BalanWonderworld on two points. It was executed by the producer, advertising, sound, director in charge, and human resources,” writes Naka. “First, a YouTuber was going to play the piano and publish the score of a game song for a promotion, and I got into trouble because I thought it was strange that the music was arranged and a ghostwriter wrote the score, and I insisted on publishing the score of an original song.”
“Second, according to the court documents, what I said in response to Arzest submission of the game without fixing it despite the fact that there were glitches in the development process,” the next tweet continues. “That my comments to make the game better are disrupting my relationship with Arzest.”
Arzest were the lead developers on the game alongside Square Enix subsidiary Balan Company. Arzest was co-founded by Naoto Ohshima, who was the original character designer for Sonic the Hedgehog and who served as producer on Balan Wonderworld.
“I believe that a game should be made with the intention of making it a good game until the very end, so that game fans can enjoy it when they buy it,” continues Naka’s comments. “I think it is strange to remove a director who comments on a game without consulting him because there is not enough time to do so.”
“I am truly sorry for the customers who bought my unfinished #BalanWonderworld,” starts another tweet. Naka goes on to offer an example of how the original Sonic The Hedgehog continued to be tweaked until shortly before release, leading in Naka’s view to a better game. Another tweet begins with Naka stating that “Game creators are supposed to improve their games until the very last minute, and to prevent them from doing so is still not right.”
Game creators are supposed to improve their games until the very last minute, and to prevent them from doing so is still not right. I asked for a lawyer and tried to negotiate with them to at least submit comments until the end, but to no avail, so I filed a lawsuit in court.
— Yuji Naka / 中 裕司 (@nakayuji) April 28, 2022
“It is a real shame that we released the unfinished work #BalanWonderworld to the world. I wanted to release it to the world as an action game in a proper form considering various things. I think Square Enix and Arzest are companies that do not care about games and game fans,” the final tweet says.
Video game development is a team sport, and all we have here is Yuji Naka’s side of the story of what happened around the release of Balan Wonderworld and Naka’s apparent removal from the project. It remains remarkable to see a developer being so public in criticizing their former employer, however, and to go so far as to say they are sorry for customers who bought their game. I’ve reached out to Square Enix for comment and will update this story should I hear back.