The Japanese developer legend, once the father of the Sonic success, left Square Enix shortly after the (disappointing) game was published – now he tells us how it came about.

I have to go back a bit: Yuji Naka and Naoto Oshima, both hired in the 90s at Sega, became stars of the Japanese developer landscape through Sonic The Hedgehog. In the text on her 2021 Jump’n’Run Balan Wonderworld (from € 6.50 at buy) I wrote: “Yuji Naka may have given the Mega Drive a technical milestone with Sonic the Hedgehog in 1991, which makes it Not yet an ingenious player director of 2021; his last studio Prope had no longer appeared with Rodea: The Sky Soldier after the abdominal landing. And Naoto Oshima, once the character designer of the Sega Igel, has with his company Arzest in the last Decade in particular transferred to Nintendo hits to handheld format and before with two Blinx episodes tried in vain to program the first Xbox a mascot on the body. Now the former Dream team behind Nights Into Dreams is collapsing and has a 3D-base game Produced with massive costumes that looks like Willy Wonka had a wild affair with Harlekin from Nights. ” Only so that you know who is talking about in the following…

Yuji Naka left Square Enix at the end of April 2021, shortly after the publication of Balan Wonderworld. The game cut off with us, in the international press mirror the criticism was still significantly harsh. In June 2021, NAKA announced via social media that he had just left Square in April, but that he could not currently talk about the background. At the end of April 2022 he can obviously. Naka (in Japanese) has exhausted itself extensively for the backgrounds around Balan Wonderworld in Japanese; Thanks to the translation of the user Cheesemeister3k, we can summarize them for you. You will find the English translations of Naka’s versions but also below in the (much longer) original.

The (back) reasons for Naka’s farewell or quarrels around the release of Balan Wonderworld are:

  • Yuji Naka was deducted from the game half a year before the release
  • According to legal disputes with Square Enix, he can finally talk about it at the end of April 2022
  • There were apparently trouble about using a fan arrangement of the game music that was used in a trailer
  • In addition, Oshima accused the Director Naka of ruined relationships with the co-developer studio
  • Naka was deducted immediately and without discussion from the still unfinished project
  • After the release, he was also not allowed to react to social media posts for the game
  • He compares the fine polish, which would still have been necessary, for Balan Wonderworld, with the introduction of a feature at Sonic the Hedgehog 2
  • He is disappointed that a game came onto the market in such an unfinished state
  • He accuses Square Enix and Medical, not to seriously appreciate games and their fans

And here the translations of the hardworking Twitter user CheeseMeister3k:

  • “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 producer 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.”

Sonic Creator Yuji Naka Sued Square Enix, Says Was Kicked Out For Wanting Balan Wonderworld Improved
* “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.”
* “I personally regret that Balan Wonderworld was released to the world in an unfinished state. I wanted to consider all kinds of things and release it as a proper action game. I don’t think that Square Enix and Arzest value games and their fans.”