Yuji Naka Alleges He Was Removed as Balan Wonderworld’s Director & Took Square Enix to Court

Today Yuji Naka, recently known as the co-creator of Sonic the Hedgehog and former head of Sonic Team, took to Twitter to share his experience while working on Balan Wonderworld for Square Enix.

It is relevant to mention that this is a one-sided account involving a lawsuit that resulted in not being made public, and there may be different points of view to consider.

While we are publishing it as-is, we have reached out to Square Enix for comment, hoping to hear their side of the story. We will update this article accordingly should they respond.

Naka-san, who has been working at Square Square Enix for several years after 2018 at Prope, an independent developer that he founded after leaving Sega in 2006, first mentioned he was working on an original action game for the Final Fantasy in 2019.

Balan Wonderworld was then announced jointly with Naoto Oshima, who has worked with Naka-san for a long time and is credited with being Sonic’s co-creator.

Apparently, things didn’t go as planned, as Naka-san alleges that he was removed from his position as director Balan Wonderworld six months before its release due to the handling of the disagreements with the music and purported friction of the development studio Azrest (of which Oshima-san is vice-president).

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Naka-san also alleges that he was not allowed to interact with the audience via social media, and apologizes for the game being released unfinished, mentioning that he believes developers should improve their games until their very end.

Below you can read a Full Japanese translation by Twitter user Cheesemeisterwhich I verified as accurate.

“I was removed as director of Balan Wonderworld about half a year ago, so I filed a lawsuit against Square Enix. Now that the proceedings are over and I’m no longer bound by company rules, I 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 2 reasons. It was done by the producer, head of marketing, head of sound, managing director, and HR.

First, when a YouTuber’s arranged piano performance of the game music was released instead of a promotion to the original game track, turning the composer into a ghostwriter, I insisted that the original track be released and this was causing trouble.

Second, according to court documents, [Naoto] Ohshima told producer [Noriyoshi] Fujimoto said that the relationship with Arzest was ruined due to comments I made 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 was still tight, the producer’s doing. Something was off.

We were releasing an original game, but just putting out an arranged track was definitely wrong. I believe that the game music that everyone can hum out of the original tracks.

I believe that every effort must be put into making the best games they can until the very end so that game fans will enjoy what they buy. It was not right to say, without discussion, remove and completely disassociate from the project being called a director.

Retweeting, liking, etc. On SNS 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 for the customers who bought Balan Wonderworld in an unfinished state. From this point onward, I will be able to react to posts tagged or directed only towards me on SNS and such.

I believe that when making games, asking for fixes in order to make something good should be given, and if that’s not possible, it should be talked over, but it looks like they can’t. I don’t think they are value games.

For Sonic the Hedgehog, 2 weeks before finalizing, the spec was changed so that if you have even 1 ring, you won’t die. This now well-known rule was to improve 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 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 as a result of Balan Wonderworld and the critical reception it has received a lot to do with what happened. I’m really disappointed that a product I worked on started out this way. “

Following the release of Balan Wonderworld, Naka-san left Square Enix and has recently started running small games on his own, with a one-man studio downsizing Prope, and publishing for SHOT2048. iOS and Android in December 2021.

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