Written by. Ryuki Ishii based on the original Japanese article (original article’s publication date: 2022-04-28 22:06 JST)
Yuji Naka of Sonic the Hedgehog fame has stated on Twitter that he brought a lawsuit against Square Enix for discharging him from Balan Wonderworld’s directorial role just six months before launch. Naka went on to say that the trial is now finished and explained why he thinks Square Enix doesn’t care about their fans.
Yuji Naka is known for working as a programmer and producer on series like Sonic the Hedgehog, Phantasy Star, NiGHTS into Dreams, and a number of others. He was a member of Square Enix while working as the director of Balan Wonderworld, which released in 2021.
Other key figures involved in the development of Balan Wonderworld include ARZEST’s Naoto Ohshima (Sonic the Hedgehog and NiGHTS into Dreams) and Square Enix producer Noriyoshi Fujimoto (Dragon Quest: Builders). The game gained attention as a new 3D action game by the Sonic the Hedgehog creators but ended up receiving poor reception from both critics and fans.
Some of the issues found in the demo were fixed in the full version, but it wasn’t enough to turn the tide, as the game currently has a Metascore of around 40 on Metacritic (slightly varies depending on the platform). It became quite a controversial game, and Square Enix even stopped updating the official website before launch.
According to Naka, the decision to remove him from the role was made by the team’s producer, a member of the board of directors, staff members within the company’s HR and PR department, and a few others.
He states that there were two reasons for the removal. The first one was about Naka arguing over the usage of a certain music piece for a promotional purpose. Square Enix wanted a YouTuber to write and play an arrangement of the song, and then publish the arranged music score. Naka objected to this idea by saying that it doesn’t feel right to promote a new game by using an arranged music score, instead of the original score.
The second reason was about the relationship between Naka and the developer ARZEST. According to the court filings that Naka has read, what he was saying to ARZEST’s staff members was hurting the companies’ relationship. However, Naka argues that ARZEST kept submitting builds without fixing bugs that he told them to fix, and he was just saying the things that needed to be said in order to make the game better.
Naka mentions that creators should strive to make a game better until the very last moment so that players will enjoy it. He thinks it’s absurd to remove him, a person who was actually trying to make the game better, from the team without consultation.
Balan Wonderworld is unfinished in Naka’s eyes. He thinks not being able to oversee the final phase of the development led to the game’s poor reception, and says it’s really a shame that a game he created from scratch has turned out like this.
He brought up Sonic the Hedgehog as an example and explained how last-minute alterations made that game better. Naka wasn’t able to do the same with Balan Wonderworld. He negotiated with Square Enix through a lawyer to somehow be involved in the project until the last moment, but the company didn’t listen. That’s why he filed a lawsuit, Naka explains.
This is all just Naka’s side of the story, and we’re sure Square Enix has a different argument on this matter. In any case, it’s certainly a disappointing story to hear for the fans who have purchased the game.