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Thursday, April 28, 2022

Don't Fall for Yuji Naka Trying to Redeem Himself or BALAN WONDERWORLD

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - Don't fall for it.

Earlier today Yuji Naka went on a rant on Twitter, providing a tell-some story to the world now that his trial (as in, through a court) with SQUARE ENIX is over (...and apparently he had one of those) and he can talk freely about it and the troubled development of BALAN WONDERWORLD, which is an infamously awful 3D platformer that released last year. There is a presumably competently English-translated version here, since using machine translations on Yuji Naka's Japanese text comes out to incoherent gibberish.

Basically, Yuji Naka was removed as the director of BALAN WONDERWORLD half a year before its release, so he filed a lawsuit. This removal was done by Square Enix's “producer, head of marketing, head of sound, managing director, and [Human Resources].” Essentially, no one wanted Yuji Naka around. He cited two reasons: Number one, something about the game's soundtrack. I'm not entirely sure what he's talking about when he mentions the YouTuber and an arranged soundtrack, but Yuji Naka wanted the game's original soundtrack released. And SQUARE ENIX hasn't done so—although they haven't taken down unofficial uploads of the soundtrack on YouTube despite those being around pretty much since the game's release, like this uncredited “homage” of a theme from Ghostbusters. I guess, to be fair, it does sound pretty nice. (But if this is an issue, I can see why the game's sound head would want him out.)

Number two, Yuji Naka was jeopardising Square Enix's relationship with developer Arzest by complaining about Arzest submitting builds of BALAN WONDERWORLD to Square Enix that were buggy and awful. Arzest founder and Yuji Naka's best buddy from the Sonic the Hedgehog days, Naoto Ohshima, apparently complained to BALAN WONDERWORLD's producer, a Square Enix man by the name of Noriyoshi Fujimoto. Quite frankly, I don't know why anyone would value their relationship with Arzest or how Arzest is even still in business when every game they've worked on has ranged from aggressively bad to mediocre. That's an important point I'll get to a little later.

Yuji Naka, Naoto Ohshima, and Noriyoshi Fujimoto BALAN WONDERWORLD credits
Here is this article's cast of characters, courtesy of the BALAN WONDERWORLD credits.
We have Yuji Naka the director... formerly of SQUARE ENIX.
Naoto Ohshima the producer and character designer, of Arzest.
And Yuu Miyake, Yosuke Matsuda, and Noriyoshi Fujimoto of SQUARE ENIX.

Yuji Naka became frustrated that the producer was calling the shots for the game's development timeline, instead of himself, as the director. He saw this as out-of-line, though what the line is between director and producer is company-dependent. Yuji Naka believed it's not right to disassociate the game's director the way he was removed, despite his name being the first one to appear in the game's credits. SQUARE ENIX also apparently banned him from interacting with his own cult on social media, which I see as a good move by them and also one that has kept Yuji Naka from slapping people like me. Yuji Naka also thinks that if he was able to stay on the project for the rest of the six months, the game would've been better instead of being a disaster. He cited a quality of life improvement he made to Sonic the Hedgehog (1991) as evidence that he could've turned BALAN WONDERWORLD around.

Finally, he concluded that Arzest and Square Enix hate their fans and their games. That's a pretty broad and stupid statement to make, especially for a company as large as Square Enix, which has plenty of “good” divisions in it, like Tomoya Asano's team and the Dragon Quest teams. ...Yeah, all of those are under Yuu Miyake, and I guess BALAN WONDERWORLD also ended up rolling up to him. But you can't tell me that these guys that do surveys and take player feedback into account hate their fans.

You can easily convince me that Arzest doesn't have any fans, though, and therefore don't really care about the quality of the products they develop. I still don't know why anyone hires out development work to Arzest, but as far as I can tell, working with Arzest was Yuji Naka's idea to begin with. He should've known their bad reputation. Speaking of bad reputations, Yuji Naka has his own history of bad reputations working with other people and being a toxic presence when he was in positions of power. I find the idea that Yuji Naka is a bad person to work with far more credible than the idea that BALAN WONDERWORLD would be a decent game if he worked on it in the last six months.

Nothing in Yuji Naka's statements indicate that BALAN WONDERWORLD's failure wasn't his fault. The basic, fundamental game design decisions from the start of the project were all his idea. Working with Arzest, with their bad reputation, was his idea. His failure to manage “up” and get along with his coworkers was his doing—I mean, think about how much of a screw-up Yuji Naka was that the head of Square Enix's HR department had to intervene. He probably was treating the people below him like trash, which would follow his established pattern of abusive behaviour. He's not vindicated or redeemed. The only way SQUARE ENIX could've handled this better was to never hire him or greenlight his project to begin with.

BALAN WONDERWORLD Nintendo eShop SQUARE ENIX sale discount 70% off
BALAN WONDERWORLD could be free and it still wouldn't be the opportunity cost (time) involved in playing it.

By the way. At this very moment, BALAN WONDERWORLD is 70% off. It's still not worth it. When people give faint praise to games like “Well, there are worse choices you could play than this”, they're talking about BALAN WONDERWORLD. If you want to buy some REALLY EXCELLENT games on sale right now at the same time, check out those Ace Attorney games...

It should be pretty clear by now that Arzest and SQUARE ENIX weren't the ones responsible for those fake Metacritic reviews, and it really was the Yuji Naka astroturf cult, just like Ludwig said it was a year ago. That same cult is trying to rehabilitate his image using his incomplete information that he posted on Twitter. It seems like he'll be relying on them for the rest of his career!

Yuji Naka's attempt to redeem his reputation was destroyed when he was arrested for insider trading in November of 2022.


  1. To me, it felt like Balan Wonderworld's biggest problems were questionable core design choices, not the game being "unfinished." I can think of some things that might have felt better if they made some little improvements (maybe those darn QTE segments would have gotten a "retry" button), but I find it hard to believe that they would have changed the major issues that held it back.

    1. I like that Yuji Naka is so far up his butt that he thinks game design is as complex now as it was 30 years ago.
      ...Bit concerning that his cultists nod their head and agree, though.

      BALAN WONDERWORLD's issues run a bit deeper than a change there and a quality of life improvement there!

  2. In solidarity of this great injustice I will not be buying KH4. How dare you Square Enix, how dare you? Not even putting the Turning Red world in KH4 will want to make me buy KH4. I know I was looking forward to Miriam Mendelson as a party member and Ming Lee as a summon.

    1. SQUARE ENIX made the right decision and you should buy Kingdom Hearts 4 to support it.


  3. I was surprised that I ignored the whole story until a friend mentioned Yuji Naka’s past. And had to reread the entire thread.

    1. And what were your conclusions after doing so?

    2. I'm going to be Neutral about this. While his story has quite a few holes in this due to his own friend/collab partner getting onto his actions, Square isn't innocent either. They could’ve cancelled the game and gave refunds instead of releasing the game. Hell, their rep isn't good with games like Avengers, Babylon’s Fall (Also Plautinum but that’s a different story), Outriders, Chrono Cross (which is debatable since even I think the “censorship” complaint is dumb) and Chocobo GP. Or the President wanting the thr whole NFT talk and metaverse. It's not easy to side with them due to their actions.

    3. I don't think cancelling the game and giving refunds would be a good option. Do I think the game should've been cancelled? Sure, it never seeing the light of day would make the world a better place. However, the game was finished (just unpolished and fundamentally bad) and even got a release patch to stop people from getting seizures.
      Everyone who bought the game knew what they were getting into because they released that demo. I think that nullifies the argument for a refund.

      But, yes, Square Enix's reputation is very mixed right now. Which might be why they just sold several of their studios to another company...! But more on that later this week in an article. ♫


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