Yuji Naka recently shared with IGN that Balan Wonderworld is his “one chance” to make a platformer under his new employer, Square Enix. Formerly of Sega, Naka joined Square Enix in 2018. He has a deep and storied career in video games, highlighted by his role as a driving force behind popular series such as Sonic the Hedgehog and NiGHTs Into Dreams, but he’s not quite as well-versed in the RPGs that so often bring home the bacon for Square Enix. That’s where Balan Wonderworld comes in.
Naka would much rather make action games all day long, and for now, Square Enix is willing to take a shot with that – according to the interview, Square Enix’s president gave Naka permission to “one chance” to make an action game under the company’s label. That one chance has culminated in Balan Wonderworld, which by all accounts looks fantastic. With 80 different abilities (Super Mario Odyssey style), a large variety in available approaches to each level, and even a carefully crafted story, Naka seems to be taking his “one chance” quite seriously.
However, even if Balan Wonderworld doesn’t find enough success for Square Enix to latch on long term, it’s not necessarily the end of the road for Naka and action games. He recently launched a new brand, Balan Company, citing his continued enthusiasm for making action games. So far, that enthusiasm is incredibly obvious in Balan Wonderworld, and I hope Naka knocks it out of the park right out the gate, but I’m glad to see such a hopeful future for one of the genre’s giants.