Sonic Co-Creator and Balan Wonderworld Director Yuji Naka Unsurprisingly Leaves Square Enix

Balan Wonderworld fell far behind expectations.

Yuji Naka, the co-creator of the Sonic series and the director of the recently released Balan Wonderworld, has departed from Square Enix. He says he may even retire.

Naka confirmed rumors of the departure on Twitter on June 5, saying he had left at the end of April. “I resigned from Square Enix at the end of April,” Naka wrote. “While I cannot share the reason right now, I hope to be able to discuss it when the time comes. As for what I’ll do in the future, I’m already 55 years-old, so I may as well retire.” (Thank you to Gematsu for the translation.)

Naka joined Square Enix in 2018 to start his own subsidiary, Balan Company, and make Balan Wonderworld. It was his first collaboration with artist Naoto Ohshima since Sonic Adventure. Last year, he told IGN Japan that this was his “one chance” to make a platform action game for Square Enix. “Such is my enthusiasm for continuing to make action games,” he had said regarding the establishment of Balan Company.

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Balan Wonderworld was released on March 26, 2021, for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S, and PC. It was met with middling reviews, unremarkable sales, and even an unintentional controversy. Earning just 36% on Metacritic, it has largely been a commercial and critical failure, making Naka’s unfortunate departure unsurprising for many.

Naka is best known as the former head of Sonic Team, where he was the lead programmer of the original Sonic the Hedgehog. He also led development on games like Nights into Dreams, Sonic Adventure, and Phantasy Star Online. He was the last member of the original Sonic team who remained at Sega until his departure in 2006.

This is when he found his own studio called Prope, where he was initially joined by ten members of Sega’s Sonic Team. By the end of April 2017, the company ceased communications on its official Japanese website. However, Naka celebrated its 15th anniversary earlier this month. “It has become a company only in form, but some apps are still running, so it is still alive,” he wrote on Twitter. “I hope I can put out something again.”

We look forward to seeing what’s next in Naka’s future, considering his legacy as an industry veteran.

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Natalie Flores

Natalie is Fanbyte's Featured Contributor, with bylines at places like VICE, Polygon, PC Gamer, Paste Magazine, and more.

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