Former Sonic Team boss Yuji Naka – who is perhaps most famous for co-creating Sonic the Hedgehog alongside Hirokazu Yasuhara and Naoto Ohshima – has stated that his latest venture, Balan Wonderworld, could be his one and only chance at making a successful 3D platformer at Square Enix, his current employer.
Naka's new studio, Balan Company, is a brand which exists within Square Enix, a firm most famous for its million-selling RPGs. Despite having a hand in classic genre offerings such as Phantasy Star and Phantasy Star Online, Naka told IGN that: “I think Square Enix has an RPG image, but I don’t think I’d be good at making RPGs.”
Balan Wonderworld is only happening because he apparently convinced the president of Square Enix to give him "one chance" to make a successful game within the platformer genre – a space Naka has previously explored with releases such as Nights Into Dreams, Burning Rangers and Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg – as well as several 3D Sonic titles.
"A lot of popular games these days are based on shooting, but I always want to make pure action games," Naka continued. He clearly has a lot of faith in the project, hence the fact that he has named his new studio after the game itself – something he also did at Sega with the aforementioned Sonic Team.
Balan Wonderworld marks the first time that Naka has worked with fellow Sonic co-creator Naoto Ohshima in two decades. Can it be a success at a time when 3D platformers have become a niche genre rather than a market leader? The popularity of entries in the Crash Bandicoot, Spyro and Mario series bodes well, but time will tell.