Sonic the Hedgehog programmer and co-creator Yuji Naka has remained relatively quiet since leaving his SEGA days behind to form Prope. While he’s produced several games since departing in 2006, none of them have truly managed to garner the cult following that some of his previous projects enjoy today. Last week, however, he and Naoto Ohshima revealed their next big project with Square Enix. It’s got a hint of Nights, a pinch of Kid Chameleon, a few sprinkles of Sonic, and quite a lot of charm.
Balan Wonderworld takes place in a mystical locale known as the Balan Theatre. Described as a place folks arrive at when they reach a pivotal moment in life, it’s capable of bringing memories and vistas into reality. Players will assume the role of young adults Emma and Leo, who will be able to equip over 80 costumes to solve the 3D platforming challenges that lie before them. Also, these costumes will help our hero and heroine defeat monsters and solve puzzles. One costume from the trailer presented above (1:09) appears to give them the ability to use an attack similar to Sonic’s homing attack from that series’ 3D installments. (I won’t hold my breath, but I’d love to see more of these costumes nod towards Naka and Ohshima’s known and lesser-known works in the final product!)
Balan Wonderworld is a big deal for many reasons. For one thing, it will be the first project Naka and Oshima have worked together on since the highly divisive Sonic Adventure (1998). It will also be Naka’s first stab at a unique 3D platformer since Billy Hatcher And The Giant Egg. Last, but certainly not least, it’ll be Naka’s first game since joining forces with Square Enix two years ago. Not much is currently known about the project outside of what has been shown in the trailer. We do know it will be launching in early 2021 for all major platforms including the Xbox Series X and Playstation 5.
My fingers are crossed that Balan Wonderworld will prove to be for SEGA’s fanbase what Yooka Laylee wanted to be for Rare’s. As it stands, it looks to be a love letter to both sixth-generation platform adventure games. Then possibly that special time in gaming history where SEGA was taking the world by storm. With the masterminds behind one of the industry’s most iconic characters at the forefront, I have high hopes for this project and can’t wait to see more of it in the future.