Naka Yūji and Ohshima Naoto, co-creators of Sonic the Hedgehog and NiGHTS Into Dreams, are teaming up for the first time in 20 years for Balan Wonderworld, a delightful-looking 3D platformer due out next year.
Balan Wonderworld takes place in an imaginary Wonderworld behind the curtains of a mysterious theatre, shaped by people’s emotions, both negative and positive. Guided by the maestro Balan, the young Emma Cole and Leo Craig find themselves on a journey through twelve different worlds with the goal of bringing balance and happiness back to the hearts of the people whose worries those worlds are based upon.
As Leo and Emma, players will use the abilities imparted by an assortment of different costumes to explore Wonderworld’s dreamlike stages. Each costume comes with a unique action—a special attack, or an ability to help with traversal, like walking on air. By switching costumes on the fly to mix and match these different abilities, players will be able to explore the Wonderworld and solve the various puzzles it offers.
Naka Yūji was the lead programmer on Sonc the Hedgehog (among many other games), alongside character designer Ohshima Naoto. They worked together on a few other games in the years since, including the beloved Nights into Dreams—a game that Balan Wonderworld seems to draw a lot of inspiration from. Balan Wonderworld is the duo’s first collaboration in more than 20 years, the last one being 1998’s Sonic Adventure.
Together, Naka and Ohshima founded Balan Company, a studio within Square Enix focused on “bringing together action game development, video and music production professionals from both inside and outside of the company”. Square Enix’s Visual Works animation studio is working on the cutscenes for the game, and Yamazaki Ryo is composing the music.
Balan Wonderworld is in development for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Nintendo Switch. A worldwide release is planned for northern spring / southern autumn 2021, with support for 24 different languages.