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Directed by Naka, the former head of Sonic Team, Balan is a 3D platformer for current and next-generation consoles (including Nintendo Switch) and PC, set to release in Spring 2021.
It’s the first game from Square’s new Balan Company studio, a collection of veteran developers including Naoto Ohshima, the artist who created the original designs for Sonic the Hedgehog. It’s been more than 20 years since Naka and Oshima last worked together at Sonic Team.
Speaking to IGN this week, Naka explained how he managed to convince the RPG giant to greenlight a platform game – his first in many years.
“I think Square Enix has an RPG image, but I don’t think I’d be good at making RPGs,” Naka said. The designer has previously created Sega classic Phantasy Star and Phantasy Star Online, however he said he feels most skilled in the platformer genre.
Naka said he, therefore, received permission from Square Enix’s president to make a full-scale platform game with the condition that it was his “one chance”.
Even though there is no guarantee that there will be another Balan game, Naka has called his new game studio Balan Company, which suggests he’s confident it will turn out OK. “Such is my enthusiasm for continuing to make action games,” he said.
Balan is a musical-themed platformer which has players switching between over 80 costumes to utilise abilities such as freezing time and manipulating objects.
Players take on the role of Leo and Emma, who must navigate through Wonderworld to restore happiness and balance the hearts and minds of all they encounter.
“Back in the 1990s, we worked together to create Sonic the Hedgehog, but it’s been more than 20 years since we’ve been on a project together,” Naka wrote on Xbox.com in July. “I can’t tell you how excited I am to be working with him once again!”