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Balan Wonderworld (Yuji Naka + Square Enix)

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9 minutes ago, Jovahexeon Jax Joranvexeon said:

I don't think anyone was really pushing for it to be ripoff of NiGHTS. At best, a good spiritual successor to the series. Because, like it or not, that is pretty much how the series was advertised.

No, it's not. No, it never was advertised as advertised as being a spiritual successor to (/rip-off of) NiGHTS. The debut trailer showed of a platformer with character designs evocative of NiGHTS. Not for a second did it look like it would resemble NiGHTS gameplay at all. If you got that impression, that's on you because it's not what was advertised. We were presented with an original concept and that's what we got. 

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Just now, Blue Blood said:

No, it's not. No, it never was advertised as advertised as being a spiritual successor to (/rip-off of) NiGHTS. The debut trailer showed of a platformer with character designs evocative of NiGHTS. Not for a second did it look like it would resemble NiGHTS gameplay at all. If you got that impression, that's on you because it's not what was advertised.

What? I think you're misunderstanding my point. I'm not saying that it was marketed as a NiGHTS ripoff.

I'm saying that it was definitely marketed as a game that would share a lot of principles with the series. Admittedly, more in concept than in full-on gameplay. Although, it unfortunately brought back the mediocre humans gameplay from the original NiGHTS to a T.

It was obvious that this was never gonna be the new NiGHTS. Part of why I'm baffled that so many obnoxious fans insisted that this was supposedly going to "show Sonic Team how it's done".

Funny since it showed more how it absolutely SHOULD NOT be done.

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Just now, Jovahexeon Jax Joranvexeon said:

What? I think you're misunderstanding my point. I'm not saying that it was marketed as a NiGHTS ripoff.

I'm saying that it was definitely marketed as a game that would share a lot of principles with the series. Admittedly, more in concept than in full-on gameplay. Although, it unfortunately brought back the mediocre humans gameplay from the original NiGHTS to a T.

It still wasn't advertised as that. It's easy to draw parallels because of the similar premise and character design and overall art style. That's obviously what Naka and Oshima were gunning for. But Balan was clearly going to be it's own thing from the get-go.

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Just now, Blue Blood said:

But Balan was clearly going to be it's own thing from the get-go.

Hence what I said:

5 minutes ago, Jovahexeon Jax Joranvexeon said:

It was obvious that this was never gonna be the new NiGHTS. Part of why I'm baffled that so many obnoxious fans insisted that this was supposedly going to "show Sonic Team how it's done".

Funny since it showed more how it absolutely SHOULD NOT be done.

 

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Just now, Jovahexeon Jax Joranvexeon said:

Hence what I said:

You edited that part in whilst I was replying. I quoted your original post.

I don't know who was saying that this game would show SEGA/Sonic Team how it's done, because the gameplay always looked like it might be a bit suspect and the animations appeared janky. But I don't doubt those people exist. People always react blindly like that. Rather than showing Sonic Team how it's done, it looks more like they did exactly as Sonic Team does.

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3 minutes ago, Blue Blood said:

You edited that part in whilst I was replying. I quoted your original post.

Fair enough. I just wanted to point out that I was well aware that the game is its own thing.

 

3 minutes ago, Blue Blood said:

I don't know who was saying that this game would show SEGA/Sonic Team how it's done, because the gameplay always looked like it might be a bit suspect and the animations appeared janky. But I don't doubt those people exist. People always react blindly like that. 

Oh trust me. There were so god damn many.

It was a bit of an issue I had with the hype at the start. People touting the game as something it clearly wasn't. And for the sake of spite too.

3 minutes ago, Blue Blood said:

Rather than showing Sonic Team how it's done, it looks more like they did exactly as Sonic Team does.

Actually they ended up doing far worse than Sonic Team does. Mapping nigh everything to one button, terrible controls, ungodly slow motion, and a completely incomprehensible story saw to that.

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5 minutes ago, Jovahexeon Jax Joranvexeon said:

Actually they ended up doing far worse than Sonic Team does. Mapping nigh everything to one button, terrible controls, ungodly slow motion, and a completely incomprehensible story saw to that.

They made a game with interesting ideas that are all half-baked and that ultimately ends up being a mediocre platformer. That's Sonic Team to a T.

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7 minutes ago, Blue Blood said:

They made a game with interesting ideas that are all half-baked and that ultimately ends up being a mediocre platformer. That's Sonic Team to a T.

They churned out a disaster that can't even get fundamentals that even Sonic Team at least get to this day. Therefore, worse than their output.

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1 hour ago, Jovahexeon Jax Joranvexeon said:

I don't think anyone was really pushing for it to be ripoff of NiGHTS. At best, a good spiritual successor to the series. Because, like it or not, that is pretty much how the series was advertised.

And even for all its originality, the game is bland as toast left out in the sun.

I'm really not sure where you see originality.  The gameplay is basically Mario except with more power-ups except they're also crappy, while the bit about exploring the depressing bits of people's minds is basically Inside Out except crappy.  All of what's in this game can be and has been done much better, but original?  At this point, absolutely not.

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Personally I'm with Blue Blood in not believing Balan Company(/Arzest) is all that much worse than Sonic Team*. I'll give some credit to Balan Wonderworld in that you can actually play the levels in its demo for more than one minute, to name just one positive it has against the last ST effort.

Arguing whether "Balan Team" or Sonic Team are worse at designing games is like trying to decide if you want the house infested with rats or the house infested with cockroaches. I'm of the thought they're both rancid options and you can definitely do much better with the other options that are available.

*I personally still think it's possible Balan may end up having better metascores than the next Sonic game ST is making, in all honesty.

Anyway, enough scores have trickled in for some metascores, and it ain't looking great.

Metacritic - 59 (PS5 - 6 reviews)

Opencritic - 51 (8 reviews), 25% of reviewers recommend

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The thing is that Arzest games are incredibly boring, while Sonic Team's bad games at least provide unintentional comedy value that's only offset by having to pay full price for them. Years later, we're still making fun of Shadow the Hedgehog and Sonic '06, and Sonic Forces will probably be another part of the Hall of Infamy too. I doubt anyone but a few stubborn fans will be even talking about Balan months from now.

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Idk guys, if I turn my brain off and just go in for some mindless fun and spectacle, I can enjoy Forces for what it is. I can't remotely say the same for Balan's demo. Forces, and even Lost World doesn't actively make me fall asleep, or feel frustrated by the simplest of movements. 

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Even as someone who doesn't care about NiGHTS that much (finally played the original recently and it didn't live up to the hype at all), I don't think it's unreasonable to be disappointed that it isn't in some way a spiritual successor.

The designs and main character are SO evocative of NiGHTS in the same way that Yooka-Laylee, Mighty No. 9 and Bloodstained evoke Banjo-Kazooie, Mega Man and Castlevania respectively.  Yes, just because those games were intentionally spiritual successors, it doesn't mean Balan has to be. Judging it in a vacuum, Balan can be whatever it wants to be... Except... it's not in a vacuum.  It's being judged by humans who have the wider context of gaming to consider it in.

So, either it was a conscious decision to make it NiGHTS-esque and we're kidding ourselves if we expect people to see that and not hope for a NiGHTS successor.  Or it was coincidental that the same people that came up with NiGHTS wanted to do the same sort of thing again but not quite and THEY were kidding themselves that people wouldn't react hoping for a NiGHTS successor.

 

I mean, wanting it to be NiGHTS or not doesn't really change much when the game is crap either way, but I dunno, I feel that angle of disappointment is defensible.

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3 hours ago, JezMM said:

Even as someone who doesn't care about NiGHTS that much (finally played the original recently and it didn't live up to the hype at all), I don't think it's unreasonable to be disappointed that it isn't in some way a spiritual successor.

The designs and main character are SO evocative of NiGHTS in the same way that Yooka-Laylee, Mighty No. 9 and Bloodstained evoke Banjo-Kazooie, Mega Man and Castlevania respectively.  Yes, just because those games were intentionally spiritual successors, it doesn't mean Balan has to be. Judging it in a vacuum, Balan can be whatever it wants to be... Except... it's not in a vacuum.  It's being judged by humans who have the wider context of gaming to consider it in.

So, either it was a conscious decision to make it NiGHTS-esque and we're kidding ourselves if we expect people to see that and not hope for a NiGHTS successor.  Or it was coincidental that the same people that came up with NiGHTS wanted to do the same sort of thing again but not quite and THEY were kidding themselves that people wouldn't react hoping for a NiGHTS successor.

 

I mean, wanting it to be NiGHTS or not doesn't really change much when the game is crap either way, but I dunno, I feel that angle of disappointment is defensible.

This was pretty much my main point from the get go.

Yes, Balan Wonderworld is technically it's own thing, but there's no way they couldn't have known that they'd be tugging at the NiGHTS nostalgia heart strings with this one. Sure, Balan himself isn't playable like NiGHTS, but the concepts and everything are relatively spot on to make one mistake this for NiGHTS.

And in its concept, it really does come off as a NiGHTS successor. You can't really blame fans for having that inkling, especially when they didn't really do much to squelch the feeling. And they had plenty of opportunity to.

And at the end of the day, it was a terrible game, so that just twists the knife of rotten expectations even more.

Considering that the gameplay wasn't going to focus on Balan himself, the human game-play still feels like a shoe-in for human gameplay in NiGHTS....somehow done even worse though.

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9 hours ago, Ryannumber1gamer said:

Its like if Sonic could barely jump, barely run and couldn’t spin dash, and had to find a ring that lets him do just ONE of those actions at a time. It’d be absolutely awful.

...Sonic Labyrinth? :v

9 hours ago, Blue Blood said:

Arzest (and Artoon by extension) is notoriously low-bar developer that seems to be content to work on smaller projects for big names. Many of the Yoshi games on DS/3DS, including the generally disliked New Island and "okay" DS, some Mii games with Nintendo, supported development on some Mario & Luigi games and a Mario and Sonic Olympics game... A few of their own titles from the Artoon days were well received, like Blue Dragon and The Last Story, but nah. Their games are usually worse instalments of existing minor IPs or shovelware, or they just provided development support. Balan looked like it was their big chance.

Tbh I just looked through their discography... I mean... gameography? Didn't realize they made Pinobee! I enjoyed that game as a kid. I wonder what stopped it from becoming a notable IP.

9 hours ago, Azure Blue Tori said:

The main issue I have with Balan is the timing. We're no longer in the Yooka-Laylee Kickstarter age where you could sell a game solely for being a 3-D platformer. Between Super Mario Odyssey and A Hat in Time, there are so many good, polished options these days that you really need to bring something new and interesting to the table if I am to check it out. And Balan, to put it mildly, doesn't.

Glad we're outta that era tbh, the near-death of 3D platformers.

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4 hours ago, Blue Blood said:

What impression do you get from Balan? I see nothing wrong with him; he's a weird magician-looking guy in a world that's all based on dreams. He's the guide for the world and that's... Fine. The only reason that I might think it's a game about flying is because I'm already aware of NIGHTS and he's of a strikingly similar appearance. Otherwise he just looks like some cheery magic dude. 

I mean...that I would play as him, for starters. An agile, rhythmic character is a bit of a far cry from a vulnerable child even before you bring in the NiGHTS comparisons. Instead, he's more like a mascot that barely has a presence in the game world which feels like a mistake. I suspect that he was added late in development because none of the kids made for an intriguing character to center the game's marketing around. It's fair to want to solve that problem, but it makes the game feel a little bit disingenuous.

Also as an aside, bringing Sonic into it is dumb. Yall really gotta let that shit go. Seriously. The one time a major platform game that doesn't immediately demolish Sonic comes around and it's because it's made by former ST devs instead of current ones. I'm not gonna any further for Sonic's sake, lmao. What a joke. 

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16 hours ago, Dejimon11 said:

On that note has Arzest made a good game at all since their creation? It just seems like they keep making shovel ware and keep getting work somehow. 

I believe I've heard Hey! Pikmin described as good, but given the rest of their output then that might well have been so many ironic statements.  It was certainly another one of the shovelware stable of 3DS life support titles.

16 hours ago, Azure Blue Tori said:

 

If we're counting their Artoon days, I personally liked Yoshi's Island DS, though that was also because I was more forgiving as a kid and was just looking for anything that filled that Yoshi's Island niche. I can understand why a lot of people don't like it, but there was still some degree of ambition in it.

I replayed YIDS to 100% after beating Yoshi's New Island, and I can confirm that DS was by far the "newer" game.  It actually had ideas, for all that it wasn't very good (but was still easily better than New Island).

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To me, Yoshi's New Island was Balan Wonderworld before Balan. I was embarrassed when I saw how linear and simplistic the levels were, as if it was a computer science student's first assignment, and the less said about the story, the better.

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I do think the game was mismarketed, but not as a NiGHTS successor. The expectation they gave and that I saw everyone follow was "Plays like Sonic Adventure, looks like NiGHTS". They really needed to emphasise "it's a puzzle platformer collectathon" over "3d action platformer", and they didn't.

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All I’ll say is that it’s a good thing there was a demo, because even after I watched the first few trailers to this game upon reveal... I found that Balan had enough of a NiGHT’s influence in design on my brain that I still continued to believe they were the main playable character with the kids as secondary playable characters (that were just a bit more involved than the duo from either of the NiGHT’s games). 

Clearly that wasn’t the case. And it is just my bad for not paying attention - so again, thank god for the DEMO! 

I think it’s pretty fair to say that gameplay aside, there are definitely striking similarities between both this and NiGHTs on other levels, from art style and character design, and even from the conception (or rather... inception) of the main “story” themes and ideas.

It looks all too familiar despite being completely different. Was it simply by design or done on purpose? I couldn’t say. But if someone told me this was a Spin-off title set in the NiGHT’s universe I wouldn’t have given it a second thought for doubt. 

 

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On 3/29/2021 at 8:35 AM, Ryannumber1gamer said:

Its like if Sonic could barely jump, barely run and couldn’t spin dash, and had to find a ring that lets him do just ONE of those actions at a time. It’d be absolutely awful. I genuinely don’t know how you could make “locking away basic actions” fun. The very notion instinctively both restricts your own movement and capability as a player, while also making everything frustratingly roundabout in its problem solving. 

For what this is worth, I felt that way about Sonic Colors, in principle though certainly not degree.  I did have fun with that game but it rubbed me the wrong way that Sonic couldn't spin dash by default, that his boost was shackled to one of many Wisps (albeit one that functioned differently than others, but you still needed to collect them), that you couldn't boost in some segments because they decided to use the same button for drift, and only collecting the buzzsaw Wisp let Sonic spin dash.

On 3/29/2021 at 8:27 AM, Azure Blue Tori said:

 

If we're counting their Artoon days, I personally liked Yoshi's Island DS, though that was also because I was more forgiving as a kid and was just looking for anything that filled that Yoshi's Island niche. I can understand why a lot of people don't like it, but there was still some degree of ambition in it.

 

On 3/29/2021 at 8:29 AM, Blue Blood said:

Many of the Yoshi games on DS/3DS, including the generally disliked New Island and "okay" DS,

 

11 hours ago, Salamander said:

I replayed YIDS to 100% after beating Yoshi's New Island, and I can confirm that DS was by far the "newer" game.  It actually had ideas, for all that it wasn't very good (but was still easily better than New Island).

Back in the day I was happy to have a sequel to YI, and while YIDS certainly didn't give me the rush of "this is awesome and fresh" that the original did, its multiple babies with their own abilities still added to the game in a way that made sense.  If the game had a big problem, it would be that it tried to get too difficult, and in a series whose standard involves long levels, that gets tedious.

That, and its music was quite dull.  Though at least it didn't sound like farts.  Then again, sounding like farts is at least potentially funny.

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Hoo boy at this bit in this TGS 2020 IGN interview with Naka...

Quote

For Naka, who joined Square Enix in 2018, Balan Wonderworld will be his first full-scale platform game in quite some time. "I think Square Enix has an RPG image," Naka said, "but I don't think I'd be good at making RPGs." Of course, Naka has made RPGs, such as Phantasy Star and Phantasy Star Online. However, the genre he feels he is most skilled at is still platform games. Therefore, he received permission from the company president to make a full-scale platform game with the condition that it was his "one chance".

Of course, nothing would make fans happier than more Naka platform games, but whether there's another game is likely dependent on the popularity of Balan Wonderworld. Naka is confident, however; even though there is no guarantee that there will be another title, he has launched a new brand called Balan Company. "Such is my enthusiasm for continuing to make action games," he said.

 

So uh, hopefully Naka is willing to give the RPG genre another go after this...(and that S.E. is willing to let him do so)...

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IGN US review by Tom Marks - "What a blunder."

Quote

Balan Wonderworld isn’t always an awful platformer, but it is a consistently boring one. It’s full of charming character designs and the occasional hint of a clever idea, but its insistence on being a one-button game with dozens of needlessly overlapping abilities that are thrown aside just as fast as they are introduced rots it to the core. It’s a mess of undercooked concepts and clunky mechanics that slow it to a crawl, and it seems to take inspiration from better games without properly recapturing what actually makes them fun. Its platforming never evolves beyond the most basic possible obstacles it can throw at you, but it's the fundamentally flawed choices behind that mediocrity that take Balan Wonderworld from unamusing to outright bad.

Score: 4/10

Metro GameCentral review: "NiGHTS into Nightmares"

Quote

There’re some decent ideas at the heart of Balan Wonderworld, and the 3D platformer is absolutely a genre we need to see more of, but this really isn’t a very good game. There’s lots of content but too much of it feels like filler, from the large number of pointless costumes to the irritating QTE sequences with Balan, that the game forces you to compete on an increasingly regular basis.

Balan Wonderworld is a welcome reminder of how 3D games used to be, but in the sense that you’ll come out the other end thankful for how much things have improved over the decades. Balan Wonderworld isn’t awful but rather than proving that the old ways still have merit it only makes the case for leaving the past alone.

Score: 4/10

Eurogamer review by Martin Robinson: "[A]n archaic throwback as clumsy as it is enjoyable"

Quote

And yet for all that, I kind of adore Balan Wonderworld, to a degree that's surprised me. Maybe it's just come along at the right time, when I needed a colourful comfort blanket of a thing, a nostalgia strip as strange and insubstantial as watching a YouTube compilation of 90s TV adverts. Maybe it's because my expectations were low - Sonic Adventure has always been the game where the scales fell away from my eyes when it comes to Sega's mascot, and to Sonic Team, and I can't say I've ever enjoyed too much of the series since.

Or maybe it's just because this is how games used to be, and sometimes it's comforting to slip into a 90s netherworld, and back into the old ways. When games were often clunky, unexplained, awkward and often downright frustrating. Balan Wonderworld is all those things, an almost too exacting facsimile of a type of second tier 90s platformer that never quite achieved greatness, even if it's fascinating all the same.

---

Opencritic - 50 "Weak", 33 reviews, 12% of critics recommend

Metacritic:
PS5 - 56 "Mixed and/or average", 15 reviews
PS4 - 46 "Generally unfavorable", 7 reviews
PC - 46 "Generally unfavorable", 4 reviews
Xbox Series X - 40 "Generally unfavorable", 4 reviews
Switch - 27 "Generally unfavorable," 4 reviews
-
Xbox One (No reviews)

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