It’s rare that a game survives after failing to reach its funding goal on Kickstarter. Heck, it’s not even that uncommon to see something that was successfully funded fail to see release. However, Citizens of Earth is far from your common video game. Developed by Eden Industries, the retro influenced role-player was picked up by Atlus, which allowed it to defy the odds and make its way to some of our favourite devices.
Citizens of Earth finds gamers stepping into the swanky shoes of the newly-elected Vice President of the World. Having returned to his hometown for his first day off since taking office – one day prior – the VP is awoken by a crowd gathered outside his childhood home. After fetching his caring mother and postal employee of a brother, the VP soon finds out that the crowd has not amassed to congratulate him, but to protest his victory instead.
Upon dealing with the small scale riot, our bureaucratic hero begins to notice strange things are afoot in his hometown. Most notably, everyone seems to be acting up after tasting the mysterious new blend of coffee found at the local shop. Taking this oddity to the capital of the world, which just happens to be short ride away from his hometown, the VP soon begins to discover that things are even more off than he first imagined.
In case you couldn’t tell, Citizens of Earth is meant to be humorous. Heavily influenced by the oddity found in the classic SNES RPG EarthBound, its humor is a combination of oddball jokes and snarky political jabs. While I wouldn’t say that the political humor is on the same level as something written by, say, Armando Iannucci, it still is rather hilarious at times. Whether it be the other characters slyly insulting the VP, or the actions of the Vice President himself, there’s plenty of hilarity to be found.
Even if it wasn’t humorous, Eden Studios’ latest effort would’ve won me over with its colourful style and retro charm. After all, the RPG genre is filled with generic anime-styled adventures and experiences that are way too serious for their own good. The fact that the developer is even trying to pull off the odd comedy RPG is a minor miracle.
The EarthBound influence is further felt when you take a look at the vivid colour palette that oozes off the screen. Every character model, whether it be an ally or an enemy, looks unique. The enemies are a particular highlight, as how often do you find yourself beating down monstrous coffee beans and angry toasters?
Citizens of Earth isn’t just influenced by HAL Laboratory’s cult classic, though, as the new IP also draws from Konami’s Suikoden franchise, with both titles allowing players to recruit different kinds of people for their parties. However, while Suikoden introduces an assortment of knights, mages and other types of trained killers to the fray, this adventure relies more on the common folk of the world.
The Vice President can call upon an assortment of different citizens to aid him on his quest. While some of these additions seem obvious, such as the Police Officer or Firefighter, all of them serve their own unique purpose. For example, the Weather Lady can make it rain or snow, which will cause specific actions, or the Homeless Man can sift through garbage in order to find items that can be put to good use. The different attributes and abilities of each party member also extend to the battle system.
Borrowing from another incredibly popular genre effort — the massively popular Pokemon franchise, no less — the battles in Citizens of Earth feature the Vice President sending out three different citizens to do battle. Each citizen has their own specialized attacks and spells that typically fall into a certain category. The Baker uses fire, Mother uses the dulcet tones of her voice, and so on. Of course, certain enemies are weaker against different styles of attack, so you’ll need to plan accordingly.
Different combinations of party members also play a role in which attributes receive a bonus upon levelling up. For example, having Mother and Brother together in a party helps boost certain stats. While that seems rational based off of their relation, it is actually determined by what role each character plays in your party. As such, messing around with different combinations could lead to various boosts being applied at once. Honestly, it’s a rather unique way of handling things, and shows that there is more to the title than just its retro styling.
You’ll have plenty of time to mess around in battle, too, because Citizens of Earth likes to throw a ton of action your way. While that sounds exciting, it quickly begins to slow the game down to a crawl. Battles don’t even arise randomly either, as every enemy can be seen as you walk around. While you can avoid some of these foes, and even charge at them and kill them before heading into battle, certain areas are so stuffed that it’s impossible. I know this is a weird thing to complain about, as every RPG features battles, but most allow me to walk more than five steps before being forced into another fight.
The constant combat is only made worse by the tedious and monotonous quests you frequently undertake. While I did enjoy the storyline, Eden Industries definitely could have put more effort into creating more unique missions. A majority of these objectives force you to travel back and forth between completely different areas of the world, fighting a constant stream of bad guys, while searching for some random item. It begins to feel so boring and bland that I almost fell asleep mid-walk. I’ve dozed off during lengthy cutscenes (Hello, Metal Gear Solid 4), but this was a first for me.
In addition to those issues, my experience was also hampered by a handful of technical problems. Frequent crashes, game-ending glitches and missing characters were just a few of the problems I came across. I don’t know if this was just an issue with the PlayStation 4 version of the title, or perhaps with the pre-release copies, but I do hope that things are cleaned up for launch.
When it comes down to it, I’m happy to see that Citizens of Earth was able to see the light of day, regardless of the problems that I encountered while playing it. It’s a wholly unique adventure that borrows from some of the best role-players of past console generations. However, it also suffers from some odd and grating issues. There’s a reason that more modern RPGs have introduced better mapping systems and removed random encounters, after all. Regardless, those that are looking for a throwback adventure could do far worse than this.
This review was based off the PlayStation 4 version of the title, which we were provided with.
Although its boring mission design leads to frustration, Citizens of Earth's delightfully odd premise and surprisingly deep combat engine make it worthy of a cursory glance.