In 2013, Eden Industries’ Citizens of Earth roleplaying game failed to reach its Kickstarter crowdfunding budget, but luckily, that didn’t stop Shin Megami publisher Atlus from stepping in and giving it a hand. Citizens of Earth is a campy, modern 2D roleplaying adventure game that borrows heavily from the Super Nintendo classic Earthbound and mixes that with recruitment elements from the iconic Pokémon series. Though the crowdfunding campaign was unable gain momentum, Atlus was sufficiently impressed with the effort that it provided much-needed marketing, and has now published the indie game on multiple platforms, including the PlayStation 4.
Unlike the Japanese RPGs that Atlus normally publishes, Citizens of Earth features a decidedly more Western flavor. From the art style to the campy humor, Citizens of Earth is targeted at Americans, though most of the humor is universal enough that other audiences will find plenty of chuckles. Citizens of Earth begins right after a hard-fought election, and the Vice President has returned to his hometown, more specifically his mom’s house, for some taxpayer-funded rest and relaxation. After waking up and catching up with his mom and little brother, the VP quickly discovers that everything isn’t quite right.
Though the narrative puts players in the role of the Vice President of the World, he isn’t technically a playable character. Like the Pokémon Trainer, the Vice President recruits townspeople to do the work for him. Primarily that work is combat, but many of the recruits also offer new gameplay options. While mom and brother are obviously his first recruits, there are a total of 40 crazy citizens the VP can recruit. Only three can accompany the Vice President at a time, but they can be switched at any time, even during combat, though it will reset the turn-based battle.
Each recruit in Citizens of Earth has his or her own character-specific abilities. Your mom can give party members hugs to restore hit points, or can perform a physical attack by spanking. The Camp Counselor can perform first aid or launch rockets at enemies. In addition to combat abilities, some recruits offer much more. Recruiting the Lifeguard will allow players to travel underwater, the Weather Lady will let you change the weather, and your brother serves as a mail-order service because of his occupation. With such a wide variety of options, Eden Industries tries to provide as much incentive for exploration as possible.
Unfortunately, Citizens of Earth doesn’t get everything quite right. As fun as the game’s humor can be, the whole experience can feel tedious, and quickly. The game does make some effort to minimize grinding, but then turns that around by forcing players to get each recruit up to level 20 before you can enlist the Yoga Instructor. The frequency of combat also leaves a bit to be desired. While there is a charge feature that lets you eliminate weaker enemies quickly, it’s inexact and the crowded environments sometimes makes it difficult to avoid battles. Add that to an imperfect fast travel system, and many players will give up the adventure long before its ending.
Citizens of Earth has a lot going for it, but some of its design choices hold it back from being a better game. While it is certainly a retro experience, its high-definition presentation helps to separate it from a crowded field of throwback indie RPGs. It’s really its sense of humor that makes Citizens of Earth stand out. Like all good RPGs, it has plenty of content for those who keep at it. The problem is that everything is a little too tedious for many to see through until the end.
Citizens of Earth is rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) by the ESRB for Fantasy Violence, Tobacco Reference, and Simulated Gambling. This game can also be found on: Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Wii U, Playstation Vita, and Windows PC.
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