GAME NAME: Citizens of Earth
DEVELOPER(S): Eden Industries
PUBLISHER(S): Atlus, U.S.A, LTD
PLATFORM(S): Vita, PS4, Wii U, 3DS, Steam
RELEASE DATE(S): January 20, 2015
Old-school RPG fans have been clamoring for a stateside sequel to SNES classic Earthbound since you were still decorating your wall with all those AOL CDs that came in the mail. And while the latest release from Eden Industries and Atlus isn’t a sequel, it definitely draws heavily from its influence with a setting of Anytown, USA and some crazy creatures.
In Citizens of Earth, you play the newly elected Vice President of Earth. No explanation was given for why the planet has fallen under the rule of two elected Americans, but I just went with it. A weird protest has started up in your hometown, and it’s up to you to find out what’s going on and make your constituents happy. Things start off calmly enough as you just have to deal with a few protesters outside your house. But soon, strange things are afoot at the local Moonbucks, which sets the story off into its crazy motion. Being the snooty politician that you are, you can’t be bothered to fight battles yourself, so you recruit various townsfolk to take care of the bad guys for you.
In order to recruit citizens to join your roving party of world saving, you usually have to complete a certain task for them. These range from time consuming collectible gathering to just showing up & chatting. There are 40 different citizens to bring into the fold, so creating a full party will take a decent amount of effort. All the citizens bring different talents to the table, though not all of them are helpful. For instance, the used car dealer will allow you to use his car in a moment’s notice, while the camp councilor will allow you to change your character’s name.
In battle, each citizen has a wide range of abilities at their disposal, from healing to saddling the bad guys with status ailments to using elemental attacks. You can only use three citizens in battle at a time, so you’ll be constantly juggling them around to get them to their levels in order to unlock all their abilities. Once I got towards the end, I found myself using the same three over and over, but it is fun using a new character for a bunch of battles to see what exactly they can do.
The enemies you encounter on your journey are pretty wild and clever. Most are a cross between an animal and some other contraption and the names are pretty funny. Along with the names, the battle actions these enemies and your citizens have are also entertaining. From being scolded by your mother to being attacked by conspiracies to drowning in the foul funk of a homeless guy, the range of descriptions for things is very large. It’s too bad that the ticker that prints out these descriptions at the top of the screen moves by so fast, making it hard to read a lot of these in full during the battle.
You’ll have plenty of opportunities to read these though, as there are enemies everywhere. The press materials for the game say that all enemies appear on the map and can be avoided if the player wants to, but some spots require Neo like reflexes to achieve that. They do provide a nice option of charging into an enemy to defeat them on the map instead of going into a battle, but I found it was pretty inconsistent. I would charge one enemy and have to battle them, then charge another of the same enemy and beat them with the charge, then the next same exact enemy will make me battle again. Defeating enemies this way will give you less XP and money than a normal battle, but the time saved was more valuable in the late stages of the game.
The main missions of the game are pretty varied and take awhile to complete. None of the problems are terribly hard, but it can be hard to know where to go at times. While there is a map available to view for the location you are currently in, there is no overall world map to view. I found this to be a gigantic oversight in a game that has such a huge overall world. Missions would tell me to go to so-and-so place, only I had no idea where so-and-so place was. The section map that you can view would only display a colored mission dot at the exit of your current location in an effort to direct you there, but sometimes even that was misleading. This problem was magnified 16-fold when trying to complete side missions or recruit missions. Like when I got an item I needed to collect for the pharmacist to join me, but dude isn’t at the pharmacy and is instead at this diner, but the diner isn’t labeled on the building or on the map or anywhere. My final in-game clock total for 100% completion came in at just over 40 hours, but I’m sure I could have cut out at least 10 of those hours with a decent map system.
An overall world map would have helped with navigation and decreased the frustration quite a bit, but this wasn’t the only problem with moving about the world. There were some fast travel options available, like the car mentioned above and the use of a pilot’s helicopter. But the car can only drive on paved roads and therefore was cut-off from a lot of the scenes. The helicopter was even more agonizing as it would offer to take you to a far away place, only to drop you off on top of a vista or building with no ability to get down. There were some small treasures to collect at these isolated drop-offs, but nothing needed to finish the game. I just don’t understand the point of a fast travel option for a location if you can’t actually go anywhere of use in that location.
The other major issue I had with the game was all the crashing. I lost count of the number of times the game would quit and ask me if I wanted to report the problem. Sometimes it would happen as I left a building. Sometimes it would happen as I left a battle. Sometimes it would happen leaving a menu screen. Thankfully, the game auto-saves every time you move to a new map screen, no I never really lost a large amount of progress, but it did cause some expletives to be uttered as I had to reload from the home screen again and again. To top everything off, it crashed in the middle of the final boss battle, forcing me to do a part of that over again. I’m sure a patch is incoming to address this issue, but it is something to be aware of.
The art style of the game is a hand-drawn motif that fits in the Atlus world perfectly. It won’t push the limits of the hardware, but it looks fine enough for what it sets out to be. Enemy designs look pretty cool and you can tell each of your party of citizens by their unique faces, which can be hard to do with that many options. One thing I did notice is that the textures in battle weren’t always consistent. Sometimes they would be crisp & clean, and other times they would be a little blurry. It’s especially noticeable when you have one of each standing next to each other. The voice acting is all pretty well done, even if it does grade on you after awhile. The VP gets the majority of the speaking parts, and plays off the pompous, well-meaning, idiotic politician quite well. You just want to punch him a couple times. My favorite voice work though belongs to characters you encounter at the very end of the game, as they scream to you exactly how they are feeling.
I loved the concept of Citizens of Earth when I first saw it. And the first few hours with the game were very enjoyable. But then as the world expanded, so did the frustrations. From the large number of unavoidable enemies to the lack of a world map to the game crashes, things went steadily downhill and I just wanted it to be over. If you can handle these issues and enjoy RPGs, there’s a solid game buried in there. Unfortunately, it’s mostly just the dirt you can see now.