Developer: Eden Industries
# of Players: 1
ERSB Rating: E10+ (Everyone 10+)
Score: B+ (85%)
Fans of classic 90’s console RPGs should drop everything (as in, NOW) and grab Eden Industries’ Citizens of Earth for anything they can play it on. The game perfectly captures the spirit of the classic Super Nintendo game Earthbound while adding elements such as a more open world to explore 30+ party members to recruit and too many puns to keep track of. Not everything is flawless, however. A few typos, accumulated loading times and one pesky navigation glitch sometimes kick the good bits in the good bits. Nevertheless, this is one of those fun and funny games that can suck you in for hours at a time. Atlus wisely rescuing this failed crowd-funded game project and saw fit to publish it for a few platforms.
In the game, You’re the Vice President of the World (!) and things are somewhat screwy in the post-election phase. Angry protesters are outside your home, there’s trouble at the local coffee shop and lots more wildness that requires your VP skills. You’ll need to round up and recruit citizens from all walks of life to aid you in your quest, so expect to meet up with a wide cast of odd and amusing party members as the game progresses. This isn’t any sort of emotional powerhouse storyline at all, so going in expecting weep-inducing cut scenes or “powerful” moments is a fool’s errand. On the other hand, if you like pun-heavy puns, goofy-looking enemies and creative uses of coffee, pastry and pharmaceuticals, you’ll love what’s here and then some…
Initially, your first two party members are the VP’s brother and mom. Brother dear works at the local FedUPs shipping center and mom is just the sweetest little old lady with the meanest punch in the history of mom-dom. The other characters you meet are a wide spectrum of ages, races and jobs that show Eden thought out the diversity aspect of its character design quite well. All of the characters are voice acted (to varying degrees of success and comedy), a very nice touch that adds extra personality to the charming art style. Granted, the writing is for the most part, straightforward and you won’t see anything resembling great character development here. The VP is something of an airhead with a title who discovers something is up and as the game progresses, he’s still the same airhead but with a bigger selection of allies. However, part of the fun here is seeing how the VP gets those new recruits.
Most can be gained via doing certain simple tasks for them, be it doling out some dollars to gain a homeless man, defeating the car dealer in a race battle or letting the Architect rebuild a missing shop. Other party members require mini-game mastery and some patience. Getting the Bartender and Musician to join up will be tricky for those who hate timed button mashing exercises and Dance Dance Revolution-style games, but both are doable. Some companions are gotten by gaining their temporary aid for quests that turns to permanent aid once those quests are completed. A few characters require you to locate a set number of items and hand them over, try to spot their work throughout the game world or even fight them before they join up.
As your team grows, each member needs to be leveled up via joining an active party or by sending them to school. Allies being schooled gain experience, but inactive party members don’t. This forces you to swap in different characters frequently enough that you can keep your growing team fairly close in levels to some extent. Of course, this all depends on how you play the game and if you’re collecting allies as soon as you can. Combat is turn-based and require learning enemies’ strengths and weaknesses. Each character has a few basic attacks and special attacks, but there’s no “magic” per se here. Instead, normal attacks gain them points that can be used to pull off assorted elemental and other strikes. This adds a layer of strategy to battles as not having enough points or running out in the think of things can sometimes spell defeat.
The game allows you to quit battles and reform your team if you have a setup that’s weak or ineffective against enemies or bosses. This keeps the frustration factor low, but you’re free to fight any way you wish. If you like, you can even boost or lower the difficulty at any time once a certain character is acquired to gain or lose bonuses. The default setting gives you a fairly standard RPG experience with some spikes into tough territory should you traipse into uncharted areas too quickly. As enemies appear on the map, you can avoid them by dashing past or try for one-hit ambushes that will gain you less experience points. Major boss battles tend to take longer (as they should) and defeating them usually unlocks a new chapter and the opportunity to explore new areas.
While not as sharp-looking as the PC and PS4 versions, Citizens of Earth is a nice-looking game overall. The world is mostly bright and colorful and party members all have unique animations as they walk around the map that add to their personalities. Yes, those psychedelic backgrounds, some of the UI look and the low-key music are very Earthbound-inspired. But it’s a decent homage overall that should make fans of that game grin quite a lot. That said, you’ll notice a few typos here and there as well as a few sticky issues with movement. Your party can get stuck between some treasure boxes and certain walls and you may even get stuck in a wall in some areas if you hug them too closely. The game auto-saves when you enter or leave maps, buildings, dungeons or stairways, so you’re never set back too far.
That said, there’s an oddball glitch that I think wasn’t accounted for that can leave you stuck on a rooftop with no way off. If you haven’t gotten the Teacher in your party by answering his quiz, any party members sent for tutoring can’t join an active party or use skills until they’re manually put back into your roster. While a handful of heroes offer fast transportation options (The Car Salesman, Pilot and Firefighter for starters), should they be in training and you drive into a certain spot on one map (The Drive-In movie screen), you’ll end up trapped on the aforementioned roof with no means of escape even after the characters complete training.
Granted, most people will probably have the Teacher at this point, rendering this issue non-existent. On the other hand, as an open-world game experience, every sort of testing variable should have been taken into account. Not every person who plays this will follow the same path, so I hope Eden Industries can address this in a future patch (and sooner than later).
I mentioned the load times earlier and while they’re not game-killing, some gamers will be a bit miffed at them for one or two reasons. While about three seconds per loading screen isn’t terrible, it adds up quite a bit in a game so lengthy. In areas with stairways, multiple doors going from indoors to outdoors and any dungeon with split paths that require screen changes, you’ll see that VP pointing as your hairs grow greyer. I did run into a few ten-second loads at one point, but I’d been playing for about five or six hour stretches and was going into areas that had changed from quiet to very active.
Oh, the humor here is great, but some of the jokes are going to fly far over the heads of some younger gamers. I almost fell off the couch at the cut scene where the VP is told to go see the President up in his office “back and to the left” of a reception desk. As noted, the game also packs a ton of puns and bounces gags off itself so frequently that it’s consistently amusing if you pay enough attention. I’m sure someone on some message board will at some point, collect up all the jokes and puns and references and post them for the world to see. I’d do it myself, but as I wasn’t taking notes on everything save the basics (and having a blast while doing so), you get this review and that’s it.
In closing, if you’ve one of the platforms this will play on and want a fine and frequently funny classic RPG, Citizens of Earth has your name all over it. It’s cheap and a heck of a lot safer than being a REAL Vice President of anything, that’s for darn sure…