Review: Citizens of Earth

Is this new RPG from Atlus the first eShop hit of 2015?

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 01/20/2015 06:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
1-Up Mushroom for...
Wonderful production values; Has that EarthBound feel without shamelessly copying or being soullessly derivative; Deep battle system; Funny writing and great characters
Poison Mushroom for...
Enemy encounters might be a bit excessive for some; Menus can take a while to figure out in the beginning; Some small technical issues

Whether it’s Nintendojo or our distinguished competition, a very particular game is going to be mentioned when discussing Atlus’s new RPG Citizens of Earth, and that game is EarthBound. The seminal SNES classic is a very apparent source of inspiration for this new Wii U and 3DS RPG, and its an influence that Citizens of Earth wears proudly, like a badge of honor. Or maybe a Franklin Badge. Whatever badge it might be, the game deserves it and more, because developer Eden Industries has delivered a real winner with Citizens of Earth. Funny, challenging, and boasting a deep battle system, RPG fans already have something to rush to the eShop for in these early weeks of 2015.

Like EarthBound, Citizens of Earth starts its adventure off in what appears to be some kind of satirical take on suburban America. Cops, shops, houses, and city streets plant players firmly into an environment that mirrors the view from a lot of people’s windows. The visual style has a bold, cartoony hand drawn look, which lends itself very well to the game’s comedic narrative. Character designs are markedly varied and interesting, making the game world feel packed with real people, as opposed to the talking heads of a lot of RPGs. Players are cast as the Vice President of Earth (no, that’s not a typo), who is on a quest to fix a world run amok. The humor is disarmingly goofy, and will be right in the wheelhouse of fans of shows like Adventure Time or The Simpsons. The soundtrack is also pretty strong in spots, though there were a couple of tracks that started to grate on me over time. Citizens of Earth has some topnotch production values that really convey the passion of its developers.

Battling is fairly standard, turn-based RPG fare, but Eden Industries did an admirable job of not sticking so close to convention as to render the combat rote. First off, the Vice President doesn’t actually fight. This man of the people instead uses, well, those very people to do his battling for him. A good chunk of the gameplay is devoted to recruiting new citizens to the Vice President’s party, and then employing their specific skills in a variety of different ways. A pilot, for instance, can be used to fast-travel to different spots on the map, greatly reducing travel time. This makes it immensely rewarding to partake in sidequests and running errands to unlock everyone, as doing so contributes something genuinely worthwhile to the experience. The battles are further distinguished from ones of old with another innovation: the energy system. Expending and conserving the resource adds a layer of strategy that can either be the key to success or defeat. I also would really like to commend the developers for taking a page from Xenoblade Chronicles in the way that experience points are issued for investigating the game’s environment. Check a bookshelf, get some points; player curiosity should always be rewarded in RPGs!

Combat isn’t perfect, though. Enemy encounters aren’t random, but the rate of battle engagements can become tedious at certain points in the game. Citizens of Earth will likely feel familiar in that regard to fans of classic RPGs, but for newer players, it might become frustrating to slog through waves of battles. I have trouble labeling something like this an outright negative, as a lot of players take pleasure in such brutal gameplay, while others think of it as an archaic design element from years past. I’ll simply say that when deciding whether or not to give Citizens of Earth a download, the game’s wealth of battles are something that a player will have to take into consideration based on their own personal tastes. Just speaking toward volume, expect to spend a good amount of time fighting in this game.

The highlight of Citizens of Earth, beyond its fun battle system and eye candy, is the title’s strong writing. The story is outlandish, to be sure, but the characterization can’t be missed. The Veep, especially, is lovable in spite of being aloof and somewhat cowardly. Again, this is a funny game, and it doesn’t make the mistake of trying too hard to eke a laugh out of the player. Aspects of the material might feel overly familiar to some, but I felt throughout the entire adventure that Eden Industries made a genuine and successful attempt to infuse heart into the cast and the narrative. With so many citizens to recruit, half the enjoyment of Citizens of Earth is just seeing what they all have to say! Whether poking fun at politics or RPGs in general, Citizens of Earth is sure to get at least a grin out of most players.

If there was any aspect of Citizens of Earth that left me wanting, it was the menu system. Navigating the game’s various menus left me scratching my head at the start. It can be tough balancing between hand-holding and leaving players directionless, but I felt toward the beginning of the game that Citizens of Earth leaned slightly towards the latter. In fairness, the game manual is always a click of the Home button away, but given how the game launches into the action almost immediately, I would’ve liked a little more in-game guidance to understand what each of the different options on the menu screen were for. After playing around with everything for a brief time, though, I became acclimated and was on my way, but I would have preferred the process to have been a touch more seamless. I also experienced some slight glitches while playing, like the occasional visual hiccup, but these were highly infrequent; still, it’s something that might be worth a patch in the future.

Regardless of whether it’s downloaded on Wii U or 3DS, Citizens of Earth is a wonderful RPG that plays around with convention and brings something new to the table. It’s familiar and accessible enough for longtime or new RPG fans, and is an engrossing experience for all. A lot of love went into making Citizens of Earth. It’s a title that can confidently call itself a spiritual successor to one of the greatest Nintendo games of all time, and though I think it does fall short of EarthBound‘s auspicious legacy, Citizens of Earth is worth the time of anyone. A salute to Atlus for bringing something unique and fun to the market so early in this new year; here’s hoping Eden Industries gets a shot to expand on the foundation it laid here with a future sequel.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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