Citizens of Earth is an underdog that quite a few gamers, including myself, wanted to succeed. It had initially failed to gather the necessary funds via Kickstarter, and seemed doomed to never be a reality. Luckily for Eden Industries, however, Atlus decided to step in and save the quirky little RPG.
First off, gamers should understand that Citizens of Earth is an (yet another) attempt at recreating the “16-bit glory days” of JRPGs. This can be either a mark for the game or against, depending on your viewpoint. It promised to be different from the other titles by providing an Earthbound inspired suburban American world in which you could recruit every character into your party. Goofy politics, as exemplified by our main character, the Vice President, are the norm.
We’re introduced to our main character, the Vice President of the World, as he awakens the very day after being elected. Mr. VP is more worried about the image he has in the paper and is completely oblivious to the fact that people hate him, as the game’s very first story mission attests. There are protestors out on the street, angry that he and the President were able to defeat their rival team. What does our “heroic” VP say when he battles this rival and the rival points out that the signs with the VP’s face crossed out were protesting him? “I thought it was a double negative, like, ‘No, don’t cross out his face!'” This perfectly cements exactly how “brilliant” our main character can be.
He soon discovers an alien invasion attempt and decides to “heroically” attempt to thwart it… or rather, force his recruits to thwart it while he simply stands aside and takes all the credit. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, you won’t even utilize the main character of the game in battle. This can make developing any feelings for the character, good or bad, rather difficult.
On the note of recruits, the game’s developers at Eden Industries weren’t kidding when they said you’d be able to recruit everybody. Of course, this may not be in the way some suspected. As you continue on your adventure, your party will soon consist of a conspiracy nut, your brother, your mother, a high school mascot, a sushi chef, a car salesman, a homeless guy, a painter, and more. And none of these characters get a default name, aside from their social role (so our mother is named “Mom” and so on).
Most of these characters will require you to go on a small quest (mostly a fetch quest or a battle) in order to recruit them. The conspiracy guy, for example, needs you to collect evidence that things aren’t what they seem at the local Moonbucks. Unfortunately, he doesn’t give you a clue as to what this “evidence” he requires is, and the PDA that your brother gave you as a present doesn’t exactly help things out. While it does keep track of the tasks you obtain, it doesn’t say much about them that can help you. The evidence quest in question simply states, “collect evidence”. Neither it nor the conspiracy guy mention that you’ll need to fight some walking coffee beans and defeat them in order to obtain this evidence.
Not all of the characters will require a battle, however. Some, such as the soda guy and the car salesman will challenge you to a mini-game. Of course in the latter’s case, you will most likely need to take on a couple of cars in the race he challenges you to, else you are likely to lose, as you won’t have enough skill points to utilize your boost and win.
And now we come to the biggest problem I had with Citizens of Earth: the characters (or rather their personalities) themselves. While they are quirky at first, the fact that there is no way to tell who may be in your party at any time, and thus they are given generic dialogue that triggers in certain events, make it just as hard to develop any real feelings for them as it is for the VP.
It’s nice that each character brings his or her own unique skills and talents into (and outside) of battle, but with no personality, it starts to feel like more of the same, despite the mom “nagging” and the conspiracy guy “accusing them of a massive cover up” attacks (to name two). The talents outside of battle can be quite useful, however, such as the car salesman’s. He can summon a car for you, which makes getting around (if the roads aren’t blocked) easy, allowing you to run over enemies and gain 1XP per unit.
When all’s said and done, there are few reasons, aside from completion’s sake, to try and recruit every character. If you do, here’s some advice: Don’t save the girl who requires every recruit to be at least level 20 for last.
Now we move onto battles. As you adventure on the map, you’ll see the enemies. This means that you can, in theory, avoid most battles. In practice, however, it is far more difficult. Many paths are a bit too narrow for you and the three characters following you to avoid the enemies in question.
If you charge the enemy head on as it charges you, then there will be no penalties or bonuses, and the battle will proceed as normal. On the other hand, if you manage to hit square (on the PS4 version) and send your recruits charging in to ambush the enemy, you’ll gain one skill point per character. Of course if the enemies attack you from behind, you’ll lose one skill point from each character.
The battles themselves pit your team of three recruits against enemies. You’ll have two basic categories of attacks for each character: The first generates a skill point, though this category of attack is typically quite weak. The second will be more powerful and utilize at least one skill point. There are plenty of other actions for your characters to take, most of which utilize these points, such as buffing your team or healing.
If you, like me, crave a challenge, then you’ll likely use the Mascot’s talent to increase the game’s difficulty. This will make the battles quite a bit longer, as the enemies will have a significant stat boost, and may not be worth it for everybody. One annoyance to note in the case of game difficulty is that you will need to manually reset the difficulty to whatever you want it at every time you restart the game from where you left off. Upon exiting the game, the difficulty resets to the default.
Overall, Citizens of Earth is a quirky little RPG that is decent, but could be so much more if the characters had any real personality after recruitment. It has its share of glitches, such as the point I (and likely those watching my streams of the PS4 version) became annoyed at when it froze on me twice in the exact same place, but hopefully these will be patched out soon. As a fan of RPGs, I personally had quite a bit of fun with the game, but as a reviewer, I’m obligated to point out these flaws and put my bias aside.
If you like recruiting a ton of characters and can overlook the many, many fetch quests and other flaws noted above, then you will likely enjoy the game. Citizens of Earth definitely is not a game everybody would enjoy, however.
Final Score: 2.5/5