At first pass, Citizens of Earth seems like an uprezzed version of the SNES classic, EarthBound (or Mother 2). The game pays obvious homage to the influential game in its art-design and general gameplay, although whether the game lives up to the legacy of EarthBound remains to be seen. At second glance, Citizens of Earth makes many promises in its attempt to be EarthBound for the modern age, and follows through quite well on some, and falls flat on others.
As the newly-elected Vice President of Earth, your objective is to travel the game’s various environments recruiting citizens to your cause and investigating the mysterious events taking place. During combat, players order up to three citizens to attack their opponents with a variety of abilities based on their “job,” while the VP himself acts as the tactician. Much like the Final Fantasy series, Citizens of Earth features a job system that affects the abilities the different members of your party can use. Unlike Final Fantasy however, you cannot change any character’s job. Instead, you have the option to recruit what seems like an endless supply of citizens to join your team, each with a unique personality, job, and skill set. These citizens can provide a variety of services for you to help make the game easier. For example, your brother, the mailman, can order items for you and deliver them after a certain amount of time passes.
During battles, navigating menus to select abilities or items is pretty straight forward, and not too cluttered. There isn’t a whole lot in the way of combat animations, but this doesn’t necessarily hurt the game. One thing that could have been improved during combat was the action order that appears on the right side of the screen. While it displays the order in which your characters’ battle actions will take place, it does not give any indication of where enemy actions come into play. While this is not a necessity, it has become something of a standard in turn-based RPGs like last year’s excellent Child of Light or Final Fantasy IV.
Traversing the game’s world is also very simple and easy to do, and seeing your citizens follow you around as you charge into battle and explore new areas always looks appealing. There are a variety of decent-sized open areas for you to discover that vary from urban settings to deserts to journeying inside of computers and capitol buildings. The game’s take on dungeons are generally the interior of structures within the game, and early missions see you exploring areas like the basement of Moonbucks, the local coffee shop, and the different levels of capitol building as you attempt to rescue the President of Earth. The only difficulty about navigating these areas is the game’s map. When you bring the map up, there is really no way to navigate it. The map displays only the area you are in with no way to see the surrounding environments. Additionally, there is no cursor or zoom function to move around the map and find certain objectives or set waypoints. On top of that, there is no way to filter out the icons on the map, so it often becomes cluttered and difficult to find what you’re looking for. Even on a big-screen TV the map was just too small to see much of anything.
In an age where AAA games continuously strive for realism, Citizens of Earth does the opposite and presents its world in a charming and cartoon-esque world. This matches the comedic tone of the writing quite well, and creates a beautiful, colorful aesthetic. Everything in the game’s design feels like it fits here, from the wacky enemy types to the variety of citizens that you meet throughout the world, to the world itself. All is delivered with a sense of lighthearted fun and comedy.
The story was mostly a vehicle to move the player along from battle-to-battle, recruiting citizens, and uncovering new abilities and areas, and like most RPGs, you can make that story last for as long or as short as you want based on how many side quests and recruitment missions you choose to pursue. The game shoots for comedy, and while I did laugh at times, it did not deliver on the same level as last year’s unexpectedly good South Park: The Stick of Truth.