Citizens of Earth
Slice of life RPGs have never been a dominant sub-genre in JRPGs, but the popularity of games like Earthbound and the Persona games have made them more popular. Some find the more realistic settings easier to relate to, and Citizens of Earth is the latest genre entry on the market that combines elements of those games with a massive dose of humor and character recruitment too. CoE places you in the roll of the Vice President of Earth, and your first day on the job sees tons of protesters storm your hometown.
You don’t really know what’s going on, but have your mother to not only wake you up and make breakfast, but also fight beside you. Your brother the postal carrier joins the battle, and the VP, being a true politician, does no work and delegates from the sidelines. It’s a definite change of pace and one that I rather like since it results in the game having a memorable cast of characters.
CoE has some of the funniest enemies and most amusing playable characters ever in an RPG. You’ll battle vile enemies like the Bubblebee, the Stop Vine, and my personal favorite, the TeleFawn. Sometimes, obvious humor and puns simply don’t work. Here though, they work and you will laugh quite a bit as you enter a new section and see a whole new wacky cast of characters you’ll either meet or fight (or both).
Throughout the game, you’ll traverse the world and find new people. Most of them have a recruitment option where you’ll go on a minor fetchquest to curry their favor. The best thing about this is how seemingly mundane people in another game will be vital here. Everyone’s bought items from a shopkeeper in an RPG, but here, you’ll fight as that shopkeeper. The Baker is the first such character you’ll encounter and you’d never imagine that he’d play a part in the game beyond just selling you things. In battle, he makes for a fine healer, and in time, you’ll realize that each character has their own pros and cons.
Mom, for example, can heal folks up a little bit without items thanks to one of her skills – so if you’re in a tough battle and want to conserve your healing items, you can do that and focus on mixing up healing and offense. She’s a shockingly tough fighter, and I guess having a lazy VP for a son has built up a lot of rage inside her, because she will demolish foes quickly. The conspiracy theorist at the police station may look at bit like Otis from the Andy Griffith Show, but he’s an elemental powerhouse who can really deal out damage.
Having a cast of 40 characters may seem like an impossible balancing act, but you can always change characters around between battles. You’ll need to do this if one of your party members is a valuable shopkeeper – like The Baker or your brother. The former can whip items up instantly, while the latter can send out for them – but you’ll need to be mindful of who is in your party at all times. Death is a slap on the wrist here as auto-saves happen with every screen change and you can save anywhere on the map that you so desire.
Citizens of Earth features snappy writing with humorous dialogue that’s actually delivered really well, and it’s got a solid Earthbound-style battle system in both setup and execution. The game does have some technical issues though. On the Moonbucks base area, the screen constantly flickered in battles. Luckily, I encountered no other problems and the game controlled like a dream too. Going with the Earthbound battle system is great because it’s so familiar with the zany graphics all over the place, but it also means that you can usually avoid combat if you want since it’s only initiated by on-screen contact. Sometimes, you’ll want to avoid battles and then there are some that are just easy ways to farm XP – like fighting against mini-missiles that will die in one turn.
Visually, Citizens of Earth is a pleasing game. The art style is bright and cartoony, and everything in the world seems to fit into the world nicely – there’s nothing in it that seems out of place and it’s consistent. There’s nothing like Final Fantasy VII where you’ve got clashing pre-rendered backdrops and polygonal characters that don’t seem to fit into it. Animation is limited, but that’s fine for what this is going for. You do at least see shots make contact with enemies and the constant text scroll on the top of the screen doesn’t just keep you informed, it also keeps you entertained with some of the silly verbiage – like using Mom’s healing spell is called giving someone a hug instead of just “Mom Healed Brother.”
The game features a shockingly high amount of voice acting for what was basically an indie production for much of its life. The casting is perfect and everyone plays their roles well by just treating things like they were in a play – the hamminess is intentional and comes off well. Musically, the soundtrack is full of silly music that is catchy, but it doesn’t stick with you afterwards. It’s probably the game’s weakest point, but it doesn’t hurt the final product all that much.
Citizens of Earth is a must-have for anyone who loved Earthbound either in its heyday or has had a chance to play it with the Wii U re-release. Even if you didn’t play that game, you’ll love this if you like comedy-centric games and want a JRPG that has a snappy pace and a fairly light tone. Unlike Earthbound, things never get too serious here and it’s to the game’s benefit. It controls well, looks fantastic, and has very good voice work. The music falls a bit short of the high bar set by everything else, but it doesn’t do much to hurt the game.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
This review is based on a digital copy of Citizens of Earth for the PC provided by Atlus.