A few years ago, indie developer Eden Industries was showing their retro RPG demo at gaming conventions called Citizens of Earth, a quirky, retro, 2D RPG reminiscent of games like Earthbound, which lets you explore a large, colorful and open world and tasks you with recruiting townsfolk with unique job skills and abilities in order to help save the Earth. The game received very little press fare that ultimately hurt their Kickstarter campaign. However the game did manage to make an impression on publisher Atlus, who swept in and saved the game after it failed to reach its initial Kickstarter goal and even financed and published the game on several different platforms. Atlus is known for releasing quirky RPGs, so Citizens of Earth, with its light-hearted humor, retro style, Vice Presidential simulator, and apocalyptic theme seemed like a great fit! Atlus even offered support with the games development and provided voice acting for all of the games NPCs– a touch that really adds extra charm to the dozens of townsfolk found throughout the game.
In Citizens of Earth you are the goofball Vice President of Earth visiting your hometown after winning an election which is immediately disrupted by protesters lead by an opposition leader. As you head out to resolve the political dispute and investigate other strange occurrences in the town, you unwittingly uncover a much larger conspiracy threatening the entire world that’s linked to the local coffee shop—Moonbucks! Since you lack any meaningful abilities to save the world on your own, you set out recruiting townsfolk to do all of the dirty work for you, with your mother and brother in tow.
The world feels huge and features a variety of colorful landscapes to explore, like deserts, beaches and forests with optional shortcuts to discover. The 2D character art and backgrounds are pretty clean and crisp on the PS Vita screen– when they are consistent. The visuals consist of flat, sharp, 2D cartoony-style graphics and animations with colorful backgrounds reminiscent of graphics styles used more commonly in Flash games or mobile games like Angry Birds, except there are also some nice visual effects touches added that help give the game a bit more charm, like dynamic day/night lighting and weather cycles. You will notice character shadows changing position depending on the time of day and you can also see their reflections following them as they walk past reflective surfaces.
One issue I had with the game characters were their sizes on the screen. I felt like the camera was pulled back a tad too far which made the characters all look too small. Although there is an option to zoom in more, the camera still needs to be pulled back far enough in order to see enemies on the screen. It wasn’t a game breaking issue for me, but more of an annoyance and probably a result of being ported to the PS Vitas’ small screen. While most of the character art and background appeared consistently sharp while exploring the world map, the enemies in the combat screen sometimes looked a bit stretched.
Most of the gameplay revolves around the use of the turn-based combat system which is similar to combat systems in any number of retro RPGs, like Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest and Suikoden, which swap the world map screen with a battle screen where your characters face off against enemies and combat is paused until you select attack options from a menu before resuming the fight. Part of the fun of the game is recruiting different characters to see what kind of quirky attacks they’ll use, thus the game does away with familiar attacks and magic effects typically found in traditional RPGs involving melee weapons and magic spells, in favor of attacks and effects that fit the professions of the games characters. For instance, the Cop uses an attack called Tear Gas which causes confusion and Pepper Spray which causes blindness; the Baker uses an attack called Donut which restores HP and Angel Food Cake which revives an ally; and the Mascot uses an attack called Rough n’ Tumbly which increases attack and agility. You can only have up to three characters in your party at a time, not including the main character, and the game does away with magic, instead opting for an energy system which allows you to use more powerful attacks if you build up enough energy by performing regular attacks. This mixes up the combat strategy and ensures that you don’t abuse the use of powerful attacks repeatedly, and also saves you from having to stock up and rely on magic restorative items.
One of the biggest gripes I have with this game is its character level progression system. While the world map makes enemies visible on the screen at all times, allowing you to evade encounters in favor of exploration if you so choose, sometimes you’ll find yourself on narrow paths and find enemies unavoidable that might also be more powerful than you, and as in most RPGs, you will find it necessary to take time out to increase your level stats before moving forward by grinding. While the game does allow you to lower enemy difficulty, or raise it to increase the rate of XP gain, characters don’t share level progression when they aren’t in combat. When you recruit a new character into your roster, you might find them too weak to be effective in your party composition at first, so you might opt to enroll them in school which is a feature that allows your characters to level up outside of combat for a fee and a pre-set amount of time, however you won’t be able to use your characters abilities or talents until the timer runs out, and this option might start seeming too expensive after your roster starts growing past 20 plus characters out the 41 total NPCs to recruit. While the alternative to grinding is welcome, it feels more like a gated mobile App pay to win feature that should have best been left out.
One more thing to mention is character talents. All of the characters have abilities you can utilize outside of combat related to their jobs that allows you to interact with the environment among other things. The Car dealer lets you spawn a car for faster travel; the Pilot will teleport you farther distances on the map; the Mascot lets you raise or lower enemy difficulty; and the Bee Keeper lets you zoom the camera in and out. These talents also have extra rankings to unlock separate from XP, which will also require grinding.
Overall, I feel a bit mixed about this game because I was enjoying it for the first few hours. I love playing retro games and I like when indie developers release games that successfully pay homage to their influences, like Shovel Knight or Divinity: Original Sin, but I feel like this game might have been too big and too ambitious and it really starts to feel like a padded demo towards the end—especially with the increased presence of unavoidable, and monotonous repetitive combat. I finished the campaign in a little over 20 hours with plenty of side quests to complete and NPCs to collect, but there really isn’t too much to do after that. Most of the fun I experienced with the game was when I jumped off the rails from the main quest very early on and just explored the open world on my own looking for NPCs to collect and while the voice acting is a nice feature that gives the characters charm, the story is somewhat lacking and predictable.
This review is based on a review copy of the PlayStation Vita version of Citizen of Earth developed by Eden Industries published by Atlus
- Large Open World to Explore
- You Can Recruit All NPCs
- Excellent Voice Acting
- Very Grind Heavy
- Inconsistent Graphics Quality
- Characters Appear Small on Screen