Citizens of Earth Review (3DS eShop)

You’d be hard pressed to find a better success story than Eden Industries’ Citizens of Earth. Subjected to the dreary doom cloud of impending Kickstarter failure back in 2013, a stalwart Atlus stepped in and saved the day by assuming the game’s publishing duties. Thank goodness. Had they not, you wouldn’t be able to experience the best Earthbound game since, er, well, Earthbound!

The politically-charged journey starts as most tried and true RPGs of yesteryear do, with our precious hero swaddled in the sheets of a cozy bed. And where better to catch up on his Z’s after an exhaustive election than his own mother’s house? Although this inciting moment is indeed a familiar one, things quickly begin breaking from tradition. Always one to assume command, the Veep recruits his own mom and his deliveryman brother on an adventure to solve the world’s problems, as strange as they may be. Like brainwashing coffee, for example. Of course that would befall to the Vice President of the world — he’s gotta protect his votes–er, “citizens,” after all.

Gameplay will also conjure memories of the SNES’ wonder years as players are thrown into a top-down overworld littered with frantic protesters, belligerent traffic cones, and fantastically shoe-horned vehicles for puns (some of which are literally vehicles, mind you). Running into these baddies will initiate some not-so diplomatic turn-based warfare, which plays out like (unsurprisingly) an Atlus-made Earthbound. Combat menus are laid out in a loosely Etrian Odyssey-style and even the status icons appear to be ripped straight from the dungeon crawler too, which is by no means a bad thing and Citizens of Earth totally feels right at home alongside the publisher’s latest offerings. Make no mistake though, this game is definitely Earthbound reincarnated, right down to the silly bits of text that narrate in-battle happenings among many, many other things. Eden Industries, however, has also undoubtedly crafted something that’s decidedly more modern than its 16-bit predecessors.

For one, there’s a legitimately excellent mechanic that allows players to instantly restart battles if things go south in a hurry. The game even gives you an option to swap around party members in case your current set-up just isn’t getting the job done. This applies to boss encounters as well, so unless you let yourself get wiped out, you probably won’t be seeing the Game Over screen very often, which is all kinds of thoughtful. Kudos to the designers for smoothing out these little problems that have plagued RPGs for so long, and it goes to show that they have a strong grasp of how to improve the genre while simultaneously honoring its legacy.

The central mechanic in Citizens of Earth, however, is, well, the citizens of Earth themselves. Obviously. There are dozens peppered throughout the game and are all entirely recruitable, though you might need to meet a few conditions first. My personal favorite is a segment where you “race” a car salesman, and by “race” I mean participate in a race, but win by pummeling the other cars in vehicular turn-based combat. And here’s the other cool thing: citizens have uses outside of battle too, so when you beat that shady car dealer, for example, you’ll be able to navigate the world by car, which speeds up traversing considerably. It’s a pretty neat system with lots of incentive to find every citizen because doing so means you’ll be able to interact and explore more of the game’s wondiferously wacky world.

As much as there is to like about the Veep’s kooky campaign, there are some technical issues with this 3DS iteration that do slightly hamper the overall experience. The game’s charming environments and characters have been severely compromised in the 3DS port. While vivid and detailed on every other platform, the 3DS version aesthetically looks super compressed and washed out, which isn’t too surprising considering the small screen and all. Even still, these assorted graphical abnormalities inhibiting the 3DS port just goes to show that the game wasn’t exactly designed with the portable in mind. In a way, it’s pretty impressive that the devs were able to get essentially a full-blown PC title running on Nintendo’s little handheld, but then again the results are somewhat of a mixed bag, so I’d strongly recommend playing Citizens of Earth on any other platform to avoid these admittedly trivial nuisances. The Wii U is always a good choice, right?

2015 is bound to be a stellar year for Nintendo RPGs what with Xenoblade Chronicles X and a brand spanking new Fire Emblem just around the corner, but don’t forget about Atlus’ Citizens of Earth. It’ll almost assuredly scratch that Earthbound itch of yours what with all its off-beat humor and outrageously outrageous narrative, but even beyond that, the game was clearly a labor of love from folks who really understand classic RPG conventions. Better yet, these guys know how to improve upon an otherwise archaic formula, which is no small task, so go ahead cast your vote for Citizens of Earth.

I can’t promise that it will put a chicken in every pot, or a car in every driveway, but it does have previously bald eagles. And that, my friends, is the manifestation of the American dream. Live it.

Citizens of Earth is available now in North America for 3DS, Wii U, PS4, PS Vita, and PC for a 20% launch week discount, and that’s pretty dang cool.

Citizens of Earth Review (3DS eShop)
Gameplay8.6
Presentation7.7
Lasting Appeal8.8
Previously Bald Eagles10
Pros
  • Smart RPG design choices
  • Consistently hilarious; well-written
  • The Veep himself
Cons
  • Pretty shoddy 3DS port
8.5Overall Score
Share this post:Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on RedditShare on TumblrEmail this to someoneShare on StumbleUponDigg this

About The Author

Former Co-Editor

Trace Wysaske lives somewhere in Washington, and when he isn't compulsively hunting Green Stars or felling the Lagiacrus, he's writing about everything from forlorn Japanese teachers to well-mannered crows. He still needs to play Ghost Trick.