Citizens of Earth - Introduction
Earthbound sort-of returns with Citizens of Earth, an Earthbound inspired RPG published by Atlus and developed by Eden Industries. After failing it's initial Kickstarter, Atlus picked the game up and helped development continue. Full of politically aware banter and tons of crazy creatures to battle, Citizens of Earth takes a very light hearted tone in a world of games like Dying Light and H1Z1, featuring very colorful graphics and very punny humor. You take the role of the "VP of the World" who sits aside and lets his team of up to 40 various citizens take on his defense as he tries to save the Earth from some unknown issue causing various citizens, wildlife, and fauna to turn aggressive.
This is a pure retro inspired RPG, a three member party (of your choosing), easy console friendly menus, and more will bring you back to the days of SNES and Mother/Earthbound and other similar titles.As VP your goal is to recruit citizens of Earth in order to help with strange occurances, these citizens would literally be NPCs in other games, but here they are possible party members. Each NPC has a day job and recruiting them unlocks your ability to level their day job up. This creates an interesting "Gotta Catch 'em All" dynamic that you rarely see in games with limited options for who or what is in your party.
Citizens of Earth - Positive Marks
Citizens of Earth is very much a mixture of Earthbound, Atlus elemental magic, and Little King's Story, plus more. Take the trope wiki and mix it in and you have pretty much a pop culture classic for the modern era, bringing together witty humor and political satire into a game that's something more than most RPGs in the current space offer, meaning top down RPGs. You wander the world building up your crew of compatriots trying to solve the reason why everything has gotten weird, with a lengthy main story line and an abundance of side quests (over 40 if you count recruitment).
There is a lot of depth to what appears to be a very simple and straightforward game. There is not only a large quantity of maps, but in addition to that you can often find sidequests sitting back where you've been before. In the open world format, this works well, because you can optionally choose to do these events when they pop up or skip them. In addition, your party plays an important role in moving through content. Need to get to an island? You have various options to get there, either by sea (under or over), along by plane. For most instances, the game spoon feeds you one default option that you can explore, or if you've done your leg-work, you might already have the option set to go.
Humor is a main point of the game and the puns are non-stop. No matter where you are on the map, there is dialog closeby that should bring a smile to your face. The humor is laid on thick, but it's all well done, and while each of the characters are one dimensional, they are funny enough when they speak. There is tons of flavor text everywhere, which is sort of the entire point of the game. Combat is first, humor is second, and it successfully pulls it off.
The game also has mini-games, from DDR-esq puzzle to unlock the ability to change music anywhere and button mashing with the Soda Pop man to have him join your team. The game also doesn't punish you at all for not recuriting the majority of the characters. You can change the difficulty, take a flight, or change the weather by talking to the NPC. While there is three tiers to most abilities, you will often easily find what you need in the first tier, which makes the game very relaxing and more "do what you want" vs. "do what the game wants."
Skills in combat are always useful, with the less useful but more clutch skills I would say appearing later as you level up. Combat moves through very well and it's very Earthbound-ish graphics wise and very Atlus otherwise. Elemental attacks play a key and can and will destroy you or your enemy, depending on composition. You can switch at the start of a fight and there is little penalty for defeat. This is a positive for me, but others may not enjoy it - but this is a game where you can drastically lower the difficulty to joke levels or make it brutal, while adjusting the pace of time (slower to help avoid, faster to move through combat quicker).
It's cute as well that the VP doesn't fight - he stands in the sidelines. In addition, while fights can be a drag (I get into this in a second), there is a mechanics in place that make enemies neutral and only exist to level up on, which is level and story based, which is a nice touch when you want to leave some areas or need to backtrack for side quests. It's definitely a "do the story first then the side stuff later" kind of game.
The graphics are nice and fit the theme and the combat, when in moderation, is fantastic on a level that is hard to explain. It's really solid, with only a few nitpicks below. Oh and about graphics, no retro sprites here, fully on western cartoon motif is in use throughout the game which gets a huge A+ from me. Again, fans of Earthbound or even Dragon Quest will love the combat.
Citizens of Earth - Average or Neutral Marks
Some of the puzzles are very vague, vague in a sense that it took me awhile to figure it out, which is what consumed most of the gameplay. With a walkthrough, I'd imagine the game would have about five hours of total content, but without a walkthrough and playing the game without any outside help, I was stuck in a lot of places trying to figure out what to do, which isn't bad, but when you have to repeat battle after battle it gets rough. In the early part of the game, if you leave Capital City and try to return, a squid blocks your path. You need to flash some light in its eyes in order to move on. The game previously showed this occur with the vehicle that took you over there, but try as you might with your own car it won't work. So you have to think of another way to shine light - which requires you to open the mini-map and try to make out objects or places that this would occur.
Hard puzzles aren't a bad thing, but they're not a good thing either when they define the content. There is only two activities, fighting monsters to move to locations or figuring out how to unlock the next area.
The difficulty of the fights can sometimes be frustrating, especially with the Atlus style elemental combat, where it's completely possible to be stuck with a team that's vulnerable to the damage the enemies face, have few options for dealing damage to those enemies, and you feel completely helpless in the fight. It's not as bad as Shin Megami Tensei, but is on par with Persona in "elemental frustration." That can or can not be a good or bad thing depending on who you talk to. For me, I can go either way. I had part of this in the positives, but again I want to bring up that this may or may not be a good thing.
There is little depth in any of the characters, they are their tropes and that's it.
Citizens of Earth - Below Average or Negative Marks
There is little to no way to deal with the constant harrasement of various enemies. At the very start, it's very easy to dodge where the enemies are and even easier to dispatch them, but once you get past your first city and the adjoining map, things become a grind that just won't stop. You'll backtrack five feet and need to repeat battles over and over again. Not to mention there is a large mix of maps which have no point to exist other than to exist, creating a scenario in which you have to bust your butt trying to figure out where your objective is while navigating the infinite sea of enemies. It's one thing to have a high encounter rate, but it's another to have an encounter rate so high that you focus more on avoiding fights than you do on actually fighting them.
The characters have very little personal depth and story, they're ultimately stereotypical representations of their professions. The chunky baker is, a chunky baker. The VP himself isn't anything to write home about. Nice hair, great smile, sharp suit, and he doesn't have the intelligence to figure anything out but yet saves the world at the same time.
There is a serious lack of dungeons that have any direction. Panjama Island is full of various dungeons and explorables, but the story only takes you through a small portion of these. If you want to see more you'll need to navigate a map full of enemies. Completely full of enemies. Speaking of dungeons, only a few maps have them and they're more or less "tunnels" from point A to point B than anything resembling a true dungeon. There is I think only four or so real dungeon maps and one of them, the last dungeon, is painful to grind through because enemies are literally stacked on top of each other. The only saving grace is that you unlock "Photon" who has the ability to speed up time, but if you were to pass over him, the grind would seriously be real.
Combat can take way too long to let all of the animations run and all of the dialog to play. Even with Photon's speed up, if you're at the point you can one shot enemies, you're still going to have to grind through the menus and wait for the animations to play out. However, it's important to note that the game will let you turn the difficulty down and increase the speed of the game, making it a lot easier to grind through things once you have all of those options unlocked. So it's not as if it isn't aware of these issues and give you options, so again weigh these words with that in mind.
Conclusion and Final Score
Citizens of Earth is worth the money and will be a ton of fun, if you're a fan of collecting fans and Earthbound. For those who aren't big Earthbound fans or looking for a quirky RPG, then I'd highly suggest avoiding it because it's going to come off as a mediocre flash game. However, if you do like Earthbound OR quirky humor and fun classic RPG fun, then this is for sure the game for you. I easily got 20 hours out of it and felt that the content was satisfying and I'm a big RPG fan, so I would guess someone less experienced could get upwards to 30 or 40 hours with exploring and catching all of the fun characters to recruit.
Ultimately, it isn't Tales of Game's Presents Chef Boyardee's Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden, Chapter 1 of the Hoopz Barkley SaGa, but it's a great way to pass a few chunks of time and you'll walk away satisfied. If you don't know what the previous title is, what Earthbound is, what mother is, etc. then it might be a bit odd, which is the intent, but odd enough I'd probably pass over. This is truly a enthusists game and is well done with that intent.