Citizens of Earth (PS4) review

Citizens of Earth is a western attempt at a very eastern style of role-playing. Released by the very Japanese Atlus, but developed by the Canadian house, Eden Industries, the game is a tongue-in-cheek homage to Pokemon-style RPGs. It’s a download-only release for a wide range of platforms, but probably fits best on the Vita and 3DS.

No matter which platform you play on, however, it’s the same colorful and snarky adventure across the board. The game places you as the very western Vice President of the World. He’s a walking stereotype of American right-wing politics—vacant, arrogant, and selfish, but with the very useful ability to get other people to do all the work for him. In this case, of course, that means fighting.

Instead of collecting cute animal and forcing them to engage in terrible arena-style battles, Citizens of Earth collects people, who you then shove into endless arena-style battles. Admittedly, this time you’re fighting protestors, aliens, robots, mutant coffee beans, and a host of other bizarre villains. The entire landscape is essentially one big joke on current pop culture. The small town setting the game mostly takes place in has all the usual trappings of weirdness within its houses, school, police station, parks, and mysterious paths. Moonbucks, in particular, gets a lot of mileage out of its joke of being a super popular coffee shop with a deep, dark secret.

All these takes on modern life feel more like cliché than anything else though. It’s not a damning criticism, but you won’t find any real surprises in the humor or content. There are 40 citizens to recruit, which adds a great deal of variety to the combat. Still, they’re basically one-note stereotypes. Mom provides nagging attacks and healing hugs, the body builder is a tank, etc. Much like Pokemon, certain characters pair best with certain types of enemies, so collecting as many as possible is key.

Combat is a traditional turn-based affair, but with a heavy focus on disrupting the enemy’s attack efficiency. The VP’s mom, for instance, is entirely focused on lowering opponent’s defense and attack power by nagging and lecturing them. There are a lot of amusing jokes in the combat status text, such as protestors wounding you with stern lectures about your foreign policies and similar one-liners.

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You can only bring three characters into combat at once, so understanding their uses is vital to survival. The rock-scissors-paper structure of other similar games isn’t as blatant here, but still part of the overall strategy for combat (especially more advanced enemies). In an oddly humorous design decision, your characters trail behind you on the world map, while enemies wander around. Should an enemy touch any member your party, combat starts. Unfortunately, sometimes you just want to explore or get places quickly, making the long trail of lackeys a bit annoying.

Collecting all the characters is a major focus of Citizens of Earth, but it’s not a matter of trapping humans in small balls. Instead, you have to complete side-quests to cajole them to join you. This element adds a lot of play value to the overall experience, but there are some issues with the general map and quest designs.

The biggest problem is simply the amount of back tracking involved. You’re constantly going up and down the map and the inconvenience is compounded by incredibly slow load times. No matter the platform, entering any building or new area requires sitting in front of the loading screen for several noticeable seconds. Loading times are much worse on the Vita than the PS4 and Sony-specific owners will also be disappointed by the lack of a cross-save option to easily switch between platforms. We also encountered some severe crash bugs (among others) on the Vita version.

So, Citizens of Earth isn’t always right on point. The humor is spotty and predictable, but the combat system has enough depth to be engaging. The colorful landscapes and characters are well done and, for the most part, the game is an enjoyable homage to a style of game in dire need of a shake-up. Citizens of Earth doesn’t attempt to break from the formula, but considering the low price point and overall polish of the game, it’s certainly worth checking out.