By: Matthew Striplen
Everyone’s got a dream, whether it be becoming an astronaut, participating in the Olympics, or just getting straight A’s in school. Some people, however, are more ambitious, such as the newly elected Vice President of the entire planet. In Citizens of Earth, the world is beset by strange beasts and conspiracies galore, and only the pompous VP has the charisma to return order to his nation… er, planet.
As with the majority of traditional RPG’s, Citizens of Earth‘s controls don’t pose much of a challenge. The player just has to navigate the environment and select battle commands. It’s pretty straightforward.
However, Citizens of Earth has one unique feature. When traversing the world, the player may charge enemies with party members, and if they strike the correct point, the battle will be “auto-won.” Since the player’s sprite only faces the four cardinal directions, aiming the party members with any accuracy poses quite a challenge. The difficulty is further compounded by the opponent’s small target area.
The graphic design turned out to be one of my favorite parts of this game. Everything looks straight out of a Saturday morning cartoon. The enemy designs are particularly silly, especially when paired with puntastic names. Beware the ferocious Telefawn and the Stopvine! Unfortunately, graphical bugs rear their ugly heads throughout the entire experience, ranging from small coloring issues to the entire screen being reduced to an acid trip with lines of code.
For all of Citizens of Earth‘s graphical strengths, the soundtrack is quite weak. Most of the time, the sounds are intentionally synthy, but the way in which they’re used produces effects that quickly become obnoxious. A handful of sound bugs also cause the music and/or effects to completely disappear. Although the sound will sometimes return after a few minutes, occasionally restarting the game is the only solution.
Citizens of Earth features a large amount of voice acting, especially for a portable title. The range of over-the-top voices is impressive, as is the fact that nearly every character has at least a few lines of completely spoken dialogue.
At its core, Citizens of Earth is a very traditional JRPG. The player takes control of the newly elected Vice President of the world, only to find the entire planet has gone berserk. This includes the bizarre wildlife, as well as coffee machines that have turned on their creators. Every interaction brings silly and lighthearted dialogue, but the humor often falls flat. That being said, a few sections of the game, most notably the dream world, bring a much more introspective, philosophical tone to the otherwise wacky world. On the whole, the story was not able to consistently hold my interest.
As the VP sets out on his journey to figure out what’s happened to his beloved planet, he meets a huge variety of characters, ranging from a Car Salesman and Yoga Instructor, to his own mother. Nearly every NPC, of which there are 40-plus, can be recruited as a party member, bringing with them a unique talent. The process of collecting and subsequently training these people is reminiscent of the Pokemon franchise, but without some of the freedom to craft each character exactly as you sees fit.
As for the unique abilities, these are functions used exclusively outside combat, which range from purchasing additional items from anywhere to adjusting the overall game’s difficulty. These abilities are also quite similar to Pokemon‘s HM system but much better implemented as these abilities do not take up move slots in combat.
Acquiring party members requires completing a mission for each person. Sadly, these typically consist of little more than going to X location and returning with a MacGuffin, or killing X number of enemies. Although the payoff for getting a new member improves the gameplay, the quests tend to be a hassle, which brings me to my next point.
If you want to play Citizens of Earth, don’t expect anything to happen quickly. Almost every environment swarms with enemies. Imagine if everywhere was a Zubat cave, except you can see them coming! Plus, if any of them touch your party members instead of the VP, each member loses energy.
As far as actually going anywhere is concerned, the map offers little help. The touchscreen features a minimap, which displays your current location, nearby NPCs, quest locations, etc. This also includes locations not in the current area, which would be helpful, except that none of the quest points are labelled. Although each quest comes with a hint, they are sometimes so vague that they offer no help whatsoever.
Since NPCs are everywhere, quests pile up fast, which often results in a jumbled mass of quest points. Sometimes quest points lead nowhere, either disappearing or not activating upon arrival. More glitches plague the game from start to finish. Full game crashes were common, especially towards the beginning.
The battle system does not break any RPG traditions. Combat is turn based and features three party members against any number of opponents. A variety of moves are available, each of which has a type: physical, special, elemental, etc. Most moves either produce or consume energy, generally with the most powerful consuming large quantities.
This system, while tried and true, doesn’t bring anything new to the table. One of my biggest RPG pet peeves, which is not unique to Citizens of Earth, is how slow the battles move. Combat will be frequently interrupted by the VP’s interjections, which pauses the action, along with tons of unskippable, repetitive text.
Citizens of Earth aims to be a lighthearted romp full of eccentric personalities, though its execution is less than perfect. The multitude of enemies and drawn out combat sequences make simple actions, like traveling, take much longer than they should. Plus, the glitches certainly don’t help matters. That being said, if you’re an admirer of old-school JRPGs, you’re likely to find something to love in Citizens of Earth.