VIDEO GAME REVIEW: ‘Citizens of Earth’ plays like a cult classic SNES RPG, but is it as fun?
Every now and then in the realm of gaming, something comes along that reminds you of something, a particular game or feeling, that you thought you had forgotten. Chances are you’ve forgotten all of this because you, like this writer, feel that the industry has passed you by and no longer cares about those games you used to enjoy, along with the strong feelings you have attached to them. You have simply learned to accept the fact that the industry just doesn’t care about you or your demographic of gamer. That’s when it happens, though. When you least expect it, something comes along that gives you at least a faint glimmer of hope that maybe, after all this time, you haven’t been forgotten at all.
Such is the case of today’s video game review, “Citizens of Earth,” a game that can be purchased right now on the Nintendo eShop for $15 and change, and despite flying under a lot of radars, especially those who do not own a Wii U console, it has certainly caught the attention of this writer and gamer, and I don’t think I’m the only one.
Whether it’s the blatant homage to a certain cult classic SNES RPG (more on that in just a bit) or its own quirky, yet charming appeal, there’s something within “Citizens of Earth” that’s been missing from the gaming scene for nearly 20 years, but the question is, “Can this formula fit into the modern gaming scene?” Has too much time passed? Did “Citizens of Earth” get it completely 100 percent right on its first shot, or is this just a glimpse into its potentially bright future? That’s what I’m here to voice at least my own opinion on.
“Citizens of Earth” (Wii U)
While “Citizens of Earth” begins with some patriotic campaign trail music and continues with tunes that keep you moving through the game, it’s not the soundtrack that gives “Citizens of Earth” its charm. Without question, it is the quirky and sometimes highly stereotypical voices of the many zany characters you encounter through the game.
While obviously your lead character is the most notable, with his disconnection to any and all parts of the world that don’t have to do with politics, nice hair, and coffee, his mother is a typical overprotective mother (and just as nagging), while his brother is always trying to help him out, and other characters like the pastry chef have an Austrian accent as thick as the glaze on the big donut that sits in a case in his shop. This is just the tip of the iceberg as far as voices in the game go.
What you have here is something that’s a cross between graphics of the 16-bit era and something that looks like it could be in a Saturday morning cartoon. The town you live in has quirky-looking characters of all shapes and sizes, businesses that look like leftovers from “The Simpsons: Tapped Out” mobile game, and enemies that look like they were created by developers pulling all-night shifts with nothing but cases of Red Bull and cheap cigarettes. They’re cool to look at, but some just look really bizarre, and yet this all seems to keep with the quirky charm of the game they are paying tribute to (I’m getting there, I promise). There are certainly better-looking games on the Wii U console, but the graphics really work well with the characters and sounds of “Citizens of Earth.”
So if you happened to experience “Citizens of Earth,” it more than just pays homage to the SNES cult classic RPG “Earthbound” – it borrows in heaps from it. The characters, the more than subtle pokes at American politics and pop culture, and the battle system is something that longtime “Earthbound” fans will be quite familiar with. “Citizens of Earth” tasks you with many different things, from main challenges like stopping the protests by your political rival, to solving problems for your citizens that will help in getting them to join your party. Each citizen has their own set of talents, from helping with tutorials and tips, to shipping and selling you items from their store that help you heal your party in battle, among countless others.
While the battles are fun and not quite as arduous as the game it is a possible spiritual successor to, “Citizens of Earth” does have its drawbacks, namely the vague explanations of mission locations, sometimes just telling you to go to a lake or a place with such a simple name that you’re running all over trying to find this one specific place just to get an elusive party member. While the mascot at the school (who is creepy as hell) can help adjust the difficulty level in the game for you, nothing can change the fact that entering any new area or even a new building causes the game to go to a loading screen that, while not super long, is just long enough to agitate most gamers in 2015. Despite this, the addition of a tablet as a menu screen gives the game a modern feel.
Did I mention that during battles, your lead character, Vice President of the World, doesn’t even do battle, instead standing aside with a pearly grin while his party does all the work? Yeah, that totally happens.
Traditionalists will argue that “Citizens of Earth” is not a true spiritual successor to “Earthbound,” and that’s certainly a valid argument. I liken it to a modern adaptation of it, and for better or worse, it offers a fresh pair of eyes on what is usually a dark and gloomy industry, filled to the brim with first-person shooters and reboots of famed franchises that never should have been touched in the first place.
“Citizens of Earth” is not perfect, but really, what game is these days? Keep this in mind – this is not a game that will most likely be chock-full of patches, updates, and downloadable content that will empty your pockets. It’s just a simple adventure that, if nothing else, will make you laugh and forget your troubles for a time, and isn’t that exactly what “Earthbound” was trying to do in the ‘90s when it became its own fresh pair of eyes on an industry seemingly engulfed by fighting games and those featuring company mascots?
My hope is that this isn’t the last we’ve seen of either this franchise or this style of gaming. It’s been a long time coming.
Stay tuned for more reviews from me, and please continue to check out Turn to Channel 3 every Tuesday! Game on, folks!
Note: All ratings for Turn to Channel 3 and Nick’s game reviews are based on a scale of 1-10.
by Nick DeMarco
Nick DeMarco is a blogger, retro video game small business owner, and lover of all things retro. Don't get stuck on an elevator with him, unless you know who Ace Harding is and why Crystal Pepsi deserves just as big a comeback as Surge.