Citizens of Earth: It’s not Earthbound, but it’s close

January 20, 2015


Citizens of Earth feels like a tribute to the SNES classic (and tragically underplayed) Earthbound. I am a huge fan of that game for its irreverence, setting and gameplay, and Citizens of Earth takes liberally from its best elements. It’s genuinely funny and strategically deeper than it first appears, while leveraging its characters and setting well. Its attempts to reclaim the magic of its source material are largely successful, but most of all, it’s just a lot of fun to play.

In Citizens of Earth, you play as the newly elected “Vice President of the World.” After waking up to a protest outside your house, you begin looking into the “Special Blend” coffee that the local chain (“Moonbucks”) has been distributing to your people. Needless to say, things spiral quickly from there to flying alien cows (“Moo-FO’s”) and reggae DJs enslaving people into a dance beat that they can’t quit. To top it all off, the President of the World may be in danger, and you could be the only one that can save him.

The story is silly and it knows it, taking every opportunity to make a joke and have fun. Like any comedy, there are quite a few groaners and some jokes that fall completely flat, but for the most part, I really enjoyed the game’s writing and found myself laughing quite a bit at the jabs it takes at both pop culture and gaming’s history.


Most of my time in Citizens of Earth was actually spent on the recruitment missions rather than the main story. There are 40 different recruitable party members in the game, each one based on a stereotype of modern culture. They each have different requirements for recruitment, but these missions are well worth it, as each team member is well fleshed-out in terms of abilities and mechanics. Each member has different elemental strengths and weaknesses, and each one has a different function to the group as well. For example, the burly bodybuilder is good for all-out physical attacks, the baker can bake sweet treats to heal wounds and the homeless guy can throw garbage at the enemy to poison them.

One of the best things Citizens of Earth does is allow any battle to be restarted at any time to change the three party members you currently have active, and this really encourages you to experiment and try to find which roles everyone fits best. If you find an enemy that is really strong against physical attacks but weak to verbal assaults, then it becomes very easy, for example, to just swap the bodybuilder for the school mascot at the click of a button.

Every party member has 12 to 15 unique abilities with different elemental affinities, chances to cause debuffs, multi-target attacks and supportive functions, and each member also plays slightly differently. The barista, for example, specializes in generating ability points for her and her team members to allow them to use special attacks, while the pilot needs these ability points for nearly every offensive move she does (or otherwise she spends a turn or two generating them). Putting these two members together allows for a nice synergy, as the pilot can continue to put out damage while being constantly supported without the need to spend time “refueling.”


The different team members serve another function too, which is in their unique talents. Every party member has some use outside of battle, from the extremely useful pilot, who can fly you across the map quickly, to the less useful super-fan, who can show you “member cards” which explain the stat growth of your various allies. Regardless, though, you will continuously come across situations in which you know you need to find a specific ally to help you through, like a treasure hiding behind a hedge that you need the gardener to cut down. By the end of the game, I really wanted to recruit every single citizen to my team, and discovering just how to do this was a large part of the fun I had.

The weakest area of the game is in the presentation and polish of the overall package. The hand-drawn art looks nice, but the animations are fairly weak and just feel off. The battle animations typically consist of one movement for the enemy sprite (no matter the attack) and one or two types of animation for each elemental attack type. It has the overall feel of a game made in RPG Maker, albeit a good one. The soundtrack has a few notable tracks, but is mostly indistinct (and in some cases a little grating), and the sound effects consist of hearing a lot of the voiced lines repeated over and over again.

The map design and enemy frequency could also have used a little tweaking. I got lost trying to navigate from one end of a map to another fairly frequently, and it was sometimes difficult to determine whether a given tile was “passable” or not. The mini-map does help tremendously in this aspect, but you often have so many active quests and side quests at once that you aren’t really sure which marker to be heading toward.


There are also a lot of enemies in this game, and while the battles go quickly, it can get a little annoying. The game does steal one of the greatest ideas from Earthbound, though, in that after you beat the boss of a given area, the enemies will run away from you rather than approach. Should you choose to initiate a battle at this point, you will automatically win and just receive some experience. This makes revisiting areas a breeze after clearing through them once.

Citizens of Earth is great, and just a new coat of paint away from being phenomenal. The core gameplay of exploring the world and figuring out just exactly how to recruit the eclectic cast of characters is addicting and the game uses humor effectively to push the story forward. There are undeniably some rough spots, but these were far outweighed by the fun I had while playing. I would highly recommend anyone with even the slightest hint of nostalgia for this style of game to give Citizens of Earth a shot.

Pros: Interesting world, humorous writing, compelling battle system
Cons: Stilted animations, music and sound effects lacking, confusing map design

Score: 5/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.