Review: Citizens of Earth

Allow me to be blunt – if you’re a fan of old-school RPGs, cease all bodily functions not controlled by your autonomic nervous system and obtain a copy of Citizens of Earth.

If you played the Super Nintendo classic Earthbound, you’ll recognize its inspiration of this wacky little RPG, out today for PC, Nintendo 3DS, Wii U and PS Vita.  From the spacey soundtrack to the map design, even down to the lava-lamp graphics behind the baddies in the random battles, the game makes a comfortable home in the classic’s footprint.

This is what's known as "hanging a lampshade on it"

This is what’s known as “hanging a lampshade on it”

You play the newly-elected Vice-President of Earth, choosing to make a visit to your home town for a brief respite before your new career.  Alas, all is not well on the homestead – the town is surging with anti-you protesters, the manager of the local (and highly addictive) coffee shop has vanished, and more weirdness to come. The true threat that faces you and your compatriots remains hidden until well into the game, and it’s as out of left field as any surprise in any classic RPG.

You quickly begin recruiting local citizens to join your ragtag band of investigators, including your mother, brother, an odd-smelling conspiracy theorist, and the local donut chef.  Other recruits don’t unlock till later as more of the map is unlocked.  Their various powers and attacks provide a lot of ability to customize your combat strengths, as well as team bonuses for having certain members in your party. from changing the weather and time of day, to changing the difficulty from candy from a baby to what oldsters like me call “Nintendo-Hard.”

The game is funny; silly, even, with lots of wacky dialogue and throwaway gags as you read random signs and books. Lots of recorded dialogue by a strong cast, and a sound palette that keeps the old school feel while staying technically advanced.

The strength of the enemies jump up quickly once you make your way to the next  play area, leaving you to do some good old grinding. The enemies are as wacky  as they are difficult, from roving protesters to the punnish “Telefawn” and “Bubblebee,” there’s a constant variety of new monsters and foes to fight.

The game wears its throwback badge with pride, but can still hold its own with any of the recent RPGs we’ve seen recently, especially on the handhelds.  The game plays very well on the Vita, with the option to interact with the touchscreen as well as the keypads.

There’s not enough funny being put into games nowadays. Citizens of Earth is a welcome breath of fresh air.

Citizens of Earth is available for download on PC, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS, PS4 and PS Vita.