Citizens of Earth Review (PlayStation 4)
I may have made a critical mistake with Citizens of Earth. After hearing the game being compared to Earthbound over and over again and about this game is trying to bring back the old RPG feeling of the wonderful SNES years, I let myself fall into the hype just a little bit. I became excited for Citizens of Earth, and I marked it down as the first 2015 release I wanted to sink my teeth into. As it turns out, what I bit off left a bad taste in my mouth.
I do agree with Citizens of Earth being likened to the good old days of Earthbound, but only on the surface. There's a charming weirdness to the world this Vice President rules over, filled with all types of characters to recruit; I particularly like the conspiracy theorist who deals damage by accusing enemies of being in on the government's plans (and whose dying cry is "You're working for them!") and the VP's mother who heals with hugs. I can rename all of these characters as I recruit them, too, adding some personalization to the game. The VP's brother will forever be DiIlworth in my eyes, and the baker always Schtupenpoopen (don't ask where that came from, I'm not really sure other than he has a German accent).
The battle system reminds me of the old SNES days, too, but with its own tweaks. The turn-based formula brings back memories of classic RPG mechanics--choose an attack for each fighter, the turn plays out based on an order decided by the game, rinse, and repeat. Some attacks need energy to perform, and energy is accrued by performing successful general attacks, so getting to the most powerful attacks in a character's arsenal will take some work.
Enemies are just as weird as the characters I can recruit, like the human-coffee machine hybrid Caffienerd in the basement of the coffee shop. Defeating some of these hostile weirdos allows me to recruit other characters via the quest system. One quest has me randomly encountering the school mascot's school spirit, which I have to defeat then return to the mascot to recruit it (its name is Phanatic, in case you're wondering).
Which leads me to where Citizens of Earth's nostalgic facade starts to crumble: the game is a damn virtual to-do list of quest after quest, with which the game has no qualms about overloading you. Every recruitable character requires a quest be completed, every new area contains some kind of quest to find, and then there's the main quest about why the Earth is in such turmoil. There are so many quests, many of which have no bearing on anything other than a new character to recruit, that it's almost overwhelming.
The old SNES RPGs this game loves to be compared to didn't have those--they had story arcs neatly followed through events that naturally took place at certain times. I never felt overwhelmed or stressed out by a ever-growing list of mundane crap random people wanted me to do, and I could sit back and enjoy the story the game wanted to tell me. It's like trying to listen to a song on a radio in a packed stadium during a major sporting event; there are too many distractions that take away from the story the game wants to tell, and that hurts the entire game. I want to stop and smell the roses. I want to enjoy my time in this world. But I can't because I feel like I have too many quests to complete.
Do I hate Citizens of Earth? Not at all. I feel like there's plenty to enjoy, and the old-time RPG feel bursts from the surface quite admirably. What I don't like is how the game throws a quest at me every time I speak to someone to the point where I don't think I'm ever going to complete them. The overload distracts from what is a really cool game, and if the focus had been more on why the VP is fighting and less on creating a grocery list Citizens of Earth would have been much more appealing. If this Vice President gets a second term, I know the first thing I would fix.
This review is based on a download code of Citizens of Earth provided by the publisher for PlayStation 4.