Preview: Citizens of Earth

I‘ve always been a big fan of the old school Super Nintendo-era role playing games. From time to time I love to throw in Chrono Trigger or an old Final Fantasy and give it a whirl. Japanese style RPGs are some of my favorite games and you don’t get a lot of good western attempts at this genre. A while back I (with the help of our podcast host Jonathan Miley) interviewed Ryan Vendendyck, CEO of Eden Industries, about his time at Silicon Knights and working on games like Too Human and X-Men Destiny. While those two names may not raise a lot of positive buzz, Ryan went on to form his own studio and produce the critically acclaimed Waveform (which can be found on Steam). Waveformis a great and unique wave based rhythm game that I have managed to find a lot of enjoyment playing - it also has a really great soundtrack. While interviewing Ryan, he let slip to us that he and his crew were working on an old school style RPG in the vein of EarthBound and I was immediately intrigued, due to my earlier mentioned love of the genre. While he told us Citizens of Earth was still a few years off it was still enough to get me excited for its release. Ryan was nice enough to provide me with a preview build of the game’s demo and after playing it through a couple times, I have not been disappointed in the time I have spent with their new game.

Citizens of Earth has been described as Pokémon meets EarthBound and that’s really not a bad comparison. The game places you in control of The President of the World who is visiting his home town after winning his election. However he soon finds out that there are some strange events happening in town. Like any normal politician, the President of the World is certainly not going to get his own hands dirty, so he sets out to recruit different characters around the town to help him battle whatever evil he may encounter.  The demo covers about the first hour of the game and shows off the bright color palette of the town and the environments you'll explore. The look of the game is possibly my favorite part. All of the characters are highly stylized and exaggerated portrayals of their normal jobs or roles. The art style is well done and looks ripped directly out of a cartoon. The bright and vibrant world is accompanied by some nice, feel good music which is a big departure of what you would normally experience in games today, making it feel refreshing.

The gameplay is clearly inspired by Pokémon and early RPG games of the SNES era. Since the President doesn’t actually fight himself he will recruit different characters with different job classes around town. You only get to see a few characters in the demo but for example, you'll start with your mother and brother after leaving your house. Battles are initiated when you come into contact with enemies that roam the map. You can walk into them or, better yet, you can direct your party to launch an attack giving you the advantage when the battle starts. When you enter a battle it’s a lot like an old school RPG or Pokémon game. You have a turn based battle system and what helps make it unique is that all of the characters moves are specifically catered to their profession. For instance, your brother attacks by wrestling with the opponent or the mother can give them a stern talking to. The attacks and naming conventions are actually pretty clever and it was something that stood out to me right away as a unique choice.

Citizens of Earth is full of parody and satire in its writing. There were at least a couple times when playing the demo that I actually laughed out loud, a pretty difficult thing for games to accomplish. One of the your first tasks is to go to a coffee shop called Moonbucks (instead of Starbucks) and there is also a delivery company called Fed Ups. As you can see, there’s an attempt at relatable humor in the game world. A lot of the people you will meet in the game feel like caricatures of the types of people they are supposed to represent and I found most of it to be properly exaggerated and easy to laugh at. The writing has real promise and I can’t wait to see how it will all unfold in the proper game.

The release date for Citizens of Earth is still kind of up in the air as the game is still very much in development but if the final product reflects what I played in the demo then it should be an extremely fun throwback to the RPG games of old and really funny to boot. The website lists the game's release in 2014 at the least, subject to change. There is currently a Kickstarter for the game listed here where you can chip in for the development of the game and actually has some pretty awesome reward options for the higher buy ins.