Citizens of Earth: For When You Want To Stay In Bed

Maybe you remember the obscure SNES classic Earthbound, and maybe you don’t, but the folks behind Citizens of Earth thought enough people would recall it favorably enough to crowdfund a spiritual successor to that game.

The Citizens of Earth Kickstarter campaign failed despite Earthbound’s revival on the Wii U Virtual Console last year, but good guy publisher Atlus decided to pick up that burden itself so that Eden Industries could finish the thing and put it out this fall. (That Kickstarter campaign, by they way, inspired us to do our own last year.)

After spending a half hour with it at E3 last week, I’m glad they did. As I tweeted shortly after my session, Citizens of Earth looks to be my fall distraction that I’ll almost certainly lose days at a time to, and I don’t think I mind that at all.

Citizens of Earth is not particularly exciting if you look at its most basic functions. It’s a top-down RPG in the old style, full of turn-based battles and fetch quests. I don’t doubt many of the more anal gamers in the community will write it off based entirely on that, just as others will embrace it for that same reason. But to judge Citizens of Earth on how it works is to do it a disservice. This is one of those games that seems to be worth playing for its writing; everything else is a bonus.

The premise is that you are the newly elected Vice President of the world, but folks don’t like you, and your just-defeated opposition has started a protest against you. The E3 vertical slice starts there, and you have to roll around a small town recruiting folks to your side by helping them out with stuff, while beating up protesters.

You don’t fight protesters yourself, of course, because you are the vice president and that’s not what leaders do. Leaders get other people to fight for them, and so right off the bat you have your mom and little brother doing battle on your behalf. Mom has abilities like “nag” that does damage to the baddies and “encourage” that heals and bolsters allies — you know, mom stuff. And this tongue-in-cheek nature of those combat abilities is exactly the tone of the entire experience — this is a silly game, through and through, and it manages to be quite amusing, consistently. At least in the demo.

Our hero is himself quite a goofball, and an oblivious one at that. He’s an idiot, basically, but endearingly so. Everybody is kinda off their rockers, really, and that’s the charm of it all. It’s all fully voiced, as well, something that really sells the goofiness of that game that we can’t take for granted. The dozen of so actors I heard were all quite good, too.

Citizens of Earth is unlikely to be an experience that sets the world on fire or makes people think too hard about anything aside from combat strategy (unless you overlevel, in which case you won’t have to think about that much either). But it’s a game that will be out on PS Vita, PS4, Wii U, 3DS and of course PC, and with that spectrum it’s so easy to envision Citizens of Earth as a game to relax with when I want to stay in bed and ease up for a minute or a thousand. Like Persona or any other good, chill, writing-focused RPG in the Japanese style, it seems poised to be the game-to-play-while-I-lie-on-my-back title of the fall, for me.

There are dangers, of course; if it gets bogged down in the mechanics, the chillness of the visual novel style could easily go awry. That’s always a possibility with these things, though, and the demo slice was full of enough quality that I remain cautiously optimistic.

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