Men like our beloved Vice-President of Earth are truly one of a kind. Maybe it's the shocking red hair, the gleaming white smile, or the fact that his suit looks freshly pressed even after taking a full night's sleep in it. We can't put our finger on it, but something about him just...makes him seem trustworthy. Fancy following this charming man on a madcap quest to maintain his reputation? Good call.
Eden Industries hasn't strayed far from the traditional RPG format with Citizens of Earth, at least when it comes to core mechanics. Inspiration has mostly been drawn from the SNES-era of classic role playing adventures, but with a quirky twist of colour and a contemporary setting to help it stand out. As a debut release from the young developer, does it stack up to the excellent standard of RPG titles on the 3DS? Teaming up with industry giant Atlus - who took on publishing duties - certainly helps, and the game's skewed portrayal of modern reality gone mad should help attract Earthbound fans for good measure.
Citizens puts you in the veep's well-polished shoes and tasks you with solving the world's many problems, but you won't be roaming around alone. Like any good politician he refuses to sully his hands with the actual busywork, and so the game's central gimmick involves recruiting dozens of citizens to fight for you. From the moment he wakes up, our esteemed leader relies on his team to order coffee, bake treats, take photos and beat up protesters - all in the name of world peace, of course. It's a fun concept that's held up by clever writing and excellent voice acting, but the overall plot never strives to be more than a vehicle for some wacky scenarios.
Gameplay mostly takes old sensibilities and applies a fresh coat of paint, with typical top-down navigation and turn-based combat intact. Your goals are normally split into a few different quests, which does scatter your focus somewhat, but a handy tablet helps keep track of active missions as you progress. Recruiting extra citizens to join your party is the real draw, and an ongoing objective as there are oodles of them to find.
Once you come across a willing citizen, you'll need to earn their vote by meeting a specific requirement -whether it's winning a race or proving your strength - and these make for some of the game's most memorable moments. From police officers to patriotic super-fans, a genuinely diverse cast of characters can all join your side, and come with their own unique set of abilities. The expected roles of healers and brawlers are all present, though with fun twists, like how your Mom restores health by hugging party members. Outside of battle, certain citizens can also help out by ordering items on the fly, or making travel a lot faster.
Enemy encounters leave diplomacy by the wayside, as you'll be taking on a slew of imaginative creatures and kooky individuals with a team of 3 active citizens. Our noble leader won't join in (the guy in the $4,000 suit is gonna fight?! COME ON!), but as enemies appear visible in the field, he can order his team to charge forward and ambush them for a nice pre-battle bonus. A counter system helps refresh some enjoyable turn-based combat, by encouraging players to use weaker attacks in order to save up enough to unleash a stronger selection. Mixed in with a range of status effects and elemental strengths and weaknesses, this makes for a strong battle system that smart players can take full advantage of.
The main story is a fun, completely silly ride, and enables a whole range of optional missions for you to sink your teeth into. There's plenty of variety, and several options that can either alleviate the grind of levelling up characters, or alter the game's difficulty whenever you like. It's impressive that Eden Industries has managed to squeeze a game developed for PC and home consoles onto Nintendo's handheld, and features like these help ensure the formula works for portable gaming as well.
It isn't all good news though, as the 3DS version suffers when it comes to visuals. The bright, crisp artwork has been reduced to a blurry mess in some areas, particularly when directly compared to the Wii U equivalent. The map has been moved to the bottom screen (which greatly helps with usage), as have menu commands, but even the extra space this creates doesn't solve the disappointing amount of compression. As Citizen's aesthetic and cartoony style is a major part of its charm, something really is lost in the transition. A total lack of 3D visuals is also a missed opportunity for adding some depth to the backgrounds, so overall this isn't a title that makes an entirely successful transition to the smaller screens.
Aside from that, many of the bugs and technical issues present in the Wii U version persist in full force on 3DS, ranging from some elements of the HUD vanishing to total game crashes. As far as we could tell, these occur completely at random, and their frequency is about on par with the home console's standard, if not even a little more common. The lengthy load times are just as annoying here as well - especially when you want to pick up and play for only a few moments on the bus, for example.
Citizens of Earth is a rare breed of sprawling RPG that doesn't take itself too seriously, and blends solid mechanics with parody and imagination very well indeed. The style is there, but when it comes to overall experience, a long list of glitches rains on this Vice President's parade somewhat. Consider electing the WIi U version over the 3DS port for superior visuals that do add a welcome extra vote, but if you're set on taking this adventure on the go it's still very much worth your attention.