Citizens Unite! Earth x Space Review (Switch)
Release Date: January 28, 2021
File Size: 3.3GB
Publisher: Eden Industries
Click here to view on the Nintendo eShop.
We live in an age where reboots, remasters, and remakes are the norm. While many are well-received by fans and newcomers alike, other people view them as filthy cash grabs unless great strides have been made to alter, adjust, or otherwise improve the base experience. Citizens Unite! Earth x Space is interesting because it is not a remake, remaster, or an entirely new game, instead featuring some new content that ties both base games together in a theoretically interesting way. We will get into why I emphasized “in theory” shortly.
Disclaimer: With this review covering both base games, as well as the newly added content, I’ve made my best attempt at providing crucial information for each in the most concise way possible. While we don’t have a detailed review of Citizens of Earth available, feel free to check out Jeremy’s review of Citizens of Space for a more thorough analysis of that game specifically.
The Citizens games are both about “important” political figures doing what they do best: delegating any and all responsibilities to their underlings. Citizens of Earth features the newly elected vice president of the world as he witnesses the sanity of the world unraveling around him. For example, a local coffee shop – the most grounded, tranquil location for (us) coffee addicts – turns out to be capable of flight. What! And it only gets weirder from here. Already witnessing the need to stretch some politically-charged muscle, while also humorously contemplating a break, the VP recruits and deploys as many citizens as possible in an attempt to figure out what the heck is going on. What drives this man in his quest? Approval ratings, of course.
In Citizens of Space, the newly appointed Ambassador of Earth is flabbergasted when, upon his inaugural speech at the Galactic Federation, he discovers that the planet he represents is now missing! Like, gone. Like the VP, the Ambassador now sets off to restore Earth by – you guessed it – recruiting and deploying a wide array of citizens. The Unite! branch comes in the form of a time-travelling entity that is hell-bent on destroying the timeline in both eras. Fortunately, there are some new citizens that are more than willing to help you repair what has already been sabotaged, and help prepare you for what could soon follow if the eras of Earth and Space do not unite!
Both games utilize politically-driven narratives that are completely silly. The VP and the Ambassador are as idiotic as they come, and would be completely lost without the help of their subordinates. You’ll laugh at their attempts to appear coherent and in control of the scene, when in reality they haven’t the slightest clue about anything. Although a couple characters and events are a little too on the nose for my own tastes, there was ultimately enough there to not make it overly annoying as a whole. As for the newfangled timeline-in-distress portion, we’ve all seen it done before – a bad thing has put a timeline in danger, and we must stop it! However, I can’t recall ever seeing two previously standalone games brought together in such a way before, and I commend the team for the idea alone.
Citizens Unite! Earth x Space can be best described as the culmination of traditional turn-based combat, character recruitment in numbers well above the average RPG (but below the likes of Pokemon and Suikoden), and a metric ton of choices (in a features sense – not the story). Both games play out on their own as completely separate games, though the Unite! portion of content does bind them together and will be discussed in detail later. It is important to note that you can swap to and from either era (or game) at any time rather seamlessly – a short loading screen is all it takes.
Both games emphasize a builder/spender-style combat system, with a heavy emphasis placed on exploiting enemy weaknesses. A skill may cost one energy, but using it on an enemy susceptible to it will make it free to cast! Likewise, using an ability that a foe is strong against and it will cost double (or in the case of a builder attack, not generate energy whatsoever). Not good. Citizens of Earth is pretty straightforward beyond that, but Citizens of Space features a ton of in-combat minigames that are sure to resonate with fans of the Paper Mario series.
Having underlings to do their bidding, the VP and Ambassador hang back in the distance, issuing orders without having to do any dirty work themselves – two complete tools! Citizens of Space, however, does make use of the Ambassador by allowing him to issue very beneficial on-the-fly orders at the cost of his own charisma. Don’t worry, he has plenty and will regenerate more over time. Most of the citizens you will recruit can be used in combat, providing an extremely impressive amount of variety and customization to your party.
Overall, the combat is pretty good in both games, but Citizens of Space is clearly the more engaging one long-term. The inclusion of minigames and allowing the Ambassador quick actions makes for a far more stimulating experience over the comparatively stale system found in Citizens of Earth. This comes at a potential cost, however, as those minigames will definitely stamp additional time onto each and every encounter you face. One citizen will allow you to adjust the difficulty of the minigames themselves, or turn them off entirely, but I found the latter to be particularly detrimental as it also vastly reduces your damage potential.
Regardless, both titles could have benefited from some sort of auto-battle mode as you’re bound to face a multitude of trivial encounters along the way. This is especially true in Citizens of Earth where many enemies can appear on maps with tight corridors and running is nearly impossible to do at first. Sure, it might be more realistic to have to chip away at an enemy before being able to successfully run, but why strive for realism in a world that is on an acid trip?
Character Recruitment and Talents
If these good-for-nothing officials are going to get any work done, they’re going to have to build an army of supporters. Both eras feature a surprisingly vast and varied amount of characters to recruit – 88 for those counting – that all bring something different to the table. Unite! paves the way for never-before-seen new recruits in both games. Not only do the individuals of this expansive cast perform differently from one another in combat, they also provide an assortment of bonus perks for outside of battle. You may, for example, come across a pilot that will fly (fast-travel) you to certain areas, or a pizza-making robot that will sell you extremely useful italian dishes. There are even citizens in both games that will allow you to build your own battles against the enemies (including bosses) of your own choosing! Wouldn’t it be great to bring the features with you for easy access anywhere? Well, recruit them and you can utilize their services at your leisure rather than having to track them down out in the world somewhere (stipulations apply based on citizen and era in question). Every citizen has their own service or perk, but some are definitely more useful than others. The takeaway here, again, is the amount of choice and customization provided – fine-tuning the rate of random encounters, the speed of the game, the difficulty (thus, the rewards), and so many other things is extremely satisfying. This is all on top of the already overwhelming variety the various citizens bring to just combat alone!
These citizen “talents” generally don’t start out all that useful, though, and this is especially the case in the Citizens of Earth. The usefulness of talents are separated into tiers, with their own levels increasing their effectiveness. Talents are more or less leveled through combat, though there is a vast difference in how each game handles it. In Citizens of Earth, only your active party of three will accumulate talent exp (or TP), compared to your entire roster of heroes generating it in Citizens of Space. This can lead to frequent moments of frustration when you have to go back and level the talents of a citizen that has only collected dust in your reserves, just so you can advance an event. This admittedly doesn’t happen much if you just beeline the base game of Earth, but will certainly come up for completionists and during the Unite! content. All in all, character recruitment is a consistently satisfying core component of Citizens Unite!.
A United Front
With the timeline under attack in each era, both the VP and Ambassador will have to repeatedly face off with a time-traveling tyrant. This generally means challenging the entity to combat, but can also require you to have certain items and/or certain talent levels achieved beforehand. Defeating the foe at multiple points in each time period will reward you with books, which can be filed away (thus repairing that part of the timeline) via the local interconnected library found in both games. Repairing a portion of the timeline will open up rewards of varying usefulness in the opposite era, eventually leading to a complete repair, the true end boss, and the “true ending.”
Unfortunately, as neat as this all sounds in concept, it’s not particularly exciting in actual practice. The shared villain is, while occasionally funny, not very compelling long-term, and that also applies to the base narratives of both games. The lighthearted, humorous nature is appreciated, especially in the context of politics, but it will only take you so far in a low-stakes story with virtually no character development. Staff writer Jeremy felt this same way when he covered the original Citizens of Space, and I feel the same way about the entire package here. It is certainly fun to see the babbling baboons of each era come together in a very real way, but that only goes so far in the grand scheme of things.
The whole book collecting deal is pretty underwhelming from both a gameplay and story perspective. Many are easy to obtain, but a few require a combination of specific talent levels of citizens and/or vaguely described materials. While I’m not suggesting that something should be given for nothing, the previously mentioned examples of a “choice” gets obscured when a certain level of completionism is required to see this new content. I would expect something like this in post-game content, but it seems out of place here. You have to beat both base games – which I did, and that part makes sense – but then your next objective is to look for random materials for book number-whatever? I don’t likey. All of the book collection efforts are nothing more than fetch quests at the end of the day, making the more vaguely described ones that much more annoying to complete.
That said, if you are a fan of really committing to the full completion of – not simply “beating” – both games and aren’t annoyed by occasionally (and aimlessly) retreading old ground for some random material, then you might really dig it. And truthfully speaking, I cannot tell you whether the true ending makes it all worth it as I’m still currently trying to defeat the true ending boss on Space side. It has proven to be extremely demanding in comparison to the Earth true ending boss that was a complete cakewalk.
Presentation and Performance
Outside of the impressive citizen recruitment mechanic, Citizens Unite is at its absolute best when it comes to presentation. Both games are presented in a highly animated, cartoon-like manner that is as colorful as it is crazy. Citizens are of various races, ethnicities, body types and backgrounds, and are skilled in trades such as the handyman, lifeguard, soda bartender, and only eighty-five more. Enemies are equally varied, many of which are clearly inspired by the likes of the iconically-zany Mother series. Color palettes are simple and vibrant, pairing nicely with the jovial vibe of the game.
The soundtrack is equally pleasing, easygoing, and eclectic, but can also be serious when appropriate. Both games have tracks that straight-up slap, and the voice acting is also pretty great. Unfortunately, voice effects are often overused on the field, but are tied directly to the primary voice acting volume slider, so you may be turning it down (or off) before too long.
Performance-wise, Citizens of Earth is sound but Citizens of Space frequently struggles to keep it together. There are certain locations and areas where the framerate will chug, and crashes are a common occurence – I experienced close to a dozen over my 25-ish hours of gameplay in Space alone. There have also been a few times where the game straight-up freezes mid-combat, leaving both sides of the battlefield to stare at one another for all eternity. This is especially concerning considering the aforementioned grinding requirement for the true final boss. Autosaves, fortunately, do limit the loss of progression.
Citizens Unite! Earth x Space absolutely looks good on paper, but doesn’t gracefully transfer over in practice. When the standout feature is not the new leadup story content or the book collecting, but rather the ability to swap between the experiences when you need a break from the other, that is a bit concerning. When the goal after beating both base games is to fulfill a list of fetch quests with little narrative depth in order to achieve a “true ending,” yeah, that is also a bit alarming. Then there’s the true final bosses – the laughably easy Earth one and the seemingly impossible (without immense grinding) Space one – that stand in the way of the ultimate prize: the shiny, new ending. Maybe it’s good, but it would have to be OVERWHELMINGLY good for it to balance out the underwhelming new content leading up to it.
We here at SwitchRPG don’t make a habit of not completing the games we cover, which is why I’m providing full transparency. For that, I cannot in good faith provide guidance on whether Citizens Unite is worth it for the new ending alone. However, I can wholeheartedly say that, outside of being able to swap between both games on the fly, the new content leading up to that ending is dull as dishwater. As separate experiences, Earth and Space stand on their own quite well despite having some concerning flaws. There’s certainly value to be had here, especially with Citizens of Earth being unavailable as a standalone product right now. If you haven’t played one or both of these games before, this is a pretty easy recommendation IF you are prepared and willing to accept a potential letdown with the overarching bonus content.