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Fortune Street (Wii) artwork

Fortune Street (Wii) review

"Before you begin a game, you can choose to play using either “Easy” rules or the “Standard” set. The latter is definitely the way to go, even if it comes with a hefty learning curve, because it has the potential to dramatically alter the way everything flows. Players can invest in stocks in any region, whether they own property there or not."

Back when it was released in late 2011, Fortune Street was almost completely ignored by consumers, especially here on the Oregon Coast. Nintendo published the title and made Mario and his friends the stars of the accompanying advertising campaign, which should have guaranteed the game’s success, but perhaps potential consumers were tired of party games or maybe they felt like they got enough real estate action from Monopoly. Whatever the case, no one seemed to be in a particular rush to give it a chance.

Fortune Street isn’t a familiar name in North America, and at this point likely never will be, but in Japan it’s actually just the latest installment in the long-running Itadeki Street series (excluding smartphone editions). That franchise actually dates back to the original NES. Previous titles have featured characters from some other familiar games, including Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy, and the most recent few licensed installments--including this one--have combined Dragon Quest and Super Mario to create unique mixes on Nintendo hardware. That pairing is slightly off-putting at times, which might be one reason North American gamers haven’t taken to it. In Europe, where it was released as Boom Street, the same thing seems to be true.

Fortune Street asset

Whatever you choose to call it, Fortune Street plays much like the classic board game Monopoly does, only with a great deal more interaction. Four players roll dice and move around a board, purchasing properties known as shops that are divided into various regions delineated by color-coded borders. Other players must pay fees when they land on spaces owned by the opposition, and the associated costs increase as proprietors pay for improvements or acquire multiple plots in close proximity to one another. Special squares and branching paths break up the action and add the possibility of relief if a rival is dominating an area through which you must pass. You can also collect four playing cards from the standard suites--hearts, clubs, spaces and diamonds--and then bring them back with you to the bank to earn a salary and a promotion. The ultimate goal is to pass a given board’s earning threshold, then to return to the bank to claim your crown.

The fact that Fortune Street is a video game and not a board game gives it a number of advantages over Monopoly. The first is a definite sense of style. Each board has a distinct song playing in the background that suits the action very well. You’ll hear stirring tunes as you explore a castle from Dragon Quest, for instance, or a rousing number will play in the background while you watch karts racing around an environment taken from the Mario Kart series. It’s all lively enough that each unique location offers distinct flair, but none of that detracts from the vibrantly colored spaces that should always be your focal point. Characters also trash talk one another at appropriate moments, and you can make modifications in the middle of a game to speed up or slow down the rate at which things move.

Fortune Street asset

Besides utilizing the appropriate cosmetic touches, the Wii game also livens up the experience with four unique mini-games that you can play if you land on an appropriate space. The outcome of those events can provide a nice boost to faltering fortunes, but never to a point that feels excessive. There’s also a giant bingo board that you and your opponents uncover as each of you land on certain spaces. Squares you reveal will grant prizes or penalties, which might include (as two of many possible examples) a boost to your property’s value or the option to warp to any space on the board. The available mini-games make a nice diversion from the regular action without ever being as demanding as something you’d find in a Mario Party title. Some players will likely find that they prefer the laid-back pace and the elements of luck that are involved here, even if at other times they wish skill played a more significant role in the proceedings.

The mini-games aren’t the biggest reason you might choose to play Fortune Street instead of Monopoly, however. That honor goes to the optional stock system. Before you begin a game, you can choose to play using either “Easy” rules or the “Standard” set. The latter is definitely the way to go, even if it comes with a hefty learning curve, because it has the potential to dramatically alter the way everything flows. Players can invest in stocks in any region, whether they own property there or not. Eventual enhancements to shops will drive up the value of your stock that is tied to that region, while your payout and bottom line will drop if too many competitors suddenly start selling off their shares. It’s actually possible to win the game while owning little or no property, simply by collecting your salary and investing in stocks that your opponents make valuable. I did that very thing once and narrowly won a game I was playing against my friends one evening. Of course, I’ve also seen others use similar strategies against me, so it’s important to constantly monitor what everyone is doing if you want to emerge the victor.

Fortune Street asset

When you play it with friends, as I have about half the time, there’s almost no limit to the controlled mayhem that can follow. There’s more to the game than a single review should even attempt to examine, and the various elements complement one another beautifully. The biggest issue you’re likely to encounter is the occasionally stupid computer opponents that you might be forced to invite along if three friends aren’t available. Some of the dumber opponents have been known to pay ludicrous sums for useless property right as the game is ending, which doesn’t seem quite fair to any human participants who might have been playing without exploiting the AI. As frustrating as such occurrences can be, though, they’re easily avoided if everyone simply agrees not to propose trades to the computer. More substantial problems don’t arise until you try playing the game alone.

Though there are 12 boards available right from the start, which is enough to fill several evenings with digital board game merriment, an additional 6 environments can be unlocked (as can a slew of special costumes and even a few more mascots). If you decide that you simply must acquire every board available, you’ll find that you have to play through each of the standard 12 boards and manage a spectacular performance nearly every time. A game can take around two hours to complete even with things sped up, and there’s never any guarantee that you’ll win. When you finally do complete all 12 maps, you’ll cause a new one to appear, and then you have to clear it before you can take a crack at another one. That feels like an awful lot of time to spend duking it out with three AI opponents, just to access that the first unlockable map. What’s even worse is that you’ll have to go through all of that effort twice if you want to access the new content in the two primary modes of play. You could conceivably spend 20 hours unlocking the first map in the “standard” mode, then have some friends over who want to play the game with you but would rather not brave the strategic elements. If they want to enjoy some of the special maps, they’re out of luck until you work through that all of those events yet again.

Fortune Street asset

Unlocking content wouldn’t necessarily be a huge pain, even considering the time commitment, except the AI fights you nearly every step of the way. Your opponents are ludicrously good at finding ways to avoid landing on your spaces--particularly the ones that would allow you to collect hefty fees--and you’ll see some crazy stuff happen just when it seems like you’re about to come into some welcome good fortune. In some cases, a dominant opponent will also hold off on claiming victory if you are trailing in second-place, but only just long enough that a second opponent can rally spectacularly and pass you in the standings (thus preventing you from finishing second or better and unlocking content). It’s not much fun to always be forced to play against three opponents who are all working together to bring about your undoing, but you won’t have any choice in the matter. If you aren’t ready to bring your best game, in other words, you might as well not even show up at all.

So, where does Fortune Street ultimately stand after all of its strengths and flaws are considered at length? That depends almost entirely on how many friends you have who are willing to play old Wii games with you. If you’re fortunate enough to have a gang of experienced players that regularly gets together to enjoy this sort of game, or if you take the game online and find an interesting group of strangers or meet up with Internet friends, you can hardly hope to do better. If you’re playing alone, though (either because you have no friends or because you’re trying to unlock more maps), you may eventually find yourself wondering why you’re even bothering.


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Staff review by Jason Venter (March 18, 2013)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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