Monopoly (Nintendo 64) review
"I'd meant what I said about the iron. He's easily the most expressive of the available choices. When you land on his property and have to pay rent, he'll chuckle silently but deviously. When he arrives on a space that is to his financial gain, he'll pump his arms enthusiastically. Even when he's standing still, he looks just maniacal enough that you can't help but root for his success."
Tonight, I showed my wife how I was able to use my laptop as a makeshift television and grab screenshots from old Nintendo 64 cartridges. I'd snagged several for Monopoly, and I was about to turn off the system and start in grabbing assets from another game.
“Let's take that out into the front room and play it on the TV,” my wife said, clearly not impressed by my technical prowess but desperate to supply a response other than a lackluster “oh.”
My first thought was that perhaps I should call the Pentagon. They like to know when aliens have snatched up civilian bodies and are planning to mount an attack, which was about the only thing that normally would justify my wife: a) volunteering to play Monopoly of any sort with me; b) wanting to play a video game that involved her and I facing off in an epic duel. She got sick of that when I repeatedly crushed her at Mario Party.
Still, I figured a few minutes of play wouldn't put the US military at that much of a disadvantage, and how many people can say they've played Monopoly with an alien? So I told her to hold on and I'd find the second controller, which was buried somewhere in a box full of tangled cords. About 10 minutes later, the two of us sat down in the living room for our first gaming session in months.
It had been several years since either of us played the game (unless you count my brief foray for screenshots), so it took some trial and error to get a game setup. If you've played Monopoly on the Super Nintendo or Genesis, you're probably used to how simple it can be to set up a match. Alas, those were 'the good old days,' and everything became more complex with the advent of the Nintendo 64. On the plus side, this means you can customize things like whether or not you get paid for landing on Free Parking, if you have to go around the board once before anyone can buy property and so forth. A variety of house rules can be toggled on and off according to preference.
My wife and I decided we just wanted to play the game the old-fashioned way. Then we made our choices for playing pieces.
“You should be the iron,” I told my wife as she scanned the available options. “The iron is awesome.”
“Are you sure?” she asked me skeptically. “Why is he awesome?”
“Just be the iron,” I told her, then “or I can be the iron.”
I was beginning to regret picking the dog, and I meant what I said about changing my selection, but it was too late. My wife, deciding I must've been serious, snatched up the iron.
I'd meant what I said about the iron. He's easily the most expressive of the available choices. When you land on his property and have to pay rent, he'll chuckle silently but deviously. When he arrives on a space that is to his financial gain, he'll pump his arms enthusiastically. Even when he's standing still, he looks just maniacal enough that you can't help but root for his success. The most the other pieces do is honk (car) or bark (dog) when it's their turn, or perhaps make generic sounds as they move around the board. Nothing even comes close to the iron's greatness.
As we played, I got to see that first-hand. While I landed on useless spaces, my wife picked up Reading Railroad and the utilities. While I was paying taxes and going to jail, my wife was sweeping up the trio of red spaces. In fact, she was having the most fantastic game of Monopoly that I've ever seen and I was quite definitely having the worst. Things got dire enough that I decided to try a trade with the computer (always a risky proposition, as I was soon to find).
Trades in the Nintendo 64 version of Monopoly are intuitive once you're used to the setup, but for a newcomer (or someone who hasn't played in years), they can be rather daunting. Your different options are assigned to the 'C' buttons, so that you can trade immunities and 'get out of jail free' cards if you like, or cash and properties. If you decide to trade properties, you first press the appropriate 'C' button (it's the left one), then circle the board and select from the highlighted spots and press another 'C' button to add them to the proceedings. Then you can do the same with any other assets, and finally you can propose your trade if you haven't gotten lost along the way.
When first I began trading, I wasn't even trying to dicker with the appropriate individual. Properties on the board are shown as tiny little icons that are hard to make out, so it took me awhile to realize my error. Once I did, I then proposed that I pay $528 for the final pink property that would complete my only chance at a monopoly in the wretched game. Everything else had pretty much been purchased by someone else. Like I said, I was having the worst round of Monopoly I've ever experienced. So in my trade, I even tried offering up Park Place to complete the computer opponent's dark blue development, but he wasn't interested.
Crushed, I went about the usual business of rolling the dice and advancing around the board to land on yet another of my wife's many properties while the iron silently cackled with obvious glee. Then I watched a few computer opponents slowly plod around the board (you can't skip the animation, only change the camera angle) and suddenly, the boot was proposing a thrilling trade with me. He wanted me to give up Baltic Avenue, Park Place and $400 for the final of the pink spaces. Desperate, I agreed.
A few turns later, my wife went bankrupt when she landed on Park Place. A few turns after that, the car lost the last of his property and suddenly it was down to me (with only St. James Place and the set of pink properties) against the boot. A final few turns after that, I landed on a well-developed Marvin's Gardens and the game was concluded.
The moral of my story, of course, is that you probably shouldn't bother to play Monopoly on the Nintendo 64 unless you're fairly patient and ready for the computer to hand your ass to you on a silver platter. My wife has spent the last hour laughing at me and humming to herself while puttering about the kitchen, and I've been writing this review and thinking that maybe aliens came after all, but with the less spectacular goal of merely torturing a game critic to see if it's true that we'll endure all sorts of trauma in exchange for review fodder.
Apparently, we will.
Staff review by Jason Venter (December 03, 2007)
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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