Developer: Armor Project, Square Enix / Publisher: Nintendo / Played on: Wii / Price: $49.99 / ESRB: Everyone [Comic Mischief]
With cutesy Nintendo-brand presentation and deceptive similarities to the board game Monopoly, I’d excuse you for dismissing Fortune Street as another low-effort party offering for the Wii. Luckily, games like Fortune Street are why I have a job. It’s a fantastic game, and manages to be unlike any other electronic board game I’ve ever played. If you’ve spent some quality evenings with friends, dice, and cardboard, this game deserves your attention.
You can play Fortune Street under two rule sets – Easy and Standard. Under Easy rules, the game is very similar to Monopoly. The board is composed of un-owned stores and spaces representing playing card suits (Heart, Spade, etc). If you land on an un-owned store, you can purchase it, which will then charge a fee to any player that lands on it thereafter. Additionally, if you collect all four card suits on the board and then return to the bank (or “Go”), you’ll get a promotion packet with a bonus of cash.
The similarities don’t stop there, either. If you land on a shop you already own, you can choose to invest in any of your stores, which raises their prices. The game ends when any player goes bankrupt or any player hits the net worth limit for the board and returns to the bank (net worth being your cash plus all your owned property). The Monopoly analogue goes deeper still; own adjacent shops and they form a “row,” raising their prices and the maximum amount of capital you can invest in the shop.
Easy rules are fun enough but no more strategic or interesting than your standard game of Monopoly. The Standard rule set allows Fortune Street to shine. On Standard boards, the shops are divided into districts, and you can buy stock in any of the districts. If a player invests money in the stores of a given district, it will raise the stock price, which accordingly raises your net worth. Playing the market is an exciting mix of strategy, luck, and forward planning, especially since you can hamstring other players into unwillingly helping you out.
If you notice a player is about to invest a lot of money in his stores, you can invest all your money in stock for that district first. When the investments come in, your net worth will skyrocket. Accordingly, if a player owns a lot of stock in your stores, you can ditch your stores to make his stock price plummet. It creates a fascinating mix of cooperation and competition — no player’s actions occur in a vacuum, and actions have long-term effects that can’t be predicted. I particularly enjoy that you can mitigate the luck of good die rolls by playing the market. Say you just happen to get no properties in the first few rounds of the game. Rather than resign yourself to a profitless future as in Monopoly, you can still make tons of money by playing the market.
Again similar to Monopoly, games of Fortune Street are very fun with friends but incredibly long. Games on smaller boards still take a few hours to finish. To make matters worse, you can’t quick save your game when playing with other humans. That’s doubly disappointing considering you can quick save when playing alone against AI. Luckily, the game does include options to speed up various animations and text displays to keep the game moving. This helps, but the lack of a multiplayer quick save is a huge bummer.
Fortune Street also supports WFC (WiFi Connection) play for online games. In typical Nintendo fashion, you’re not allowed any options for communication or to find opponents you’ve played with after games are finished. Additionally, you can’t mix online and local multiplayer, which would’ve been a great option to fill out the games when I had less than four players. The lack of robust multiplayer options limits the game’s versatility in some fundamental ways, but local multiplayer is fun enough to make this game a good value.
In typical Wii fashion, Fortune Street emphasizes style over splendor when it comes to graphics. The mix of Dragon Quest and Nintendo sensibilities is cool, and the goofy nature of Dragon Quest fits the game like a glove. The game’s boards manage visual distinction as well, as each board is floating high above a representative landscape like a castle from Dragon Quest or a baseball field from Super Mario Sluggers. Attention to detail is appreciated as well, as Nintendo characters take the field and play a game of baseball in the background as your game takes place in the sky. Ultimately though, this is an electronic board game on the Wii, so your mind won’t be blown.
Music and Sound
Though Fortune Street’s sound effects are understandably sparse — all you’ll hear are the boops of jumping on spaces, die rolls, and cash register ka-chings from buying stores — the soundtrack is a fantastic mix of fully-orchestrated and timeless tunes from Nintendo and Dragon Quest games. The music’s quality doesn’t outlive the length of an average game, though. As previously mentioned, games last upwards of two hours, and you’ll be listening to the same music loop the whole time. While the music never gets downright annoying, I would’ve liked to set up custom playlists or some sort of variation.
Though a handful of lacking options ding the game’s value, Fortune Street is still a blast to play. It marries the classic sensibilities of a board game while embracing the complexity afforded by video games. If you have a stack of board games in the closet, this game is made for you.