Fortune Street Hands-On
Wesley Ruscher
November 21, 2011, 2:33 pm

The Itadaki Street series has been a staple of Japanese gaming since 1991. In its 20 year history the series though has yet to grace this side of the Pacific, that is until now with Fortune Street for the Nintendo Wii. It’s a little strange that it never made the trek here, considering America’s love of board games, but while we may have missed out on the last two decades, Nintendo is finally rectifying this omission by releasing the latest in the series this December 5.

At first glance, Fortune Street looks a lot like Monopoly. It’s a fair assessment considering the game’s primary objective is relatively the same: be the person with the most money. In fact, many of the games tactics hold true and seasoned Monopoly players will grasp the game’s economic-filled learning curve faster than others. But the basics of Monopoly will only get a player so far thanks to the myriad ways of accruing money. I spent two hours playing one of the game’s Dragon Quest themed boards, and while the heated four-player match resulted in no decisive victor, I was able to unwrap a little bit of the magic that has kept this series around since the NES days. 

Developed by Square Enix and published by Nintendo, Fortune Street uses the pedigree of both franchises to bring many of the companies’ famous characters together under one roof. There are the familiar Nintendo faces like Mario, Yoshi, Donkey Kong, and Bowser and a whole lot of Dragon Quest characters from the Square Enix side, such as the lovable Blue Slime. Unfortunately, all of the playable characters from the Square Enix side reside from the Dragon Quest world which makes for a weird mix. While characters like the Blue Slime and the Platypunk blend well with Nintendo’s mascots, Dragon Quest characters like Carver (from DQ VI) look out of place with their bulging muscles and fantasy garbs. It would have made more sense if Square Enix pulled from some of their other properties (hello Final Fantasy!) to have a better balance of both well known and more wholesome looking characters to choose from. In the game I played, all four players went with familiar Nintendo characters and while characters don’t affect the game at all, most of the Square Enix cast feels like getting the thimble in Monopoly.

Where the Dragon Quest universe really shines for Fortune Street is in lending its majestic landscapes to the game’s board designs. There are maps that represent both companies properties, but for my play-through we went with the relatively novice Observatory board from Dragon Quest IX. This board offered branching routes -- which allowed players the options of avoiding some dastardly spaces -- warp squares, and even a space that would rotate a certain section of the board, which at times made it completely inaccessible.
As I stated earlier, the goal of Fortune Street is to be the player with the most money. Usually there is a numeric goal for players to reach and take to the bank to be victor (my game was set to 15,000), but players can also win if they bankrupt their opponents first. Like Monopoly, the easiest way to earn money is by buying property and further improving the value of the space to increase the amount of money owed when an opponent lands on it. Each property is part of a small set (district) and again like Monopoly, it is best to own all pieces in a set to really increase the value of the property. Buying property and increasing its value only is the only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the ways for players to interact and earn money. Strategies like trading and negotiating for properties are present in Fortune Street, but if you have the funds, properties that you don’t own can be acquired (when landed on) by paying five times the properties value. It’s just one of the ruthless tactics in Fortune Street that can make multiplayer games intense.

When moving, players will want to make rounds and collect four card suits from around the board that they can take to the bank square (the game’s starting point) to upgrade their character’s level. Every time all four suits are cashed in, a player gets a bonus on all the property and stocks they own, which increases the bankroll faster. Stocks, which can be purchased at either the bank or stock market square (our board only had a bank) are the real wild card for earning money in Fortune Street. Players have the ability to buy stocks for any available district in the game. Buy stocks early and cheap and watch them grow in value as property values for that district increase. Owning stocks on a district also pays dividends any time someone (yourself included) lands on an owned space in that district. The biggest benefit to owning stocks, is that you can essentially make money anytime, and they are great to sell when cash is low.

Other ways to earn money in Fortune Street can come from collecting Venture cards (found when you land on a suit square) which range in offering enhancements on properties to giving the ability to buy out a desired space. Venture cards can also work negatively by forcing players to certain spaces or closing their businesses for a turn. There is also the Arcade Shop spot which can throw one or all of the players into a mini-game that can result in benefits and consequences similar to the Venture cards. These are all passive experiences that vary from simply choosing a box at random to trying to guess a winner of a footrace and not to be confused with action-packed Mario Party style games.

For players who take the game on solo, Tour Mode allows players, with predetermined characters, to venture through different board circuits such as a Dragon Quest and Super Mario themed one. I didn’t get the chance to play any of this, as my preview session was set for understanding the game’s many intricacies, but I was able to see that there are least four different courses to complete. Completing Tour Mode unlocks items for players to decorate their Mii’s (in-game only) with a multitude of different outfits, accessories, and even mascots. So if the Dragon Quest characters (or the Nintendo ones) are not to a players liking, any Mii can be brought into the game and decked out in the game’s costume shop for a more personal touch.

Fortune Street also includes Wifi Play and easy mode (which eliminates the Stock Market aspect) for a simpler introduction into the games addictive twist on Monopoly. To get the most out of it though, you’ll want to play it with a group of friends or family. Just be careful, Fortune Street may support a cute and inviting look, but the cutthroat economic tactics it teaches is truly a game for our generation.
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