One look at Fortune Street's box and the average consumer might say "hey a new Mario Party game!" -- and really, I wouldn't blame them. It's got a giant Mario, game board and dice, and the ever important "all-star" cast of Nintendo characters all represented on the front cover. But it also has a Square Enix logo and an eclectic cast of Dragon Quest celebrities, which is kind of the first sign that maybe this game has something else up its sleeve.
For those not in the know, Fortune Street is Monopoly on steroids. While the game's cover may scream "Mario Party", this game is all about aggressive financial domination. Just like the above mentioned classic games though, Fortune Street excels most when with a group of friends (up to 4 players either sharing or all using their own controllers) all yelling and arguing with each other in the comfort of one's home. Single-player and online play (which I couldn't test due to lack of players currently) are included, for those who need a Fortune Street fix, but really this game is all about playing with living, breathing competitors.
So how does a typical game break down? Well, each game has a numeric goal for players to reach and take to the bank to be victor (usually ranging from 10,000G up to 20,000G). The easiest way to earn money is by buying property and improving the value of each space to increase the amount of money owed when an opponent lands on it. Each property is part of a district -- when playing with standard rules -- and like Monopoly, it is best to own all pieces in a set to add further value to each property.
Buying property and increasing its value though is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the ways for players turn a quick fortune. Players can trade and negotiate for properties to help achieve district domination and, if you have the funds, properties that you don’t own can be acquired (when landed on) by paying five times the property's value. It’s just one of the ruthless tactics in Fortune Street that can make multiplayer games intense.
Moving around each of the game's 18 boards, players will want to collect four card suits that when taken back to the bank square (the game’s starting point) upgrade their character’s level. Each time all four suits are cashed in a player gets a bonus on all the property and stocks they own -- increasing their bankroll faster. This becomes increasingly difficult during the progression of a game, as safely navigating through hostile districts can be extremely hazardous to a players bankroll. Some maps such as the Observatory Stage even have a special square that when landed on alters the boards layout. With enough alterations players will eventually become alienated from certain areas of the board at times.
Stocks -- Fortune Street’s real wild card -- can be purchased at either the bank or stockbroker square. What makes them extra interesting is that players have the ability to buy stocks from any district in the game, regardless of who owns the property. 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 and has to pay up. The biggest benefit to owning stocks, is that you can essentially make money anytime, and they are great to sell when cash is low. Stocks can also prove a valuable asset in preventing someone else from potentially winning. When a district's stock value decreases, players who own its stock lose money accordingly. One way to decrease the value of a district, is to sell the stock you own in it. Sell enough stocks and the possibility to halt an opponent's victory temporarily, may just allow the time needed to steal a come from behind win.
There is a lot to grasp, at first, in Fortune Street, but when everything clicks -- especially with four players -- cutthroat economics have never been so much fun. That said, this game is definitely of an acquired, sophisticated taste. While there is an easy mode -- which removes the complexities of the stock market -- it also sort of strips the game of its true economic essence. On top of that most Fortune Street's matches border on some excruciating lengths. Without a little luck -- say from a generous payout from the Arcade square -- most games run close to the two hours plus length. Fans who are into it won't complain, but those looking for a quick pick up and play type of game may want to look elsewhere.
For players who decide to play with themselves, there is an extensive Tour Mode -- as well as free play mode -- which will take players through both a Dragon Quest and Super Mario themed tour. Completing these tours -- 12 stages -- will unlock a final tour containing the last 6 boards. There are also four additional characters to unlock for play in multiplayer.
When playing tour mode, players will use any desired Mii they have at disposal to take on the likes of the Mario and Dragon Quest universe. As boards are completed -- place anywhere from third to first -- stamps are earned, which can then be used in the game’s Costume Shop to decorate a player's Mii. There is a whole bevy of things to wear: from casual and formal garbs, all the way to making your Mii look like Mario. These are entirely cosmetic though and only provide a minor distraction.
As neat as it is to deck out your Mii in some new clothes, single-player really suffers from any lack of actual competition. While the computer can be tough (as they always seem to roll the exact number needed to land on a vacant square ) they are devoid of any real passion a human player would show in a close knit game. They do muster up quips that fit their character each turn to show some life, but really they just slow an already slow game down even further. I really like the concept and actual implementation of a game of Fortune Street, but manning the game solo near put me to sleep -- which is a shame since playing each map solo is needed to unlock all the game's boards.
Fortune Street with the right people is a lot of fun. It's just too bad, that no amount of Nintendo and Square Enix charm can save the single-player from being a monotonous, boring experience. In all honesty, there are 12 maps already unlocked -- which offers a ton of variety -- so I wouldn't blame people if they never went through the trouble to unlock the rest.
Developer: Square Enix
Genre: Minigame Collection, Trivia/Board Game
Release: December 5, 2011
Available On: Wii
Culdcept Saga: Love it!
Carcasonne: Love it!
Mario Party 1: Put holes in my palms