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Fortune Street - Wii Review

Game Info
Fortune Street (a.k.a. Boom Street)

Wii | Nintendo / SQUARE ENIX | 1-4 Players (local multiplayer/online versus) | Out Now
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote (vertical); Wii Remote (sideways)
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11th January 2012; By KnucklesSonic8

Gamers who enjoy digital board games have not had their fill on the Wii. Aside from Mario Party, only a few other games of this kind have come to the Wii, including Dokapon Kingdom, as well as PictureBook Games: Pop-Up Pursuit. Yet, each of these experiences offer their own style of gameplay, and when you consider the surprising infrequency with which these sorts of titles appear, Fortune Street definitely isn't stepping on anyone's toes. Less about partying and more of a serious venture, Fortune Street is a welcome new title. Perhaps the most interesting part about it is just how much it pushes Nintendo's own philosophies on gaming and, in essence, flies in the face of uncertain success in a western market.

    The game pits popular faces from the Dragon Quest and Mario universes together (along with Mii's) for a business-focused battle that makes the idea of having SQUARE ENIX and Nintendo properties more than a bad joke. Fortune Street is a digital board game experience that adopts a roll-and-move mechanic where the goal isn't to get to the end, but to amass the most money. You do this by purchasing and managing various properties, while also making strategic decisions to trouble your opponents. The first person whose net worth in assets reaches the target amount of gold will be crowned the winner. Working against all players is the looming threat of bankruptcy, where the entire game can be called should a player run into some financial trouble. The boards they have you playing on have familiar backgrounds taken from games like Super Mario Sunshine (Delfino Plaza) and Dragon Quest IX (The Observatory). It's a very interesting blend to be sure.

You can play using the Wii Remote in either horizontal or vertical style. When it's your turn to go, you'll roll a six-sided die (which may on occasion roll a seven) and use the D-Pad to direct your character along. When standing at a crossroad, though, the button you press may send you in a different direction. It's confusing and I never understood why that is. When playing with CPU's, rivals will throw in text-based commentary your way, saying things like "I think I deserve a cookie!" (Yoshi) or "Toadsworth will never let me live this down" (Toad). The lack of voice clips isn't really a big deal, but some may find these a little disrupting. The developers should have had these messages appear while a person rolls instead of bringing the game to a temporarily halt. But thankfully, you can not only speed up CPU movements, but also turn off these comments completely if they become too much of a bother.

    The most important spots on each map are called Suit Squares. Passing by these will add a suit to your collection that you can later cash-in once you've collected all four. Heading to the Bank and depositing four suits will give you a Promotion upgrade that will increase your salary among other benefits. Increasing your financial rank regularly in this way is crucial to building momentum in your accumulation of money.

Common spaces seen throughout the boards include Warp Pipes, Cannons and Backstreet Squares that send you to a different part of the map, Moon Squares that force you to take the day off, and Boon Squares that allow you to temporarily earn a commission off everyone's profits. Additionally, Switch Squares offer a bit in the way of board interactivity, but for the most part, this is a relatively small element that probably could have been explored a bit further.

    Making up for that are Venture Card Squares that will present you with a grid of hidden bonuses that may bestow either fortune or misfortune upon you. For example, the Impromptu Party card brings all players to the space you're on, while several Misadventure Cards will spell bad news for the player who draws them. You also have what are called Cameo Adventure Cards where NPC's from the Dragon Quest universe will travel on the board and give money or suits away (Gumdrops and Healslime respectively). 

    Aside from all of those, you also have special Arcade Squares where you can participate in one mini-game from a small sample of choices. In Round the Blocks, you make lines of matching icons like a casino slot, while Dart of Gold has you throwing a dart at two wheels to determine who will be affected by the positive or negative turnout. Slurpodrome was easily the best one way I played because of how much it reminded me of 'A Day at the Races' from Mario Party 2, but that's not exactly saying much since these are really simple. Aside from the added variety, there's such little to benefit to playing these that I feel that it's a misnomer to describe these as "serious fun".

As far as property ownership, vacant squares on the map that get bought out transform into little buildings with a player's colour appearing on both the building itself and the center of the square. Along the outside is a second colour to represent which district the property is located in. It doesn't help that the district colours often match the colours of the participating players, but it's something you just have to get used to. Owning multiple shops within the same district will result in a rise in shop prices. Landing on your own properties will give you the opportunity to make investments (toggle between them by pressing B) that will increase the profit possibilities for opponents who land on your squares. However, you can only invest so much in a shop because of the limitation of max capital. Without that in place, you'd never have the need to buy out other shops and make negotiations with other players. Far from a discouraging limitation, that max capital can soar as you achieve total domination of a district. 

    Embedding the game with a financially-driven methodology, the stock market becomes a very important component in acquiring and maintaining properties. By visiting the Bank or the Brokerage, you can purchase stocks that go towards entire districts. This means that other players can get a piece of the profit even when a rival lands on a property that doesn't belong to the investor. Whenever you land in a district where stocks are in effect, you'll get a run-down of how the payments are distributed amongst players who now own a part of a block. 

It's very easy to get caught up in one aspect of the game (for example, buying shops) while other well-rounded players are investing stocks in the areas where your shops are. Should this take place, your profit will be low compared to how much rivals mooch off your successes. Or worse, you could have total domination of a district, but if a rival comes in and throws in tons of investments into your block, you'll be helping an opponent win. And there's really nothing you can do about that unless you force them to sell their stocks when they land on your property spaces. It's a real double-edged sword that can reap great benefits or produce major gaps in assets.

    Keeping with this theme of strategizing, property ownership is never set in stone, meaning that someone can easily take your property if they have enough assets to do so. Because of the heavy fees that are involved, this doesn't happen too often, but sacrificing a large sum can really cripple someone's strategy. Plus, the music that plays when this happens is absolutely hilarious! Stocks aren't stored indefinitely either. You may be forced to sell these if you don't have enough money to pay off your debts. But even when you're doing well, you can fiendishly sell stocks at an opportune time to cause the district's value to plummet if a rival is really getting ahead. Either way, you really have to balance out what strategy will result in more payout over the long run, and it's that quest that makes this game gripping during its finest moments.

Strategy is also manifested in some of the level layouts, featuring movable districts or areas that are isolated from the rest of the map. You can use this to your advantage to shaft someone into a corner where they can't interfere with your plans, but this can come back to haunt you later. While there are quite a few boards that catch your interest initially, some of them feel a bit off with the way they have been designed. For instance, although the idea of having a Galaxy-themed board does sound enticing, Starship Mario features a layout that feels more luck-based than anything else. In the case of other boards like The Observatory where the RPG theme is still a strong force, some of the choices feel a bit strange for a digital board game of this structure. The backgrounds are usually eventful -- even creating some slowdown at times -- but there was one level I felt was a bit lifeless.

    Along with using recognizable locations, SQUARE ENIX did a great job at including remixes to familiar classic and modern tunes as well. I was especially surprised to hear updated versions of Mushroom Kingdom from Super Mario RPG and Yoshi's Village from Paper Mario. Easily the most shocking of all of these was the treatment to the Final Boss tune from Super Mario World. Whenever someone is super close to reaching the target score, this intense rock remix plays and adds major tension to the entire game. Just like Mario Sports Mix, this collaboration between Nintendo and SQUARE ENIX has resulted in a musical soundtrack that sounds really good in many places.

Each time I played Fortune Street, it didn't even feel like more than an hour went by, but that's probably because I'm a big on board gaming. While I wouldn't describe the game as addicting because of how much of an undertaking the game can feel at times, it's not uncommon for someone to finish a game of Fortune Street feeling satisfied. Anyone who typically doesn't enjoy board games might not be so quick to praise the game in quite the same fashion. Either way, it's an absolute must that you remain devoted to the game and hold to that. Otherwise, because of the time that goes into achieving those target scores, you may lose interest along the way.

    Achievements made in the game can be viewed in the Display Case area by way of trophies and player stats. Seeing a game to the end with good results may leave you with Victory Stamps and Trophy Stamps. Stamps that you've earned can be redeemed for simple goodies at the Costume Shop, which include things like accessories and even special items for your character like a set of triple green shells. I thought it was really silly that you had to purchase poses for your Mii, and I outright raised an eyebrow when I noticed you could use Stamps on CPU personalities for times when you opt out and the game takes over. More worthy unlockables come in the form of the six boards and, to a lesser extent, a couple of hidden characters.

Should you find the normal rules too daunting, there is an Easy Mode that's designed to make Fortune Street easier to get into. But there are some key things that are worth noting about this. First, playing on this setting strips away the district mechanic and the presence of stock investments and keeps things feeling more like a standard game of Monopoly. The targets you need to reach are also reduced, which may sound like a good thing, but without the stock feature to speed up the rate of money accumulation, it ultimately takes longer to see a full game through. You can still invest in shops you purchase, but without the stock market system in place, it becomes easy for players to feel like they're just going through the motions. Although it serves a purpose of easing players into the game with less complicated concepts, I feel like the game loses a whole dimension with this setting, and furthermore, I found it strange to see just how these few changes could make the entire game feel uncomfortably different.

    For those who click with Fortune Street, longevity shouldn't be a major concern. There are over 15 different boards to clear in Tour Mode, and with Easy Mode offering its own set of clear objectives, that means clearing the game in its entirety will take many hours of gameplay. It is a tad shallow the way they've set it up, as though players would really feel that compelled to clear all the boards twice. But that only covers part of the spectrum, with multiplayer making the game quite replayable.

Along with local multiplayer matches, players can take advantage of Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection for some online gaming. I must admit, I was a little skeptical about how Fortune Street would play out in an online setting, but for the most part, the game does work quite nicely. You can play using either of the two rulesets, with gameplay remaining the same as it is offline. The only difference is now you'll be governed by a timer to keep things moving, and you can exchange basic emoticons using the Minus button. While other online experience make it easy to just jump in and give players the option of a quick or long session, Fortune Street is something you have to plan for, and that in itself may be a turn-off.

    Nintendo titles are usually well known for having pick-up-and-play appeal, yet when you look at the big picture, this is the very thing Fortune Street lacks. You have to literally invest time into this and know what you're getting into beforehand, and even then, there's a learning process that first-time players must undergo before they can even come close to enjoying the game. At its core, though, the game is a really interesting blend of styles. The look, characters and even the simple mini-games suggest a more casual approach, and despite what may seem like an attempt from Nintendo to try and bridge gaps between gaming types and personalities, Fortune Street's mechanics ultimately alienate and make it difficult for anyone outside a specific group of gamers to connect. It's definitely not a game that everyone can enjoy, and it will take a devoted player to really get the bulk of what the game has to offer. 

    In summary, Fortune Street is by no means a system seller, and the gameplay itself will create a divide amongst players for its love-hate premise. It's a very odd crossover to begin with, but because of the pace and the setup of the entire package, I wouldn't blame anyone who quickly remarks that game wouldn't be for them. While it won't resonate with everyone, its solid gameplay mechanics and strong focus on enterprise and strategic undermining ensure that Fortune Street won't soon be forgotten.

24/30 - Very Good

Gameplay 9/10 - Mechanics feel solid and well-grounded, district and stock market principles give the game much depth, some level designs feel off
Presentation 7/10 - Familiar locations and remixed tunes for fan service, some lag, not all levels look great, backgrounds are usually active
Enjoyment 3/5 - Skill-based strategic elements add fun factor, the game loses dimension on Easy Mode, something you need to commit to, not for everyone
Extra Content 5/5 - Online and offline multiplayer, lots of different boards to play on, unlockable items for purchase, hidden characters, replayable

Equivalent to a score of 80% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System

Review by KnucklesSonic8

Fortune Street
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