You will not pass go in Fortune Street, but you will collect dividends

, | Game reviews

Fortune Street is no Monopoly. It’s actually a serious — you know, serious — boardgame. Don’t be fooled by the occasional minigame and Nintendo characters like Birdoe, Mushroomhead Guy, Princess Peachley, Doofus, Doogie, Hocker, Loogey, and Luigi. They’re just window dressing in an earnest mix of market speculation, real estate development, risk management, and die rolls with an occasional Candyland style slide when you least expect it. What’s more, Fortune Street doesn’t rely on the crazy turns of fortune that frequently upend Culdcept or Dorkapon Kingdoms*. Fortune Street wants it to be your fault when you lose, so it relies on 80% careful calculation and 20% luck. Fortune Street isn’t fooling around.

After the jump, this ain’t no Monopoly

* I know it’s not actually called that, but I can’t help myself.

Like Monopoly, you buy property. Like Monopoly, when you land on someone else’s property, you have to pay a fee. But unlike Monopoly, you buy and sell stock, which pays dividends. The price fluctuates based on upgrading the property and the shares of stock bought and sold (I’m pretty sure I keep losing because I’m making bad early choices about stock purchases). Although the various boards have plenty of funky spaces that do things like change the layout, shoot you across the map, or drop you into a brief minigame — these are the Candyland slides I mentioned — the basic motivation for each player is to get around a circuit to collect suits by passing specific spaces. These suits are then cashed in for lump sums of money. You also occasionally draw from a spread of cards with random gameplay tweaks. It’s just enough whimsy to keep things unpredictable, but not enough to subvert the actual strategy.

I can see why this is a 20 year old design. It’s good enough that I’m not surprised people have been playing it since the early 90s, even if they only Japanese people. This is the North American debut of a game called Itadaki Street else in Japan. To help Wii-ify the action, Fortune Street insists on pressing your Mii into service. You earn points after each game to unlock costumes and animations for your Mii. But to Fortune Street’s credit, you don’t have to unlock many of the boards or gameplay mechanics. Almost everything is available from the start.

The AI is brutal and effective once you move past playing against the low level ringers like Shy Guys and slimes. For some reason, a bunch of characters from Dragon Quest are in here. Don’t ask me why. Must be a Japanese thing. The interface works pretty well considering the amount of detail. You’ll have to put up with some background clutter, as every board hovers over a pointless 3D landscape, some of which are busier than others. You can speed up the AI turns and turn off the character chat, which means you can easily play a full game in under an hour, with only a minimum of licensing nonsense in your way.

Fortune Street has online play against complete strangers, but who’s that desperate, especially when the AI is good. However, this is an ideal hotseat game, since there aren’t any hidden pieces (I’m still astonished at how poorly Culdcept fumbled this). But if you’re planning on introducing Fortune Street to the family, good luck. A simplified rule set is available, but this ain’t no Mario Party any more than it’s a Monopoly clone. If your kids/wife/girlfriend/parents can grok a finicky numbers game, this will be right up their alley. But otherwise, this is a videoboardgame for hardcore strategy nerds. Who don’t mind playing with Miis.

4 stars
Nintendo Wii