enjoying two decades of success in its native Japan, the Fortune Street series has
finally made its way west in its first outing on Wii. To put it briefly, it's
like a beefed-up, more strategic version of Monopoly with a Mario and Dragon
Quest theme. If you love any of these things, Fortune Street is worthy of being
your new go-to party game.
Above: Games last anywhere from two to three hours, although there's a handy quicksave function if you need it
has two distinct modes that apply to both single and multiplayer: easy and
standard. Easy mode works like Monopoly, where each player takes turns trying
to land on property squares to buy as much real estate as possible so that when
other players land on their squares they have to pay the owner a fee. Whenever
you land on a property you own, you can also choose to invest in any of your properties (like buying additional houses and hotels in Monopoly) that
increases the cost of landing on that square for other players.
Monopoly, passing "Go" (or in this case, the bank square) doesn't
automatically earn you a reward – in Fortune Street, you also have to pass the
four suit squares (diamond, heart, spade and club) before passing the bank to
collect your pay packet. Each time you complete this, you gain a level and earn
a promotion that increases your salary, so collecting all the suits and passing
the bank ends up being a huge part of the strategy, and sometimes gets you ahead even
faster than buying property.
Above: As the game escalates, stock investments can make or break each player's chance of winning. A good investment brings a sense of smug satisfaction
is a bit more involved. The basics are the same as easy mode, but it adds a
stock market, so players can buy and sell stocks in various color-coded
sections of the board called districts. Whenever you pass the bank, you can buy new stocks in any district, even if you don't own anything there.
So even if you get screwed out of buying any property in a particular district,
you can invest in stocks that give you a payout every time someone invests in
that district or has to pay money after landing on a square in that district. The
risky part is that you can also lose money on stocks – if one player sells off
a bunch of stock at once, the stock price plummets and all other stock owners
take a hit. The mix of risk and educated guessing goes a long way to make the game more exciting.
All of this –
collecting suits, buying and investing in property, and buying/selling stocks –
adds up to a lot to juggle and manage, and it's what makes Fortune Street so
satisfying to play. It really feels like a competition rather than a game of
chance (although there were times when we cursed an unlucky roll of the die,
for sure), so the rivalry between players feels very real, unlike most
waggle-heavy or chance-based party games. Each game we played was always a tensely
close race among players, especially since each player's investments constantly
affect everyone else.
Above: The layout of the board changes the strategy of each game by affecting how best to collect each suit card and which properties are most desirable
despite the gameplay being a cut above most party games, Fortune Street still
falls victim to some of the same shortcomings as other board-game-style games. All game modes require four players, so if you're short on friends,
Fortune Street fills the spots with AI players. This means that if it's just
you and a friend, the two of you will have to wait for two AI characters to
take their turns each round, which slows down the pace a little too much at times. Options to speed up play are extremely limited too, and
aside from turning off the AI characters' flavor chat and speeding up the hopping animation
between squares, there's not much to be done.
bafflingly, only your progress in the single player campaign goes toward
unlocking extra content, like unlockable characters and boards, and multiplayer
games have absolutely no effect on your save data whatsoever. So if you want to
unlock everything, you'll need to spend many, many hours waiting for three AI
characters to take their turns as you play alone. It's obviously a game best
played with friends, so the emphasis on forcing one person to play solo to
access all the content seems bizarre.
Above: Chance-style squares feature microgames that are each mercifully brief to keep the game moving along briskly
As for the
fan service, there's plenty of Mario and Dragon Quest goodness for fans of both
series, and each board theme in particular is full of little nuggets to notice
as you play through. Our only gripe is that the characters don't really
interact much, so it feels like less of a true crossover game and more of just
a game that has both Mario and Dragon Quest-themed content.
is one of those games that isn't going to appeal to everyone, but those it does
appeal to will be totally enthralled with it despite its handful of annoyances. If you like Monopoly but wish the
strategy were a little more robust, Fortune Street is game you've been waiting