Review: Fortune Street (Nintendo Wii)

Fortune Street
Genre: Board Game
Developer: Armor Project/Square Enix
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: 12/05/11

Nintendo has practically cornered the market on “multiplayer games that end friendships”; while their sports games tend to be a bit more laid back, the Mario Party and Mario Kart games are a good way to ruin your friendships, and even New Super Mario Bros. turned co-op play into a way to make players hate each other. As games like Dokapon Kingdom and Culdecept have shown, however, Nintendo doesn’t OWN that market, and one of the more interesting franchises in this market is the, until recently, Japan-only Itadaki Street. Created originally by Yuji Hori, who Dragon Quest/Warrior fans will know as their lord and savior, the franchise is a weird Japanese take on Monopoly, and in recent releases has featured Square, Enix and even Nintendo characters battling it out for financial supremacy. Well, Nintendo has seen fit to bring the franchise Stateside with Itadaki Street Wii, otherwise known as Fortune Street, because I guess they didn’t think the failing economy and Mario Kart 7 would cause enough divorces this year, and they didn’t have a Mario Party ready. Well, it turns out that Fortune Street is a fairly solid attempt at recreating Monopoly and twisting it around, and the end result is a game that’s surprisingly accessible for all ages, and while it’s still just as likely to cause you to not talk to people for a while as a game of Monopoly would, that’s part of the charm, in its own special, friendship ending way.

There’s absolutely no storyline to this game to speak of, so put this concept out of your mind, dear reader, for we need not explore such elements here. Fortune Street boils down the experience to a single player and multiplayer front end, with the single player controlling all of the elements that would involve one person being at the console and multiplayer controlling all of the elements that would involve multiple people being at the console. Both modes allow you the option of playing under simple rules or standard rules, with the former being easier to understand for less involved players and the latter being the “normal” game mode. In single player, you can choose to go through the tutorial for either rules setup, play through the Tour mode across three tours of six maps each to earn money and unlockables, jump into a Free Play game against the CPU for practice or amusement, or jump online to play others that aren’t local to you. You can also review trophies you’ve unlocked and buy new gear for your Mii to wear, as you’ll be playing as said Mii through the duration of the single player campaign, and you can set up multiple slots in case several players want to have their own characters go through the Tour and earn stuff. In multiplayer you can play with up to four people locally in either rules type, and players can share a controller or have their own controllers to play with, so even if you don’t have four Wiimotes, four people can play. The game only supports the Wiimote, however, so you need not have anything else, as the game won’t work with it. There’s nothing especially weird or special about the gameplay mode in Fortune Street, and the game is almost exclusively about its core game, but what’s here works fine and offers enough options to keep things engaging at the very least.

Fortune Street isn’t taxing the Wii’s processing power in the strictest sense, but it’s still a pretty charming game, visually, and it’s very cute and colorful in its design. The various game maps are distinct from one another, borrowing aesthetically from Dragon Quest and the Mario franchise, and as the characters you’ll be playing as and facing off against are from those franchises, this is both fitting and pretty cool for fans. The characters are also well represented and fans of those particular franchises will recognize their favorite characters immediately, though the Mario characters will be more immediately recognizable unless you’re a big Dragon Quest fan. The game also makes a pretty good amount of use of special effects for the more important actions and elements of the game, and they’re all very pretty and colorful and give the game that rewarding feel a board game should have when you accomplish something. Aurally, the music is upbeat and colorful, and it really fits the tone of the game and keeps the player in good spirits, for the most part. There’s not any notable voice acting so to say aside from the odd exclamations characters will make when they’re doing well or poorly, but that’s not an especially big deal, as neither series is known for being voice heavy to begin with. The sound effects are fitting to the sort of board game experience this is and fit the feel of the game well, giving the game a little more personality in the process.

Fortune Street, on its face, is a very simple game to pick up and play as far as the controls go. The D-pad allows you to move your character and cycle menus, and you can either shake the Wiimote or press the 2 button to roll the dice when your turn comes up. The 1 button is your all purpose cancel button, while the 2 button is your all purpose confirm button when dealing with menus, as one would expect, and the controls are, for the most part, not at all hard to get. The core gameplay across all modes is also pretty simple to get: you’re given some specific amount of money to start and a set goal of money to have at the end of the game, and your goal is to make that money before anyone else and hit the bank first, or to have the most when someone goes bankrupt. As you cycle around the board, you’ll go to different spaces, each of which has its own unique features. Shops allow you to either buy them (if no one owns them), improve them (if you own them) or pay out for landing on them (if someone else lands on them), though you can buy the shop out from under its present owner… if you pony up five times the value, of course. Suit spaces are vital for improving your performance; passing them picks up the symbol, and passing the bank with all four on your person nets you a promotion and an improved payout as a result. If you stop on one, you can also draw a “Venture Card”, which works like Chance or Community Chest, in that something random happens, either good or bad, when you choose the card. Other random spaces function as one expects, such as the Roll-on space, which lets you roll again, the Tahe-a-break space, which shuts down all your shops until your next turn, the Arcade space, which lets you play a minigame for prizes, and the Venture space, which makes you take a Venture Card the same as the suit spaces, among others, depending on the board.

In the basic game, the rules are very similar to that of Monopoly, with some mild differences. Your total value is measured not by your cash on hand, but rather by your net worth, which is the total of your cash on hand and all of your property combined, and your goal is to raise that number above the target and head to the bank. Your goal is to buy as many shops as possible and upgrade them like crazy, as the more a shop is upgraded, the more other players will get charged for landing on them. You can also increase their value by buying shops next to one another, as linked shops increase the value of all attached shops a bit, allowing you to upgrade them further as well. Standard rules change the rules around in two ways however, by sectioning off shops into districts and introducing the idea of stocks. Districts section off some amount of shops, and owning multiple shops in one district increases the value of the shops and upgrade potential, making it better to have more shops in one area than several spread out. You can also buy stock in each district, and as players upgrade that district, buy property in the district and so on, your stock value will increase appropriately, making you major profits (or losses) based on how well the district does. You also make cash by passing the bank, with more cash paid out based on your promotion level and how many other people have crossed before you, so you’ll always have a cash flow coming in if you can make it around the board okay.

It’ll likely take you a good long time to make it through all of the game sessions in Tour Mode, even with the speed options turned all the way up, so if nothing else the game is certainly lengthy if you want to see everything it has to offer, and there are additional boards, costume options and characters to unlock by doing so. The single player mode isn’t likely to be your favorite option, however, unless you want to spend a lot of time playing the game online, as getting together some like-minded friends is more interesting given the sort of game this is. Playing with friends doesn’t unlock anything, of course, but the game is more fun in a group than alone, and if someone needs to bow out for a bit, you can always set them as Out to Lunch, allowing the CPU to take over for them while they attend to their other matters. For anyone who likes local multiplayer in their games or is just a fan of board games on the console, Fortune Street has immediate appeal because it’s not as absurdly random as something like Mario Party or as time-investment heavy as something like Culdcept Saga. As such those who love board games but want skill to play as much of a factor as luck without spending weeks learning the game will be interested in Fortune Street.

That said, the game is not without its issues. The biggest one is that the game doesn’t appeal well to the more casual of players, based largely on the time it takes to play a game. Even with the speed settings jacked out and the winning conditions very low it can take hours to finish a game as you wait for money to accumulate, and while that’s also symptomatic of Monopoly, it doesn’t lend itself well to quick play sessions in the least. Further, the CPU is unpleasant to deal with difficulty-wise because the game has no concept of adjustable difficulty; the game gives you a letter ranking indicating opponent difficulty, but even D ranked opponents can kick the crap out of you for your first few sessions and there’s no way to adjust them in a way that allows them to be more forgiving to someone just starting out. Also, the unlockables are exclusively cosmetic, which is fine in the sense that it’s nice to have options, but given how time consuming and frustrating it can be to unlock them, there’s no real benefit to doing so, as the characters are in no way different and the costumes don’t help you out. Going back to the prior examples, a game like Mario Party rushed through things and made game sessions fast enough that it wasn’t a slog playing through them, while Culdcept Saga was always giving you improvements to your character and deck that paid off the time invested. Here, there’s no real reason to do anything but play with friends except to say “Look what I unlocked!” and since it doesn’t add anything to the game, that’s kind of a shallow motivator.

Fortune Street is something that will appeal to anyone who likes more involved board games, especially Monopoly, and it’s a solid experience with friends who are able to sit down and invest a few hours in a board game session, but it can be hard to invest the time the game needs and the single player doesn’t carry the experience as well as it could. There are enough modes to play with, alone or with friends, online or off, and the game looks and sounds fine on the Wii overall. The game is mechanically simple to play and offers simple and complex rule sets so that anyone can jump in and play if they’ve ever seen Monopoly before, and the tutorial is very helpful here as well. There are also a solid amount of unlockable items to find in the game, and thanks to the ability to play with up to four local players using one controller it’s easy to organize a game with friends, if not finish it. The game is a bit on the time consuming side even at the lowest winning conditions and can take some time to complete, the AI offers no adjustable difficulty and is often unpleasant to adjust to for the first few hours, and while the option of unlockables is nice, the fact that they add nothing functional to the game makes them uninteresting to unlock and invest time in. If you like somewhat involved board games and have friends who would agree, Fortune Street is definitely a worthwhile investment, as it’s a great game to play with friends you like screwing over. If your board game tastes lean in a more casual direction, or your friends aren’t invested in such things, however, you won’t find the game to be worth the effort, as the game loses its magic without others involved in the experience.

The Scores:
Graphics: GOOD
Sound: GOOD
Control/Gameplay: GREAT
Replayability: ABOVE AVERAGE
Originality: ABOVE AVERAGE
Addictiveness: ABOVE AVERAGE
Miscellaneous: ABOVE AVERAGE


Short Attention Span Summary:
Fortune Street is a good middle ground for people who found Mario Party too simplistic and Culdcept Saga too complex as video board games, as it’s a good middle ground between the two for friends to enjoy, though it doesn’t hold up in any other capacity, unfortunately, making it limited overall. There are enough overall modes to be diverse, and the game looks and sounds good for the Wii on an artistic level, if not entirely a technical one. The game is very easy to play mechanically and offers both simplified and complex rules for players of all skill levels to get into, in addition to a helpful tutorial that makes the game easy to understand. There are also a solid amount of unlockables, and you can play with friends both online and off with only one controller, making the game a fun experience for those with friends who enjoy Monopoly or similar board games, as that’s clearly where this game draws its influences from. However, the game is very time consuming and can take several hours to complete one session, the AI isn’t adjustable and is fairly hard to adjust to for the first several hours of solo play, and the unlockables offer no tangible benefit that would make unlocking them desirable, limiting the game’s appeal somewhat. For those who have friends who like the odd complex board game, Fortune Street will be an easy game to enjoy, as it’s best enjoyed in the company of friends with some time on their hands, but for anyone else, the game might be a little harder to get your money’s worth out of.



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One response to “Review: Fortune Street (Nintendo Wii)”

  1. Chuck Platt Avatar

    My wife has already made me swear to never play this game with her again.

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