'Fortune Street': Can't beat Boardwalk
In the era of the Great Depression, Monopoly was all the rage. Cash infusions, free parking and hordes of pretend cash — what’s not to like? Perhaps inspired by our Great Recession, Nintendo and Square Enix finally decided to bring their twist on that capitalistic idea: “Fortune Street,” a game best described as Monopoly crossed with a simplistic stock market, is just about as fun as an unexpected bankruptcy.
Chances are you’ll be ready for this game if you’ve ever played “Mario Party,” because visually and mechanically, the games are very similar. Choose from a large roster of Mario and Dragon Quest avatars — the only difference between them is the dully animated dance they do while they stand on the board — and roll the dice to make your way across several real estate districts, buying them up as you move across the land. Up to four players scheme their way across the various boards, some with intricate, weaving paths, and try to become the richest person. The game ends when a player reaches a certain value, or gives you the option of ending when the first person goes bankrupt.
Not all spots on the board are dedicated deed opportunities. Some start brief minigames, setting one or all players in a game of complete chance. Some spawn computer-controlled monsters, which will pay rent or give someone a special bonus if their paths cross in some way. A few allow players to collect card suites. When you collect all four, usually from the corners of each far-flung corner, a player can pass this game’s equivalent of “Go” and earn an amount of money tied to how many well-valued properties he or she owns.
The promise, and twist, of “Fortune Street” is the added layer of depth a stock market should bring to a Monopoly-like game. Players can invest their money in any district (one of the similarly-colored tiles on a Monopoly board) and slowly gain wealth whenever rent is paid or money invested by the owner. You don’t need to own every spot in order to start investing in your real estate, but value grows dramatically as the monopoly comes closer to completion.
The stock system does come tantalizingly close to making “Fortune Street” more interesting than its board-game cousin, but frankly, it’s just not complicated enough to have a lasting effect. Once a player holds a full monopoly, there’s just one strategy needed to guarantee a win: Invest in your own storefronts, buy only your own stocks (which in turn increases the cap for investing in those same spots) and roll the dice as the game drags on for hours.
With all its percentages and numbers, it’s a system clearly too complicated for a group around the kitchen table, but too simple to make a good video game. Stocks allow other players to latch on to the strongest in the group, but investments ramp up or down linearly, and really don’t turn the game in one way or the other — leaving you with a slightly more complex, longer and unsatisfying version of a game we already had. And as a diabolical bonus, each level boasts just one short musical loop, repeated ad nauseam. As the saying goes, time is money. Invest yours wisely if you’re looking to make a fortune — or even just stay sane.
Bottom line: Chances are, you already own a copy of Monopoly, anyway, and at least that game has a Community Chest.
Platform: Nintendo Wii