Fortune Street (Wii)
Developer: Square Enix
To be released: Holiday 2011
I'm rather pleased with myself that I'm still capable of not just being surprised by things I see from Nintendo, but also delighted for a game that makes no damned sense. As I walked up to the demo kiosk very cautiously, as if slinking up to a sleeping bear, I first thought that what I was seeing had to be a new Mario Party title of some sort. This perception was so strong that even while playing the demo, at least three other people wandered by and asked very loudly and angrily, "So what, is it just another Mario Party?"
The best way to describe Fortune Street is to picture Monopoly and then add two scoops of Mario and Dragon Quest characters. There are 30 characters from all over, including some of my favorites from Dragon Quest VIII, Jessica and Angelo, also known as "Not Trunks." When Nintendo's rep handed me a controller and asked me to select a character, I sort of danced along with Angelo as the cursor confirmed my selection and my dorkiness.
The game is incredibly simple but has enough to add depth. It's exactly an electronic board game with a premise that works only when you aren't asking why Dragon Quest characters are worried about shop values and promotions and such. All you do is roll a dice, walk around the board, and purchase property. You can upgrade the value of a shop by sinking more money into it or by building shops right next to each other, and that's essentially all there is to the game. Special Suit Spaces are located around the board that give out special chance cards when landed on, but just passing them by gives you another card suit needed for a promotion. Get to the bank with all four and your rank goes up, giving you more cash and increasing the value of your shops.
Like I said, the concept is as simple as it comes and not at all what I expected from either Nintendo or Square Enix. Turns out, as braindead of a game premise this may sound like (because woo! Property value!), I was definitely addicted. And since there was no one lining up to butt in and play as well, it was just me, my wife, and the Nintendo rep for half an hour starting slow but getting instantly competitive to the point of just screwing each other over simply because we were just screwed over by someone else, like the computer-controlled Slime (who was cheating, as could be expected).
The game revolves around taking risks with your money, as any game with money and property would naturally demand. The conditions to complete a board vary with the very small demo board just asking us to get to $5000 in assets and then run back to the bank. You can decide to upgrade your properties to make them cost more money, when other players have no choice but to stop on your spaces. That's where the fun gets heightened as there's nothing sweeter than setting up a classy pizza joint that forces other players to hand you $1700 in one turn, just because they were trying to get to the bank. Mm-mm, that's the sort of spice I like on my pizza.
It's a rather odd choice for a party game, but it's the sort of casual experience that you only find with real board games most of the time. No one plays Monopoly because they just can't get enough of the play mechanics. No, they play because they want a chill game that they can play with friends where they only have to slightly pay attention to what's going on while shooting the breeze and joking around the rest of the time. And what really shocks me is that Fortune Street isn't the first in the series, just the first in the series to be released outside of Japan. How is it that a whole other world exists separate from my world? Why is that okay?
Considering it's a game that I have no preconceived notions about and that lacks any major hook to cause it to stand next to something as crowd-pleasing as Skyward Sword, I now want Fortune Street. Does that even make sense? I can't really figure it out myself, but the appeal of a large party of people just chilling and making business deals with one another in front of the TV has me incredibly optimistic. I'd highly recommend giving this one a second look when you the game hits this holiday.
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