If they've been making versions of the Nintendo Wii's new board game for 20 years, if Nintendo themselves are publishing it -- choosing to sell this to us this holiday season instead of other Japanese games still awaiting translation -- then surely it must be good and worth buying?
Stephen Totilo, who got really close to giving this eye-sore a Yes: This game is a tougher, virtual Monopoly. It's a Monopoly that lets you buy stock in the neighbourhoods where people buy and upgrade property. Imagine, for example, that you could buy stock in Park Place or Boardwalk on a Monopoly board instead of or in addition to buying that property and adding houses to it. If someone else bought Park Place or Boardwalk, your stock value in that location would go up. If someone turned their houses to hotels -- boom! -- your stock values go up. If someone lands on Boardwalk and has to pay rent to the person who owns the space, then you, the person who owns stock in the neighbourhood, gets a dividend.
This core stock-investing idea is great (if not catchy). It lets you concoct devious strategies. For example, you can screw competing players out of meeting a match's money goal by pulling your stock out of a neighbourhood they've also invested in and plunging the value of their stock.
The problems, however, are many. Fortune Street is probably the ugliest software Nintendo has published on the Wii. The graphics are oddly blurry and animate with Nintendo 64 primitiveness. The mash-up of Super Mario and Dragon Quest characters and themes produce silly mid-game character chatter that only slows down the already tediously-pokey matches played with computer opponents. You can have up to four human players competing with one or more Wii Remotes. That's ideal. But games play too slowly, and the interface is too cluttered. There is online support. I played against people in Japan. That was fun, but that too played too slowly and lacks the ability to play asynchronously -- a must for those of us who don't have time to devote several hours knocking through a round of Fortune Street in one sitting.
This series was invented in 1991. Twenty years later, it should be more polished than this. There is, fundamentally, a great game in here, but it's buried under one of the worst presentations Nintendo has ever foisted on its consumers. Rent it. Don't buy it. This is a No.
Brian Ashcraft, the non-player who found his fortune outside Fortune Street: My first interaction with Itadaki Street was at the 2005 Tokyo Game Show. Mashing Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest in the game did seem like a cash cow -- even for a digital property and stock-selling board title. Square Enix actually promoted it at TGS by handing out shinny tissue boxes shaped like gold bricks. Yes, it played into the game's money-making theme. It was also tacky. Flash forward to 2007, and Square Enix got the notion that Mario characters could be an even bigger money maker, and bam, we get Itadaki Street DS. The latest incarnation, known as Fortune Street in the West, continues the Mario-meetsDragon Quest, and it's perhaps everything wrong with not only video games, but Square Enix and Nintendo -- and even the post-industrialized world.
Must game companies drive beloved characters into the ground? Is there really a reason why Square Enix and DQ maestro Yuji Horii couldn't simply create new characters for it digital board game? Is originality that difficult? Why is Square Enix farming this off to its C-team? And why the hell is Mario in this? Oh right, those gold tissue boxes.
I like Dragon Quest. I like Mario. I do not recommend you buy Fortune Street. I do not care if it's the greatest digital board game ever made. Buying this simply tells Square Enix (and Nintendo) that this sort of pointless hyper branding is a-okay, that whoring out your characters instead of taking the time and effort to make new ones is peachy. If you want a board game, get Monopoly. Playing as an old metal shoe is far more interesting than being any of these characters again for the umpteenth time. No.
Matt Buzzi, Kotaku intern who plunged into a multiplayer match and gave it his best: Fortune Street initially appears to be a shallow attempt to cash in on the two popular franchises it incorporates: Super Mario and Dragon Quest. Once you start playing, however, the game reveals itself to be surprisingly deep, even complicated. Players move along a Mario Party style board, but rather than engaging in mini-games and collecting stars, you purchase and invest in shops, buy shares of stock, and generally try to screw opponents out of their cash.
There's a pretty steep learning curve (Totilo and I got badly out-manoeuvred by the computer opponents), but it is definitely not a bad game. It is quite dry, though. The aesthetic is very boring, combined with what seems to be minimal effort in the graphics department. The maps don't engage the players at all, and are merely paths of squares on top of varying backdrops. In addition, the games moves very slowly, taking multiple hours to complete.
Games of Mario Party can drag on, but Fortune Street is even more sluggish, and tracking stocks can only remain fun for so long compared to mini games. I didn't play all of what it has to offer, but enough to get a grasp of the gameplay. If Fortune Street were a downloadable game for $US10 or $US15, it would be a tempting offer (it costs $US50). However, at full retail price, and with all the other great games out this time of year, I can't give it a recommendation, and have to say No.
Gut Check is an off-the-cuff impression of what we think of a game: what we'd tell a friend; how we'd respond on Twitter or Facebook or over a beer if someone asked us "Would you buy this game?" Our lead writer, who has played a lot of the game, decides. Other writers chime in for additional points of view.