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Fortune Street review: Occupy Mushroom Kingdom


As soon as you start up Fortune Street, you need to go into the options and turn both "game speed" and "text speed" up to their fastest settings. Then, when you get ready to choose your board and start the game, you must reduce the amount of money required to win by at least half. Even with these utterly necessary precautions, you should probably block out a big chunk of your day to dedicate to Square Enix's board game.

At its default settings, Fortune Street will wear out both its welcome and its players before the conclusion of a single game. That is, of course, if you can find someone to play with, which seems unlikely, given the presumably small pool of nearby friends who love Mario and Dragon Quest, love the real estate market, and have nothing going on for the whole day.

Gallery: Fortune Street (12/2) | 37 Photos

Fortune Street, like the other games in the previously Japan-only Itadaki Street series, takes its inspiration from Monopoly. Players roll dice to travel across a selection of game-themed boards, purchasing shops to acquire assets, and charging other players who land on those shops. Players can invest in their shops to boost their value and charge more, buy shops near each other to increase the value of the whole "district," and -- in the game's most complex wrinkle -- buy stock in various districts, to earn dividends on every transaction that happens within, and profit from increased stock prices when the district gains value.

As you attempt to gain property and stock, you also race around the board to cross four "suit" symbols (heart, spade, etc.), draw cards for random positive and negative effects, and engage in the occasional minigame. These are more games of chance than Mario Party button-mash-fests -- you'll throw darts at a spinning wheel, or play a slot machine game, or, in one case, just watch a Slime race.

I should note that I have no problem with the premise and ruleset of Fortune Street. I think the stock market adds an interesting strategic element to the Monopoly-style game, allowing players to profit on things that happen anywhere on the board. I even kind of feel like I learned a little about economics from it. I also like the presentation, with charming banter from all the characters (my favorite, of course, is the Slime, who speaks in puns involving "goo," "plop," "slurp," and other Slimey terms) and themed boards suspended over settings from both series.

Unfortunately, the game plays out at such a slow pace that
all those interesting elements become grating long before you've completed a board. While money starts piling up at a reasonable rate toward the end of the game -- once everyone's got a ton of stock and the shops have all been maxed out -- that comes only after hours of glacial progress. Goals are set at 10,000 gold or more, and you'll typically make a few hundred on the way around the board, and then maybe a thousand when you return to the "bank" starting point. Even the minigames and "venture" cards usually award the winner prizes in the low hundreds, meaning that everyone goes around the board way too many times, and every transaction makes barely perceptible progress toward the end of the game. It's a single design flaw, but it's one with devastating effect on the game. I think Fortune Street has the potential to be fun, but it's not fun enough to support such protracted gameplay sessions.

You can alter the goal amount in multiplayer games and "free play" mode, making each round shorter, but there's no such luck in the single-player "tour" mode. There, you play through each of twelve boards, all with increasing goal amounts and increasingly complex layouts, to unlock more boards, more playable characters, and, weirdly, customizations for your Mii. Want a little Goomba to walk around your Mii on the board? Or some dragon zombie wings? Or a tougher-looking win pose? Yeah, I didn't really either, at least not enough to deliberately earn "stamps" to buy them. You can also play with "easy" rules, which cut out the stock market -- but taking out the most interesting part of the game is no solution.

I really wanted to like Fortune Street. I looked forward to this game. I went into the experience assuming I would love it. I was as receptive an audience as Nintendo was going to find. But the game-breakingly slow pace of a game that isn't that exciting to start with took its toll. Fortune Street has no respect for players' time, turning what should be a breezy pastime into a languid, dull experience. Or, in honor of my friend Slime, a "lan-goo-id" experience.

This review is based on a retail copy of Fortune Street provided by Nintendo.

Joystiq's review scores are based on a scale of whether the game in question is worth your time -- a five-star being a definitive "yes," and a one-star being a definitive "no." Read here for more information on our ratings guidelines.

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