Unless you’re already a fan of them you probably haven’t heard of Enix’s Itadaki series. The easiest way to explain Itadaki is that it is a variation of the classic board game Monopoly with tweaks to make it more interesting. Originating on the NES Enix’s moderately successful Itadaki series spanned four titles. Dragon Quest & Final Fantasy in Itadaki Street Special is the fifth game and in some ways a revival of the series.
Enix’s Itadaki games haven’t gotten too much attention. Often overshadowed by juggernauts titles like Dragon Quest the Itadaki games were never part of Enix’s million sellers. Instead of releasing any old Itadaki game Square-Enix chose to use their mascot characters to star in the title. We all know games that have used this approach to push sales. Super Smash Brothers Melee, Sega Superstars and Chocobo Racing all come to mind. While this does make Dragon Quest & Final Fantasy Itadaki Street Special more interesting for all those Square-Enix fans out there, the game is still the same old thing.
If you’ve been following either series there will be plenty of game references that you’ll remember. First there is the cast of characters, all drawn in a super deformed style. On the Dragon Quest side players will be able to pick from Bianca (DQ5), the Prince Of Midenhall (DQ2), the unnamed hero from Dragon Quest VII and everyone’s favorite blue slime. Some of the Final Fantasy characters you can choose from include Cloud (FF7), Yuna (FFX-2), Squall (FF8), Vivi (FF9) and the traveling moogle from FFXI. Initially the character list is small, but you can unlock characters by competing in tournaments against this computer. This way you’ll be able to play as the hero from Dragon Quest I, Gilgamesh (FFV), and even the huge King Slime. One thing that will disappoint some people is the lack of pre-Playstation Final Fantasy characters. Besides Gilgamesh the only other pre FF reference is the Onion Knight from Final Fantasy 3. Instead of featuring old characters Square-Enix included two stars from Final Fantasy XII, Vaan and Ashe.
Most of the references from the older games are seen in the game’s music and chance cards. When you land on a question mark square you can pick up a chance card. These cards can give you extra gold, allow you to upgrade your buildings at a discount or teleport around the board. One of the cool things about these cards is that they have pictures from the 16-bit and even 8-bit games. You’ll see scenes like using the Canoe in Final Fantasy 1 to battling a boss monster in Dragon Quest 3. There is a diverse selection of music that will also please all fans. With over fifty tracks you’ll get to hear everything from the battle theme in Dragon Quest 2 to J-E-N-O-V-A from Final Fantasy 7. One thing about the music is that it isn’t as sharp as it could be. Some of the older tunes aren’t remastered and it is unclear whether this was for nostalgia or not.
If you neglect the fusion with both Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest this game is pretty basic. You start out by picking a mascot character, which has no effect on the game. Then you select one of a number a different boards to play on. Of course these boards are throwbacks to both series so you can choose to play on the Gold Saucer or inside a castle. Each board is really different besides the theme. The length of the board, the placement of expensive property and the location of the four level up items vary. Having different boards does increase replay value a little bit, since Square-Enix does have a decent amount of boards to choose from. The goal of the game is to achieve a certain amount of net worth. Whoever gets the amount select first is the winner. Similar to Monopoly you can make money by purchasing land and then collecting gold from unfortunate players that land on what you own. Once you own some land you can increase the value of it by building more expensive inns on the property. Unlike Monopoly you can upgrade your land at any time, you don’t need to own a block of property in a row. Another strategy to earn some money is to invest in a block of land at the bank. Buy purchasing stock in a land you’ll receive a portion of the profits each time someone else upgrades the area you own. Buying stock in land you own is a good way to get a rebate on hotels or you can invest in your opponent’s land so you’ll make money when they are spending it.
One big difference with this game opposed to Monopoly is that you don’t automatically collect gold when going around the board. If you want free money you need to collect four items (a heart, spade, clover and diamond) and return them to the bank to level up. With each level up you’ll get bonus gold and at times even win more gold from casino challenges. If a player lands on a casino challenge you’ll enter a quick mini game. Mini game might not be the best way to describe these events because some of them you don’t play. One of the challenges is a Chocobo race, but you can’t control the Chocobo you pick. Instead you make a bet and watch the race. Another mini game that has little interaction is a 16 bit battle. One player will roll a set of dice to determine the HP of the monster and the other three players will roll a pair of dice to deal damage to the monster. If the players can deal more damage than the amount of life rolled you’ll win gold. Even this game all you are doing is rolling dice, the action is minimal. Even the games where you do something are pretty limited. A single spin of a slot machine, a short treasure hunt and a romp through a castle looking for items aren’t enough to make this a party game. Instead Itadaki Street Special is a more relaxing multiplayer title than the action packed Mario Party games.
However, moving your moogle around the board is interesting for only so long. Half way to the target Itadaki Street Special starts to drag, like an endless game of Monopoly. Games against the computer can easily last hours. If you’re playing a tournament game you can save your progress so you can eventually finish it. When you’re playing with more intelligent human players games take even longer. Since friends will trade land and even utilize the option of stealing land at a higher price from other players. A three player game can easily be an all night affair. Even though Dragon Quest & Final Fantasy Itadaki Street Special is much more fun with other people you’re more likely to turn it off after a few turns in favor of a faster party game.
Dragon Quest & Final Fantasy Itadaki Street Special is different from other games out on the market now. It’s a game that most people can pick up and play. Yet when the game was conceived it was designed with fans of Square Enix titles in mind. Instead of improving on the Itadaki formula, the game makes its mark mainly because of the mascot characters. As a party game Itadaki Street Special doesn’t fare too well because a match feels like a marathon.
Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 5
A menu based game with all Japanese menus, isn’t the most import friendly game around. You can figure out some of the game with trial and error, but to appreciate it you’ll need to have a very good knowledge of Japanese.
Even though none of the Itadaki games have left Japan there is a decent chance for this title to come over. Enough people out in the states will pick this up just because it has Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest characters in it.
+ Pros: Lots of references and characters from both series.
– Cons: Initial game is a bore when playing alone and mediocre in comparison to other party games.
Overall: Most Square Enix fans shouldn’t hesitate to pick this up. Seeing all of the different characters in SD form plus seeing all the game references is pretty neat. However, the main game won’t hold interest for very long.
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