While it’s new for the West, Fortune Street has been around for twenty years under the name Itadaki Street. Yuji Horii made the first Itadaki Street game for the Famicom, but the series didn’t get much attention in the West until Square Enix created a Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy crossover game for PS2. Fortune Street for Wii brings together Super Mario stars and Dragon Quest’s finest, but aside from the cast change the game plays the same.
Fortune Street is based on Monopoly. Players roll dice and move mascots on a board with property to purchase. Just like the Parker Brothers board game it’s inspired by, you want to buy nearby land of the same color, upgrade lots, and keep your fingers crossed than an unlucky slime goos onto one of your squares. The twist in Fortune Street is you can invest indirectly through stocks. Let’s say Bowser dominates an area and owns four lands next to each other. Buy stock in his district and your shares will rise when he upgrades his shops. You can also play the investment game by purchasing stock in a district you own before upgrading land. This bumps your net worth way up since you get the benefits of renovated property plus a stock boost. Stocks are more volatile than property since all four players can manipulate the Fortune Street market, but stocks are what you need to master if you want to beat the computer using standard rules. If all of this sounds too complicated (it’s pretty easy to pick up, though!), you can use easy rules which are designed for newcomers.
When you unwrap the game you can play with twelve boards from the Dragon Quest and Super Mario tours. What makes the boards unique? Aside from themes like Bowser’s Castle or Slimeria, each board has its own layout with heart, spade, club, and diamond icons in different places. Passing "Go" (in this case the bank) isn’t good enough, you have to collect all four suits to level up and more importantly get money from the bank. Some boards have switches too. Land on these and you can change the layout and in the best case scenario trap rivals in a zone of property you own. Since Fortune Street is the first Itadaki Street game in English, people probably won’t notice this… but roughly of half the boards are recycled from the Japan-only Nintendo DS title Itadaki Street DS. I played through them over again with my Mii running loops around Mario Circuit and Castle Trodain. My reward for bankrupting the computer was stamps, which can be used to buy clothes (metal slime armor), mascots (a cureslime that flies over your shoulder) or winning poses (doing the crane stance). After completing one trip through Starship Mario, a Super Mario Galaxy themed level, I felt I made my perfect Fortune Street Mii – a dude in a business suit with a goomba walking around him who did backflips – and ignored the shop afterwards. Complete all twelve stages on *both* tours and you’ll unlock Special Tour which has six more game boards from the Mushroom Kingdom and Dragon Quest.
Playing against the computer is a chore, one I sped up by turning off quotes and setting the game to "blur" speed. The banter is well localized with Dragon Quest references woven in and plenty of puns. Slimes, just like the DS versions, say "goo" and "slurp." Seeing Mario get all riled up after I bought his land was funny the first time, but not so much the fifth. It also started to feel like the computer rolled dice in its favor during the Special Tour. In one board, I had to be first place with 20,000 credits to be the winner. By continually investing in my own land, I amassed a fortune of over 22,000. All I had to do was get to the bank to unlock the next stage. My closest competitor, Peach, was far behind with a bit shy of 18,000 credits. I stockbombed her (that’s a strategy of selling your opponent’s stock to lower their net worth) to make sure she couldn’t progress any further. With only few squares to move forward I felt like this was a sure win! Sure enough, I was wrong and the *other* two computer players landed on her most expensive lands even though they could have taken cheaper routes by landing on each other’s square. Peach caught up, but I was still ahead of her (in money and distance to the bank), but I rolled a string of ones and twos and Peach who got straight sixes… made it to the bank first. Ouch! I chalked this up to bad luck, but as a test I replayed Bowser’s Castle and the same thing happened again with Peach (who had the highest "IQ") claiming key real estate.
Yeah, I know Fortune Street is supposed to be a "party" game. It’s designed to be played with friends (the option that reads "play alone" in the beginning is rather depressing), but I ground through the tours to unlock everything. Even as a "party" game, Fortune Street moves at a glacial pace. Most of the time, you’re watching other players move the Dragonlord around and buying lands. The arcade breaks up the monotony with passive mini-games. There is Round the Blocks, which is essentially a slot machine, a dart throwing game (where you just press A), and slime races… that you watch. Fortune Street can be frustrating in a group too because one player can be so far in the lead it’s impossible for anyone else to catch up. The game just doesn’t feel fun when player one is rolling in gold coins and everyone else is just rolling the dice waiting for him or her to win.
Just like the Nintendo DS game, Fortune Street has online play. That’s your chance to show off your Mii and all the stamps you earned, I suppose. While you can tweak the amount of gold you need to win, playing Fortune Street is still slow and you don’t have friends to talk to while other players are rolling the dice. A book kept me company when someone was deciding whether to sell stock or not. Because of the game’s pace Fortune Street probably won’t suit the button mashing Mario Party crowd. Fortune Street requires patience and maybe a little investment savvy to enjoy.