Reviews: Itadaki Street

It's just like Monopoly, only it does EVERYTHING better.

Drawing parallels between this game and Monopoly is pretty much inevitable. I usually disregard any other game when reviewing, but I'm making an exception. But the amount of things that it does better than Monopoly is mind-boggling.

Anyone who has played Monopoly according to the official rules once or twice can probably agree that it can devolve into roll dice/pay money/repeat for way too long without the board changing much at some point. Fortune/Boom Street can have that problem, but it's much rarer. The game's pacing is many leagues better than Monopoly.

Playing by Standard Rules, stocks introduce many new elements to the game, including, among other things, dividends (when one lands on another's property, the district's stockholders receive a little extra cash), which does a lot to help the game's pacing by introducing more money. Each dividend is small, but they add up.

The objective is not to bankrupt other players (though it's an alternate win condition), but to gain enough money and assets to reach a target amount. The amount can be adjusted to some degree if you're not playing in the single-player tour mode, so you can make a game as long or short as you want.

You can invest money into any shop you own regardless of whether you own other shops in the district. Owning other shops in the district increases the amount you can invest, as well as providing an additional multiplier to the price others pay when they land on it.

But the main thing that this game does to help the pacing and overall variety of the game is forced buyouts. If you land on a property someone else owns, you can pay 5 times its value (after paying the normal price for landing on it, of course) and take the shop without its owner's consent. I've not played all that much Monopoly, but I do remember my opponent never parting with the shop I needed to complete a monopoly of a district and allowing me to actually get closer to victory. While it's possible for a forced buyout to allow a game to drag on a little more (by buying a shop in someone else's monopoly), the act of changing the board in such a way is enough to keep the game fresh and entertaining for as long as it needs to.

It's just like Monopoly, sans the charm or the engaging simplicity

My knowledge of Fortune Street is only limited to an import version I played last fall (with Final Fantasy/Dragon Quest characters), but since the Wii will finally get a version of this game, it's only fair warning to let potential buyers know what they're getting into. In the case of Fortune Street, if you want a cliff notes version on how stocks operate in the real world, you can't go wrong with using this more complex Monopoly board game as potential edutainment. As far as actual fun goes, don't expect much.

It's impossible not to bring up either Monopoly or Mario Party when mentioning Fortune Street, but FS lacks the appeal of either one. The gameplay consists of endless loops around each board while each player collects stocks, property and trading either one to gain as much profit as possible. Whoever reaches the goal first wins the game. Sounds intriguing at first, until multiple rounds of monotony get on your nerves and no progress seems to get done. In fact, it takes over an hour for even one player to marginally reach the central goal. At least Mario Party has fun mini-games after each round. Fortune Street is devoid of such diversions.

With Monopoly, its otherwise simple gameplay turns fun once friends/family/enemies start bickering through the whole process and not following the official rules to the T. The complexity and confusion of trading stocks lacks the appeal of simply buying/trading property, getting thrown to jail form an unlucky roll or rolling doubles three times in a row, or praying not to hit a hotel owned property ONE MORE TIME to build up an extra $200. The only tension Fortune Street inspires is "GET ON WITH THIS ALREADY!" irritation. Only near the end of games does Fortune Street inject much needed excitement, but by that point, it ends way too soon.

You might as well call Fortune Street It Gets Better, the videogame, because once a new game starts, this cycle starts over. Gamers can put up with pacing issues until the good stuff comes along, but even then, the gaming psyche has limits when the output ain't worth the trouble.

How Fortune Street survived through two decades of gaming boggles the mind. This wouldn't even be fun as a diversion on the phone.