Fortune Street, making its way Stateside since finding Japanese popularity in 1991, is like a fine Belgian chocolate truffle laced with NutraSweet. The game was already great on its own; it doesn’t need the added aspartame sweetness of Wii-ification, which occurs via cutesy mini-games, unnecessary dialogue from Dragon Quest and Super Mario Bros. characters, plentiful purchasable outfits, and personalities (?) for your Miis. This filler is enticing for exactly five seconds. But after that, Fortune Street reveals itself as a rich, frantic, fascinating strategy game that makes Monopoly comparisons feel inadequate.
True, you still roll a die (by shaking the Wii-mote, because everyone likes doing that) and circle a board, purchasing property. There’s a “Go” of sorts, a “Community Chest”-type deal, and property that grows with money, à la purchasing hotels. But more than the vernacular is different from Monopoly; the entire momentum of the game is new. Because while players occasionally do go bankrupt, Fortune Street is really a race to acquire a target amount of money, calculated as a player’s total assets. Cash-on-hand qualifies, as do property values and stock investments.
Stocks? Yes, stocks. There are two modes of play, “easy” and “standard.” In the first, property grows when adjacent lots are bought. The latter divides the board into “districts” and allows stocks to be purchased in each one, introducing quandaries up the wazoo: Do you invest heavily in districts you own, or in districts your opponent is building up? Both? Even simply traversing the board is a challenge. Each of the 10 initial board options—more are available later on—have paths that connect and weave around in loops. It’s always a race to see who can get around first; the game resembles Mario Kart almost as much as it does Monopoly.
Whether playing against computer opponents or friends, Fortune Street is unrelenting and unpredictable, balancing controlled calculations with dice luck and opponents scooping properties from under you, while sinister music plays. The game has a pronounced rhythm, occasionally interrupted by annoying, extraneous fodder. Each board has an arcade square where you play mini-games like dart-toss, which award or punish net worth in totally random ways. Plus, it’s difficult to maintain a consistent strategy when it’s a chore to simply look at the whole board at once—a task way less intuitive than it should be. And just in case the game couldn’t speak for itself, computer avatars taunt you with vague, repetitive threats, like when you take over a district and Bowser says, “Now I totally want to beat [your name]!” Still, it’s a small price to pay for that hectic race back to the bank, when multiple players have reached the target amount and everyone’s just lookin’ for a little luck.