Did Finish — Fortune Street

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Fortune Street is a bizarre combination of Mario Brothers, Dragon Quest, and Monopoly. Japan has spent two decades hiding this gem from us, but it’s the perfect game for anyone who 1) loves Monopoly and 2) hates other people.

Instead of building houses and collecting rent, you travel around a game board buying shops and making money when people land on them — and there are enough other twists to make Fortune Street legally distinct and protected from any sort of trademark lawsuit — but you should already be familiar with how this game is played.

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Playing Monopoly with video game characters would be sad and weird if Monopoly wasn’t responsible for decades of intra-family disputes, screaming matches, and physical assault. Everyone loves the idea of having dual hotels on Boardwalk and Park Place, but nobody wants to be the chump who sat through four straight hours of dice rolling and bad-faith negotiations just to go bankrupt and wait another three hours before someone else wins the game with hotels of their own.

Everyone wants to exploit the chumps, nobody wants to be one. And Fortune Street puts an enormous stable of computer-controlled chumps at your disposal.

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Math is hard, so to hell with it. Fortune Street keeps running totals of net worth and cash on hand for each player, so you don’t have to pause for ten minutes while you calculate the value of your properties. Adding, subtracting, and multiplying balances is done quickly and easily, without asking everyone to turn in their small bills because the banker has too many $500’s and not enough $20’s.

Different effects during the game increase or decrease your income, but the computer remembers when they’re applied and who they apply to. There’s nobody “accidentally” forgetting that they’re subject to a penalty and avoiding a big payout. (Yes, the game cheats, but it’s a statistical, sticking-you-with-crappy-dice-rolls kind of cheating that’s a little more subtle.)

Remember Monopoly’s income tax square that made everybody just pay cash, since nobody knew how to calculate a percentage of their total value? That doesn’t happen in Fortune Street, but you do have the opportunity to build a tax office that charges other players 10% of their net worth. The calculations are all done by the game.

Switches can reconfigure the board. Random characters make cameo appearances (Lakitu shuts down stores for the day, a trick bag moves around the board to hand out money, etc). And did I mention that you hold the Wii controller sideways, using the 1 and 2 buttons like A and B buttons from an old-school, 16-bit NES system? Fortune Street is delightfully retro, and superior to a physical board game in every imaginable way.

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Reviews of the Fortune Street have been mixed. On Amazon, you’ll find a lot of people who are furious that it’s not Mario Party. The so-called professional reviewers are divided and spend too much time obsessively describing the in-game stock market, but here’s what you need to know: You roll dice, you move around a board, and the game throws a ton of curve balls at you to make sure that the person in first place only stays there for a short period of time.

Fortune Street always leaves you thinking that victory is within your grasp, or that defeat is just around the corner, regardless of where you stand in relation to the other players.

Yes, you can play Fortune Street with friends. Yes, there is an option to connect with other players online. And those things appeal to irresponsible jerks who like to revel in the suffering of others. This game works best when it’s feeding your megalomaniacal desire to dominate while keeping all of your real-life relationships unharmed.

People looking for a fun party game full of quick activities to enjoy with others should play Mario Party — and they deserve everything that’s coming to them. People who want to punish Mario with a forced buyout to ensnare Princess Peach in a crippling web of debt and recurring fees should play Fortune Street.

About B. Indifferent

Bitterly Indifferent is a belligerent hillbilly with a substandard internet connection. He is also a fan of retro gaming who has previously written about the state of games journalism and the intersection of games and family.