In the days of yore, before Pong and the Fairchild Channel F, people looking for competitive experiences in the comfort of their homes amused themselves primarily with tabletop board games. Nowadays, we live in an age of electronic games, but this hasn't decreased the appeal of traditional board games. In fact, the advent of video games has given rise to some wholly original board-game-style experiences in digital form. Square-Enix's Fortune Street series is among these original "video board games." Despite being around for 20 years in its native Japan, Fortune Street on the Wii marks the franchise's Western debut, complete with characters from the Mario and Dragon Quest series--and a glacial pace that muzzles your enjoyment.
The Mario themes might conjure up images of Nintendo's long-running Mario Party series, but make no mistake: Fortune Street is a very different sort of board game experience. It's actually a lot easier to compare Fortune Street to Monopoly. You are placed on one of several Mario- or Dragon Quest-themed board designs, and you take turns rolling a virtual die to move around. Scattered across the boards are empty lots you can purchase when you land on them for the first time. When you purchase a space, a shop is built, and players landing on that space from that point onward must pay money to the owner. As you build more shops, you have the option to improve your property, raising prices and bolstering your net worth. Traveling around the board also nets you "suits" (hearts, diamonds, spades, and clubs), which earn you extra money and benefits when a full set is brought back to the Bank space. To win the game, you must be the first to make it back to the Bank space with a certain net worth.
It's a bit more complicated than that, though. The game has two play settings--easy and standard--and the rules vary depending on which mode you pick. Easy mode grants growth, property value, and price bonuses for building shops next to each other on the board. Standard mode divides areas of the playfield into "districts." Building sets of shops within districts grants bonuses similar to building things side-by-side in easy mode, but with another distinct advantage: stock price boosts. Landing on the Bank or other set spaces in standard mode lets you buy stocks in certain districts, and as stock prices rise, so do property values. Stock prices and property values have a direct correlation: as one rises, so does the other, and vice versa. Stocks also pay out small dividends whenever a transaction occurs within a certain district. Playing wise with stocks is a good way to increase your net worth.
It wouldn't be a board game without a bit of chance thrown in, and Fortune Street provides simple, single-player minigames and random bonuses/penalties when you land on certain spaces of the board, keeping you constantly on your toes. There are also ways to mess with your opponents: if you have a lot of cash on hand, you can forcibly buy shops off of them for several times the asking price, or you can decrease the value of their properties by offloading a lot of stocks in a district they've invested heavily in.