In the last year or so it seems clear that Nintendo have really tried harder in bringing more of their unique franchises and titles overseas to the US and Europe. Games like Inazuma Eleven and Xenoblade Chronicles saved what was essentially a lacking release schedule last year and with the promise of even more experiences like The Last Story, Pandora’s Tower and a sequel to Inazuma on the way we really are seeing a lot more titles that I thought would never leave Japan. Which of course is great news!
Perhaps one of the most unexpected games to make an appearance over here however is Boom Street (or Fortune Street as it’s known in America) On first appearances it may appear like a slow paced boring board game (and you’re half right there) but is there more to this unique and quirky title than meets the eye?
Boom Street is a Monopoly style board game for four players with an emphasis not just on purchasing properties but also playing the stock market to your advantage. Much like Monopoly you take turns to roll a dice and move around board (of which there are well over a dozen themed on both the Mario and Dragon Quest series.) Land on a vacant property and you have the option to buy it while landing on someone else’s will result in you paying them. Furthermore properties are split into different districts where owning multiple spaces within the same area will result in expanded investment opportunities (sort of like houses to hotels in Monopoly). Land on your own and you can invest in any of your existing properties to improve their overall value, cost and also impact the stock prices within that district (more on that soon). You’ll start with small rundown huts that only earn you 50G but as the game progesses it’s possible to end up with five star buildings that charge any unfortunate player who lands on over 8000G! Chance spaces also add an element of randomness to the mix as they can either help or hinder players along the way.
Other little additions help give the game its own feel, for example promotions (earned by collecting four icons scattered around the board and returning to the bank) essentially being the equivalent of passing GO and collecting money in Monopoly or short mini games that offer a brief chance to gain more cash or stock.
I’m sure some of you are still finding this too close to the Parker Brothers favourite to really call it different, but what Boom Street has that gives it the edge over Monopoly is it’s stock market feature. Since winners are decided based on net worth it pays (literally) to invest your money in the stock market. How this works is fairly simple. Stock can be purchased in any chosen district whenever you pass a bank with good choices often leading to a huge profit in the future. Stock prices can rise due to investment in properties in the area or more stock being bought by other players. Likewise if the opposite were to happen then the prices start to plummet. It’s a great addition and one that constantly keeps you on your toes as you try to find a good balance between investing in stock and hunting down more properties. Do you place all your hope and currency into your own district or do you spread it out into several? These decisions can usually make the difference between being in the running for the top spot and battling to prevent yourself from becoming bankrupt.
There are still more rules and twists to be found as you play and it’s one of those things that much like any board game will become second nature the more you play it. But for those who want to ease themselves in there’s also an easy option that eliminates the stock aspect entirely, basically offering a Monopoly clone. It’s nowhere near as fun and focuses more on luck than anything else.
As solid as the game itself is though, it’s the accessibility that will likely prevent gamers from giving this a second look. While it can be great fun to play with friends, actually finding a group to participate may be a bit of a task. For starters Boom Street doesn’t exactly have the best pace with some games taking upward of three hours or situations where minutes are lost waiting for that one awkward player to decide on whether to purchase a property or save the money for later. Break this out when your pals are over and given the choice of this or the upcoming Mario Party which direction do you think the votes are going to swing? Sure if you put in the time and invest yourself in each match you will have a great time, but who nowadays wants to sit and play a board game for hours upon hours?
If you’re playing alone then the computer does a noble job trying to rinse you for all the money you have, but after a couple of games it grows boring. The real fun as expected is with friends since real people can do things computer controlled players can’t. Think for themselves. Do you form alliances? Do you gang up on a single player and try to bankrupt them? Do you stab a friend in the back to claim majority control of a district? It’s the unpredictability of you and your friends that make for some genuinely entertaining and again unpredictable matches. In a nice surprise online has also been added but again like gathering real friends it can be difficult to find players on such a quiet server.
Mario and the Dragon Quest crew make an appearance but sadly it feels as though it’s for nothing since the game lacks any real personality. Characters make no noises whatsoever and stages, while referencing previous games in both the series are nothing more than animated backgrounds with no interaction at all. Mario and Sonic proved in their Olympic outings that combining two big games series can yield a game full of charm, character and true fanfare but with Boom Street it can often feel hollow. All that aside the music isn’t too bad with a couple of neat remixes from both sides and visually it falls into the same bracket as Mario Party or any Mario spinoff.
While it’s great that Nintendo are experimenting with different types of games in different territories, Boom Street is perhaps too hard a sell for gamers looking for the next big Wii title. While it definitely has its multiplayer moments the sheer slowness and lack of any real personality is likely to put people off. If you’re looking for a new board game experience though, you could do a lot worse.