Boom Boom Shake the Room, something like that anyway.
The game that I’m about to review is a bit of a weird one. It’s part of a franchise that first began in 1991, and spanned seven games without actually ever setting foot outside of Japan. Now, in 2012, we’ve got Boom Street (aka Fortune Street or Itadaki Street depending on where you’re from) and one has to ask, has the wait for this franchise been worth it? It’s hard to say. At first, I was rather ignorant and many probably shared my opinion, that Boom Street was essentially Mario Party with Dragon Quest characters added in. After spending many, many hours with Boom Street I’ve come to a realisation—Boom Street is a board game like no other on the Wii and something that will only appeal to a very specific group of people. At least, that’s what I think anyway. It’s hard to say.
Essentially, Boom Street’s gameplay can be simmered down to be a Monopoly clone but with a few seemingly minor (but actually major) twists. Players choose a character from either the Mario or Dragon Quest franchises and start at the bank which is in the centre of the board. Rolling the dice (with a shake of the Wii Remote), players then choose which direction to go on the board, aiming to collect and purchase as much income and property respectively in order to increase your own net worth. Following this, players must also journey to what’s usually the four corners of the board to collect a full set of “cards” of particular suits. Once a full set is collected, the player has the ability to level up and collect income, similar to passing GO in Monopoly. It’s from this point that the game gets a little bit complicated but also a bit more interesting depending on which mode you’re playing.
Boom Street features two main ways to play: Standard Mode and Easy Mode. Both have their own positives and negatives, though I personally prefer the complexity of Standard Mode. Standard Mode essentially breaks the board down into “districts”, and allows players to buy stock in order to increase their net worth. This basically means that players can invest in their own properties to bolster their net worth, or even invest in your opponents’ areas in order to take a slice of their profits. It’s an interesting yet risky move that adds a degree of strategy to the game. Easy Mode, on the other hand, does away with the stocks system and instead allows players to play a more traditional, Monopoly-like match. To mix things up a bit, the game also has “mystery” spaces on the board which allow players to play a game of concentration (matching cards) or a very short yet simple minigame. These minigames are a good way to break the game up but they aren’t very substantial, nor are they particularly fun.
The best thing about Boom Street is that it provides a rather balanced mix of skill while also factoring in luck, rather than favouring one over the other, unlike other Nintendo games where some players may feel cheated *coughMarioKartcough*. The other great thing about Boom Street is that it seems to fit its platform perfectly—while Monopoly works well on a board and electronically, the fluctuating prices and incomes and worth of properties simply couldn’t be tracked on a board and this is one reason why I appreciate Boom Street’s, well, existence. It is complex, and the learning curve is extremely steep, but those who really put some time in it will find that it will pay off. The element of strategy is great too, and it’s this gameplay element that makes me really enjoy playing the game with my older friends, although herein lies Boom Street’s biggest problem.
Every game of Boom Street that I played with friends began at a great pace; everyone is trying to get through the board, earn as much money as possible and buy up as much property. It’s rather fun to play and many of us really get into it. But then, Boom Street’s biggest downfall rears it’s ugly head. The game itself just takes way too long to complete. With some games lasting as long as five hours, it’s hard to really convince your friends to play with you for a whole game, especially when you yourself can’t really justify putting this much time into a board game. It gets to the point where players will just want someone to win and get the game over and done with. Sure, the game is saveable but once you leave that particular game it’s hard to believe you’ll want to return. Similarly, I have a bit of confusion as to who this game is aimed at. The colourful and mascot-ridden presentation seems to appeal to younger children, but the steep learning curve and rather hard-to-follow game mechanics means it is something that the family really won’t enjoy especially if everyone is not on the same page.
The games themselves take quite a long time to complete, but Boom Street does have quite a few unlockables and a few modes here and there to play around with that add a lot of content to the package. Free Play and Multiplayer modes both allow customisation of parameters of the game, which is great but unfortunately the games still seem to go on for too long even with the minimal options chosen. Many items, characters and clothing can be unlocked by playing through the game’s Tour mode, a single player-centric tournament, but there’s just too much time required to unlock everything and to be quite frank I would be surprised to find anyone who could be bothered to do so. The mini-games are a welcome addition to break up the gameplay, though most of them are quite simplistic and don’t even utilise motion controls.
Finally, and even more surprisingly, Boom Street allows players to jump on the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection and play matches against other players. This seems like a good option for those who can’t convince their own friends to commit so much time to the game with them, but unfortunately we didn’t get to see many people playing. We did have a few Japanese games here and there, which were relatively lag free, but otherwise the idea of online play does not really mesh well with the lengthy game times.
Of course, as I’ve mentioned before, Boom Street’s cover is incredibly colourful and looks extremely appealing for kids. This is, as discussed, only half correct as the game’s mechanics are pretty complex. In terms of presentation, however, Boom Street does a pretty good job. The game is extremely colourful with every space having a different colour. Backgrounds to the boards themselves are alive and vibrant, though some definitely feel more interesting, alive and just well put together than others. The characters themselves are animated well though nothing too flashy is shown. The game’s music is nothing too flashy either, though most of the tracks feature “key sounds or styles” from other music that you will instantly recognise from your favourite Mario games. Thankfully, the music actually didn’t get too annoying during our three-to-five hour long games, which was a great feat in our books.
Boom Street is a little bit of a weird title. One has to wonder why it’s taken this long for the series to hit Western shores but also why Nintendo would even bother this late in the game. Sure, it’s a deep, complex and rewarding game. But the only problem is that the game really doesn’t seem to know who it wants to appeal to. This is through and through an adult’s game, but for some reason it’s packaged like a children’s one. Definitely something you’d have to discuss with your friends before buying – playing it alone would just be depressing and playing it with friends would only be fun if you aren’t holding them against their will.
A great game that will unfortunately be misunderstood by many. If the formula was tweaked, I and I’m sure many others would really enjoy Boom Street. In its current state, it’s definitely going to appeal to only the most patient of us.