January 6, 2012
Designed to be a sequel to Itadaki Street DS, Boom Street features characters from the Mario and Dragon Quest franchises - those hoping for Final Fantasy characters will be out of luck. There's a pretty good selection from both sides, with the typical Mario troop appearing and a strong array of Dragon Quest characters from down the years being represented. There are also a few unlockable characters, one of which is Princess Peach.
Anyone who's familiar with Monopoly will get a moderate sense of comfort, as in many ways, Boom Street has a similar premise. There are multiple players and as you move around the board you're tasked with buying up properties. The more properties you own in a region the better and there are also the equivalent of "chance cards" to help keep things interesting. But that's where the similarities stop, as Boom Street goes a lot deeper than the physical board game of Monopoly is capable of.
Aside from buying up properties, one of the core mechanics in Boom Street is the ability to purchase stocks. It's a crucial element, because it helps to negate the element of luck - to a degree. When going around the board, properties get snapped up pretty quickly and it's all on the luck of the dice which properties are landed on. So, you could end up in a scenario where a few of the players have a ton of properties, while another has hardly any. However, due to the ability to purchase stocks, it's still very possible to win the game.
It opens up a whole new level of strategy, as up until the later stages in the bigger games, you'll be making minimal revenue from people landing on your properties. The best way to make money, is to invest money in stocks in a region you have a strong foothold in, and to upgrade the properties there. This causes the stock price to increase, raising your capital without having to do much. However, anyone can purchase stocks in any district. If you see that someone is attempting to bolster a certain district, you can pre-empt it by stocking up in that region. This might then cause them to re-think their plan, because by generating revenue for themselves, they will also be generating revenue for their rivals. In short, you can profit from your opponent's success.
Stocks become further important on a strategic level as it's possible to quite noticeably affect other people's capital. For example, if you withdraw all of your stocks from a certain district, the total stock price will fall and anyone who has stocks remaining will lose out. It means that someone can go from having the right amount of capital required to win, to being way off the mark.
It's a very clever and involved system, but it means that players are always in the game - they just have to make shrewd investments. The game also handles buyouts in suitable ways, while never making anything complicated. Auctions only happen if properties have to be sold back to the bank in order to generate capital, but if you want to snap up a property without someone else's say-so, you'll have to pay 5 times the market value. And doing so makes things rather competitive. Nobody likes their plans being ruined and it makes for a lot of snide moves. It's surprising how much people will financially ruin themselves just for a nice slice of revenge.
Perhaps Boom Street's biggest failing is that it's too strategic. There are numerous board types to play on, but some of the larger boards can literally take half a day to complete, because there are so many different elements that can affect overall capital. Even shorter games aren't that short and if you're playing against the AI it can be rather frustrating to lose it all right at the end. You can't help thinking you just wasted a few hours of your life and have nothing to show for it.
When playing against the AI, the game also seems to lose quite a lot of its appeal. It's one thing to be competing against a bunch of friends or family members - each one calculating their own strategy. But it's quite different to play a board game against a bunch of faceless AI, who you're always convinced get the rub of the green. It means that the single-player campaign, which in reality could take more hours than you'd even want to count to complete, will almost never be completed by anyone other than the most hardened of fans - it's just too monotonous on your own.
It means that the game's replay value will solely depend on the company you keep. It should in no way be compared with party games, but the game does lose its allure when you're playing against the AI. But if you have a group of people to play with, the game is scarily addictive. You can literally lose hours, have very little to show for it in the game, and still want to keep playing. And there's definitely something to be said for that.
Fans have been craving the release of an Itadaki Street game for years and Boom Street has finally answered their prayers. Offering a much more complicated rendition of the famed Monopoly board game, it features very addictive gameplay that will keep you occupied for hours on end. Its biggest failing is its reliance on the social side, as playing against the AI can get rather boring, rather fast and it negates quite a lot of the single-player campaign's appeal. Still, it's a great game to play with friends and family and certainly gets the cogs turning.