As videogames became popular again the 1980s, it seemed every other types of games were getting the digital treatment, including classic board games that once served as a family’s main source of amusement. Sega got this trend started when, perhaps wanting some famous names for the SMS library, enlisted Nexa Corp. to craft this electronic version of Parker Brothers’ legendary game of wheeling and dealing that has delighted gamers since its debut in 1935. While this cartridge may do a competent job of bringing the borad game to the Master System, does it really do enough to make you forget about the “old-fashioned” way of playing?
When you fire up the cart you can set the game up for up to 10 players, either human controlled or CPU controlled, though you can switch between the two at anytime. Each player then registers their name and picks a token to represent them, from cars and dogs to hats and thimbles, then it’s off to the game board. This cart does follow the standard rules of Monopoly which are handled by a menu system, while the CPU handles the banking duties, and all the famous properties, utilities and other spaces are present, including the free parking space and even the jail. On your turn you roll the dice and are treated to a nice animated close-up of your piece moving across the board to the space. Land on a property and you can either purchase it or auction it off. Buy all of the same color and you can build houses and hotels to drive up the property value. You can also sell or trade your properties with the other players, or even mortgage your assets if you’re in need of quick cash. OF course you have the ‘Community Chest’ and ‘Chance’ spaces, where you draw a card that could change your fortunes for better or worse. Once you’re finished you hand your turn off to the next player and so it goes until one players remains after driving the others into bankruptcy.
So the core gameplay Monopoly is featured in all its glory with little variations, but that’s not necessarily a good thing when you consider this is a video game. The cart features everything you can do in the real game but the menus are tedious to work through. The main problem is the game gets dull and repetitive before too long, especially playing against the CPU. Also the CPU opponents can be set to three different skill levels, but even on the highest setting they don’t provide much of a challenge; you’ll mainly lose due to your own mistakes. Playing against other humans doesn’t really liven the game up that much, especially since you can’t even add your own twists like you could the real game, you’re stuck following the rules with no variations allowed. Not only that games can last for hours, but the programmers did include a game save feature which allows you to save your place and resume the game at a later date.
However Monopoly’s main issue is gamers are going to be expecting some modern touches to liven things up and differentiate it from the original board game, such as cut-scenes and the like, and will be sorely disappointed. All you really look at for the majority of the game is the simple rendition of the game board on the screen and not much else other than the menus. Granted the animations of your pieces travelling across the board are decent with some nice details, but the only other cinematics are your token going to jail and a house being built, and they merely consist of a couple on images on a plain-colored background which just seems lazy. You don’t even get any illustrations of the Community Chest or Chance cards when you draw them, just the text of what happens displayed on the screen. Soundwise only two pieces of music are featured, a nice rendition of Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer” on the title screen and some repetitive elevator music the plays non-stop in the background but can thankfully be turned off.
So overall Monopoly isn’t a terrible rendition of the board game, but this no-frills version just comes off as disappointing and pointless. You’re better off just sticking to the actual board game since there’s nothing here you won’t find in the real version. If you really need a video version of the game, fire up the later released versions on the NES and Genesis since they have all the modern touches you’re looking for, but the SMS cart definitely doesn’t pass GO.