Universal Studios Japan invites you to their brand-new Super Nintendo World in 2021!
First announced in 2015, the huge collaboration between Nintendo and Universal Studios was originally set for an opening debut in 2020. This was supposed to be just in time for the Summer Olympic Games in Japan that was also set to bring in more international visitors.
However, due to unforeseen global circumstances this year, the construction was delayed and opening was rescheduled to early next year.
Aside from leaked aerial images of the construction, fans were left in the dark about its progress, that is until recently when Universal started their promotional material for the new land.
The end result? A beautiful new expansion to the Osaka park, with a similar scale and immersion to that of Universal’s Wizarding World. It boasts new interactive activities, brilliant landscaping and visual effects, a thrill ride, and plenty of themed culinary and merchandising options.
So when Nintendo dropped a 15-minute livestream of Shigeru Miyamoto (creator of Mario) exploring the new area, fans were left in awe at Universal Studios’ new project.
As guests walk through a giant warping pipe tunnel, they are instantly teleported into the grand lobby of Peach’s castle, complete with the castle music from Super Mario 64. The land itself utilises tall sight-lines to immerse guests, blocking out other areas so that all you see are the blocky hills of Nintendo World.
Goombas roam up and down the hills, while huge Piranha Plants sway from side to side. Amidst it all, the foreboding Bowser’s Castle looms ominously, a threat to the once peaceful Mushroom Kingdom.
It is a sight that any Nintendo or Mario fan will recognise instantly.
By far the most impressing thing for me is their extensive use of practical effects and animatronics.
Being able to see shells and coins moving, or following a Koopa Troopa as it strolls its way down a hill is something that cannot be paralleled, especially for fans who have seen these iconic characters since their childhood.
When leaked images were being shared, some were concerned about the size of the land itself, with many commenting on how small or cramped it looked. It would appear that the designers have implemented other alternatives to control crowd sizes, even implementing underground sections that work like mazes.
While it is difficult to judge the actual size of the land through a Youtube video, it will only be a few months before fans get to go inside the land and give us their first-hand experiences about what Super Nintendo World is really like.
Something Miyamoto was very keen on sharing was the idea of these interactive activities that were spread throughout the land. Using a Power-Up Band, guests can punch the blocks and complete certain challenges or activities. The box will even make the iconic coin sound effect when you do so!
The band records every activity the user completes, and they can access it through their smartphones, even for later use when they leave the park. From what we’ve seen in this short sneak peek, it seems like these block activities will be a key focus for the Super Nintendo World guests.
I was really hoping that we would get a closer glimpse at Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge (AKA Bowser’s Challenge), which is their resident thrill ride of the area, nestled inside Bowser’s Castle. The ride allows guests to sit inside their own kart and race against Team Bowser.
The internal layout for Bowser’s Castle boasts some great displays, including a huge Bowser statue, as well as various Mario Kart Trophies put out on displays. As someone who frequently complains about wait times, this is one queue I would not mind waiting for.
So far, all we’ve seen from the ride is the karts, and not much else has been shown yet as to the actual ride or the thrills waiting for us. I suspect it would be similar to Disney California Adventure’s Radiator Spring Racers, or maybe even like Epcot’s Test Track, which straps riders in for a fast-paced thrill ride through different landscapes.
Of course, the immersion into the Mario universe is something that cannot be ignored, so expect some gorgeous landscapes and intense racing action.
It was surprising (but also not really) when they featured the AR headset that would be worn in the ride.
It is a bit of a shame to see Universal bring their rides back into virtual screens again, especially considering their amazing display of practical effects outside. Universal Studios used to immerse guests in life-like Hollywood sets, with iconic (but now defunct) rides like King Kong or Jaws, or the Mummy and Jurassic Park rides that I hold close to my heart.
But more recently, they’ve begun to implement more rides that focused more on simulation and screen technology, with the likes of the Transformers: The Ride 3D, Amazing Adventures of Spiderman 3D Ride, The Simpsons Ride, or the notorious Fast And Furious: Supercharged ride. With Universal reducing costs of rides in favour of screen technology, many of Universal’s rides are becoming more and more effortless.
That’s not to say that the Mario Kart ride will be bad, I’m sure given what we’ve seen from the rest of the park, the ride will deliver on its fair shares of thrills and immersion. I can only hope that they use AR more as an added bonus, and not as the main feature.
If the thrills and games aren’t quite your speed, Super Nintendo World offers a gift shop and an eatery full of appropriately themed goodies.
The 1-Up Factory offers exclusive Super Nintendo World merchandise that any Mario fan just has to get their hands on. Or maybe stop by Kinopio’s Cafe for some Mushroom-themed delicacies straight from Mushroom Kingdom that any Instagram foodie will have to snap up.
Universal Studio Japan’s new expansion of Super Nintendo World is sure to bring a lot of joy to Super Mario fans across the globe. Plans have been made known for the land to be brought to other Universal parks, including Singapore and Hollywood, each featuring different attractions tailored to their respective parks.
But for now, Japan’s Super Nintendo World opens 4th February 2021!