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Super Nintendo World (soft opening)

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I went to Universal Studios Japan yesterday, and I was surprised that they let us into Super Nintendo World (it’s grand opening of Feb. 4 was postponed due to the state of emergency).

They let us in under as part of of their soft opening/technical rehearsal.
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Technical Rehearsals

The entire park was quite empty, due to the limited capacity, but Super Nintendo World was pretty crowded. That said, Mario Kart Koopa’s Challenge was only a 30 minute wait.

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Koopa/Bowser

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Super Nintendo World

I dunno if people have talked about this before, so if anyone has questions, I can answer what I can.

Edit: Adding some more info

First, I will be speaking as a fan of both video games and theme parks, as experience with both definitely colors the impact of the land.

We immediately went for Super Nintendo World since the announcement said for those interested in visiting it, we had to head towards Waterworld.

The park had just opened, so there was no need for an entrance reservation for Super Nintendo World.

The pathway to SNW is sandwiched between the Waterworld show and the Jaws ride (clone of Florida’s attraction).

You see the huge pipe featured in the original concept videos and the Miyamoto direct. It leads to a small room with Mario64 portraits on each side and the world opens up in front of you.

First impressions, I got really emotional. That classic Nintendo music. That view. I had watched this land grow the past couple of years, sneaking peeks at it from the top of other rides.

Second impression, it’s rather small. But dense. All the concept art shows this. Down to the hidden Pikmin. It’s very busy, and everything is moving from the coins to the Goombas/kuribo and Piranha plant/pakkun.

I’m mentioning the Japanese names because they’re the default names here, hence the MK ride is called Koopa’s Challenge.

Since Mario Kart: Koopa’s challenge was the main attraction, we went for it. Wait time was about 30 minutes.

The queue was great. It was all indoors. It went deep and heavily themed. The first thing you will see is the staircase to the huge Bowser statue.

There are different rooms you’ll be walking through. My favorite details were the ff:


Gorgeous lamp

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This book 😂

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This cardboard diorama

While in line you will be given a card explaining the mechanics of the ride namely: how to put in the headgear and how to win the game (beat Koopa/Bowser).

After that you will be given your Mario “hats”. It’s a hard plastic (a little uncomfortable for my big head) visor. The AR screen (which is tethered to your seat) will magnetically attach to your visor.

The story: Bowser has challenged Mario to a kart race!

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Bowser’s challenge

Rough literal translation: Listen carefully, Mario! Come to my castle for a kart match. I’m waiting. Don’t run away! Bwahahaha!

You win the race by getting 100 coins. You can tap your power band onto the steering wheel. I’m assuming it deposits the coins you have collected in the world.

The ride experience: I had heard this was controversial, but I had tried to avoid spoilers as much as possible. Apparently, there are some angry fans too? Never seen them, but after my ride through, I can see why.

I liked it. But I was glad I didn’t pay extra for an universal express pass to get on it.

Yes, the rumors and videos are true, this is not a fast ride. At all. And that can be very disappointing. (I was too.)

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But after thinking about it, I thought it is important to think about what Universal and Nintendo were trying to do, and what did they have to work with.

USJ is in Osaka. It isn’t like Orlando where they have all the space in the world/Everglades to expand. It is in the city of Osaka itself, so the footprint land and the attraction is rather small.

Second, the lack of speed seems to be by design.

This is an interacting family attraction. Emphasis on interactive. This attraction has been designed to be able to be enjoyed by even the littlest fans.

If it’s too fast, then you won’t be able to play properly. (I noticed that the same issue with the Biohazard: The Real haunted maze a few years back. Because it was interactive the zombies were slower to give you a chance to shoot them.)

Also, because of the AR, they can’t really put an outdoor section of the attraction because they won’t be able to control the lights. Also a general lack of space.

My overall impression is that it is like and advanced version of this Fantasyland dark rides with a judicious use of screens, and AR.

How well does the AR work? It depends on you and how well you put on the visor. The visuals range from Super Mario 3D World-style stamps to 3D models.

You aim by moving your head, and if you look down on the wheel, you will see the amount of coins and turtle shells you have accumulated.

As a frequent theme park visitor, it was not the greatest/most impressive ride I have ever been on. As a gamer, it is a far cry from playing an actual game of Mario Kart. (Toy Story Mania/Midway Mania is a more effective “video game” you can ride. I haven’t been to Galaxy’s Edge, so I can’t comment on their rides.)

BUT, my friends who aren’t gamers absolutely loved it. They wanted to ride it again, and made reservations to get back into the area later in the day.

It was a much better experience the second time around. And I was able enjoy all the clever technology that was put into this adorable attraction.

More than Mario Kart, the real attraction is the world itself. Hitting the ? Block was a lot more fun that I thought it would be. I was surprised to see that you had to physically punch them for it to register. (There’s a rubber M that you have to aim for.)

Under the ? block

There are so many ? blocks all over the area and there aren’t any lines for them. You just approach them and punch up. What’s great is that they’re at different heights so there are some that most (non-NBA player-sized) adults will have to jump to make contact.

The other challenges, like the Pow Blocks, you have to fall in line for your shot. I tried to do the Bowser Jr. challenge, but I was told I hadn’t gotten all the keys I needed to qualify for it. I’ll try it again in early March.

The Yoshi attraction was very cute. And if you loved Yoshi’s island, you’ll definitely enjoy the music. It was unfortunately too short.

On our second visit of the day, I noticed this closed door/gate at the back of the area.

Closed gate

The trees look distinctly different from the other trees in the land, and have a certain, tropical perhaps, funky or cranky, flair to them.

So if/when the pandemic is over, should you book a flight to Osaka? It depends, if going to Super Nintendo World is your primary and only goal, maybe not. However, if it’s just one of the many things on your (hypothetical) itinerary, then it is definitely worth a visit.

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