Before entering a new resurgence in the videogame industry with their Switch hybrid console, iconic Japanese videogame company Nintendo was looking at a dim future. In 2015 they tried to diversify by partnering with Universal Parks and Resorts to open a new themed area for Universal Studios Japan, populated by characters from Nintendo particularly the “Super Mario” franchise. Construction began in 2017, in time for a planned opening with the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics. COVID scrapped that schedule. In February this year, Super Nintendo World finally opened, but only to USJ annual pass holders. The grand opening happened this Thursday.
For real, “Super Mario” fans; it’s time to “Do the Mario” if you can travel to Osaka because Universal Studios Japan finally opened Super Nintendo World for all starting March 18. The Japan Times has it that an opening ceremony took place Thursday to welcome general admission to the Nintendo-themed park area, graced with the familiar overworld theme of the original 1986 “Super Mario Bros.” game on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) as well as the presence of Universal Studios Japan CEO JL Bonnier and “Super Mario” creator/Nintendo Representative Director Shigeru Miyamoto. Mascots of Super Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach and Toad were also present there.
“This is an area where everyone from children to adults can use their five senses to enjoy,” says Miyamoto in his remarks at the opening ceremony. “I want people from around the world to visit once the coronavirus pandemic is over.” And that sobering reminder calls to mind the challenges Super Nintendo World had to get off the ground. Construction cost 60 billion yen ($550 million), but COVID-19 meant its planned first year was left unfulfilled. The general opening was long-awaited because there are not that many USJ annual pass holders. Even so, the pandemic is keeping the face-masked visitor limit capped for safety reasons.
Super Nintendo World has two main attractions so far, “Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge” and “Yoshi’s Adventure.” The former is a dark ride adaptation of the popular racing spinoff to “Super Mario,” with augmented reality interaction. The latter is an omnimover ride with Mario’s friendly dinosaur mount Yoshi as the star. The area also has its own shopping and dining venues. While travel to Japan is still suspended, Universal Studios theme parks around the world are also building their own versions. But those might have to wait for some years more.
Image courtesy of CNN