In a Nintendo direct today, we received a detailed inside look at the new Nintendo section of Universal Studios Japan set to open in February 4th 2021. This section will also be making its way to Universal Studios Hollywood and Orlando at an undetermined date as well as to Singapore. Shigeru Miyamoto, introducing himself as Mario’s Dad, is our delightful tour through this colorful land. Let’s not waste time and dive right in!
First, you enter a warp pipe to access the land. While Miyamoto would have loved to make an attraction itself out of the concept, they kept it simple. Lights give the illusion of movement as the familiar pipe entering and exiting sound plays. At the end of the warp you are just inside Peach’s castle with familiar carpet and paintings on the wall and the tune to match. Already my heart has grown three sizes.
Outside the kinetic energy of this land smacks you in the face. Kinetic energy is important for theme parks. Disney excels in this area. Kinetic energy is a term used for small touches of moving immersion such as in Galaxy’s Edge there will be droids moving along or a sleeping loth cat. It brings the land to life. This is perhaps the most kinetic energy I’ve ever seen with moving piranha plants, goombas, koopas, thwomps, yoshi, they’re all over the land. The high point of the land, which has been seen during construction, is Mount Beanpole in the middle of the park complete with level complete flag. The set up looks exactly like a level you could have played in one of the games!
Some of the elements do become interactive with your Harry Potter land wand—I mean power-up band. They work similar to the wand in that certain movements in certain areas of the park will cause something special to happen! Punch a question block and it’ll light up and play the coin grabbing sound. I’m always a fan of these interactive elements. While they do come at a cost, they’re completely optional and add a huge amount of fun. Then you can scan the QR code on the back to keep track of your score in the app. Much like the wand, the band will keep track of what you do and have done. There’s six different designs and they work with amiibo technology so they have a use once you get home which gives this a leg-up on the wands. Also a leg up on the wands is that the activities can also be puzzles that have a lot of show to them. Just delightful all around.
It’s not a mario game—er themed land—without an underground level. Familiar music plays through the underground maze full of exploding Bob-ombs and impressive visual tricks to appear as if you’ve been hit and are now a smaller mario running around. Walk through attractions aren’t something we see as often here in America. Most of them have been replaced with rides, so it’s delightful to see one like this. For another example of a walkthrough attraction, think the Swiss Family Treehouse at Magic Kingdom.
It’s not a theme park without a gift shop. The 1up factory is Super Nintendo World’s gift shop. There’s plenty of merch here from shirts to huge plush hats of Boos and Chain Chomps and more. Another product uses similar “tech” as the walking Barbie from the 90’s. It’s a small Mario puppet that walks when you push a shell behind him. Nintendo’s development team has been making a lot of fun toys for the land, harkening back to the company’s early days.
Also a staple of modern theme parks (and especially popular in Japan) are themed popcorn buckets (with cheap refills if you bring it back). This one is shaped like a star and has a Mario themed strap attached. It’s good this land received its own bucket. That means you’ve made it in the theme park world. Mario land also has its own exclusive flavors that may sound strange to us but I’m sure Japan adores. The two new flavors are caramel peach and mushroom.
Hungry for more than a popcorn snack? Kinopio’s Cafe had got you covered. (Kinopio is the Japanese name for Toad). And as you can guess by the name, the restaurant is entirely run by Toads. You can even say hello to the head chef Toad when you enter! The dining area continues the Mario theme with mushroom tables and cartoony chairs straight out of a game. It’s all incredibly cozy. The food here is probably cuter than it will be when it hits America as Japan loves cute themed food (and as the land is more kid friendly, there will probably be hotdogs and chicken tender affair on our side of the ocean). From the dining area, you can get an inside view of Toads hard at work in the kitchen preparing your meal. In Japan, they have a Mario Burger and Super Mushroom Pizza bowl (both themed to mushrooms, which raises some questions about the Toads inside). One thing that will definitely hit America is super cute instagramable deserts.
Walk around characters of the Mario brothers will greet visitors to the land. These use the same animatronic tech usually seen in Disney parks for the fab five (this term is used for Pluto, Mickey, Donald, Minnie, Goofy, and Daisy). Here Mario and Luigi can blink and move their mouths along to basic phrases. It’s always impressive to see this tech at play and it really brings the characters to life. (Note: Miyamoto saying “Okay, Dad’s busy, good luck with the photo shoot” is the most adorable thing.)
The grand opening will be held on February 4th 2021 in Japan so prepare your eBay engines if you want any of that sweet merch. Obviously we haven’t seen the full park in this direct, but one question you may have is “where are the rides?” Well…
Peach’s Castle ain’t the only royal residence around here. Bowser’s Castle looms as formidably as it does in the games in Super Nintendo World. Inside is Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge. It took a whopping six years to develop the tech for this ride and it’s something quite unlike anything we’ve yet seen at a theme park. Going up the stairs (handicapped options of course available) is a giant bowser statue. Wouldn’t be Bowser’s castle without a few of these. Inside is a display of many trophies from the various Mario Kart games. New is the universal studio’s cup, which is the one we will be competing for, along with a challenge note from Bowser.
The ride vehicles appear to be trackless and in the fashion of most trackless rides have four seats, two in front and two in back. The two in the back are elevated which is great! Helps with visibility. The ride vehicles, of course, look like a Mario apart go kart. You will wear an AR headset on the ride and the vehicles have a touch point on the steering wheel for the power-up bracelet. This means that every ride could potentially be unique with different Mario kart effects. We will received a seperate direct at a later date with a ride through of this attraction. For now, this small look is just the taste I needed to really see no expense was spared to bring Mario’s world to our own. (Or is that us to his world?)
So what do you think? Are you going to visit this park once it’s open (or makes it’s way over to your country)? Let us know! I’m beyond excited for this highly themed and immersive Universal Studios land. I’m also excited to see Universal continue to step up its game and become a formidable competitor to Disney World. With this land alongside Harry Potter world, Universal may finally become its own destination more so than a day or two break from a Disney Vacation. While this land is only Mario for right now, if things go well, we may see other Nintendo properties make their way over!