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Super Nintendo World has officially opened at Universal Studios Hollywood. The much-anticipated theme park pioneers a unique concept — instead of focusing on rides, the park is an interactive experience.
Full disclosure, I was lucky enough to visit the park the day before it opened. Universal and Nintendo provided a Power-Up Band which is essential for the full park experience and food was available for free.
Super Nintendo World Highlights
Adapting the game to real life
Your mission in the park — should you choose to accept it (and pay for the NFC-enabled Power-Up Band) — is to explore and discover the secrets scattered throughout the land. Bands will track your progress as you collect coins and keys. Driving around in Mario Kart is the best way to collect coins, but there are also blocks to park on.
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Guests collect the keys by playing four mini-games in the park. The first time you collect a key, you will play on easy mode. However, the difficulty increases dramatically on subsequent attempts. These require active participation and synchronization. Be prepared to move and having a friend or two will help.
After collecting three keys, you can enter Bower Jr.’s lair. Guests are tasked with clearing Bob-ombs, falling under Bullet bills and collecting power ups. This was my favorite part of the park. The quest-like experience captures the feeling of playing a game in real life.
Power-Up Bands are critical to the Super Nintendo World experience. You should plan to buy one if you plan to go. They allow you to fully experience everything the park has to offer. The app will also give you clues on how to collect stamps, coins and find the secrets. I regret not using the app more while in the park. Bands also give input to cast members, especially those in costume. This helps personalize the meet and greet.
In addition to Power-Up Bands, Super Nintendo World uses AR to bring Mario’s world to life. This is best seen in the Mario Kart ride. Riders are given visors inspired by Mario’s hat that connect to the course’s AR display. Throughout the course, you drive, collect shells and shoot the iconic cast of Mario projected through AR. Not only does the ride immerse you in Mario’s world, but the focus on getting a high score makes it repetitive.
AR technology is also available in some other areas of the park, namely the binoculars that overlook Bower Jr.’s Shadow Showdown.
Super Nintendo World was meticulously crafted to capture the world of Mario. According to Jon Corfino, Vice President of Universal Creative, the project took over seven years to come to fruition.
“The cornerstone of this whole effort has been our relationship with Nintendo and Miyamoto-san and their collaboration because it’s all about authenticity,” Corfino said. “They are the best at what they do. We worked hand-in-hand with them on everything you see — from the wood grain in the seats to the sound levels in the park.”
The attention to detail paid off. The park itself captures the Mario feel. The nostalgia is off the charts and will delight fans who can visit.
While the Super Nintendo world itself is fantastic, there are some areas that could use improvements.
The instructions for setting up the Power-Up Band and how it interacted with the environment were not obvious. You can easily miss opportunities — like the Mario Kart ride — to scan your band. I was lucky to get some help, but unprepared visitors may miss out.
Additionally, the complexes themselves don’t feel as secure as I would like. They button up, but tend to roll up without a 1-Up Factory retail elastic that isn’t included in the package. This could be a big inconvenience for visitors, especially families.
I was also disappointed that there weren’t more opportunities to use the band. The queues are nicely decorated, but I wanted a mini game to play while in line. Likewise, the Toadstool Café offered no opportunities to use the complex. There are windows showing Chef Toad hard at work, but Power-Up Bands could help personalize the experience and make it more immersive.
Super Nintendo World will delight Nintendo fans and the experience is suitable for all ages. The crowds could make the park more difficult to navigate (I visited during a closed event so that wasn’t a problem), but overall it should be more packed into a half day than a full day experience. The officially announced Orlando version will feature more rides.
As Hollywood and gaming become more intertwined, Super Nintendo World represents a different way of adapting games. The collaboration between Universal and Nintendo was critical to successfully capturing the spirit of Mario. The immersive multimedia experience will delight fans and make you feel like you are playing a game in real life.
If you are a Nintendo fan in Southern California, the park is a must visit.
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