The folks at Universal Studios Hollywood had us out for a special media day opportunity to experience Super Nintendo World before its official opening. Being shuttled down into the park’s Lower Lot area, we were so excited for all that awaited us. We are long-time gamers who are old enough to have played the original Super Mario Bros. game on the NES Nintendo Entertainment System. My personal favorite of the franchise was Super Mario Bros. 3 but I loved all of them. We walked off our shuttle, picked up a complimentary Power-Up Band (a big thanks to Universal for gifting us one) and headed into the most eye-popping theme park area I have seen in quite some time. But, does Super Nintendo World work? Is it fun? Will non-gamers appreciate it? Read on to find out!
Super Nintendo World features SO MUCH amazing stuff. First thing of note is the overall design and art direction of the entire area. It’s like they took a slice out of the Nintendo games themselves and brought it to life. Everything is so vibrant and lush. The mini-games scattered across Super Nintendo World are a lot of fun and the food offerings over at the Toadstool Cafe are super tasty. During our visit, I had the spaghetti and Princess Peach cupcake: Simply delicious! I usually frequent the Three Broomsticks when I visit Universal Studios Hollywood but I would have no reservations about eating at the Toadstool Cafe instead – that is, of course, if I could get into the land now that it is open to the public! I have a feeling it is going to be a very busy place.
Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge is one of the most vibrant and rich dark rides I have ever experienced. The displays and projection effects used throughout are breathtaking as are the physical elements, props, and set design. During the ride, you’ll race through a variety of environments which will be familiar to gamers. You’ll even race along the rainbow bridge at the end of the ride. Of course, the gaming gimmick of Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge is there in the form of an augmented reality visor. You will shoot shells at what your AR visor is pointing at and gain coins throughout. At the end of the race, you’ll be able to compare your scores and boast (or bow your head in shame, depending).
The 1Up Factory is the gift shop that Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge exits into and is full of delightful Super Nintendo World Merchandise. I had to pick up some pins and a shirt during my visit and I am sure you will be able to find some fun goody for all the people in your party. The little stuffed Mario and Luigi plushies were adorable as well, but I digress…
The Power-Up Band was an interesting element of gamification that I didn’t expect to work as well as it did. Throughout Super Nintendo World, you will find all sorts of bricks to hit and places to swipe your Power-Up Band in front of to gain coins. These bands sync with the Universal Studios smartphone app and make for a fun additional element to Super Nintendo World. They cost $40 dollars and can be purchased at various locations around Universal Studios. The Power-Up Band straps on to your wrist in the style of a 1980’s “slap” bracelet. It’s not the most secure fit – in fact, in the boss battle with Bowser Jr. attraction, they ask you to remove them so they don’t go flying off and hit another player. A big bonus of the band is that they do not require any charging so you can toss them in a drawer and pull it out for your Universal Studios visits without worrying about battery levels.
What doesn’t work?
Unfortunately, the biggest disappointment in Super Nintendo World has to be the augmented reality visors of Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge. The ride is SO beautiful, I just wish they moved more action to the projection effects and practical props. The big issue is that the AR visor field of view is very limited – so much so that things break into frame from short distances from your focal point. This happens so often that it becomes a distraction from all the amazing real life stuff going on around you sort of like a housefly or gnat suddenly flying into your field of view while you’re trying to appreciate a stunning vista. Half way through, I removed the AR visor and just looked through it occasionally to make sure I was getting what was happening. It’s not that the augmented reality gimmick of the attraction is a bad idea – quite the opposite, it’s just not a good idea right now. The AR technology needs a few more years to mature in order to allow wider fields of view. Having a wider field of view would allow the AR to be a lot more seamless and feel more natural.
Exiting Super Nintendo World through a big green pipe leads guests out into the Lower Lot across the circle from Jurassic World: The Ride. From there, we went back into the Upper Lot area and into Hogsmeade so my Sister could buy a new wand from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Then we left the park, reflecting on all the fun that we had at this special look into Super Nintendo World. Whether or not you are a gamer and have (or have not) played any of the various video games, you’ll have such a fun time.
Super Nintendo World is an outstanding addition to the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park property. Now, if only they could make some room to bring in Diagon Alley from Universal Studios Orlando! Super Nintendo World is open now at Universal Studios Hollywood, check out the official website for ticket information, season pass information, and park hours.