Update 01/14/2021: Universal Studios Japan has indefinitely delayed the opening of Super Nintendo World after Osaka Prefecture declared a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a press release, USJ apologised to all guests and stakeholders, and explained that the opening date will only be decided and announced after the state of emergency is lifted.
Universal Studios Japan today announced that its long-awaited Super Nintendo World area will finally open to the public on February 4, 2021. IGN Japan was on hand for a sneak peek at one section of the new world; the very first time members of the press have been invited inside – check out our gallery below.
Bowser’s Castle (or Koopa’s Castle in Japan) is an immense reconstruction of the iconic location from the games. Visitors will be able to climb a sweeping grand staircase, at the top of which is an enormous, imposing bronze statue of Bowser himself. The scale is seriously impressive.
The walls of the castle’s corridors are lined with huge portrait paintings of Bowser, along with bright and colourful emblems from the Mario Kart games. Huge faux brass knockers adorn the doors, while Bowser’s face in menacing silhouette peers down from the top of the door frames.
We also saw where guests will line up for one of the park’s most anticipated new attractions, Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge, which promises to put visitors in the driving seat for a ride that includes AR and projection mapping effects to bring courses from the Mario Kart games to life. This is realized through a special headset styled on Mario’s hat with a built-in AR screen.
Super Nintendo World in Universal Studios Japan – Sneak Peek
The attraction is the result of a six-year collaboration with the creative team at Nintendo, including input from Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto.
Mario Kart Station is where visitors will board the ride. Each kart has four seats, with a steering wheel and AR headset for each rider. Warp Pipes hang down from the ceiling of the station departure hall, while chunky metal chains and massive gears decorate the room. The facade of a Lemmy’s Tire Service repair shop and other details can be seen above.
We also walked through a Trophy Room where guests can pose for photos alongside artefacts inspired by the games, including familiar trophies and one bearing the USJ logo, as well as a handwritten note from Bowser laying down a karting challenge.
Speaking to the assembled media, Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge attraction executive producer Thomas Geraghty showed off the new headset and Power Up Band. He noted that this will be the first ever Mario Kart theme park ride. “We will bring the story to life with Nintendo’s very compelling characters – Mario, Luigi and Princess Peach – and we will immerse our guests into the world of Nintendo with this augmented reality headset,” he said. “Guests will join their favourite characters immersed in augmented reality, steering their way through the Mushroom Kingdom, throwing shells at Koopalings, as they race to the finish.” He said that there will be win and lose states in the game, so victory is not guaranteed.
Geraghty said the headsets will be sanitised after every use, along with other social distancing measures.
Universal Studios Japan – Mario Cafe Grand Opening
Super Nintendo World was originally intended to open ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics this summer, but this was postponed in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Even so, in October, a Mario-themed cafe and store opened inside USJ did open, separate from the Super Nintendo World area. The final area promises to include some pretty cool gamified elements, such as interactive attractions where visitors link their Power Up Bands to a mobile app to collect digital coins and unlock achievements.
Universal Studios Japan is located in Osaka, Japan, and at the time of writing, Japan’s borders are closed to foreign tourists, though permanent foreign residents and business visitors from some countries are permitted to enter. The government is reportedly planning to fully reopen to tourists in spring 2021.
In addition to the USJ Super Nintendo World attraction, future locations are also being considered at other Universal Studios parks around the world.
Daniel Robson is Chief Editor at IGN Japan – follow him on Twitter here!