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Blasting beyond Potter’s interactive wands and Disney’s Datapad app, Super Nintendo World brings you into Mario’s world in every way possible

Super Nintendo World in Universal Studios Japan is expected to officially grand open sometime this year, but has already offered some lucky guests a chance to preview the land in recent months.

This new area of the park is making headlines for its Mario Kart and Yoshi rides, but there’s one aspect of the land that seems to be receiving universal praise from in-person visitors and online viewers alike: Super Nintendo World’s interactive elements.

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As a flood of new photos and video started pouring onto the internet last week, one thing that seemed to pique the interest of theme park fans are just how well designed the interactive activities seem to be. To play along with most of these activities you’ll need to purchase a Power-Up Band, which connects to the official app.

This colorful wristband not only works like the land’s version of the wands of the Wizarding World, where you can use it to unlock secrets, but can also gain you access to what are essentially stand-alone mini attractions.

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Super Nintendo World has taken something that usually only appeals to children, a play area, and turned it into an all-ages attraction. When you offer up the nostalgia of being able to explore an underground level from the Super Mario games, while also punching blocks to collect coins, to those of us that have grown up with the games since the 1980s, you’ve got yourself a recipe for success.

Younger generations will appreciate details from the newer games, including a mulit-player, high tech boss battle starring Bowser, Jr. There’s also a casino room where you have to hit each block to stop them from spinning to win some extra coins. This activity is ripped right out of Super Mario 3D World, (which appears to have been a big inspiration for the aesthetics of the land).

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Interactive casino game

The activities aren’t limited to any one area of the theme park land either. Inside the entrance to the land’s restaurant you can find a mini-game hiding right by the door. This not only keeps guests on their toes, but offers an excuse to explore every single inch of the land for fear you may miss out on opportunities to increase your rank in the app.

The app you connect to not only tracks your overall score (and your ranking against EVERY OTHER VISITOR EVER,) but just like any good video game, it lets you earn badges for completing tasks. These badges, called “stamps,” can be earned from something as simple as riding one of the rides, to more complex tasks like hitting every bad guy in one race on the Mario Kart ride.

Universal Studios Japan Official App
Compare your rankings to other guests any time using the app

It cannot be understated how much of an advancement this land may be for the level of guest interactivity in a theme park land. The industry has flirted with the idea of allowing guests to interact with things around them before. Experiences like The Wizarding World of Harry Potter allows you to stand in front of windows and “cast spells” to make objects move, or set off special effects, for example.

World Showcase in EPCOT offered similar-style effects, except using the guest’s cell phone to initiate, while tying it together with a loose storyline to follow. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge attempted to take these concepts a step further, offering the Datapad game within the Play Disney Parks mobile app.

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Interactive blocks you can play with that are also part of the scenery

While the Star Wars Datapad game can be useful for translating the in-world language of Aurebesh, and activating droids or hidden effects by solving puzzles can be entertaining, the experience focuses too much of your attention to your mobile device’s screen—and not enough on the real world around you.

Alternately, Super Nintendo World cleverly incorporates the iconic scenery from Super Mario video games into the interactive experiences. Guests can play in the world here. In some games you use your entire body to play and defeat bad guys, no controllers needed! We’re already so focused on our mobile device’s screens in our day to day lives, but here we get to play with the world around us.

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See the world through a different light with AR Binoculars

Even if you don’t purchase the Power-Up Bands to interact and play around the land, there are still things you can do. There are Augmented Reality Binoculars located in several places along the second level of this multi-level land. Looking through these viewers offers you a view of the real world, but with additional characters flying around and inhabiting the space. You can even turn the dial to zoom in on an area up close!

Augmented Reality isn’t limited to these binoculars though, as the land’s main attraction, Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge also features this technology.

That’s another reason why Super Nintendo World has taken the concept of theme park interactivity to new heights. All of the rides offer some level of interaction for the riders.

Mario Kart allows you to fire virtual koopa shells at AR opponents in a modern variation of the theme park shooter ride. Yoshi’s Adventure, which is geared towards younger children, includes a few egg-shaped buttons on the ride vehcile that kids can press when they see the same color eggs on the ride.

Even the land’s rumored phase two expansion, based on Donkey Kong Country, is expected to include some sort of interactivity. There have been rumors that guests will be able to have conversations with animatronic characters both in the land and in the queue for the expansion’s Mine Cart coaster ride. These would likely be a next-generation version of the talking goblins from Gringotts Money Exchange in Universal’s Diagon Alley.

It probably shouldn’t be a surprise that the most complex (and expensive) theme park land based on a video game franchise ever built would offer some level of interactivity, but I feel that the ideas present here may set the stage for the future of theme park design.

This isn’t just a shooting ride in a land or just a way to activate special effects in a window. This land builds on the foundation laid by more than two decades of interactive theme park experiences, and powers it up to 10. All of the experiences are so varied and interesting. Rather than repeat the same gimmick around the area, you’ll find new ways to play around every turn.

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Super Nintendo World in Universal Studios Japan

Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Japan is expected to have its official grand opening next month at the earliest. Versions of the land are currently planned to also be built in Universal parks in Hollywood, Orlando and Singapore. See our previous story for more details on the Mario Kart attraction!