Universal’s new ride has sparked controversy on the internet after the first views from inside this highly anticipated attraction were released.
Super Nintendo World was set to officially open this week at Universal Studios Japan, but the grand opening was postponed due to pandemic safety concerns. The media embargo on guests that attended the new land’s previews was lifted yesterday, despite the opening being pushed back. This led to hundreds of photos and video clips flooding the internet.
Super Nintendo World is an incredibly detailed area that recreates familiar imagery from the Mario family of video games. The land features a restaurant, gift shops, high-tech interactive activities, and two rides: “Yoshi’s Adventure” and “Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge.”
According to the official description, the Mario Kart ride features “iconic Mario Kart courses [that] have been brought to life with cutting-edge technology. Challenge enemies with shells! Aim for the finish line with Mario and Peach! The world’s first interactive Mario Kart theme park ride will leave you with a rush of adrenaline!”
With the some of the first guests sharing their own POV videos from the attraction online, many are quick to judge the ride harshly, or conversely, praise it unequivocally. Common complaints seem to be that the ride moves too slowly or that you don’t actually get to control the vehicle. However, there are some that are impressed with the physical sets and the way it integrates Augmented Reality and interactivity into the ride.
Universal designers spent six years developing the technology for the Mario Kart attraction, working closely with Nintendo representatives, including Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of the Mario franchise.
The ride combines several different types of technologies, including projection mapping and multi-layered screens, as well as the aforementioned Augmented Reality, to create a lively world bustling with activity over top of fully-fleshed out physical scenes.
Riders are given a Mario hat-shaped visor to wear during the attraction that uses AR to add additional characters and effects on top of what they’re really seeing. The technology is used to add things like virtual fireballs being shot out of practical Piranha Plants or a physical Thwomp smashing a virtual Toad character in front of you.
But the AR visor is also the main way that riders are able to interact with the ride. Collecting virtual special blocks containing dozens of Koopa Shells that they can use the controls in front of them to fire at a multitude of bad guys or projectiles that are seemingly hurdling towards them.
And the elements in AR have real consequences. Failure to stop a Bullet Bill from hitting you could result in your car spinning out and cost your team time. Not hitting enough bad guys with shells throughout the ride can cost “Team Mario” the race, resulting in an alternate ending where Bowser wins the cup trophy.
Despite featuring two ride vehicles that travel side by side on two parallel tracks, you are not racing against the other car, instead working with it to defeat “Team Bowser.” This has led to some of the controversy from many online that were expecting an actual racing element, perhaps similar to attractions like Radiator Springs Racers at Disney California Adventure.
For now, it seems too early to tell how the general public will feel about the ride. While the technical achievements of adding AR to a dark ride may be a game-changer for the industry, the lack of speed may be a deal-breaker for some fans.
We may not know what most guests that have actually ridden the ride have to say for a little while longer. Universal Studios Japan has asked that they keep their thoughts to themselves until Super Nintendo World eventually officially grand opens—which wont be for at least another month.