On Wednesday night, Hollywood celebrities and Nintendo royalty (including the father of Mario, Shigeru Miyamoto) helped launch the long awaited Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Hollywood, ahead of doors officially opening to the public today (Friday, February 17th).
It’s a land that was described at the opening event as being “rich with interactivity, inventive culinary treats and innovative merchandising”, and as I came to discover, this was intensely accurate.
The world also sets itself up to be a game of its own, complete with accompanying app and leaderboard. And like any video game, this is one that you can race through or pace through, with the latter option helping you find all the secrets the “game” as to offer.
So to help you on your way, we’ve assembled the five things that everyone should know before they visit Super Nintendo World, to give you the advantage on finding all of its secrets. Now, let’s enter Peach’s Castle (circa N64 era)…
1. You’ve never experienced AR like Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge. Get ready to shoot with your eyes!
While interactivity and replay-ability is nothing new to the theme park experience, Super Nintendo World‘s signature attraction, Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge, takes it to a whole new level by integrating Augmented Reality (AR) technology into the ride.
Each rider wears a trendy Mario helmet and visor, that suspends interactive racers and villains in front of your eyes, who you can shoot with the shells you pick up along the way. Some details on the headset design can be found HERE.
Though some have integrated AR into their parks using a guest’s mobile device, this is the first time this has been attempted in a major theme park ride.* Yesterday, I sat down with Jon Corfino, VP of Universal Creative, who paid credit to Universal’s advance technology group in their creative studio in Orlando, “because we actually developed (the AR technology) ourselves”.
He said it hasn’t been done before, to his knowledge, “and certainly not to this level”. But it’s not just about the AR, with Corfino saying, “the art with what we’ve been able to achieve here is how you blend that to basically make the (AR) technology go away”, seamlessly blending what you see in your goggles, to what’s happening in the physical space around you.
And as awe inspiring as the experience can be, at the end of the day, it’s all about collecting those coins. So before you jump on the Kart attraction, here’s one point of advice from yours truly: Look, aim, fire. The way the technology works is that the shells fire to the centre of your vision. So if you’re trying to shoot something, just make sure you’re staring right at it. If you manage that, you’ll see your coin count ride as you drive your way through the experience.
*Well second, if we count the Japan Mario Kart ride separately.
2. You have to have a meal at Toadstool Café (it’s actually really good!)
You’ll need to sit down for a meal at Toadstool Café, the dining experience you’ll find within the land. The food there both tastes great and looks incredible. If there was ever a restaurant that screams “we want you to Instagram our meals”, it’s this one.
With a lean towards Italian fusion cuisine, you’ll find everything from a spicy spaghetti and meatballs, to a short rib with creamy goat cheese polenta and red wine reduction, as well as beef and chicken burgers (“Mario”, pictured below, and “Luigi”, respectively).
There’s cheesy garlic knots, soups presented in giant (plastic) mushrooms, and some impressive desserts and drinks, with a Japanese twist. Pictured below, you’ll see the Mt. Beanpole Cake, “a multi-layered Italian cookie cake with a matcha mousse”, and the Super Star Lemon Squash, the signature drink of the land, with “honey lemon soda with mango stars and assorted tropical bobas”. I can confirm, both are delicious and worth the price of admission alone.
3. Yes, the Power-Up Band is totally worth it. But not everyone needs it, and make sure you take it home with you!
After the success of the wand in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, that allows you to interact with the land, it’s no surprise that Super Nintendo World has an add-on of its own. But with the Power-Up Band, which snaps on your wrist and is available in 6 different characters, is like the controller to the game that sits within Super Nintendo World.
By purchasing the Power-Up Band (RRP $40), you are able to collect coins and keys throughout the World by hitting bricks (with your hands, not with the Band itself), playing Mario Kart and playing a number of mini-games.
You can connect it to the Universal Studios Hollywood mobile app via QR code on the back, to keep track of your score (and to see what else you have to unlock). Or, you can tap your Band on one of the screens in the land to see how you’re fairing, and where you and your team (based around the character you chose) are ranking for the day.
Once you win three of the four keys hidden around the land (though easily found via the map in the app), you’re able to “unlock” the final round, where you fight Bowser Jr. to retrieve the Golden Mushroom. Honestly, as impressive as the AR Mario Kart experience is, this may be my favourite part of the land, as you jump to collect power ups, swat Bob-ombs out of the way, shoot fire at your enemies and yes – get some more coins along the way.
While it’s worth the purchase to access the Bowser Jr. battle alone, it’s important to note that not everyone in your group or family will need one to be able to experience these games. I would hazard a guess to say that this hack has been designed with parents in mind; the kids (holders of the Power-Up Bands), essentially granting their parents access to the same experiences as them.
It’s also really important to keep the Power-Up Band! You’ll be able to use it every time you come back to the park, to continue to work on your score, and you can even use it in Japan (though your points won’t be combined, and you’ll have to use the Japan app). And as Super Nintendo Worlds open in Orlando and Singapore in the years ahead, we would assume they’ll work there too.
And it’s not just usable at the parks – the Band is also an amiibo for your Nintendo Switch! So they’ve considered a lot here.
Oh, and see point 5 for another fun feature that’s accessible through the Power Band.
4. Even the app doesn’t keep all the secrets. So search every nook and cranny!
While you’ll easily find the keys and plenty of other items through the map in the Universal Studios Hollywood app, there’s plenty more hidden around the land that you’ll need to keep your eyes out for.
You’ll find four hidden 8-bit characters on the walls (only visable by tapping your Power-Up Band), three hidden sets of Pikmin (I only found two!), and even a “Larry” somewhere out there (not me, the character!). And I’m sure that’s just scratching the surface.
And if you want a little bit of help – at least from one angle – look out for the set of binoculars (that also incorporate AR technology) up a set of stairs not far from the entry to Mario Kart. There’s lots of coins to be collected up there, too!
5. If the “key challenges” aren’t challenging enough – don’t worry, there’s a hard mode.
And finally – did you get all the keys, collect the Golden Mushroom and think it was too easy? Using the same Power-Up Band, return to the challenges, and prepare for “Hard Mode” on all of them!
You’re not going to get any access to anything special for getting all of the keys in hard mode (as far as we know), but you’ll be rewarded through the app. And I’m sure you’ll feel pretty good for achieving it, too.
Super Nintendo World opens today at Universal Studios Hollywood. For tickets and more details head HERE.
The author visited Super Nintendo World as a guest of Universal Studios Hollywood.
Headline photo supplied by Universal Studios Hollywood. All other photos by Larry Heath.