Game on for Mario at Universal Studios Japan

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Universal Studios Japan has opened its new land, Super Nintendo World, which has interactive features.
Universal Studios Japan has opened its new land, Super Nintendo World, which has interactive features.

Universal Studios Japan officially opened its new land, Super Nintendo World, on Wednesday.

The land, in the works for six years, features the characters and locales of Nintendo's popular Mario-and-friends franchise. Its opening kicks off the park's 20th anniversary celebration. Universal has confirmed its U.S. parks will also get their own iterations of Super Nintendo World.

Executives on a media call Wednesday touted Super Nintendo World as the most innovative experience Universal has ever created. 

Super Nintendo World "is really setting a whole new milestone in the history of theme parks," said Thierry Coup, senior vice president and chief creative officer at Universal Creative.

Super Nintendo World recreates the settings and feel of a Mario video game.
Super Nintendo World recreates the settings and feel of a Mario video game.

Coup described the area as a "life-sized video game."

In the multilevel land, Peach's Castle and Bowser's Castle tower over visitors. Guests have the opportunity to enjoy Mario Kart- and Yoshi-themed attractions, restaurants, shops and other experiences, such as characters that have animated eyes and can speak. Guests will also have the opportunity to buy a Power-Up Band, sync it to their smartphone and play games in the interactive land, competing with other guests (they can, for instance, punch the video game franchise's iconic question blocks to earn virtual coins).

Guests will feel like the main characters in a video game, Coup said. Universal Creative partnered closely with Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto and his team at Nintendo to develop the land.

Tom Geraghty, senior director of technology and innovation at Universal Creative, said guests will approach the new land on a green pathway leading up to a "warp pipe" they will walk through to get into Super Nintendo World. They will arrive at Peach's Castle and have a great view of the land.

"It's an incredibly moving experience," said Geraghty, who likened it to when guests enter Hogwarts for the first time in Universal's Harry Potter-themed lands. "It's so immersive."

In Bowser's Castle, guests will enjoy a Mario Kart-themed attraction that will see them steering their racing vehicles and shooting shells, thanks to the help of augmented-reality technology Universal developed. On the Yoshi-themed attraction, guests will find themselves searching for missing eggs; it features some of the best views of Super Mario World, Geraghty said.

The Power-Up Bands will allow guests to enjoy seamlessly integrated gameplay, fusing the physical world with the gaming world, Coup said. Super Mario World utilizes the most complex technology Universal has ever introduced.

That gameplay holds within it a repeat factor, according to Coup, as visitors are drawn to continue competing. He said the new land represents a landmark for theme parks: The first experience that marries gaming with the theme park experience.

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