• Reuters, AFP-Jiji

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Universal Studios Japan (USJ) on Thursday opened its ¥60 billion ($550 million) Super Mario-themed attraction in a major leap beyond the virtual world by games maker Nintendo Co.

The addition in Osaka bulks up USJ’s roster of franchises, which include “Minions” and “Jurassic Park,” in its rivalry with Disney, with the mustachioed plumber also set to hit other Universal parks worldwide.

Entering through a giant warp pipe, visitors to Super Nintendo World, a real-world version of Mario games creator Shigeru Miyamoto’s Mushroom Kingdom, are met with chomping piranha plants, punchable coin blocks and a flag-topped Mount Beanpole.

Visitors pose in front of the newly opened Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Japan in Osaka on Thursday. | KYODO
Visitors pose in front of the newly opened Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Japan in Osaka on Thursday. | KYODO

At the attraction, whose opening was delayed repeatedly from last summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic, visitors can buy a “power-up band” which syncs with the park’s app to rank them as they gather coins and defeat baddies.

“This is an area where everyone from children to adults can use their five senses to enjoy,” Miyamoto said at an opening ceremony Thursday. “I want people from around the world to visit once the coronavirus pandemic is over.”

Ayumu Yamamoto, USJ’s marketing communication manager, said the park perfectly recreated the world of the game. “You’ll find life-sized piranha plants and Bowser, and you’ll see what it is like to be Mario.”

“It took almost a year longer than we had expected to open this place, and we are really glad,” he told reporters at a preview on Wednesday.

Visitors wear themed augmented reality goggles for the
Visitors wear themed augmented reality goggles for the “Mario Kart” ride during a media preview of the Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Japan in Osaka on Wednesday. | AFP-JIJI

Music from the popular Mario games plays throughout the park and a smartphone-linked wristband allows visitors to collect virtual coins by punching blocks, just like the Italian plumber.

Augmented reality goggles attached to a plastic red visor are used in the “Mario Kart” ride, one of the park’s main draws that promises to bring the racing game to life.

The ride follows a track around the foreboding castle of Mario’s enemy Bowser, an evil turtle, but each seat has a steering wheel and players can collect and shoot items at opponents.

The zone also boasts a ride based on the cute green dinosaur Yoshi, Peach’s castle, Mario-themed restaurants and lifesize characters from the Mushroom Kingdom.

Visitors line up to enter the newly opened Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Japan in Osaka on Thursday. | KYODO
Visitors line up to enter the newly opened Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Japan in Osaka on Thursday. | KYODO

Fans said they were thrilled about the much-anticipated opening of the park.

“I’ve been playing Mario since I was a boy. I didn’t expect that I could enter the world of Mario, so I’m very excited,” said Hiroki Kono, a 19-year-old university student in Osaka.

The area’s opening is a reply to investors frustrated by Nintendo’s reluctance to more aggressively commercialize its fan base. The Kyoto-based firm’s Switch games console has proved a pandemic winner while a foray into mobile gaming has stalled.

USJ is currently operating at reduced capacity and guests will need timed tickets to enter the area.

Nintendo Co.'s Super Mario games creator Shigeru Miyamoto speaks at the opening ceremony for Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Japan in Osaka on Thursday. | KYODO
Nintendo Co.’s Super Mario games creator Shigeru Miyamoto speaks at the opening ceremony for Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Japan in Osaka on Thursday. | KYODO

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