Universal Studios Japan today announced the opening date of its long-delayed ‘Super Nintendo World’ in its Osaka-based theme park, which is set to feature a Mario Kart-themed ride including AR headsets.

The grand opening of Super Nintendo World is officially set for February 4th, 2021, marking the 20th anniversary of USJ’s Osaka theme park.

In a press statement (Japanese), the company says the attraction combines a number of state-of-the-art video technologies such as AR headsets, projection mapping, and screen projection footage with special effects such as steam, as well as famous scenes from its past games reproduced on the ride’s course as set pieces.

Image courtesy Universal Studios Japan, Nintendo

The ride has been in development for more than six years now, and according to Bloomberg, the new theme park area cost ¥60 billion yen ($578 million USD) to build.

The Mario Kart AR ride takes place inside a recreation of Koopa’s (aka Bowser’s) Castle, and kits out riders with AR headsets topped with Mario’s iconic cap. USJ says on its website that park-goers will be able to race against other players through Mario Kart courses, toss out shells, and sprint to finish line with Mario and Peach. Check out Bloomberg’s first look below to get a peek at the ride.

Given the current state of travel, February 4th is admittedly an optimistic date. In a bid to address this early on, the park is enforcing a set of new practices, including social distancing, increased park sanitization, temperature checks, mandatory mask-wearing, and also encouraging guests to use Osaka’s COVID-19 tracing app. Granted, Universal Studios Japan in Osaka is mostly geared towards attracting domestic tourists, however that area has recently seen its third, and largest flare-up of the virus, so it’s still likely going to be an uphill battle.

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And in the midst of Super Nintendo World’s opening, it remains to be seen whether large-format VR attractions the world over will be able to make plans for a similar rebound. It’s still too early to tell though, so we’ll be watching 2021 with great interest to see whether a wary public can truly feel safe enough to return to location-based entertainment after (hopefully) wide distribution of an effective vaccine.





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