Let’s go to Super Nintendo World, Hollywood’s new interactive theme park

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Nintendo is often referred to as the “Disney of video games”. But while Nintendo has long matched Disney’s reputation for family-friendly home entertainment, it had nothing to match Disney’s dominance in the physical world of theme parks.

That began to change in 2021, when Super Nintendo World finally opened at Osaka’s Universal Studios Japan. Now, a very similar experience is coming to America with the opening of the Super Nintendo World section of Universal Studios Hollywood.

Ars got a sneak peek at the new section of the park just before its opening on Friday, and came away totally enthralled by the charming interactivity and Disney-esque attention to detail evident throughout the park’s newest themed area.

Mario Kart: The Ride

The centerpiece of Super Nintendo World is “Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge”, the section’s only full-fledged “motion attraction”. I was skeptical that the combo ride and augmented reality game would come together in a satisfying way, but I came away from each of my three rides eager to go again.

The “Bowser’s Challenge” AR headset comes in two parts. First, you get a visor that resembles a red Mario hat; it fits around your forehead and tightens with a rear crank (which will be familiar to anyone who’s used a PSVR headset). The other part, which includes the AR screen itself, remains attached to the map itself and attaches to the visor with a simple magnetic click. The light, transparent screen floats comfortably in front of your eyes.

You see most of the ride’s highly scripted interactive Mario Kart races through the ghostly images on this AR screen. Everything from adversarial maps to item boxes to flying enemies only exist in this view and don’t come across well in images or walkthrough videos.

The AR images – which only appear in a relatively wide swath of your vision – are decidedly low-resolution, especially for objects seen from a distance. The general fuzziness is all the more noticeable because you can compare them side by side with some impressive practical effects and high-resolution screens throughout the ride.

That said, the apparent placement of the AR elements remains remarkably stable as your viewpoint changes throughout the ride, making it easier to trick your brain into thinking these elements are actually “real.”

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