As Sunday night turned into Monday morning, Universal Studios Japan released the official opening date for Super Nintendo World: Feb. 4, 2021.

The highly-anticipated land was supposed to open earlier in 2020, but COVID-19 pandemic wrecked those plans. The new opening date also came with new images of the land itself, its two attractions — Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge and Yoshi’s Adventure — and the wearable bands guests can use for interactive elements linked to a smartphone app. 

Amid all the excitement of Universal fans over this Japan expansion, an unfortunate truth was missed: it’s unlikely that Americans will be allowed to travel to Japan at the time Super Nintendo World opens.

As of Nov. 30, U.S. citizens generally remain prohibited from entering Japan, according to the U.S. Embassy in Japan. Slim exceptions exist only for U.S. citizen residents of Japan, as well as American students living in the country, who leave Japan and then return. Additionally, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently states that, “Travelers should avoid all travel to Japan.” 

Japan only recently lowered travel restrictions for Australia, Brunei, China (including Hong Kong and Macau), New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam. But even in those cases, travelers from those countries need visas. Travel for tourism purposes is generally not permitted at this time. 

According to an October report from The Japan Times, the Japanese government is considering ways to lift its ban on foreign tourists as early as spring 2021 — well after the Feb. 4 opening date for Super Nintendo World. 

Timed entry tickets

Universal Studios Japan is already preparing to manage large numbers of domestic travelers eager to see the new land. To gain entry into Super Nintendo World, those guests will need an “Area Timed Entry Ticket” that is either booked in advance, included with Universal’s Express Pass or booked on the day of their visit through Universal Japan’s app. 

Timed entry was also required at Disneyland when it opened Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in 2019 and Universal has utilized a return time system in Orlando when The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley reaches capacity. 

Additionally, Universal Japan is still operating at reduced capacity to allow for physical distancing within the parks. Like almost all other theme parks, it also requires guests and employees to wear masks and has implemented enhanced sanitation procedures as recommended by the Japanese government.

The land itself

Once the pandemic eases and travel to Japan is possible, visitors to Super Nintendo World will experience a land meant to be a real-life video game. 

Universal’s announcement focused on the land’s two main attractions and the interactive experiences. The larger of the two rides is Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge with photos showing off the inside of Bowser’s Castle and the ride vehicles. 

Mario Kart ride vehicles at Universal Studios Japan (Universal)

Mario Kart ride vehicles at Universal Studios Japan (Universal)

Inside Bowser's Castle (Universal)

Inside Bowser’s Castle (Universal)

Trophies inside Bowser's Castle (Universal)

Trophies inside Bowser’s Castle (Universal)

Guests in these four-seater vehicles will race along a track side-by-side with another car. Universal did confirm that riders will be wearing augmented reality headsets — shaped like Mario’s hat — which will add virtual elements on top of the physical ride, including the ability to throw virtual “shells” like in the Mario Kart games. 

The AR headset for Mario Kart: Koopa's Challenge (Universal)

The AR headset for Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge (Universal)

The five-minute ride will feature elements from Mario Kart tracks like Twisted Mansion and Rainbow Road. It will also come with a 48-inch height requirement for single riders and a 36-inch requirement for those riding with an adult. 

The other attraction, Yoshi’s Adventure, is a family ride on an omnimover system (like Disney’s Haunted Mansion). Guests board Yoshi-shaped vehicles to help Toad “find the three colored eggs that lead the way to the Golden Egg,” according to Universal’s press release. 

Yoshi's Adventure rendering (Universal)

Yoshi’s Adventure rendering (Universal)

Around the land itself, guests will be able to use a wearable called a Power-Up Band for other interactive elements. Costing around $30 apiece, the bands connect to a smartphone app allowing guests to “irtual coins and check your ranking, collect stamps and use the Power-Up Band to experience the world of the games in real life,” Universal said.

Power-Up Band (Universal)

Power-Up Band (Universal)

It will also be used for a “Power Up Band Key Challenge” which will pit players against Bowser Jr. 

“Waiting for you is a dramatic boss battle with Bowser Jr.,” Universal said. “Jump, punch and use your entire body and all your instincts to win.”

The waiting game 

While COVID-19 will force U.S. guests to wait longer for Super Nintendo World, perhaps they’re used to the waiting game for Universal’s Nintendo attractions.

The opening at Universal Studios Japan will come nearly five years after Universal and Nintendo first announced a theme park partnership. Nintendo attractions are also planned for Universal’s parks around the world, with Universal Studios Hollywood beginning to install the Mushroom Kingdom facade earlier this year

The plans for Orlando, however, are now uncertain. Super Nintendo World was originally supposed to be the cornerstone of a third Universal Orlando park, Epic Universe, which has since been delayed indefinitely due to the economic impact of the pandemic. In August, Orlando Park Stop’s Alicia Stella reported that the resort may dust off earlier plans to build Super Nintendo World where KidsZone currently sits at Universal Studios Florida.

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