Osaka, Japan (CNN) – Children and adults alike awaited their turn to experience the world’s first Super Nintendo World and its life-sized mushroom kingdom, which opened Thursday at Universal Studios Japan in Osaka.
Many wore the iconic red Mario hat, while others wore headgear in Nintendo memorabilia.
Minutes after attending, lines formed to get pictures with Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach and Frog.
Sisters Mika and Yuko Kobayashi – one who wore a Yoshi headband while carrying a doll carrying a doll – said they became emotional when they first went to the new park. They play Nintendo games since they are kids, they said. One added, “It’s not an exaggeration to tell me my upbringing.”
Playing the Princess Peach headband, Sakura Conohna said the park “goes beyond my expectations. I think I’m in the Mario world.”
While those in attendance are allowed to interact with the characters – who make noise in their video game-sounds – they cannot touch them due to coronavirus protocols. So, for now, there’s no high faving or hugging. In comparison, Disney parks currently do not allow character photos amid epidemics.
Universal Studios Japan’s Kovid-19 ban calls for temperature checks at the entrance, wearing mandatory masks, hand sanitizers everywhere, social distance lines, and signs in front of roller coasters, to avoid screaming in the morning.
According to park officials, capacity is limited to 10,000 people per day or about half of pre-COVID visitors.
Costume characters greet guests on the opening day of the park.
Noriko Yoshinaka took the first train from Kyoto on Thursday morning to stay in the park on the opening day.
“It’s scary when I take off my mask to eat,” Yoshinaka said. “But the park seems to take safety protocol, clearing rides and clearing surfaces every time people touch them, so I feel safe.”
Many fans said they were excited about the Copa challenge: a real-life Mario cart race through Bozer’s Castle. Riders will have to wear other-character projections and tracks as well as old-reality headsets to collect coins and throw things.
In addition to the traditional rides, the entire Super Nintendo World is an immersion game in which guests can compete against other gamers in the park.
Like a video game, visitors can jump and punch “question blocks” and collect virtual coins. Guests can also purchase power-up bands, a wrist band that can be linked to a smartphone app, where they can store these virtual coins and keys.
Super Nintendo World has cost nearly half a billion dollars to build and more than six years to develop. The gaming industry – and Nintendo in particular – gained momentum during the epidemic, as people growing up in lockdown turned to Nintendo games for escapism.
For Nintendo, this is an important step beyond its core business of video games and consoles. The company is earning its intellectual property and iconic characters with Nintendo items in the theme garden gift shop.
David Gibbs, an analyst at Tokyo-based Astris Advisory, said that by expanding into mobile games, movies, theme parks and the commercial sector, they are in a decades-long strategy to move from a video game company to an entertainment company.
Visitors entered to enjoy the Copa Challenge ride.
Philip Fong / AFP / Getty Images
The inauguration comes as the global theme park industry is struggling. Theme parks are reopening in patchwork around the world. There are plans to open Super Nintendo Worlds in California, Singapore and Florida. In Orlando, the opening is reported to be delayed until 2025.
Last year, Comcast executive Stephen Burke said Nintendo was “one of the biggest potential drivers of attendance that you can get for any type of IP. It’s there with Harry Potter.”
Super Nintendo World was originally scheduled to launch early last summer before the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Both have been pushed back almost a year and with the Olympics Super Nintendo World was expected to attract an influx of tourists and boost economic activity.
At the opening ceremony, Mario creator Shigeru Miyamomoto said he hopes the whole world can visit the park when the epidemic ends.