Costumed characters greet guests on the park’s opening day.

by Selina Wang, CNN 

Noriko Yoshinaka took the first train from Kyoto Thursday morning in order to be at the park on opening day. “I’m scared when I take off my mask to eat food,” Yoshinaka said. “But the park seems to take safety protocols, cleaning the rides and wiping surfaces every time people touch them, so I feel safe.” Many fans said they are most excited about Koopa’s Challenge: a real-life Mario Kart race through Bowser’s Castle. Riders have to wear augmented-reality headsets to see the projections of other characters and the track as well as to collect coins and to throw items.

In addition to conventional rides, the entire Super Nintendo World is an immersive game in which guests can compete against other gamers in the park. Just in like in the video game, visitors can jump up and punch “question blocks” and collect virtual coins. Guests can also purchase Power-up Bands, a wristband that can be linked to a smartphone app, where they can store these virtual coins and keys. Super Nintendo World cost about half a billion dollars to construct and more than six years to develop. The gaming industry — and Nintendo especially — got a big boost during the pandemic, as people in lockdown increasing 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 cashing in on its trove of intellectual property and iconic characters, with Nintendo items in gift shops across the theme park. “They are in a decades-long strategy of going from being a video game company to an entertainment company” by expanding into mobile games, movies, theme parks and merchandise, said David Gibson, analyst at Tokyo-based Astris Advisory.

Visitors strap in to enjoy the Koopa’s Challenge ride.
Philip Fong/AFP/Getty Images

This opening comes as the global theme park industry is struggling. Theme parks are re-opening in a patchwork around the world. There are plans to open Super Nintendo Worlds in California, Singapore and Florida. In Orlando, the opening has reportedly been delayed until 2025.Last year, Comcast executive Stephen Burke said Nintendo “is one of the biggest potential drivers of attendance that you could have of any kind of IP. It’s up there with Harry Potter. “Super Nintendo World was originally set to open last summer ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic games. Both have been pushed back by about a year and along with the Olympics, Super Nintendo World was expected to attract an influx of tourists and boost economic activity. Japan’s borders are still closed, so international travelers can’t come to the park yet. Osaka’s state of emergency was only lifted earlier this month, and Tokyo is still under the declaration. At the opening ceremony, Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto said he hopes the whole world can visit the park when the pandemic is over.

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