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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Well before the first modern XR products hit the market, Scott recognized the potential of the technology and set out to understand and document its growth. He has been professionally reporting on the space for nearly a decade as Editor at Road to VR, authoring more than 3,500 articles on the topic. Scott brings that seasoned insight to his reporting from major industry events across the globe.
  • Wild Dog

    I wish they’d give America one of these.

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    • James Cobalt

      They were building one in Orlando before the pandemic. Never got further than getting some basic utilities in the ground. Now the entire project is on “indefinite pause”. :-/

      • Wild Dog

        OOF. Well at-least now I can’t say they didn’t try.

        • Alexzz123

          It’s currently in construction at the Hollywood location

          • Wild Dog

            Wow. That’s even closer to me.

  • Cyrus Vachha

    It will be interesting to see how this is implemented since it looks like a 3DoF AR headset. I recall reading about AR patents from Universal including one about mixed reality binoculars.

    • James Cobalt

      It may be fine, since, like roller coaster VR, they can synchronize position based on where the rider is seated in the vehicle and where the vehicle is along the track.

      • robuttsex

        This is correct. Source: I worked on it.

        • James Cobalt

          Can you share which project you worked on (was it this one)? Is most coaster VR pre-rendered?

          Due to the interactive nature of this ride, it’ll be real-time, but it’s just rendering overlays rather than entire environments. I suspect the compute requirements are fairly low.

          • robuttsex

            Yes, this project. Quick correction that it’s AR rather than VR.

            Due to the interactive nature of the experience very little is pre-rendered. There are a few animated backdrop screens which are pre-rendered, but even most of those in-set screens require live elements to transfer from screen to AR (and back) in real time with no delay.

            The computing requirement for any individual screen is quite low, but VR/AR in general is fairly demanding. I can’t go into detail about the inner workings of the ride, but I will say that the number of machines used in this particular attraction is 3 digits. The back-end setup necessary to keep it all running in sync is seriously impressive.

  • I would love to go there