This summer, we took a family vacation to Universal Hollywood, where they just this year opened the second Super Nintendo World. While the trip is still fresh in my mind, I'd like to share our experiences - both good and bad.
What is Super Nintendo World?
The first thing that hit me upon entering Universal Hollywood's Super Nintendo World is that it's very small. I'm struggling to find a good comparison - it's maybe the size of the inside of a Best Buy? It's definitely smaller than the size of the Harry Potter themed area, and even that feels somewhat small by theme park standards.
In order to do anything interesting in this part of the park, you need a special NFC wristband. The wristband also doubles as a Nintendo Switch Amiibo. It comes in 6 different character themes, and costs $40. It links to the Universal Hollywood app, which tracks your progress in the park.
If you have a wristband, you can touch it against various stuff in the Super Nintendo World area. There are blocks you can punch to get coins and powerups, there are hidden spots you can touch it to that light up with 8-bit Mario characters, and you can interact with minigames in the area. These features mostly "just work" although the blocks can get a bit picky. It's quite fun to finally be able to punch a
? block and hear the coin sound jangle!
Moving on to the minigames - there are 5 of these total total. You have to do at least 3 of the first 4 before you can challenge the fifth - a "boss fight" in the castle. I saw a lot of people very confused and walking up to the boss fight without having enough of the keys, and then being turned away. The minigames themselves are very simple. "turn a crank", "hit this block with good timing" and "play a touchscreen game with your group" were the 3 we did.
There is one ride in this area of the park, and it's Mario Kart themed. It also links to the wristband/app combo, and it involves wearing AR goggles while seated in a 4-person kart that runs on a fixed track through a set of indoor areas.
So is Super Nintendo World any good?
Gosh. Tough question. If pressed, I'd say that it's an Experience - something I'm glad I tried, but not something I'm keen to do again or recommend to others.
We spent two days at Universal Hollywood, and tried our best to have fun in Super Nintendo World both days.
We got to Universal Studios Hollywood on the first day just after the park opened. The wait for Mario Kart was already listed as 2h on their infoscreens. Even though we'd bought the expensive "express" upgrade that lets you skip lines at each ride once per day, it doesn't work on that ride. (They'll sell you an even more expensive "VIP" upgrade if you want to skip that line, though.)
We headed towards Super Nintendo World - slowly - and got there maybe an hour or two after park opening. It was just... wall to wall people. There was barely room to move around. Each of the minigames had a long line that stretched into the middle of the area before becoming entangled in the other lines. We waited in one for about half an hour, but it didn't really move at all. Finally, we just gave up and left.
Later in the day, we headed back, and at this point they were queuing people to enter. We got in line for that and got in. it was a lot less crowded, although we still probably waited like 20 minutes for each 60 second minigame. We got 3 completed, and bonked all the blocks we could, then went to wait for the boss fight. Despite a false start and a decent wait in line (30-45 minutes) we were able to play it.
The boss fight is kind of a Mario-themed multiplayer Kinect game - if you've played one of those Kinect party games where you have to flail around and hit things on a screen, you've got the idea. It's fairly fun and energetic, but nothing terribly groundbreaking.
At no point during our first day did we see the Mario Kart line go down below about 90 minutes of waiting. We opted to give up for the day and come back on our second day to try again.
On day 2, we got to the main Universal Hollywood park entry 10 mins before it opened, and then beelined for the Super Nintendo World section. Everything was packed to the gills. We stood in some really large crowds from about midway through the park until we reached the Nintendo section. We went right for Mario Kart, and waited probably an hour in line at that point.
During the wait, there were some pretty cool Mario themed waiting rooms.
The ride itself was a sort of AR thing where they had you wear a washable/adjustable headband into which a set of AR tracking lenses hooked into once you were in the kart. Four people ride in each kart and form a sort of "team" together. Once the ride starts, the kart goes around a fixed track on its own, and meanwhile you look all around to see various racers and obstacles. When you get to a turn, you get a prompt on the AR display and have to turn the wheel to get coins. Whether or not you did the quick-time event, the kart continued on the fixed track.
A button on the steering wheel launches shells in the direction you are looking, but you have limited ammo. The game awards more coins for hitting enemy targets, and deducts them for hitting friendlies.
The ride lasts maybe 5-10 minutes total. I'm not sure exactly how "winning" works, but I do know that it's possible to lose to Bowser if whatever conditions aren't met.
The ride syncs to the band and the app tracks your "achievements." It would probably take a dozen rides or more to unlock them all. A fair bit of skill and/or memorization would help. That said, there's no way in hell you're going to get that many rides in without spending tens of thousands on park tickets and waiting in line for literal days.
Okay, I want to go, what should I know?
Here are my top tips for Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Hollywood:
I would suggest holding off on buying the wristbands until you see what the crowd is like in Super Nintendo World itself. They have vending machines and a gift shop that sells them right inside, so you're not losing anything by waiting. If you don't really care about tracking individual achievements, or you have some "not so hot on Mario" members of your group, sharing is definitely possible.
We were offered the ability to purchase an extra early hour in Super Nintendo World for a "reasonable" cost - and that might have been worth it. I don't know how crazy that hour is, but they only sell so many of the "extra hour" passes so it seems like it could be less crazy.
If the park is busy and you have "Universal Express" it might be a good idea to wait until Super Nintendo World entry becomes limited. With the "Express" upgrade you can bypass the line and sneak in during this time, when it's probably going to be less busy.
If you've got 2 days at Universal, and you want to do everything in Super Nintendo World, what you might want to do is wait until late in the day, then go in and do at least 3 of the minigames. When you get back to the park on your second day, you can go straight to the boss fight, where there won't be much of a line. Most people in the morning are going to be busy doing the minigames still.
Although all the Mario-themed stores in the park sell the same line of merch, we did find that some of the stores were completely out of stock of one or more items. There were some merch items that we saw people showing off but couldn't find because they were sold out park-wide. So if you see something you just HAVE to have, maybe consider picking it up earlier rather than later!