5 Questions Answered About Universal Studio Japan’s Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge

With all the press images that have been released recently from Universal Studios Japan, it seems to raise more questions than it answers. With the announcement of Super Nintendo World opening on February 4, 2021, we now have more official photographs of the new land which is making fans salivate.

Yet, for every “holy crap, I need to book a plane ticket!” there are several questions that keep popping up on social media (and in our inbox). We’ve taken the time to answer the most common questions we have seen so far. Keep in mind, some of these statements have not been made by Universal yet. Thus, many of the things discussed in this article have to remain unofficial until Universal says so. Capiche? Let’s dive in!

Will Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge open anywhere besides Universal Studios Japan?

Yes, I know, flying to Japan is expensive for most people reading this. Good news, Super Nintendo World and specifically Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge is being replicated in Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Orlando.

Long time readers know that plans for Super Nintendo World were uncovered when it was slated for Universal Studios Florida. Back then, it would have been the first to receive a Nintendo land with Japan being last.

This was when Universal Parks first entered a deal with Nintendo. Then as the idea of what would become Universal’s Epic Universe became real, the project timelines were shifted. Universal Studios Japan would get it first, followed by Universal Hollywood and finally Universal Orlando.

If all goes according to plan (what are plans anymore?), Nintendo could open at Universal Studios Hollywood as soon as late next year. Since the park didn’t get a chance to open their Secret Life of Pets attraction in 2020, that could be their “new” attraction for 2021 and then Mario Kart/Nintendo gets punted to 2022. We shall see.

Is Universal’s Epic Universe still happening? From all we have heard, yes. There has been far too much work put into the park at this point to back out. From prepping the site to design and even pre-ordering attractions, it would take a lot more than a pandemic for Universal to walk away.

What’s that you say? You wanted me to clarify if parts of Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge was already built for Universal’s Epic Universe? Yes, it is. And it’s sitting in warehouses at various vendor facilities as I type this. Keep in mind, when this was being built. those vendors got contracts that said this ride would be built thrice. Thus, it might cost Universal more to not build Mario Kart in Orlando (breaking contracts and mothballing what has been built) than to go ahead and open it somewhere in Universal Orlando. Even if the plans for Epic Universe change.

Isn’t The Augmented Reality Just Screens For Your Face?

I get it. Universal Parks have been rather notorious for opening “screen attractions” over the last five years. Between Fast & Furious: Supercharged, Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon and Skull Island: Reign of Kong, there’s been a lot of 3D glasses for many new attractions.

However, this particular helmet isn’t 3D in the slightest. This will be the first time augmented reality is used on a moving ride vehicle. A tricky way to use the technology to say the least.

In short, riders will put on these swanky helmets before sitting down on the ride vehicle. Then once seated, they will “plug in” to the augmented reality feed using the connectors located in front of each seat.

You see those cables sticking out to the right of each lap bar? It’s just below the “M” in each rider seat. That’s what guests will use to see the AR properly. No, this doesn’t mean the ride only utilizes augmented reality. It’s a pretty healthy mix of practical effects, projection mapping and yes, there are some screens along the ride path as well.

Speaking of those “M”s in front of each rider…

Will I actually drive the car?

When you say “drive”, do you mean turn and drift? Then yes, I suppose that means you can “drive” the car. During the five-minute ride, your “M” in front of you will light up so you know it’s your turn to steer.

In the picture above, you’ll see vehicle 46 in front and vehicle 09 behind it. Notice between them is a black bar. That’s called a bus bar. It powers the attraction and essentially serves as the track for the ride at the same time.

This means, the Speedway in Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom allows you to “drive” more than Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge. The difference is, this is more of a “spin/drift” than a drive. And no, you can’t slow down or speed up the car with any sort of foot pedal either.

What Ride Can I Compare This To?

People like to say “oh that’s just a new version of ______” every time a new ride opens. “The new Guardians of the Galaxy ride at Epcot? Oh that’s just a new version of Escape From Gringotts at Universal Studios Florida.” (It’s not). What will theme park riders most likely compare Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge to?

Well let’s see. What loading zone looks like this? Two tracks loading side-by-side that run parallel to each other during the entire ride? Ah yes: Men In Black: Alien Attack. If you need something to compare the new Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge to in your brain, this will do. Granted, MIB doesn’t feature augmented reality or a ride vehicle you can steer (kind of), but it does share some similar characteristics.

How Do I Shoot Things?

Fans of Mario Kart know it’s not really a “shooting” game. However, you sure can pop out some tortoise shells and send them careening into objects or your opponent. You’ll be able to do similar things on Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge at the push of a button.

If we zoom into the steering wheel on the ride vehicle, you’ll notice some buttons. These are what is going to send objects digitally flying out of your car during the adventure. Keep in mimd, you’ll see them in your headset, not so much in the physical attraction.

At the end, there will be a winner and a loser (who crosses the finish line first) along with a score for each vehicle.

I hope this clears up some of the confusion! We look forward to seeing the finished product in February 2021!

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