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Super Nintendo World opens in Osaka, Japan

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Osaka, Japan (CNN) – Both children and adults waited in line for the turn to experience the world’s first Super Nintendo world and its life-size mushroom kingdom, which opened Thursday at Universal Studios Japan in Osaka.

Many wore Mario’s iconic red hat, while others approached the feet of Nintendo’s memory.

Minutes after letting attendees in, lines were formed to take pictures with Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach and Toad.

Sisters Mika and Yuko Kobayashi, one who wore a Yoshi tiara while wearing a Mario doll, said they were thrilled when they first entered the new park. They have said they have been playing Nintendo Games since they were kids. One added that “it’s no exaggeration to say that Mario raised me.”

Wearing a Princess Peach headband, Sakura Konohana said the park “is beyond my expectations. I feel like I’m in Mario’s world.”

While attendees are allowed to interact with the characters (who speak with their video game sounding voices), they cannot touch them due to coronavirus protocols. So for now, there are no hugs or hugs. In comparison, Disney parks currently do not allow photographs of characters in the midst of the pandemic.

Covid-19 restrictions at Universal Studios Japan include temperature controls at the entrance, mandatory wearing of masks, hand sanitizer everywhere, social distancing on the line, and roller coaster signs asking pilots to refrain from shout out.

This latest application is not limited to Super Nintendo World. A group of Japanese theme parks asked visitors to “shout at their hearts“instead of making it loud last summer in a story that went viral.

Capacity is limited to 10,000 people a day, or about half of the pre-COVID visitors, according to park officials.

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The disguised characters greet the guests on the opening day of the park.

Noriko Yoshinaka took the first train from Kyoto on Thursday morning so she could be in the park on the opening day.

“It scares me when I take off my mask to eat food,” Yoshinaka said. “But the park seems to adopt safety protocols, clean up attractions and clean surfaces every time people touch them, so I feel safe.”

Many fans said they were more excited about Koopa’s challenge: a real-life Mario Kart race through Bowser Castle. Riders must wear augmented reality headphones to see the projections of other characters and the track, as well as to collect coins and throw objects.

In addition to conventional attractions, the entire Super Nintendo World is an immersive game in which guests can compete against other players in the park.

Just like in the video game, visitors can jump in and hit “question blocks” and collect virtual coins. Customers can also purchase Power-up Bands, a bracelet that can be linked to a smartphone app, where they can store these coins and virtual keys.

Super Nintendo World cost about half a million dollars to build and more than six years to develop. The video game industry, and especially Nintendo, gained a big boost during the pandemic, as people in blockchain engaged in Nintendo games to escape.

For Nintendo, this is an important step beyond its core video game and console business. The company faces its intellectual property and iconic characters, with Nintendo items in the theme park’s gift shops.

“They’re in a decades-old strategy of moving from being a video game company to an entertainment company” expanding into mobile games, movies, theme parks and merchandise, said David Gibson, an analyst at Astris Advisory based in Tokyo.

Visitors participate to enjoy Koopa's challenging journey.

Visitors participate to enjoy Koopa’s challenging journey.

Philip Fong / AFP / Getty Images

This opening comes when the global theme park industry is struggling. Theme parks reopen in a mosaic from around the world. There are plans to open Super Nintendo Worlds in California, Singapore and Florida. In Orlando, opening has been delayed until 2025.

Last year, Comcast executive Stephen Burke said Nintendo “is one of the biggest potential support boosters you could have of any kind of IP. It’s up there with Harry Potter.”

Super Nintendo World had opened last summer before the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Both have been set back for about a year and, along with the Olympics, Super Nintendo World was expected to attract an influx of tourists and boost the ‘economic activity.

The borders of Japan are still closed, so international travelers still can’t come to the park. The state of emergency in Osaka was only lifted earlier this month and Tokyo it is still under declaration.

At the opening ceremony, Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto said he hopes everyone can visit the park when the pandemic ends.

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