Universal Studios Japan is bulking up its Super Nintendo World collection with a much-needed Pokemon upgrade, a recent press release reveals. The Pokemon Company president Tsunekazu Ishihara and USJ president and CEO J.L. Bonnier have committed to introducing various interactive entertainment opportunities and offering guests groundbreaking new innovations in pursuit of a real-life Pokemon theme park experience. The project seeks to combine augmented technology with “extraordinary creativity” that will allow visitors to sufficiently immerse themselves in the expansive world of Pokemon.
Though the announcement declined to specify further, it’s a safe bet Pokemon-themed rides will make it to Super Nintendo World in the near future. The impending upgrade is the second major Nintendo franchise to manifest a theme park exterior after opening with Mario-themed attractions in March. Universal Studios has been hard at work expanding the area to US Hollywood, US Singapore, and the soon-to-arrive Epic Universe in Orlando, Florida. The section currently only exists in the Osaka park. Whether or not the Pokemon theme park additions will eventually make it to other Universal Studios branches remains to be seen.
“This strategic alliance with Universal Studios Japan reflects our commitment to continue delivering the joy of Pokemon in ever evolving ways for years to come,” Ishihara says of Universal. “We are looking forward to the day when we can welcome fans from around the world to all enjoy it together.” Super Nintendo World should fully be renovated by 2022. The Pokemon theme park will presumably release ahead of an imminent Donkey Kong upgrade. Construction on the Donkey Kong section began recently, with development set to conclude around 2024. Nintendo had also spoken with Universal about adding more Mario exhibits to the park four years ago, eventually resulting in a new animated Mario movie starring Chris Pratt and Charlie Day as the brothers.
Super Nintendo World is a relatively new theme park experience for many patrons, being the first to provide guests with fully “gamified” interactive exhibits that magically transform even the most unassuming, modest attractions into life-size replicas of popular Nintendo games. Before Pokemon and Donkey Kong radically raised the bar higher, Super Nintendo World had Mario. To the excitement of longtime fans, series creator Shigeru Miyamoto shot a demo of the park early this year and boy, was the area a sight for sore eyes. It boasted a fully immersive Super Mario Bros. level where everything is hands-on and could easily be interacted with. Crates made sounds when bumped, enemies reacted to the slightest human touch, and indoor attractions simulated the sensation of shrinking to the size of a pea. Visitors are given items for use throughout the park. The Pokemon theme park addition will presumably have the same features.
Universal Studios first courted the idea of a fully realized world-building experience back in 2010 with The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, a blow-by-blow recreation of Hogwarts and other surrounding areas originally conceived by author J.K. Rowling. The growing popularity of franchises and fandoms ushered an era of making the impossible possible rather than simply paying homage to an existing IP, so instead of devoting a single attraction to Harry Potter, Universal made an entirely new section within the amusement park as large as the park itself. The 2010s is all about going meta now, treading the wire between fiction and reality with the central goal of making our childhood dreams — of being a Hogwarts student, Mario brother, Pokemon trainer, what have you — come alive. An actualized Pokemon theme park expansion is meant to elevate that experience further.
Imagine a world inside Universal Studios Japan where Jubilife City music is constantly blaring from overhead speakers, Pokemon Centers substitute for spa or rest areas, Poke Marts sell merchandise, guests can eke it out in Pokemon battles in common spaces, spooky rides imitating Lavender Town abound, every subsection is a brand new city, and giant mascots pretending to be life-sized Pokemon are just ambling about. If Super Nintendo World can accurately duplicate the gaming experience for fans, it would definitely be a Pokemon theme park to remember.