Video games and theme parks are two of my lifelong passions, so to say that the concept of the two coming together would something of a dream come true for yours truly might actually be an understatement. As if taking a page directly from the dream journal of my 10 year old self, Universal Parks & Resorts; the company responsible for the Universal Studios theme parks in the US and Japan, have teamed up with gaming icons Nintendo to bring the worlds we've been exploring virtually since the mid 80s to life at all three of the companies global theme parks.
The creative teams behind some of Nintendo’s most popular worlds and characters are working together with the creative teams behind Universal’s blockbuster theme park attractions to bring the characters, action and adventure of Nintendo video games to life within Universal theme parks. The aim is also to do so in “new and innovative ways” that capture what makes them so special. What these ways are specifically has yet to be unveiled, and the official announcement video (above) doesn't give much away either, but if it's anything close to what Universal have already achieved with existing properties such as The Simpsons and Harry Potter, thrill seeking gamers are really in for a treat!
According to a statement on the official Nintendo website, the partnership between Nintendo and Universal, two genuine icons of entertainment, will result in the following:-
Nintendo-themed areas are coming to Universal Studios Japan, Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood.
These will be expansive, immersive and interactive. They will be highly themed and authentic environments filled with multiple attractions, shops and restaurants.
Guests will feel as if they are playing inside their favourite games – this time in real life.
There will be something for everyone – regardless of their age or gaming experience level.
Planning and creative work on these areas is well underway; they will open separately over the next several years.
So far, so vague, but it at least sounds promising and each Universal theme park will reportedly be announcing details of its specific Nintendo areas soon. Needless to say, I'll be keeping a close eye on any such announcements, and if anything particularly exciting materialises, you'll be the first ones to know! For now though, I posit this question; what rides and/or attractions would you expect or hope to see in a Universal Nintendo Land? I'd wager at least one of the rides will feature Mario and Luigi, the Legend of Zelda and possibly even more obscure titles such as Metroid and Kirby. What form these rides will take, however, will depend on cost, space and exactly what kind of rides each property lends itself best to.
Personally, I foresee at least one cop-out '4D' theatre ride, but hope, and believe, that Nintendo have something a little more ambitious up their sleeves. Nintendo already actually tried their hands at a virtual theme park with the Wii U launch game, Nintendo Land, so they could do a lot worse than using that tragically underrated game as a template. Either way, the moment a date is announced (apparently the first land is expected to open in 2020, probably in the Universal park in Osaka, Japan in time for the Olympics) I'm booking my ticket to Orlando. Trump or no Trump!
If you just can't wait to physically step inside a Nintendo game, meanwhile, Nintendo is also creating a new escape room puzzle game based on the world of Hyrule featured in the Legend of Zelda games. Called “Defenders of the Triforce,” the real-world game is being built in collaboration with escape room design studio Scrap, and will be going on a tour throughout the US early next year. However, according to Nintendo, it’s different from a typical escape room game, and will feature many of the familiar Zelda touches fans of the series, such as myself have to come to expect. Sadly, there's no word on the experience making an appearance across the pond yet, but here's hoping!
Both the Universal parks partnership and the Zelda escape rooms announcements speak to a pretty bright future for Nintendo, who have finally learned to stop being so precious with their properties and are taking more exciting risks than Sony and Microsoft combined. Though the less said about the Nintendo Classic Mini, the better!
Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance writer and struggling musician from Kidderminster in the UK who actually owns a Wii U and has already preordered his Nintendo Switch!