Passholder previews began this morning for Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Hollywood. Fans began lining up outside the park before 5:30am for the 10am preview, the first of several for annual passholders before the land opens officially to all on February 17.
Check in began more than half an hour before the advertised 8:30am check-in start, with passholders getting into the land around 9:30. Within minutes, long lines had formed not just for Mario Kart, but also to purchase Power Up Bands, each of the gameplay activities, and to enter Toadstool Cafe.
If Universal was trying to stress test the land with its most experienced guests, well then, it succeeded. However many people the park allowed into the land this morning was too many. With a 100-minute wait for the Mario Kart Bowser's Challenge ride yet a two-hour limit on passholders to enter the queues for Mario Kart or Toadstool Cafe, anyone who was not in the land as soon as their arrival window potentially opened faced a "do one, but not both" choice.
Still, by getting there early, I was able to get in a meal at Toadstool and two Mario Kart rides (using the single-rider queue for the second), plus a couple of gameplay activities before my two-hour window expired. I could have stayed in the land past that to play more of the outside activities, but the second wave of passholders filled the land to the point where it became a challenge just to walk in any direction. [I posted a TikTok of that.]
So, see ya.
I wrote about the Mario Kart ride in my initial review of the land's first day of technical rehearsals - Super Nintendo World Soft Opens in Hollywood. My advice for future visitors is to approach this as a Mario Kart-themed dark ride rather than a real-life Mario go-kart ride. You're not really driving anything, though you do win coins for following the prompts to steer your wheel in the correct direction at the designated times. And the speed never exceeds a brisk walk, though speed tunnel-style effects will make it seem faster at some points.
Nor do you need to have mastered Mario Kart, in any of its various editions, before riding Bowser's Challenge. Your two interactive points here are the steering input and throwing shells at Team Bowser, which makes the game play like many other shooter rides. You move your head to aim, and press the two buttons atop your steering wheel to fire. Just remember to look down at the AR display from time to time to see how many shells you have left, then use them wisely. You will pick up more during the ride, but you try not to get caught out when the best scoring opportunities present themselves. (In other words, when you are surrounded by Team Bowser rather than your teammmates on Team Mario.)
I loved my visit to Super Nintendo World's restaurant on the day it first opened to the public: Having Lunch With Super Mario at Universal's Toadstool Cafe. So I was looking forward to trying a few of the items that I could not get to on my initial visit.
Unfortunately, the restaurant was out of the Mount Beanpole cake [now $9.99, along with the other two desserts: Question Block Tiramisu and Princess Peach Cupcake], so I could not try that. So I went with just the Toadstool Cheesy Garlic Knots [$5.99] and the Luigi Burger [$16.99] with grilled chicken, pesto, basil, green pepper, and Swiss cheese.
The Toadstool shaped garlic knots offered a crust so soft as to be non-existent. With the flavor and consistency of a white-bread dinner roll, I tasted no garlic here. The butter only served to help the grated Parmesan adhere to the top. Only the marinara on the side brought any flavor to the table here.
The chicken sandwich's top bun was so dried out that it tasted stale to me. With so many people slamming the land (I waited over 30 minutes to get in order and get my food), I suspect that the kitchen and service was just overwhelmed. The fresh, hot flavor that I got on day one today was replaced by something that felt like it had spent far too long under a heat lamp.
The dominant taste on the Luigi burger was basil - along with green pepper, if you managed to get some of the thick ring of that in a bite. The seemingly unseasoned grilled chicken breast just got lost in the middle, though the creamy basil sauce slapped. I used the small cup provided on the side of the sandwich to dip my fries.
Here's hoping that when Super Nintendo World officially opens February 17, Universal more aggressively limits attendance inside the land, to better protect the experience and to give its Toadstool Cafe crew the breathing room they need to deliver product and service back to that first-day-of-technical-rehearsals standard.
All passholder preview spots have been claimed, but sources inside the park said that the land might be soft-opened to all guests starting at 6pm tonight and other evenings when the park is open late.
Update: [February 1] Universal Studios Hollywood just emailed passholders who had attended the overcrowded preview on Sunday, offering them a second-chance preview on Monday, February 6. If you were one of them, check your email for the details.
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