I wasn’t really that fussed when I first heard about Mario Land. For one thing, it’s in Japan, and in these pandemic hit times, even a trip down the road sounds adventurous, so I may as well get excited for a new line of moon rocks – there’s the same chance of me ever seeing them than there is of me going to Mario Land. I’m happy for the people who will get to go, but as far as I’m concerned… meh.
It’s not just that it’s far away though. The Simpsons Land in Florida is also pretty damn far from my home in sunny old England, and I’m incessantly jealous of anyone who ever has been or ever will go. The main thing about Mario Land is just that it’s Mario Land. I know they’re calling it Super Nintendo World, but it’s Mario. It’s being billed as a mixture of the Super Mario, Mario Kart, and Yoshi’s Island franchises, but that’s just Mario. There’s rumours of a Donkey Kong extension, and that piece of physical DLC would be welcome, but Mario and Donkey Kong have worked together before – not only in various Party and Kart crossovers, but also in the Donkey Kong arcade game, which saw the debut of Mario as a character.
It’s a bigger step away from Mario than Yoshi’s Island, but it still feels like it’s sticking to the safety of Mario. I’ve said before that my favourite Mario game is Mario Party 8. I appreciate what Mario did for the platformer (my favourite genre), and understand that many games I love wouldn’t exist without Mario, but I’ve just never had that “wow, this is a masterpiece” moment with any of the games. World, 64, Galaxy, and Odyssey are all very good, but none have convinced me that Nintendo is making the right move by filtering so many new concepts through the Mario lens, or that he deserves not just centre stage, but the whole stage at Super Nintendo World. He’s due to be publicly executed by Nintendo in a couple of days, and I won’t shed a tear when he’s at the guillotine.
The obvious contender to Mario is Link, and the Zelda franchise in general. Both were created by Shigeru Miyamoto, both date back to the ‘80s, and both have been Nintendo heavy hitters since then. I’m not the biggest Zelda fan, but it surprises me that the franchise isn’t getting a look in at the theme park. Animal Crossing, Kirby, Metroid, and Fire Emblem might also consider themselves unlucky not to make the cut – but I would have had the same reaction to all of those as I do with Mario. I hope the people who go there enjoy it, but it’s really not for me.
Pokemon is the one I really don’t understand. It’s the series I most associate with Nintendo – and the only Nintendo series I truly love – but I appreciate that the park was not made just for me. When you look at the literal billions of dollars Pokemon brings in though, it just feels like leaving money on the table by not including it. Even with Super Nintendo Land being an add-on to Universal Studios rather than a fully fledged park on its own, it’s a shame there’s no room for Pikachu.
There are so many Pokemon typings, Pokemon settings, and Pokemon themselves that lend themselves to being theme park-ized that I could list 50 concepts here and barely scratch the surface. Water types offer water slides, flume rides, waterfall coasters, cooling stations, lazy rivers, drinks machines, water fountains… that’s seven ideas off the top of my head for one of the 18 types in the game. Granted, a flume ride where you’re sprayed with gravel and bricks because it’s Rock-themed doesn’t sound as fun, but Stealth Rock, Power Gem, Hidden Power, and Diamond Storm could all be interpreted into some sort of attraction. Something like the Wild Area or the Safari Zone makes perfect sense too, and with so many regions based on real places (and so many locations in each region), an Epcot-style global adventure feels like a no brainer – although let’s skip Cianwood, yeah?
Despite all I’ve said about feeling pretty ‘meh’ about the idea of a Mario Land, the infectiously happy tour by Shigeru Miyamoto and the Mario Kart roller coaster has won me over. The idea of a Mario Land doesn’t do much for me, but seeing how much love and craft has been put into it, and how well the iconic elements of the games have been incorporated into the attractions, I understand it a lot more. I’m not quite at the point of jealousy yet – not in the way I am with The Simpsons Land – but I’m definitely at “I’d love to go,” which is quite a few steps up from “meh”. Seeing how excited a Mario Land can get me though just makes me want a Pokemon Land even more. I’m in on the concept from the ground floor there.
A Mario-themed cafe where the chefs are Toads is kinda fun, I guess. But a Pokemon Cafe-themed cafe with Eevees as the baristas? Sign me up! Alongside Nintendo’s coin collection watch, there could be different hidden Pokemon to find and catch in the world. It doesn’t take me to throw out these ideas though; Pokemon’s reality feels more like a theme park than Mario’s ever has, with vibrant creatures and over-the-top world design – especially in the anime. There’s less variety between each Pokemon game than there is in the Mario games, but Pokemon has far more built-in variety than Mario and it feels like it has conquered the world, so a theme park would be a fitting cherry on top.
I’m not asking for Mario Land to be torn down, but if and when Super Nintendo Land decides to expand and take in some other Nintendo games, surely Pokemon is at the front of the queue.
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Stacey Henley is an editor for TheGamer, and can often be found journeying to the edge of the Earth, but only in video games. Find her on Twitter @FiveTacey
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