Nintendo’s Power-Up Band—a physical key to Japan’s upcoming Super Nintendo World | Ars Technica

The official Nintendo Power-Up Band, sold exclusively at Super Nintendo World in Osaka, Japan.

Sam Machkovech
This is the Toad-themed wristband. Other Power-Up Band options revolve around Mario, Luigi, Peach, Daisy, and Yoshi. Each retails for ¥3,200 ($32).

Sam Machkovech
A tighter zoom on the face, which is an easily scratched plastic surface. Still looks bright and fun enough in person.

Sam Machkovech
I have blurred the QR code on the band’s back, since that is all you need to access my very, very lucrative account stats on the Universal Studios Japan app.

Sam Machkovech
On my wrist, as modeled next to the latest 35th anniversary hoodie for Super Mario Bros. (purchased from Nintendo’s American online store, if you’re wondering).

Sam Machkovech
As posed next to my Toad Amiibo toy.

Sam Machkovech
This is a slap bracelet. A SLAP BRACELET.

Sam Machkovech
A better peek at the art on the box’s sides (same on both sides).

Sam Machkovech
Behind the Power-Up Band, Universal Studios tucks in a physical map.
Details beneath the map. (Who wants to translate this text, which I assume is pleasant and instructional for children?)
App instructions on the other side of the map.
More app instructions.

After years of rumors and teases, Super Nintendo World, the world’s first major theme park dedicated to a video game series, is set to open in exactly one month. We already received a comprehensive walkthrough last month, courtesy of Super Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto, and now, ahead of SNW’s public opening on February 4, we’ve gotten another tantalizing look at how the park will work—all by playing with one of its exclusive, Mario-branded wristbands.

That’s right: we’re in possession of an official Power-Up Band, the RFID-fueled system used to do practically everything at Universal Studios’ most gamified theme park zone yet. Even better, its theme park interface is already translated to English, so we were able to sync the system with an official app and see detailed hints about the park’s inner workings.

This merch came to Ars thanks to a well-placed reader, who was invited to a limited December preview of the park and graciously offered to send us the Power-Up Band when he was done with it. If you’ve seen other footage of the park trickling onto social media since late December, that’s all largely due to other patrons attending around the same time window, but nobody seems to have gone one further and shown exactly how this plastic slap bracelet (yes, it’s a slap bracelet) interfaces with the park’s rides and puzzles.

This is the only thing you can see in the Super Nintendo Land landing page until you sync a Power-Up Band (by taking a photo of its unique QR code).
Since my Power-Up Band is modeled after Toad, I can only pick that character (known in Japan as Kinopio). I can pick from three of his icons, at least.
Instructions for how to use the app—which primarily revolves around stamp and coin collections.
Make friends, and compare theme park high scores.
An eight-panel comic introduces you to the Super Nintendo Land concept.
I wonder if Bowser Jr. was chosen as the park’s “bad guy” to go easy on younger visitors.
Oh, you bet your sweet patooties I’m not leaving this park without all of the keys.
…the app later clarifies that you only need two keys to reach the park’s Bowser Jr. attraction.
You mean, this giant hunk of plastic on my wrist?
Mom, this smartphone I’m using to read Nintendo’s instructions isn’t enough junk for me. Buy me a Power-Up Band, too!
Not seen in the app: Whether patrons have to sign a waiver before punching a bunch of signs. (You’re probably better off just pressing the Power-Up Band’s face to these things.)
All of my friends are here, awesome.
Let’s check out the map, already!
The current Super Nintendo World map, which we believe will grow in size as more of its rides open up in the future.
Zoom in.
Tap the map’s individual icons to confirm exactly where to find puzzles, stamps, and challenges (along with meet-and-greet spots for the actors dressed as Mario, Luigi, Toad, and Princess Peach).

The above gallery includes Power-Up Band instructions, as spelled out with a charming comic strip drawn in the style of classic series animator Yoichi Kotabe. Long story short: Park attendees are encouraged to rack up various virtual currencies (stamps, coins, and keys) by engaging with Super Nintendo World’s variety of activities. Keys are the biggies, as you’ll need to interact with enough park attractions to earn two of its three keys before you can enter the Bowser Jr. Shadow Showdown, a group activity that pits multiple players against Bowser Jr. and various Super Mario minions. (Assumably, Universal Studios Japan doesn’t make you get all three keys to complete this portion, lest crazy-long lines or crowds prohibit you from doing so.)

Your primary interaction comes from collecting stamps, and some of these are as simple as tapping your Power-Up Band to physical objects at the park like Question Mark Blocks and touch panels. With some of these, a picture lights up and your work is done. Other touch panels activate mini-games such as slot machines, “note blocks” (which were introduced in Super Mario Bros. 3 and, at the park, play fan-favorite songs), and a hide-and-seek challenge where you look for particular characters through a pair of binoculars. (Apparently, you can find hidden Pikmin sprout characters at the park, which appears to be the first, uh, canon reference to Pikmin being part of the Super Mario universe. Interesting…)

Further Reading

Other mini-games listed in the app include “Koopa Troopa POWer [sic] Punch,” “Piranha Plant Nap,” “Bob-Omb Kaboom Room,” “Thwomp Panel Panic,” and “Goomba Crazy Crank,” which each have multiple difficulty levels and award the aforementioned Bowser Jr. keys. And since you’re here to geek out, according to the app, the songs available in the park’s “Note Block Rock” attraction include: “Ground Theme,” “Water World,” “Bob-Omb Battlefield,” “Main Theme,” “Athletic,” “Underground,” “Slider,” “Airship,” and “Ending Theme.”

I was born to be a member of Team Toad. (The rest of this gallery arguably has “spoilers” for hints and items you can collect in the park, ahead of its Japanese launch, but Universal Studios Japan doesn’t really hide any of this from paying visitors.)
My Power-Up Band came with accumulated coins from its prior wearer. Thanks, stranger.
As previously mentioned, Nintendo is nice to kids who aren’t completists (or can’t wait in lines to get every single key).
And now, a brief sampling of the park’s 174 available stamps as of press time.
As you make progress collecting stamps, more of the pages’ icons are filled in.
Since the theme park is covered in Question Mark Blocks, this one seems like the ultimate gimme stamp.
We’ve previously seen a Super Nintendo World attraction in which everything grows in size, mimicking the effect of Super Mario 64‘s Tiny Huge Island (among other classic Super Mario levels).
Find the hidden 8-bit icons to fill out a particular page of the stamp book.
If you watch Miyamoto’s video tour of Super Nintendo World, you’ll see him claim this very stamp.
Wait, how are we supposed to know that’s Luigi?
And there’s our answer: 8-Bit Mario is obviously the bigger one.
The previous owner didn’t sync a Power-Up Band to the Mario Kart ride, so we didn’t get to see its stamps yet.
But the ride encourages participation and competition, since it uses augmented reality glasses to superimpose “enemies” in your field of view—which you attack with a limited arsenal of classic Mario Kart weapons like Koopa shells.
The time-specific stamps are pretty cruel to Nintendo completists.
Should you visit Super Nintendo World on November 30, this one will evade you.
Gosh, I sure hope travel to Osaka opens up to foreigners by March 1…
Many of the stamps revolve around specific mini-games scattered around the park.
No victory necessary for this stamp, though beating this game’s variety of challenge levels awards more stamps and coins.
That ghost image appears to say “Congrats!”
Notifications on your progress, should you want a quicker peek at stamps mid-visit.
Once your leaderboard rank falls beneath a certain threshold, you’ll be tied for 9,999th place.

Super Nintendo Land is far from the first theme park to employ this kind of RFID-boosted gamification, with Universal Studios’ own Harry Potter attractions employing the gimmick, and knock-off amusement chains like Great Wolf Lodge copying the concept pretty much wholesale. But it certainly makes sense to see a Nintendo-centric park get in on the interactive fun, particularly with its Mario Kart ride, which asks passengers to don augmented reality goggles and battle the Koopa-affiliated characters who appear in the park’s Hololens-like goggles.

Further Reading

Listing image by Sam Machkovech