It may not be a full-fledged Nintendo theme park, but this summer’s Play Nintendo Tour is the closest we’ll get to one. Currently making its way across the United States, this 2DS-centric mall tour replaces standard demo units with themed areas dedicated to a variety of 3DS games. There’s a giant Yoshi egg, DK barrels scattered about, and even a life-size Mario warp pipe with a 2DS demo unit stationed inside of it. Visiting the tour’s kick-off in Culver City, CA last month was like taking a trip to a playground. Here’s what to expect if you plan on going, as well as a photo gallery for those who can’t.
The most notable part of the Play Nintendo Tour is the custom setup. Gone are the simple kiosks we saw at Nintendo’s 2013 holiday tour, instead replaced with what amounts to a more portable version of the photo ops Nintendo brought to Comic-Con 2013 and E3 2013. Each section of the Play Nintendo Tour features its own look and feel depending on the game, and includes both spaces to try the demos and built-in photo opportunities. If you go to the Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds area, for example, you’ll be able to pose with a prop Master Sword and Hylian Shield in front of a stone backdrop. Or you can check out the Kirby: Triple Deluxe section to sit on Kirby’s warp star. Or you can head over to the Super Mario 3D Land display to pose alongside an end-level flagpole. All these photo ops, along with a giant 2DS photo frame that places you “inside” the system’s top screen, are smart moves for Nintendo. They not only keep fans busy while waiting for demos to free up, but also harness everyone’s love of selfies to help Nintendo gain maximum exposure (#PlayNintendoTour).
To go with those photo ops are of course the games themselves. In all, Nintendo is showing off eight 3DS titles: Kirby: Triple Deluxe, Yoshi’s New Island, Pokemon X & Y, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D, Super Mario 3D Land, Mario Kart 7, and the Target-exclusive Photos with Mario AR cards. To get visitors to try everything, Nintendo is also giving out character badge sheets. These amount to nothing more than stickers to collect, but once you have a full set, you earn a free chance at the Play Nintendo Tour claw machine, which is stuffed with an assortment of Nintendo character plushes. One other major component of the tour is the Mario Kart tournament, which features qualifying races in Mario Kart 7 (on 2DS units tethered to fake go-kart seats, naturally) and Mario Kart 8 semifinals and finals on a giant screen. The champion goes home with a Mario Kart Wii U bundle, which instantly made this the most popular part of the Play Nintendo Tour. In fact, so many people signed up that Nintendo had to resort to a deli counter-style number-calling system.
That’s not to say the rest of the tour booth wasn’t crowded. Quite the opposite, in fact. Whether it was the lure of the themed areas, the costumed Nintendo characters posing for photos (Mario, Luigi, DK, Pikachu, and Kirby were all in attendance), or just the fact that free video games in the middle of a mall are too good to pass up, the entire booth was packed with people when we stopped by. This certainly bodes well for the future of the 2DS and Wii U, plus it suggests that Nintendo may have a winning setup for its bi-annual mall tours going forward. The Play Nintendo Tour already passed through two cities and has ten more to go. To see if it’ll stop near you between now and its September 1 end date, check out the official Play Nintendo Tour website.