Korea + Japan 04/17 – Universal Studios Japan

Now that we were in Osaka, there was only one obvious destination for us.

Day 6 – Universal Studios Japan

Seems there’s never a quiet day at this park, and deservedly so with such a strong line-up.
It made for a bit of a worrying start when we were queuing for over half an hour just to get into the place, while watching all the fastrack packages sell out on the screens in front of us.
Probably the only thing that deserves complaining about at this park is the way admissions are handled. You can’t buy online tickets direct from the park and all the ticket queues on the day are severely slowed down by people asking about and having explained to them the million different packages before deciding what they want on the spot.
This is then further soured by the ridiculously overstated queue times everywhere within the park which you can’t help but think is their way of making more money out of people, though I don’t want to believe is the case.

Expecting to struggle, we tried to play things a bit tactically, but it wasn’t particularly necessary in the end.

Went for #1 VR Space Fantasy XR Evangelion: The Ride first as we knew the throughput was being halved by only running the forwards facing seats of what is usually a Mack spinning coaster and then further destroyed by the plague that is Virtual Reality.
There are a couple of preshows as a build up to aliens coming to attack the city and then the VR involves aliens coming to attack the city.

Have to say I was majorly let down by this ride. I’ve seen it being extremely highly regarded in the past and I have a bit of a thing for a good indoor coaster with a strong layout and nice theming so it was supposed to be bucket list good.
As we found it on this day, it was very weak as a coaster, like a mini Temple of the Nighthawk with its 3 lift hills and doing absolutely nothing in between them and sadly I don’t really see how it could have been hugely improved in the past, even with a bit of spinning.
I guess I can say I haven’t truly experienced that bucket list coaster, but I’m also left very doubtful now.
The VR itself was probably the best example I’ve seen so far, definitely the most detailed and well synced up. Doesn’t make me a fan of it though.
Highlight: Played our cards right with the queue times
Lowlight: Sad face

Scoped out the rest of the park and ticked off #2 Snoopy’s Great Race, the next cred next as it was walk on. Another Japanese version of what appears to be a Vekoma junior, this time by Senyo Kogyo
Highlight: A camera wielding Snoopy animatronic interacting with the train.
Lowlight: The building that housed it was like a furnace.

The stunt show/film scene simulating attraction Backdraft was good for the (FIRE!) but a little too much of a slow burn with many lengthy pre-shows. I prefer the Singapore equivalent. Didn’t know it was an actual film though, so learnt somethign new.

Turned up to Hogsmeade about 10 years too late to care, having been a huge fan of the books and the franchise until the final film adaptation went and soured it all for me. Opted for the dark ride first, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, with or without the optional castle walkthrough section, I’m not sure what was going on.
The entrance had the biggest locker nonsense I’ve experienced since Arthur, but we then walked straight through the very well themed queue and on to the ride, contrary to the 45 minute wait sign outside.

I quite liked this, even though a lot of it happens too fast. The ride system is a bit odd, with the robot arm chucking you into a very different mix of scenes ranging from half a second of breath-taking physical sets to some crappy screens with Harry on a broom waving at you. Almost can’t see how it all fits together (magic, obviously). Would have liked to give it a second go to let it sink in a bit more, but didn’t find the time in the end.

#3 Flight of the Hippogriff trains on the actual Vekoma junior coaster amuse me. Why is he made out of a wicker basket?
Highlight: First of many instances in the park where staff notice my shirt and say “ooh, Universal, Mummy, Singapore!” And give me a huge grin and thumbs up. Perfect.
Lowlight: Done far too many of these.

I was simply not prepared for how good Jaws was. This ride was just made for Japan with their excitable staff girls doing the talking, acting, boat driving and shark shooting. There were great crowd reactions every time the shark appeared. Great effects (FIRE!). Enjoyed every second of it.

#4 Flying Dinosaur

The new B&M flyer was claiming 120 minutes of queue but was about 40 in reality. There were more great crowd reactions every time the trains ‘assumed the (flying) position’ in the station, which was making for a good atmosphere after the very intensive loose item procedures.

What a fantastic flyer this is, they’ve finally nailed it. It has so many good sensations throughout and never really lets up. The initial inversion sequence is likely to be the most intense on the planet. Pretzel loops alone provide extremely powerful sensations as you get dropped on your head and all of the air is pushed out of your lungs, but you’re already reeling before you even reach this one due to the 540° twist and half loop combo that precedes it. It remains forceful and interesting throughout the rest of the ride and into the brakes, even though it doesn’t seem like any new ground is being covered by the second half of the layout.
Came back for this later as it was getting dark and had another of those magical moments on a ride.
Highlight: Perfect pacing, incredible intensity
Lowlight: Nasty nets that ruin many photos

Jurassic Park – The Ride was decent, but I much prefer the rapids version to these big lumbering boats as you get a much more exposed feeling from the whole setup and a bit more of a ‘ride’ out of it. The ending drop was very impressive, but all the build up and drifting around beforehand just wasn’t quite as fun to me.

The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman was very good. I got hit with a sudden wave of tiredness mid-afternoon, so didn’t take in much of this simulator ride, just remember enjoying it at the time. Good effects, great vehicle movement, a solid package.

This tiredness continued into Terminator 2:3-D, where a very long, standing preshow nearly finished me off. The acting was good though.
Once in the comfy seats of the main theatre, I was drifting in and out of consciousness while gun fights were going off, so again didn’t take much in until the theatre seats dropped at the end and gave me a good wake up call. I was fine after that.

Wasted a chunk of time going for this new show in the Harry Potter land, expecting it to be a Universal class production. They had converted the whole area back into a time slot basis and everyone was totally confused by this, so staff were handing out little maps to the machines that would give you a ticket. The time slots on these tickets didn’t line up with the show times, so we had to sprint along with a crowd of people through some dark trees only to miss the first 30 seconds of it.
The show was hilariously bad. A few actors were up in front of the castle chatting away and there were a couple of poor projections on the side of the building of some spells, followed by some killer comedy.
There was an actor on the roof of one of the shops very, very, very slowly getting attacked by a Dementor (those evil cloak things) with really over the top suspenseful music, while the actors down in front just stood and stared at their friend dying like ‘sorry mate.’
The power of love or money won through in the end and there was a smattering of applause. Left the area almost as fast as we came in to go do something decent instead.

#5 Hollywood Dream: The Ride

The B&M hyper was claiming 90 minutes all day but was about 30 in reality. We started off with a forwards run, no gimmicks, and really enjoyed it. There’s a good unique feel to the layout for a hyper, the airtime is solid throughout and it’s a very aesthetically pleasing ride.

Came back right at the end of the day and went for the backwards facing train, in the dark, with a foreboding anime soundtrack coming from the seat and suddenly this ride was stupidly good.
Not seeing things coming had a huge impact on how strong the airtime was and I all I could do was laugh with joy from start to finish. Make that 2 magical moments in one day. Amazing.
Highlight: Limbs haven’t flown that uncontrollably since Helix.
Lowlight: Jpop selection on the on board music wasn’t the Jpop I know and love.

It’s very easy to fill up your day here with so many attractions and would definitely be a struggle to get everything done if it was ‘busy’. We had a fantastic time with it all and would have loved to get a couple more re-rides in, particularly with that very strong coaster lineup. I even stood at the park entrance and longingly watched them sending the empty hyper trains home for the day before we departed.

Somehow we still managed to squeeze a bit more shopping into that evening.

Day 7

Korea + Japan 04/17 – Himeji Central Park
Korea + Japan 04/17 – Nagashima Spa Land

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