The Intamin Mega Coaster first hit the scene in 1999, as the manufacturer’s first foray into ‘hyper coaster’ territory, contrary to what the name would suggest. The world of 200ft+ rollercoasters (with an actual layout) was dominated at the time by team Arrow and Morgan who, in conjunction with Cedar Point, had coined the use of the ‘hyper’ label some 10 years prior. By the turn of the Millennium several other manufacturers were trying their hand at the concept and of course, as one of the big innovators, Intamin played their part well.
Marketing remains at odds with enthusiasm as always. Though Intamin would go on to set the trend over the next few years, again with Cedar Point, for the naming of both >300ft and >400ft coasters ‘giga’ and ‘strata’ respectively, the product name for what the company currently defines as anything exceeding 61m in height (200ft) perhaps defiantly remains as the Mega Coaster. The term giga lives on in their product lineup, while the likes of 400ft monsters Top Thrill Dragster and Kingda Ka have been snuck away into the LSM launch category despite using an entirely different launch system.
We’re not done yet on definition though, as I’m going to throw my own spanner in the works for fun. A fairly recent rebrand on their website brought the Ultra Coaster into being, specifically a little ride we like to call the Mega-Lite around here, and they’re going on this list anyway. One supposed difference is that these are well under 200ft in height, but what I’m choosing to focus on in the comparisons today is more relevant to what Intamin aptly describe as both ‘Speed and airtime combinations’ or ‘Speed and airtime fascination’ between the two products and you could definitely say I have a fascination with airtime.
I suppose this is the paragraph for the usual spiel about how many there are and if I’m even qualified to speak about such things (most likely not). I was hoping to hold off on this particular topic until Kondaa (actually it turns out over half of these aren’t >60m despite… no, that’s enough of that discussion, I’ll be going round in circles all day) happened to me, but following the news of the flooding disaster and the continuing uncertainty around foreign travel in general it’s clear that nothing is going to happen in that department for a good while yet. With that in mind the new Belgian beast made for 9 unique layouts across the world and without it I’m on 8, which is not too shabby. Let’s begin.
With the ’99 classic, or rather the mirrored clone of that original, situated just 2 states over. The mega coaster model started out with good intentions, leaning heavily on the speed side of the equation. An entertaining ride for sure, though perhaps for the wrong reasons – namely the amusingly over exaggerated straight sections and momentum sapping helices. Should put a smile on anyone’s face at the very least.
The crown for amusing sections goes to central Tokyo’s finest however, with that slow wobbly bit over the top of some buildings and a spectacularly enthusiastic dive straight into a final brake run. Things don’t get more ridiculous than Thunder Dolphin when it comes to big, impressive hardware in a knockout setting such as this, but there inevitably has to be a lot of comprimise along the way. The creative layout that fills the perimeter of the park and follows in the footsteps of 2 Way Coaster just doesn’t do this ride type justice, although it’s still a ton of fun.
Fellow Superman, another 2 states over, was the sequel to the design and went down as one of the all time greats in the world of online coaster polls, living near the top for a good many years. I wasn’t that bowled over by it personally, almost 20 years later, it feels a little sluggish and uneventful for what should have been a gamechanger at the time. It’s definitely a more accomplished and refined layout and sure tries harder in that signature bunny hill finale though, setting things up for some real magic in the not too distant future. Maybe it’s those altered trains that let it down a bit, and it did look much more attractive in purple.
I’m putting what I’ve found to be the weakest of the Mega-Lites here. Knowing what the design is capable of, they were honestly let downs, ones that I just couldn’t get into for what I can only assume to be circumstantial reasons. It’s a fickle business this ranking game when you only get a snapshot of something and it’s one of the reasons clones irk me so much. The head tells me there shouldn’t be so much disparity between identical creations and yet the heart says otherwise.
Currently sporting a fetching coat of deep blue paint, this ride has been under my coasting belt for what feels like forever. It was my first true encounter with airtime fascination and for that reason alone, easily one of the best things I had ever done. A landmark attraction in Europe that, like many of these, has faded a little over time. The coaster lineup of the park has done well to outdo it ever since, after a long stint at the top, though it still has a lot to offer and what it does it does very well.
It’s back again. Unlike the previous ones I actively wanted to marathon this edition of the Mega-Lite and that’s not a statement against the rest of the park lineup because, well, Tobu Zoo. It’s instead because Light Speed was riding well, close to what I remember from my personal glory days of riding this coaster layout, but not quite there. And for reasons we’ll see in a minute, I’d rather ride the almost version than any of the other slightly less potent custom designs.
Far more than any others of its era I’d say, GeForce has stood the test of time. This ride really feels like it would have been another level back in 2001 when it took the scene by storm, because it still feels like another level today when it comes to raw airtime. The violently twisted first drop brought brand new sensations to the design and those hills are quite often obscene. But, let’s talk about pacing…
Because for all the majesty of the larger designs, the one thing I can’t look past is the downtime – the moments between those signature airtime hills that generally are all this ride type has to offer in its raw form. The Mega-Lite design (or more specifically, Piraten) can hit you just as hard with those hills, but they also come at you so much thicker and faster to the point where it can be hard to even process. Add to that the additional sensations of some properly twisted bunny hills in there, which are an experience like little else, and I believe this little Ultra puts the majority of the Megas to shame.
After a 13 year drought of Intamin Mega Coasters, China decided it was time to resurrect an old legend and break some records along the way. The tallest and fastest coaster in the country is striking, perhaps in the wrong way. That big flat turnaround at a mere 240ft in the air always felt rather ugly and counter-intuitive, like something you’d build in a game rather than real life. Looks can’t take away from that staggering drop though and once it actually gets going this thing flies like no other on the list. The leaning has once more returned towards speed, but that combination is still going strong as at least two of the airtime moments here are out of this world and I think like the Mega-Lites it has even more to give under the right conditions. Too bad there’s only one of them (stop that).
And as time goes on, we just get better at these things. It feels like a bit of a cheat to have Hyperion come in and steal the show with how different it feels – those wing-esque trains with superior seating and an inversion to boot. The ride is still the poster boy for Mega Coasters according to Intamin themselves though and it’s easy to see why.
It counts though and frankly the wing seats add nothing like I would have wanted them too when compared to other, actual wing coasters from the manufacturer, but that’s about the only negative thing I have to say about this ride. Everything else is sublime. That first drop, that first camelback, that dive loop. A killer combination that shows the modern age has brought the ride type to another level so, you know, hopefully, <insert Kondaa here>