In addition to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, there is a wide range of other rides at USJ ranging from thrill rides to family and child-friendly rides.
The Flying Dinosaur
My son and I had visited Fuji Q just before we visited Universal Studios Japan and we experienced some of the most thrilling rollercoasters in the world so I was expecting to be a little disappointed by “The Flying Dinosaur” but this was far from the case. For pure fun, “The Flying Dinosaur” is easily in my mental list of top 10 rollercoasters and nudges my top 5.
The feature that sets this rollercoaster apart is its unusual ride position. Once you are strapped in, the seats pivot back and you are suddenly facing the ground. The Flying Dinosaur is currently the longest, tallest and fastest ‘flying’ rollercoaster in the world.
When my children and I took our seats we were happy and relaxed, but then we were suddenly facing downwards and our hearts started pumping faster. The Flying Dinosaur started with a climb up a 46 metre (151 feet) hill. The face-down position magnified how far above the ground we were. After cresting the peak, we plunged 38 metres (125 feet) down towards Jurassic Park which was the highlight of the ride for me because the sensation of flying was uncanny and exhilarating. Another nerve-wracking moment occurred when we navigated a pretzel then plunged through a tiny space under the pathway.
The ride is relatively short but loaded with action including five inversions, corkscrews and sweeping turns negotiated at a top speed of 100 km/hr (62 miles/hr). The Flying Dinosaur is smooth, fast and almost worth every bit of the park entry cost on its own.
Jurassic Park – The Ride
Jurassic Park – The Ride is the second ride in the Jurassic Park section of Universal Studios Japan. I have visited quite a lot of theme parks and it’s definitely still one of my favourite flume rides.
The ride starts off in a leisurely fashion with a river cruise through Jurassic Park, surrounded by tropical trees and impressive animatronic dinosaurs. The cries and groans of the dinosaurs echoed around us. The ride took a turn for the worse when we entered the prohibited area and the emergency lights started flashing. The dinosaur sounds became more animated as we first saw raptors fighting over the remains of a dinosaur handler’s shirt. We then entered a dark control room which had been destroyed by an oversized dinosaur. With emergency warning systems blaring, we heard the deep, guttural rumble of something very big. A large T-Rex was looming overhead so we had to take a 26-metre plunge down into the river to avoid becoming its next meal.
Hollywood Dream – The Ride
“Hollywood Dream – The Ride” is actually a set of two rides. There is a forward-facing version as well as a backwards-facing version called “Hollywood Dream – The Ride – Backdrop”. The two Hollywood Dream rides are not particularly tall or fast, nor are they particularly steep and there are no inversions, but the experience of Hollywood Dream is much, much more than the sum of its parts.
One feature that sets Hollywood Dream rides apart is that you can choose an onboard song which plays while you are racing around the track. The songs we could choose from including ‘Shake It Off’, ‘Happy’, and ‘Bad’ by Michael Jackson. The songs change over time so if you visit USJ again, you are likely to have a fresh set of songs. The trains have a stereo system built into the head of each seat. A lighting program animates LED lights on the sides of the train with different lighting patterns for different sections of the track. It was a blast to race around a track with the sounds of ‘Bad’ in my ears and disco lights flashing around me. The soundtrack seemed to synch perfectly with the movements, twists and turns of the track.
Both versions of Hollywood – The Dream start with a 44 metre (144 feet) climb, followed by a slight right-hand turn and a series of peaks (known as camelback hills) that lifted us out of our seats. The camelbacks are the main feature of the ride, mixed in with other features like fast left and right turns and an upward-spiralling helix just before returning to the station. There isn’t much variety in the ride, but it’s fast and smooth and the high-speed camelback hills do a great job of lifting your stomach towards your throat. Hollywood Dream is also quite a long ride, with a track length of 1.2 kilometres (0.75 miles) and a total ride time of two and a half minutes. This gives you heaps of time to enjoy the song pumping in your ears.
The Backdrop version of Hollywood Dream – The Ride is the more exciting of the two rides because you can’t see or anticipate what is coming up next. I would suggest doing the Backdrop version first because if you start with the forward-facing version first you will have a pretty good idea of what’s coming up when you ride the Backdrop which reduces the excitement a bit.
Hollywood Dream – The Ride – Backdrop is covered by one Express Pass 7 option, Universal Express Pass 7 Backdrop while the forward-facing version is only available through the Royal Studio Pass. You can use the single rider queue for the forward-facing version of Hollywood Dream, but there are no single rider queues for Backdrop.
The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman – The Ride 4K3D
Make sure you don’t miss The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman when visiting Universal Studios Japan. It won Amusement Today’s Golden Ticket Award in the Best Dark Ride category twelve years in a row from 1999 to 2010.
The plot is a little hard to follow as the actors speak in Japanese, but you can easily get the gist of what is happening. There is an incredible amount of action as you escape evil villains like Doctor Octopus and Hydroman. You will be tossed into sewers and rivers, have pumpkin bombs thrown at you, and be hurled high above the city before plummeting back to earth but then Spiderman saves your lives and the day.
The 4K3D visuals used in this ride are stunning in their clarity and detail. They are so impressive that they blur the boundaries between physical sets and the 3D projections. The ride also uses an armada of special effects like water spray, wind and lighting, heat, fire and fog. The ride vehicle is extremely dynamic and makes extremely precise movements. It can also rotate 360 degrees. Spiderman – The Ride is further enhanced by a fantastic soundtrack. The awe-inspiring visuals, special effects and high-tech ride vehicle make you feel part of the action, not just a passive observer.
Watch out for the Stan Lee cameos as he appears at least two times during the ride.
Space Fantasy – The Ride
Space Fantasy is USJ’s main indoor rollercoaster. The premise behind the ride is that you are on a spaceship undertaking a mission to save the sun. While saving the sun you fly past various planets and comets while dodging asteroids. The ride climaxes with your spaceship plunging into the sun.
We ran out of time to try Space Fantasy on our first visit and only indirectly experienced the ride on our second visit this year so it’s hard to comment too much on Space Fantasy. While we went on the indoor coaster itself, it had been given a VR overlay for Cool Japan 2019 which ran from January 18 to June 23. For Cool Japan, the ride had been renamed “Lupin the Third Car Chase XR Ride”. The ride placed us in a car with Lupin and his crew making a getaway from a crime scene while being chased by Inspector Zenigata.
It’s the third year in a row that Space Fantasy has been given a VR overlay as part of Cool Japan, so it will most likely happen again for Cool Japan 2020. As I write this article, Space Fantasy also has another seasonal overlay for Halloween 2019. It currently has a horror theme and has been renamed Space Fantasy – The Ride – Black Hole where you can experience pure darkness when your rides vehicles sink into a black hole.
Jaws is now only available at Universal Studios Japan after it closed down at Universal Studios Florida in 2012. If you want to try an old-school ride that you won’t find anywhere else definitely give Jaws a go.
The premise behind the ride is that after Jaws was destroyed, Captain Jake Grundy opened a boat tour to visit shark attack sites.
The ride started at a relaxed pace with a scenic cruise on Amity Harbour but then a distress call came in and we saw another boat submerging under the water. For the rest of the ride, we were either trying to shelter from, evade or blow up a massive shark. Along the way, there were many near misses and an impressive fire/explosion. Eventually, the shark managed to electrocute itself so we managed to escape with our lives.
The animatronics and special effects look dated and the acting is corny but full of enthusiasm, but this doesn’t detract from the experience. Jaws is a nostalgic and fun experience, a bit like rewatching Friends on Netflix. I hope Jaws survives as Universal Studios Japan creates new rides.
Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
Despicable Me Minion Mayhem is a ride that people of all ages will enjoy. It’s jam-packed with fast-paced action and the slapstick humour has been turned up to 11.
The pre-show experience was almost as much fun as the actual ride. The premise of the preshow is that you are being convinced to undergo the Minion transformation process and then the process of transformation is explained. The pre-show stars Gru, his three daughters and heaps of Minions and is full of comedy. Expect to be shot by a fart gun … which smells like bananas.
The ride began with everyone being turned into Minions. The ride was incredibly action-packed and included falling down chutes, jumping over a cactus, dodging lasers, just missing getting squashed by a massive boxing glove, and narrowly avoiding being cut in half by an oversized buzz saw.
Despicable Me Minion Mayhem isn’t an aggressively physical simulator like Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, and it doesn’t have the same jump scares. What it does have going for it is an overload of action, comedy and cuteness. It’s a ride that everyone in your family will enjoy.
Freeze Ray Sliders
Freeze Ray Sliders is a traditional teacup ride that’s been dressed up Minion-style. Each ride vehicle (or slider) holds four people. The story behind the ride is that the Minions used Gru’s freeze ray gun to turn Minion Park Pool into an ice rink.
When we tried out the ride, our vehicle slid around the ice rink occasionally being blasted with cool mist from the oversized Freeze Ray Gun. It would have been nice to be able to spin our slider faster by manually rotating a central steering wheel (a feature of most teacup rides). The mist from the freeze ray gun would probably feel great on hot days in Osaka.
It was definitely one of the tamer rides at USJ but it would be perfect for families with young children.
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