Nintendo World Grand Opening Celebration

Just in case you thought that the PokÃÆ’©mon Center NY wasn’t good enough, Nintendo’s gone all-out with their latest retail offering. This past winter, the PokÃÆ’©mon Center closed its doors under the pretense of “remodeling.” As it turned out, the entire complex was being rebuilt into Nintendo World, the first of its kind. It features anything and everything Nintendo, and yes, there’s still a hefty amount of PokÃÆ’©mon merchandise. On May 14th, 2005, Nintendo threw a huge bash to celebrate the grand opening, and I was there to bring you the inside scoop. So what are you waiting for? Let’s get on with the tour…

As expected, lines were long. Really long. Aside from the lines to get into the store itself, there were also lines to get into the outside kiosk area, and a separate line for the PokÃÆ’©mon events (don’t worry, we’ll get to the PokÃÆ’©mon extravaganza in due time). Fortunately, the line to get into the store wasn’t as bad as the others; most people were able to get through the line in a matter of minutes. What awaited them inside the store was a Nintendo experience they couldn’t possibly have imagined. From vintage exhibits to Nintendo brand clothing to loads of toys and video games, any Nintendo fanboy’s dream can be realized here.

Right when you walk in, there’s a giant display promoting Nintendo’s latest handheld console, the DS. There’s kiosks to try out software, of course, and even a small “lounge” area for multiplayer gaming and playing around with PictoChat.

Why talk to someone sitting next to you, when you can draw them a funky picture instead?

Speaking of PictoChat, that software actually came in handy over the course of the day. I’m serious! People waiting in lines often PictoChatted with other gamers, some of whom they couldn’t even see due to the crowds. I joined in the fun, of course, using a false name and throwing random jokes and insults at other users. Nothing’s more amusing then entering a PictoChat room loaded with Nintendophiles, sending a message in big letters that says “PSP RULZ!1!!!1!”, then leaving. I could literally hear angry people across the line wondering who the jerk was that wrote that. God, I love my job sometimes.

But I digress. I was talking about the kiosks and stuff. Well, if you’ve never used a DS before, the store has plenty of opportunities for you to do so, aside from the aforementioned lounge. The same applies for the Game Boy Advance and GameCube.

Gamers enjoy a heated round of Super Smash Bros. Melee.

The store is loaded with giant plasma screens, and every single one of them had some type of game playing on it. Screens around the periphery of the store were often showing PokÃÆ’©mon films, especially the latest offering, Destiny Deoxys. Speaking of PokÃÆ’©mon…guess what has its own gigantic section towards the back of the store?

Oh yes, my friends, those cute lil’ pocket monsters are indeed a formidable presence within the store. The figurines are there, along with the video games and trading cards. Be sure to check out the Ultra PokÃÆ’©Dex while you’re in there, too…I wasn’t even able to get a shot of that thing in action, it was so crowded! Even more PokÃÆ’©mon stuff is found on the second floor, like the soft and cuddly plushes.

Um…why does Munchlax keep staring at me?

In case you’re looking for PokÃÆ’©mon clothing (like Ash Ketchum‘s trademark baseball cap), you’ll find those on the second floor as well. If PokÃÆ’©mon’s not your thing (what’s wrong with you?!), the second floor of the store is also home to a space-age lounge where you can relax in some comfy “pod” chairs and blast the living hell out of enemy ships. Yep…Starfox Assault. By the way…this lounge features full surround sound, and those pod chairs have a built-in rumble feature!

This kid was a natural at Starfox Assault.

My personal favorite part of the Nintendo World store? The “vintage” exhibit. There’s numerous glass museum cases right in the center of the place, and each one has some classic and/or rare Nintendo items from the days of yore. I took the liberty of photographing a few of them for your viewing pleasure.

If you don’t recognize this item, then get out of my sight right now.

The Nintendo Video System.

A history of Nintendo handhelds, including the beloved Game & Watch.

Nintendo playing cards…from the late 19th century!

You wish we got this many styles of GBA SPs in the US.

Let’s move on. If you’re the type of Nintendo fan that really wants to broadcast their company loyalty…why not buy a swanky Nintendo jacket?

Expensive? Sure. That doesn’t change the fact that they’re still pretty damn slick. If your budget’s a bit tighter, there’s T-shirts and baseball caps adorned with Nintendo company and system logos, too.

The cashiers certainly earned their keep, as the lines were unending.

Last but not least…got money? And I mean in the $400 range? If the answer is yes, then you too can own the ultimate Nintendo collectible: a gold GBA SP Zelda Edition, signed by Legend of Zelda and Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto. Aside from the high price tag…these items are strictly limited, and by the time you read this article, they’re likely already gone!

It’s okay to drool. Really, it is!

Alright. You’ve seen the interior of the store. But there was oh so much more waiting outside at the celebration, so let’s exit the retail establishment and plunge in headlong.

The “block party” segment of the celebration was literally a sensory overload. There was a giant tower right in the center, where an announcer belted out the day’s events, as well as holding trivia contests for fans. Prizes were awarded, such as limited edition PokÃÆ’©mon plushes, trading cards, apparel, and even games.

This guy was so loud, my eardrums nearly popped.

Live music was provided by a disc jockey…maybe you could call him an NintenDJ? Hardy har har.

If you wanted to try out more video games outside, you were in luck. Kiosks and tents were set up so that you could play hot titles like Super Smash Bros. Melee and Donkey Konga 2. Speaking of the latter…professional skateboarder Ryan Sheckler was on hand to participate in the ultimate Donkey Konga 2 tournament. Gamers could sign up to compete, and the eventual winner would play against Ryan himself! Winning the tournament earned the lucky gamer a boatload of Nintendo prizes, enough to make any video game fan insanely jealous. (No, I didn’t enter the tournament; I’m probably better at brain surgery than I am at Donkey Konga 2.)

Kiosks are fine, but what if you didn’t want to wait in line to play a game? Nintendo had you covered. Staffers were walking around with “game belts;” they literally had holsters around their waists, with GBA or DS systems linked up for immediate play.

Super Mario Bros. on demand!

Touching is good.

Since the day was quite warm, Nintendo graciously provided everyone with bottled spring water. I’m assuming a lot of that water went to Nintendo’s two mascots: Mario and Pikachu! Yes, the gaming stalwarts did make an appearance (along with PokÃÆ’©mon Dash star Munchlax), taking plenty of photos with kids and adult fans alike.

How did these guys not melt?

While I was in the midst of taking pictures and speaking with Nintendo staffers, I had the opportunity to sit down with Nintendo of America’s merchandising director, Bob Stoik. He explained that the entire premise of Nintendo World was to really push the Nintendo brand, and that they plan to have many more special events over the course of the year to coincide with the release of upcoming titles. For example, parties will be held to celebrate the launches of the Nintendo DS sim Nintendogs, the new PokÃÆ’©mon game for the GameCube, and the hotly anticipated Legend of Zelda title (also on the GameCube). Stoik hinted at other exciting plans down the road, but those are so secretive that he couldn’t even give me details! Sounds like I’d better book a few more NYC trips.

Okay, okay…I know what my readers want. You want the full details on the PokÃÆ’©mon shenanigans that were going on, don’t you. Well, I don’t want to disappoint, so let’s rock!

The Mystic Ticket download was far and away the single most popular event at the entire celebration. The line stretched on down at least a full city block, if not longer. PokÃÆ’©Fans had to wait hours upon hours to make it through, but their patience was rewarded when they were able to download the Ticket to their game cartridges. The Ticket allows trainers to finally find and catch the elusive PokÃÆ’©mon Lugia and Ho-oh. The Ticket was only available once, so if you didn’t get it…tough luck, suckers! Do not despair, though…there will be more events of this type coming up later in the year, like the Old Sea Chart, which will let you capture Mew. (Let’s hope they do a Celebi event sometime, too!)

After grabbing the Ticket, fans often relaxed with a nice round of the PokÃÆ’©mon Trading Card Game. PokÃÆ’©mon Center staff were on hand to help out, and a few even joined in games. Of course, some didn’t realize the strength of their opponents, and were soundly defeated.

Also in the PokÃÆ’©mon area was the ever-popular Pikamobile, a Volkswagen Beetle decked out to look like PokÃÆ’©mon’s most enduring character. The trunk of the ‘Mobile featured a television and GBAs for playing PokÃÆ’©mon titles.

Step away from the car, please.

At this point in the day, I was really starting to wear down. Maybe it was the heat. Maybe it was the loud announcer. Maybe it was the audio visual explosion. Or maybe, just maybe, it was pure satisfaction. Regardless, gaming fans of any type owe it to themselves to check out Nintendo World. It’s an experience like no other, even without the block party. Start booking those NYC flights now!

Nintendo World
10 Rockefeller Plaza
(W 48th St, between 5th and 6th Ave)
New York City

Store hours: 9AM-8PM Monday-Thursday, 9AM-9PM Friday-Saturday, 11AM-6PM Sunday

I leave you with a few more random images taken from the party. Enjoy, and thanks for reading!

Liquidcross would like to thank the following people (in no particular order) for their invaluable assistance with this article:

George Harrison (not the Beatle)
John Hershberger
Phaedra Kaufman
Rachel Riger
Bob Stoik
Whoever was wearing the Pikachu suit