Space World

20th October 2015

Space World is one of the easiest parks in Japan to get to by public transport, as it has its own stop on the JR Kagoshima Main Line. The station exit leads directly to a pedestrian bridge across a main road, from where it is no more than two minutes on foot to the park entrance. There was a sign waiting for us next to the ticket desk listing Kanji characters for a few different rides that were out of commission today, and Megan played a spirited game of match-the-pictures to try and figure out whether any of them were important. Black Hole Scramble was the only coaster on the list, and though annoying, it was a relatively minor loss in the grand scheme of things. It would have been far more frustrating to miss out on one of the three important credits, namely the Arrow mini-hyper, the Maurer looping coaster, and the Intamin launcher. The latter was new to both of us, and given that we decided to start our day there.

Zaturn

The easiest way to describe Zaturn (#2178) is to refer to it as a miniaturised version of Kingda Ka, but to do that is a disservice to what is as of this writing the fourth fastest coaster in Japan. The ride has a launch from zero to eighty miles per hour in just two seconds, followed by a two hundred foot top hat and a powerful airtime hill, and the intensity of the experience is not quickly forgotten. The initial acceleration is somewhat less dramatic than Dodonpa, but the overall track quality is far better, making it a much more enjoyable ride to marathon on. We did three laps, and decided that the front was our favourite location. We also came to the earth-shattering realisation that an eighty mile per hour launch makes for a better wake up than an alarm clock.

That said, the operations on this ride are best timed with a calendar. The station has a wall of lockers for loose objects, and all personal possessions must be stored, including things like wristwatches, handkerchiefs, and glasses. Only two people are allowed in this area at a time, and that slows the process dramatically. Once at the air gates the rules are explained slowly and clearly in Japanese (even when the only people riding are obviously foreign). Guests are allowed to board after acknowledging what they've heard, after which the restraints are checked then double-checked then triple-checked. By the time everything is complete it has taken over ten minutes to load a single ten seat train. We were virtually the only guests in the park, and it still took us almost three quarters of an hour to complete our three laps.

The coaster formerly known as Titan was refitted with new rolling stock in early 2015, replacing the original cars with a completely new train design from S&S Sansei featuring on-board sound and open seating that at first glance looks similar to that used by B&M. The new trains certainly offer more of a thrill, but the changed lap bar has a major design flaw, in that there is a sharp edge positioned perfectly to strike the male anatomy every time there is a bump in the track. We tried a front seat and then subsequently a back seat, and my impression from those two laps is that the ride is an injury waiting to happen.

Anyone who has ridden an older Arrow coaster will be well aware that smooth tracking generally only happens when the train is on the lift hill (if at all!) and the reconstituted Titan Max is no exception to that rule. The lack of seat padding and uneven tracking meant that the continual smacks in the groin area were supplemented by severe headbanging during the mid-course helix section, which shouldn't be possible on a ride without overhead restraints. The soundtrack choices were not synchronised to the ride layout, and the volume level was too low to hear them properly anyway. The high seat backs completely blocked the forward view from anywhere other than car one. Megan, who loves all things Arrow, described the ride as awful and subsequently branded it as the Gwazi of steel coasters, which was unfair; Gwazi was a far better ride.

Titan Max

We decided to rejuvenate on Clipper, a substantial family coaster buried within a wooded area with a terrain layout that didn't do much of anything, albeit in a very family friendly way. We also completed a forward facing lap on Boogie Woogie Space Coaster that did even less, its figure eight layout being memorable mainly for the excited gesticulations of the ride operators in the station area. My old report neglected to mention that the train on this ride is designed for Japanese people; there wasn't enough room for me to sit comfortably, and as a result every single jolt was transferred with unerring accuracy to my kneecaps.

Venus GP was built by Maurer AG, but looks like something from the drawing board of the late Anton Schwarzkopf. It has been the signature attraction at Space World for two decades, and is immediately recognisable from a full size replica space shuttle (including external tank and solid rocket boosters) built within its superstructure. I'd been quite looking forward to renewing my acquaintance with the ride that I described ten years ago as being worth a seven out of ten, and it was hard not to be excited as we walked through the queue and admired the tangled knot of track we were about to negotiate. We left our bags on the station platform and selected the front row for our first ride.

Despite the obvious potential of the design, however, I'm sorry to report that the experience was a huge disappointment. The layout had numerous sharp direction changes, and today every single one of these resulted in a heavy collision between the restraint and my neck. Megan's restraints were locked in a different position relative to her height, and as a result her head took the worst of the punishment. The brutality completely destroyed what should have been a great ride, and neither of us was sorry when the train hit the brake run. At the same time, however, it felt wrong not to give it a second chance, and thus we decided to throw caution to the wind with the back row. It's probably best that readers avoid doing that; my neck still hurt some eight hours later, when I wrote the notes that would eventually become this trip report.

We spent quite a bit of time walking around the park, stopping for a while in both the Space Dome indoor area and the Space Museum, a small collection of replicas from the various Apollo missions. We also enjoyed a lap on the enormous forty-eight car BFOFW that had near-perfect photo angles for both Titan Max and Venus GP. After a meal break we concluded our visit with the Alien Panic Evolution walkthrough, still worth a few minutes even if it is now bereft of the wonderful mistranslations of times past.