A Spanish themed park in Japan? You bet! At first it seems odd that a Spanish themed park is located in Japan, but is it really any odder than the Brazilian themed park we visited earlier on the trip? While Washuzan Highland’s theme didn’t extend beyond a few flags and a samba show, Parque Espana went all out. The park is an absolute beauty and really does a good job transporting you to another place.
To say the weather forecast was grim was an understatement. Basically it was non-stop, unrelenting rain for the entirety of our visit. Outside of Disney and Universal, Parque Espana probably had the most indoor attractions of any park on the trip. So there was plenty to do. The only issue was that the park’s star attraction, Pyrenees, was outdoors.
They also had a pretty cool looking mine train in Gran Montserrat that was also closed due to the rain, but that coaster wasn’t the reason for TPR members performing an anti-rain dance. We were told Pyrenees would reopen if, and only if, the rain completely stopped. We just crossed our fingers and hoped for the best.
The park did offer one indoor coaster that was unaffected by Mother Nature. The official name is Steampunk Coaster Iron Bull, but look at that sign and tell me what you see. Basically everyone agreed that it said “Tronbutt”
Going in, I knew little about this coaster other than the fact the previous iteration was a seriously screwed up and uncomfortable attraction. I braced for the worst, but the coaster bit wasn’t all that bad. Those who rode the former incarnation noted that Tronbutt was no longer pitch black on the inside, which enabled everyone to brace for the jerky transitions.
But the highlight was the complete WTF of the show sequence. Halfway through the attraction, you come to a grinding halt. Now I don’t know Japanese (and I don’t think that’d help), but I believe we were melted down in a furnace. The sequence culminates in a blast of smoke and you start rolling out, only to be immediately braked. Well that was a buzzkill. Moments later we restarted and went up a lift hill. There was a tiny bit of coaster left, but the sequence’s placement and execution was strange.
In the event the rain persisted through the afternoon, we were offered Tronbutt as a replacement for the Pyrenees film session. Tronbutt is definitely a flawed coaster. The coaster bits while tolerable don’t offer too much in terms of thrills. But the show sequence is so odd that it’s simply stupid, laughable fun. 5 out of 10
Since there wasn’t the star attraction to distract us, we hit almost every attraction in the park. That started with Castillo de Xavier. The most impressive thing about the attraction was the exterior. Now I love a good Disney castle as it’s straight out of fairy tales. Instead this castle payed homage to the historical castles found throughout Europe. The inside was basically a massive art museum. Admittedly I’m not an art person, but if you are, this would definitely be an E-ticket attraction for you. 5 out of 10
Enthusiasts can have heated debates about the world’s best coaster. Do you prefer the ejector air of Expedition GeForce or the relentless speed of Millennium Force? But there’s one debate you cannot have- the world’s best escalator. Parque Espana has that locked down.
The infamous escalator was everything I dreamed it would be. It was long, boasted an impressive light show, and played an infectious tune that you just couldn’t get out of your head. The amount of lights is absolutely gratuitous, but it’s impossible not to smile at the absurdity of it. If you have never seen the video of this amazing escalator, definitely check out TPR’s old video. It truly is a sight to behold.
The back half of the park used to boast an impressive boat ride called Adventure Lagoon. It’s impossible not to notice this hulking show building that I presume this attraction used to occupy. Instead, the lagoon is now home to Feliz Cruise. The boat ride had basically every single water effect you can imagine (geysers, sprinkers, waterfalls, etc) and some miniatures like Disneyland’s Storybook Cruise. 6 out of 10
Choquy’s Mystery House was an odd fun house. It started with a well-executed spinning tunnel, gravity-defying crooked room, and wacky mirrors, but that quickly devolved into a gallery of paintings of this random bunny in different outfits. I presume this bunny is Choquy? 5 out of 10
Whenever a park boasts something similar to a Disney ride and actually pulls it off well, I hesitate to call it a rip-off. Don Quixote’s Magical Flight is another instance of this as it’s a ripoff of Peter Pan’s Flight. However, I actually think it’s a better ride than Peter Pan.
You ride in the familiar suspended pirate ships and even fly over a city in the finale, but the rest of the attraction has more up-to-date and detailed animatronics than Peter Pan. If this attraction weren’t located in the very back of the park, I definitely would have ridden it more often. 8 out of 10
One of the dark ride’s closer to the front of the park was the Nutcracker. In many ways, this was the Cliff’s Notes version of the famous Christmas story. The entire attraction featured the familiar tunes and rather than relying on detailed animatronics, the attraction uses a dazzling array of Christmas lights to draw your eye. It’s a unique style for a dark ride, but I do prefer the traditional sets. 6 out of 10
Another odd attraction at the park was Alice in Wonderland. I was expecting a Disney dark ride ripoff a la the version at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, but instead we were treated to a weird walkthrough. At the start, we were given a magic wand and gathered the experience would be something close to MagiQuest.
I haven’t seen Alice in Wonderland in a while, but I don’t recall the film covering time travel, ghosts, or gargoyles. Yet this attraction featured all three prominently. The finale had us battling off fiends with a variety of explosions and then we were required to cast a spell to open the exit door. Failure to do so would have rendered us prisoners in the labyrinth for all eternity. It was definitely aimed towards kids, but as a big kid at heart, it was an enjoyable walkthrough. 6 out of 10
Parque Espana is one of those rare parks home to multiple shooting dark rides. We started with the lesser of the two in Circus Adventure. The park has a really vibrant indoor kids area themed to a circus and the anchor attraction is this suspended shooting monorail where you take aim to targets fixed on the building’s back wall. It really is odd seeing a shooter this exposed.
It’s also pretty odd how close you are to the targets. The ride felt analogous to sitting inches from a TV screen. For this reason, the targets felt considerably larger. It also made the attraction more difficult than anticipated since you had less time to react and hit each target. It’s not the best shooter in the world, but it was a creative use of space. 6 out of 10
Battala del Alcazar was the superior shooter. The ride used the familiar Senyo ride system seen at Cosmoworld and Hirakata, but it was much better executed. This one eliminated the pointless 3D screens and instead went all in on the physical sets. There were countless targets to take aim at and some impressive animatronics such as a dragon that I’d estimate to be at least 30 feet in height.
One of the little touches I love on shooters is for targets to have different point values. Alcazar achieves this by placing some bonus targets on the attraction. These targets have a bluish hue and were typically located in the back of a scene. Hitting this target would open a door and reveal several bonus targets that increased my score at an exponential rate. With the main coasters closed, this was the attraction I rode the most. 8 out of 10
There was another coaster open. Credit whores could sleep safe and sound knowing the Kiddy Montserrat had no problem speeding (at like 15 mph) through the rain. I of course gave it a whirl and it was strong for a kiddie coaster. The seats were comfortable and the final helix was a bit better than expected. Still, I preferred to ride the indoor attractions. 3 out of 10
Or I preferred to ride the outdoor attractions that were supposed to get us wet. While the mine train was closed, the log flume sharing the same mountain was open in Splash Montserrat. The mountain alone was impressive, but fake rockwork was adorned along the entire length of the trough. It was a small touch, but one that showed the park’s attention to detail.
The drops were just ok and the ride itself didn’t get us any wetter (but Mother Nature sure did), but it was still one of the park’s best attractions, particularly on a day when we couldn’t park ourselves on Pyrenees or Gran Montserrat. 7 out of 10
With time to burn before filming, we hit three random attractions. The first was a high-energy kids character show that taught us the alphabet. It also showed me that the park has a million mascots. 6 out of 10
The second was a decent tea cup attraction themed to tomatoes. The cups followed the figure 8 layout of a PTC crazy daisy, except these cups could be manually spun. The only issue there was that the constant changes of direction negated the user-propelled spinning. Still, it did help me get a few extra spins over the course of the ride. 5 out of 10
Third, we also rode the park’s Train. It more or less circled the main ride area and didn’t offer any views we hadn’t already gotten, but it was relaxing and protected from the rain.
Speaking of the rain, it did appear to be letting up. Optimistically, we parked ourselves by the entrance of Pyrenees hoping for a miracle. Just as it appeared the rain would stop and we saw specks of blue poking through the clouds, the rain picked right back up and squashed our hopes. Well…I guess we’d be filming Tronbutt.
But not so fast! Robb was able to get Pyrenees open for TPR for filming at the end of the day; this is one of the many reasons why TPR trips are worth every penny. The forecast showed the rain stopping right at park close. As long as we didn’t mind potentially being covered in grease, the park was willing to open the awesome looking B&M for us. Soiling an outfit was the least of our concerns.
The first drop had that old-school B&M kick to it and the subsequent vertical loop had me seeing grey. That’s followed by the signature element on any invert, the zero-G roll, and Pyrenees didn’t disappoint. This one was every bit as good as Montu’s. Then came another great vertical loop. In many ways Pyrenees was reminiscent of a Batman the Ride on the steroids that jacked Bane up to superhuman size.
Then came the cobra roll. For whatever reason, cobra rolls are either incredibly intense or smooth and forceless. There’s no happy medium. Fortunately Pyrenees is firmly in the former. The snap is really violent (in a good way). I just had to lean forward to avoid bashing my head, but that just made the element even more disorienting.
That was followed by the most intriguing element, a ridiculously tight upwards helix that threads the vertical loop. The visuals and uniqueness alone were impressive, but it was also every bit as forceful as it looked. It reminded me of the leg-numbing forces of Silver Bullet’s final helix. Mock that coaster all you want, but that final helix is actually pretty intense.
The transition off the brake run is incredibly tight and abrupt, so this is another point I wisely leaned my head forwards. Then came a snappy corkscrew and an odd finale. Pyrenees travels down this gradual ramp that feels more in place on a jet coaster. However, you feel a surprising amount of speed as you dip into a trench and then fly over a sneaky airtime hill.
Pyrenees really is one of the best inverts in the world and I’m very thankful we had the opportunity to ride it. The only inverts I’d consider better are Nemesis and Montu, and it isn’t too far behind since it’s only a smidge less forceful. Along with the forceful ride, it’s remarkably smooth with only the two aforementioned spots having any hints of headbanging if you don’t lean forwards. 9.5 out of 10
Parque Espana really is a beautiful park. It’s a shame some of the beauty was dampened by the unrelenting rain, but the park compensated by offering an extensive range of indoor attractions. But the star among coaster enthusiasts will always be Pyrenees. That really is a standout attraction.