If not for Tiki’s goofy shoes, this would be a heartbreaking cover.
RELEASE DATE: 03/03/90 – (JP)
Once upon a time, there was a kiwi named Tiki, who lived happily next to his girlfriend Phee-Phee at the Auckland Zoo. One day, a big mean leopard seal broke into the zoo and captured all the kiwis. He placed them in different locations across New Zealand, so that kiwis would be lonely and desperate for the remainder of their short lives. Tiki was the only one that escaped from the leopard seal’s sack of horrors, and now, he must rescue his fellow kiwis – including his beloved Phee-Phee – before they become permanently forgotten.
This sort of thing happens all the time in New Zealand.
Despite living in a cage all his life, Tiki’s a brave soul. Armed only with a bow and arrows, his story entails shooting down police dogs, mafia pigs, drugged-out bat/cats, dangling hedgehogs, whales that swallow him whole, and other miscellaneous mammals that don’t want him rescuing his brethren. These wretched animals use axes, lasers, arrows, and other weaponry to take out poor Tiki with just one hit. The game provides a variety of weapon upgrades for your arrows – including bouncing flaming balls and lasers – but no shield or extra life. Without the latter, the one-hit kills pile up and the five generous continues dwindle down. If you collect the letters E-X-T-E-N-D, you’ll gain an extra life. Unfortunately, these letters are in hard-to-reach areas and may come at the expense of a life. Don’t let the cute facade fool you: New Zealand Story is as tough as a bag of Melba crisps.
As if leopard seals weren’t terrifying enough.
Tiki starts with only his stubby, flightless body to help him through the maze-like levels. In order for him to move forward, he’ll have to commandeer enemy balloons through violence, then follow the arrows on the wall that point him in the proper direction. The types of balloons range from standard hot air balloons to heavy silver towers to swans that glide a little too quickly. The best balloon is the one that doesn’t belong: the UFO, which allows you to shoot lasers through walls, blast through areas with reckless disregard for other creatures, and catch a glimpse of a distinctly non-kiwi lifestyle.
Just as the prophecies foretold.
The goal of each maze is to rescue the kiwi at the end. The level structure is far from linear – many of the mazes will have you flying in circles to reach the trapped kiwi – but it’s also difficult to get lost. Even when the arrows trick you into going the wrong direction, it’s not hard to find your way back onto the main path.
Everything ya own in a flower to the left.
Some of the mazes can be traversed on foot, but underwater sections and spiky areas are never far away. Because you’re a kiwi and not a bass fish, your oxygen runs out quickly, even with your adorable air mask. You also can’t shoot creatures underwater, so swim and avoid at the same time. The spikes that litter the ground and ceiling are a reminder that it’s best to travel by balloon.
C’mon, that’s just beyond cute.
The enemies’ prolificacy makes New Zealand Story more aggravating than it should be. Every step Tiki takes should be a cautious one, as enemies will literally warp in front of his face, usually two at a time. Tiki speeds along when he’s in a balloon, but on foot, he’s a slow-moving slacker. Failure to remove the enemy threat quickly with your arrow will result in a twitching kiwi corpse. Enemies in balloons – all of them – always have the upper hand when he’s on foot.
Russia doesn’t play fair when it comes to foreign birds.
The Mega Drive port is supposed to be the hardest of the many New Zealand Story ports. Based on the prototype arcade board rather than the official arcade version, the Mega Drive version has tougher enemies, and, save for the arrows, no maps to help guide you around the area. It also only contains thirteen levels compared to the original game’s twenty, and many of the levels that appear in this version are brand new. Despite other ports being released in several territories, the MD port stayed in Japan. Perhaps it was deemed too difficult for Western tastes.*
At least the story has a happy ending.
Think about this: in New Zealand Story, you guide an adorable, helpless kiwi through a series of mazes using balloons gained by shooting down cutesy deranged animals. That’s a great hook and I don’t care what tucked-away country you’re from. Sadly, New Zealand Story wasn’t a hit at a time when a nonsensical story coupled with great gameplay could sell a game, and it certainly wouldn’t sell now in this Our Modern Age of Dark and Serious. Shame. Despite the game’s double portions of toughness, The New Zealand Story is still a wonderful exercise in the surreal.
*cheers to Hardcore Gaming 101 for the info.
The jovial antics of misplaced creatures.
DEVELOPER: Taito (port by TecMagik)
RELEASE DATE: 09/92 – (EU)
The Master System port of The New Zealand Story was only released in Europe, and it’s more faithful to the original arcade than the funky Mega Drive version. The latter certainly has fiercer enemies and more challenging stage layouts, but the Master System port only has three lives, no continues. That’s right: you’ll have to make it through the game’s twenty stages with only three lives – unless you find the EXTEND letters for an extra life or use a cheat code (outside of a couple Pro Action Replay codes, I couldn’t find any cheats).
The Circus of Nightmares rolls on…
On the plus side, The New Zealand Story looks fantastic on Master System and Tiki controls more like a graceful bird here than on the Mega Drive. The repetitive carnival music sounds wonky, but at this point in this system’s life (1992!), getting the bare minimum out of the console’s horrid sound chip and calling it a day was likely most developers’ MO. I still prefer the Mega Drive version (at least you have continues), but there’s nothing wrong with this port.