The New Zealand Story



If not for Tiki’s goofy shoes, this would be a heartbreaking cover.




GENRE: Platformer

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.


New Zealand Story, The (J) [!]001

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.


New Zealand Story, The (J) [!]003

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 to move forward, he has to commandeer enemy balloons through violence, then follow the arrows on the wall to 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.


New Zealand Story, The (J) [!]005

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.


New Zealand Story, The (J) [!]007

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.


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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.


New Zealand Story, The (J) [!]008

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.*


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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)

GENRE: Platformer

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).


New Zealand Story, The (E) [!]001

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.



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11 thoughts on “The New Zealand Story

  1. I have a soft spot for this game. I used to love the arcade version. It’s just has such cute enemies and characters. But it requires skill and is not really a kids game. I had always hoped a console version would come out. I would have bought the SMS port or the Genesis one. Though this game was more contemporary to arcades during the SMS time so that port makes sense.

      1. Ya, had I known about this I might have imported it. I mean, this game was not that uncommon in the arcades.

        I mean they bought new out Rastan Saga 2 and Growl. But not this? Which I’d say was not an uncommon arcade game at the time in the US.

  2. You’re spot on Dylan – New Zealand Story is compelling, but ridiculously hard.

    The Master System version in particular sounds sadistic – 3 lives to beat 20 levels? That’s brutal…

  3. I remember playing this on the ZX Spectrum and enjoying it. Brutal difficulty came with the territory on that system.
    Never realised the Mega Drive version was a remix, but then again a lot of arcade ports were ESWAT, Shadow Dancer, Rainbow Islands.

  4. I had no idea that the SMS received a port of this classic, and I don’t think I’ve played the MD version, even through emulation. I do enjoy this game, though, and it’s one I go back to via the Taito Legends collections, so I’d be interested in playing the MD version just to compare.

  5. A great review as ever Dylan.

    If anyone out there has beaten this one without using cheats then hats off to you because this game gets brutal.

    Something about this game makes it a classic that I yearned for back in the day, the nearest that I came to getting my hands on this exotic Cart was seeing it advertised in a gaming magazine of the time in one of the mail order sections for an eye watering £69.99 so Mame was my only option but I’ll come back to that.

    Early 2000’s and I could afford a Megadrive copy, and as anyone who has ever tried to get hold of this game will attest to is that this game has never been rare as such but always fetches over the fifty pound mark as everybody wants to have it.

    Once you get to playing it – oh the joy when you discover that you can knock the baddies off of their flying objects and steal them, they vary from balloons to duck like things to your default balloon which is rather nifty.

    The arrows are spot on as a weapon just avoid picking up the bomb as like in most games it is the worst weapon – one of the first things that you will notice about the game is that whilst it tries to portray itself as this cutesy platformer that is for kids but the hard difficulty setting says otherwise, the game is almost ashamed about how it is presented and does everything it can to kick out against the perception of it being kiddie friendly with the decaying walls adorning images of the kidnapped Kiwi’s in floods of tears saying ‘Help Me’, at the time my two eldest lads absolutely loved this game but only to watch me play it as flying around in those balloons sure looks fun but it can be fiddly and frustrating to get used to.

    The Master System version just like Rainbow Islands is pretty decent considering the platform it is on but again it is hard as nails, even harder than the Megadrive version as the controls are slightly off again and needs adjusting to, but it is still a valiant effort.

    Going back to the Mame game or games should I say, someone may know the story better but there are two versions of the game that are different and I believe that the Megadrive version is the one that wasn’t released in the arcade, I tried to beat both of these games through exploiting the fact that I could throw as many virtual coins at it to win but half-way through one of them the game annoyingly crashes, I tried it again and it did the same thing and so I gave up on that one but the second one played fine and had some great but annoying levels like a ship I am sure that I got near the end of the game and then disaster struck – the ice level, now this goes down as easily the most that I have ever been pissed off at a game as like you would guess you slide everywhere and they put a huge line of tiny platforms in a row and expected you to precision jump over these miniscule ledges whilst sliding everywhere and you will spend HOURS falling off them, walking left and repeating the process, it is however possible to do but then the bastards slyly position baddies just after the last jump to make your joy short lived as you are taken out and spend a few more hours hoping to get there again swearing that the bat thing wont get you as it swoops this time, I left the computer on overnight adamant that I would beat the thing but the next day after overcoming the aforementioned section there are more scenarios of instadeath waiting for you just after this and not a checkpoint in sight so when I died on this part I realised that I would probably never beat the game – I certainly don’t think that I could get anywhere near it these days it was bad enough when I had the patience.

    Anyhow great game regardless 🙂

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