The NewZealand Story


Source // Wikipedia

Brightly coloured graphics are a funny thing. They may look welcoming and child-friendly, but underneath the pixels can lay a devious little platformer whose rules are simple but success can be hard to come by.

So it is with The NewZealand Story, a 100% factually accurate account of the entire story of New Zealand. A bunch of kiwis (ignore the fact that they look like lil chickens here, they're kiwis - kiwis in shoes) have been captured by a leopard seal (ignore the fact that he just swam all the way from the Antarctic to waltz into a zoo to kidnap kiwis).

One lucky kiwi, Tiki, has managed to evade capture and has tasked himself with retrieving and rescuing the rest of the... pack...? Tribe? A tribe of kiwis, says the Internet.

Whatever they are, whatever they look like, the goal is simple - platform your way to success.

C'mon little kiwi fella, let's see what you've got.


I first played The NewZealand Story through the Mega Drive port, and if you're familiar with it, you'll notice that I've just lost a life after the second jump. I blame two things. Firstly, rushing into it. The NewZealand Story is relaxing, it doesn't require manic bursts of speed. Precision, yes, but speed, no. Taking it slow is the way go - but not cautious. That's no way to play.

The second is the soundtrack. It's lovely. Lovely and repetitive. I've been sat listening to it while I write this, and I don't think it'll come out of my head for a while, and that's baaaad. I'm bopping. I've stopped writing and I am bopping to this bloody theme. This is ridiculous.

I don't think that's how you ride balloons, Tiki...

Fond Memories

As I was preparing for this post, Wikipedia was up on my desktop and P2 had come home for lunch. She caught sight of it and wondered if it was a game she'd played in her childhood. "It had chickens in it, and I played it at the Chinese on a sit-down table thing while I ate prawn crackers. Loads of prawn crackers, because we were regulars. But I don't think it's that."

Not being able to recall any arcade games with chickens in, I said "It's probably this one"

"No, it was different. Have you got a video?"

Of course we have videos. Looooads of videos. YouTube loves The NewZealand Story, and through a whole bunch of "Yeah"s, "No"s and "That's it"s, we narrowed P2s childhood down to playing the Mega Drive port of The NewZealand Story in a cocktail/table cabinet. Definitely not the arcade version, she insists. Don't ask me.

Whatever the case, I've got to wrap this post up by the time she gets back to relive her childhood through the wonders of emulation.

Fun Times

Not at all influenced by P2 and her childhood, I finally sat down to play this once more while she went back to work, and - music aside (still bopping here) - this game is great.

As Tiki, you're able to jump and shoot. You'll be doing a fair bit of both, but it's never quite as simple as that. Every so often - quite often really - a magical door in the level opens and a couple of enemies spawn in, usually on some kind of hovering device. Most of them don't make sense, and some you can't even make out what they are, but you've got the option to hop onto these vehicles and fly around the levels on them - after you've knocked the enemy off the top, though, or have found one parked up somewhere.

To accommodate this freedom of movement, each stage is pretty big, both horizontally and vertically, and offers plenty of navigation puzzles that require you to deal with enemies and ditch those vehicles now and again to platform properly, on foot.

With massive arrows pointing you through the stages, and a basic map if you're playing the arcade original (showing you where you and the exit are in the stage, but nothing else), you might think that the challenge presented has been a bit watered down, but it hasn't.

Jumps require precision and thought - not a lot of either, but enough to matter. Slowing yourself down in a game like this allows you to make the most out of the things that come your way, even if you'll be prompted to hurry it up at some point.

Defeated enemies drop fruit which can be picked up for points, and there are power-ups to change your weapon too. You get arrows as standard but can equip bombs, a laser gun, even fireballs, each behaving differently, and all spammable without having to worry about running out of ammo.

Stages do vary, despite these screenshots (what can I say, I'm no expert yet), including some underwater sections and trips to Heaven. At the end of each stage is one of your brethren: a little generic chicken-looking kiwi trapped in a cage. Tiki isn't the most expressive creature when it comes to showing the emotion involved in saving the life of a fellow kiwi, though. He only cares about finding his girlfriend, Phee Phee, no doubt.

After every fourth stage is a boss battle, and they're about as mad as the rest of the game, to be honest. They make as much sense as a kiwi in shoes riding a balloon, chucking bombs at cats riding rockets, basically.

Final Word

And that's awesome because nobody really cares about these captive kiwis. They care about how good it feels to bounce around the stage spamming the fire button, shooting everything that moves and having it look like a kids game regardless.

Sure, it's a little fiddly and quirky to control sometimes, and that bloody music has been seared into my synapses by this point, but goddamn it, I'm still bopping to it and I'm still enjoying the gameplay.

Don't cast it aside because you don't like its looks or that it is a faithful depiction of New Zealand, go and enjoy it somehow. It was ported to a fair few systems and is well worth a bit of your time.

Fun Facts

There are differences in the stages between ports. The Mega Drive port includes levels based on the arcade prototype, for example.

The NewZealand Story, developed by Taito, first released in 1988.
Version played: Sega Mega Drive, 1990, via emulation.
Version watched: Sega Mega Drive, 1990 (World of Longplays)
Arcade, 1988 (RedSevenNine)