The NewZealand Story review
New Zeland Story (aka Kiwi Kraze in USA) is an arcade platformer videogame developed and published Taito in 1988-1992. The game was also ported or published by other companies like Ocean. The game looked cute because of it’s happy graphics and also happy/frenzy music. That was in fact misleading, because it looks a simple game for children, but actually it was hard punishing new players.
It was released to arcades and other multiple platforms. I’m reviewing the NES version, which I played a lot and it’s OK. This port has good music (sounds fine) and a good graphics palette. Every game is slightly different, some ports seem just worse.
This old school platformer included some simple cool ideas and combined them nicely:
- The main character is called Tiki and it’s cute. +1
- It’s a platformer but the player can shoot projectiles (also most enemies can). Some projectiles can be destroyed but most don’t and you have to dodge.
- The game has ok controls. It’s not Super Mario, but also it’s not Castlevania. This is very important and often an understimated point.
- In NES, there are some weapons (arrow, laser and bombs) and special items (invulnerability, nuke everything on screen, …).
- Maze-like levels that have a good and trollish design (good/bad path). There are lots of spikes so you must be careful.
- There is a time limit for all levels, pretty narrow:
- If time limit is reached, an invulnerable flying demon chases you so you still have a chance to finish the level.
- Avoiding the demon is not easy, so usually it’s bad news for you.
- Time plays as a risk-reward mechanic: if you go careful but slowly you can have a problem later with the demon but if you rush too much across the levels you can die early on any wrong move.
- Tiki can use enemy transport (flying balloons) to fly across the level: read more.
- Tiki can fly by himself / herself / itself! Well, no better than a chicken, it’s a kiwi after all. It’s hard to fly up (unless you got a turbo button) but at least you can just glide for a long jump.
- There is water on the levels, where you can swim and dive in (holding breath): read more.
- Secret warps for level skipping. Are not hard to find out.
- Enemies tend to teleport to show up on the level with a bad timing (bad for you). But they always teleport in the same places, so you can be prepared and be careful.
- In arcade and old ports player can only shoot straightforward (no angles), so no cheesy kills.
- The game art is cute. Then you die.
- Great, fast ridden, game music.
- The game theme is inspired in New Zealand, which is nice.
- There are some interesting bosses. The whale looks a reference to Moby Dick.
Also note: you have no health. If a projectile or a spicky enemy touch you then you’re dead and you respawn in place. That is not good or bad, just raises difficulty slightly. You have 3 extra lives and continuations.
The game mechanics previously mentioned are fine. But game seems to be raising difficulty a bit unnaturally. I think the reason is that it was an arcade game, so they just wanted the player to keep inserting coins by punishing any mistake.
These are some debatable points that could be considered as flaws:
- Difficulty curve is a bit irregular:
- Game constantly tries to troll the player by spawning enemies just over him.
- Most enemies are aggresive and annoying. As soon as spawn they’re harassing the player, seeking it. If you’re in water, they just wait for you outside.
- The level design is not straightforward but a bit confusing on most levels. There are arrows pointing direction to address that but is not enough.
- The game pace is also irregular. Sometimes you go slowly (water), other you stop fighting many enemies, other you rush across the level. Some levels feel small and other levels big.
- Player even has to wait for enemies to respawn because you need a transport to go up and before you destroyed them.
- Hitbox seems a bit weird. Sometimes spaces are small and it’s like “how it’s possible I could jump under that spikes and pass unharmed?”.
- Graphics bad contrast: some sprites (game images) are not easy to distinguish from background or walls. It isn’t a color palette problem but done on purpose. The problem is when that happens with spikes and “shooting cannons”.
- Three weapons only, being one an utter crap (sucks having short range) and the other just OP. More variety or improving the bomb would be good.
Those points don’t make it a bad game at all and it’s debatable if are actually good or bad. Maybe some points are needed or the game could be short and too easy, which would be actually worse. But, as is, I consider they slightly lowered the gameplay quality.
To be a flawless gem difficulty should be more linear and mechanics should not be abused. To understand it better, just think about any NES Super Mario Bros, e.g. 3. SMB3 doesn’t rely on troll things to make every level harder.
Few SMB3 counter-points to better illustrate it:
- There are maze levels in world 7 and the Boss Bass fish is troll, sure, but is the exception, no the constant.
- SMB’s levels are not a mix of horizontal/vertical going forward and back.
- You don’t fight against your eyes because of sprite contrast and hitbox is fine.
- There is a regular game pace and most enemies don’t hunt the player.
Why to play?
It’s a fun and hard game. If you appreciate old school difficulty, aged cute graphics and a fine platformer, you’re good to go. I had a great time playing it back on the day and I think NES port is still enjoyable today.
This game was called Kiwi Kraze and I think there is a good reason for that. Just hear the title song:
How to acquire
There were many releases of this game, but it’s not so easy to play it today without going to emulation unless you keep the old game.
There is a DS remake called New Zealand Story Revolution but the game have some mechanics changed, like having health, shoot angles and using two screens. I think those were actually lame changes that didn’t improved the game at all. The DS is a defunct console so who cares.
Game was also included in Taito Legends recopilation (PS2, xbox, PC) but that was long ago and is not available anymore.
Version / Platform
The original game was on arcade but I’m reviewing the NES port I know. There are other ports for consoles and computers. Some port’s quality is worse, like Master System port. Others were only released in Japan, like the Mega Drive port and for jap computers.
- Arcade: there are at least 5 arcade releases, with slight changes.
- Computers: Sharp X68000, FM Towns, Amiga, Atari ST, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64.
- Consoles: NES, Master System, Mega Drive, Nintendo Virtual Console.
It’s unlikely we could have a new remake for this game but not impossible. Maybe on Nintendo Switch? But I hope that, if it happens, they stick to the arcade version and don’t try to insert new elements again.
Games like NewZealand Story
If you liked NewZealand Story, you can try other high difficulty and good quality platformers for NES console:
- Battletoads. 1-2 player game, worth playing, some levels are mythic. Released in various consoles but NES / Genesis was the best version.
- Ghosts ‘n Goblins. Very difficult platformer (be warned!), ported from arcade and a true classic.
- Castlevania. The first game on this saga was a hard and flawed game, but it is a classic too.
- Bart VS the World. NES great platformer, it has many levels inspired in real world places (China, Egypt, …) and it’s a hard game.
And why not, we could add other quality platform games:
- Super Mario Bros 3 / Super Mario World. Best platformers ever, just choose console.
- Sonic 2. A good and fast paced platformer, direct competitor for Super Mario.
- Castle of Illusion. Great game of Mega Drive, had a sequel and a remake in Steam.
- Kid Chamaleon. Cool game, relatively known. It has got some nice mechanics.
- Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers. A entertaining NES game and particularly fun in 2 player mode. In fact, new 2D Super Mario look like this in 2p.
This is a nice platformer which incorporates some fun elements like mazes, pilot balloons and projectile shooting. In the platform genre there are many games but most of them are just clones of other platformers, this at least has soul and it is worth playing.
- Fight for flight: usually you have to fight against enemies to get access to the balloon and fly.
- You and your enemies can shoot while flying, so there are some air combats.
- Flying the ballons is tricky because of physics used: you need to give trust to fight gravity and then there is some inertia before stopping and falling down.
- Most balloons can be destroyed by your/enemy projectiles and spikes on the map. That plays sometimes to your favor but others against you.
- In NES there are 4 types of ballons, the special ones being a slow+indestructible ballon and other fast but harder to drive.
- It’s important to fly because of time limit. But it’s not so easy because you’ll be constrained by spikes all across the levels, so you must be careful when rushing.
- There is an special item, a joystick, that allows to move your ballon without physics (just press arrow and it moves, stop and stops), which makes life easy. You lose the special if you get out of the ballon for any reason (life wasn’t going to be so easy huh?).
- Movement in water is slower.
- You can shoot water to outside enemies when taking breath (when swimming on surface).
- You have to breath or you drown. There are small ponds of air inside water areas, so you must go diving from one to next. But it’s up to you to stop a lot and risk reaching time limit or rushing breathing less and risk drowning.
- There are some enemies inside water but you can’t fight them as you can’t shoot when diving, so you must also avoid them when rushing.