That Time New Zealand Got Its Own Arcade Game

That Time New Zealand Got Its Own Arcade Game
Image: YouTube

A gaming site run by Australians is obviously going to talk a lot about how Australia is represented. That leaves out our Southern Kiwi cousins, however, so I thought it might be nice to go back in time and remember when New Zealand got an arcade game of its own.

There’s a high chance many people reading wouldn’t have played NewZealand Story. (And, yes, the developers specifically wrote NewZealand as one word.)

It was made by coin-op masters Taito, although the game would later be ported to the NES, Commodore 64, PC, Mega Drive, Atari and the Nintendo DS in 2007. It was a straightforward platformer, and the main character Tiki would later appear in Bubble Symphony.

Tiki is a little Kiwi with Sonic-esque sneakers, and its your job to navigate the bird through fairly large levels. You’re trying to rescue your girlfriend Phee-phee, who’s captured by a massive leopard seal in some bizarre Kiwi trafficking scheme:

new zealand story
Platformers had some dark storylines in their day.

The whole game was inspired after one of Taito’s programmers, who went on a holiday to New Zealand in the late ’80s. It ended up on millions of PCs as well: The NewZealand Story, which was critically well received by US gaming mags, was included on the Amiga 500 Batman Pack. It was prominent enough that Ocean — who would later become known as Bandai Namco UK — featured the Taito game on the cover:

new zealand story
Image: Medium (secret escape route)

The best way to replay New Zealand Story now, however, is probably through emulation. New Zealand Story Revolution is pretty playable as far as retro platformers go — the seal certainly got a nice visual upgrade. The original game is also a part of Taito Legends, which was released for the PS2 and PSP. It’s also playable through your browser via the Internet Archive, too.

We don’t see New Zealand pop up that often as an inspiration for video games, even though the country forms part of the backdrop for so many entertainment titles. There was Reverie a couple of years ago, and even though it’s not really Kiwi, I’m sure nobody would mind if New Zealand claimed Jonah Lomu Rugby. Now that I think about it, if Sony’s going to buy up a bunch of studios to work on remasters and new ports, can we get Jonah Lomu back?


  • I only ever played this one once, on a ROM in the 00s, to fulfil a childhood curiosity.

    At my local ‘Plains Video’ (later bought out/rebranded as Civic Video), there were three categories of game rentals, by price. Cheap neon orange sticker, mid-range neon green sticker, and the coveted premium neon yellow sticker. We were always only allowed to hire one yellow sticker game per week at best, and that spot usually went to Mario 3, which had a phenomenal play length. Every now and then we’d experiment, but NewZealand Story remained in the ‘one day, some day’ category.

    Just as well I didn’t spend hard-earned on it. The port to NES was very lo-fi compared to the arcade, and it definitely didn’t deserve its premium yellow sticker, competing with the likes of Mario 3.

    In celebration of nostalgia, I’m totally gonna see if I can endure the repetition of the music while watching a longplay!

  • Our local corner store had this, Robocop, Double Dragon and Shinobi while the video store had SFII, Mortal Kombat and Samurai Showdown. Not all at the same time, mind you but I remember these and a few others being swapped in n out over the years. New Zealand story was awesome and fairly tricky too. Had a stupid huge amount of weapons and upgrades (including a laser weilding UFO) for a B rate Tweety Bird pretending to be a kiwi to use.

  • I was just playing Taito’s Space Invaders DX from 1994 on MAME for the first time and there’s a “Parody Mode” that replaces the player’s ship with the Kiwi from NewZealand Story.

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