The Game: You might think this will be the story of Captain Cook and British settlers setting in motion the fall of the indigenous Maori people of New Zealand, interpreted as a video game, but…that’s not it. It’s the story of a walrus who waltzes into the zoo and abducts every Kiwi bird there, stuffing them into a huge sack and then leaving. One Kiwi bird escapes, and you have to guide him on his quest to free all the other Kiwis. (On the other hand, perhaps it’s metaphorical somehow.) Fortunately, you happen to be the kind of Kiwi bird who can fire a bow and arrow, use a flamethrower, and can fly a little hovercraft around maze-like vertical structures. Other animals try to outfox you, gravity is against you, and your little Kiwi has only three lives. (Taito, 1988)
Memories: This very strange little game from Taito seldom escaped from Japan until emulation and retro collections came along. Thanks to the latter, everyone can now enjoy this strangely compelling little game. The New Zealand Story is obviously a product of the post-Super Mario era, and in some cases its playing field even has elements that seem almost like they were taken directly from Super Mario Bros.; but once your Kiwi bird can take flight and you have to start solving curious logic puzzles in mid-air (i.e. how can I open this door and release my enemies for the sole purpose of shooting them?), TNZS really comes into its own.
With cute graphics, cheerful music and smooth gameplay, The New Zealand Story has a lot going for it – and more than once I’ve found that I’ve lost entire hours of my life to this game. And all of this despite the fact that I can’t find a less tenuous connection to New Zealand than the presence of Kiwi birds.