Friday, April 2, 2010

New Zealand Story


Way back in the day, before any console version of New Zealand Story had made it to America, GamePro ran a feature on the game. The article convinced me that I had to have the title in some form. The little sneaker-wearing kiwi seemed like a really cute and awesome protagonist.

And I thought it was great that he used arrows, lasers, and bombs to dispatch his foes rather than the generic hopping/spinning attacks that most "mascot-type" heroes employed back then, not to mention that he got to use those weapons against cool bosses like a giant whale who would swallow him up (leaving him no choice but to decimate the beast from the inside).

I eventually got the game in its "Kiwi Kraze" incarnation for the NES and discovered it's about more than just a cutesy style and interesting animal characters. It's a very tricky platformer, with tight balloon-flying and swimming sequences to navigate through and spikes and other such hazards placed all about the land.

Heck, when I was a kid, I regularly got my ass kicked by the second boss. (Yeah, I was HORRIBLE back then.)

I liked the game despite my struggles but eventually sold the cart with the knowledge that I was ultimately going to acquire the PCE version anyway. I was an older, wiser, better player by the time I purchased the NZS HuCard, and I fared quite a bit better with it than I had with its NES counterpart. With knowledge of what the full adventure has to offer finally in hand, I appreciate the game now more than ever. As mentioned above, it's very tricky, and some parts seem so tight at first that they make you wonder how you'll ever get past them without sacrificing lives. But this is the sort of game in which practice and experimentation go a long way. You'll eventually find yourself breezing through those tough parts and feeling great about it. Looking for the many hidden warp spots is also great fun.

So NZS certainly is a sweet little platformer, but some things about the PCE rendition bother me:

Some of the color choices and combinations just boggle my mind. I don't mind the turquoise tones of the third world so much; but even during that stage, there are plenty of "uneasy" visual moments to endure.

No version of NZS that I've experienced has boasted exemplary controls, but the balloon flying here seems even looser than in other renditions. Kiwi Kraze feels tighter than this.

I've never played the arcade original, but from what I understand, it features five full worlds. This one goes up to 4-4 and then straight to Round Final for the battle against a pathetically easy last boss. Leaving out an entire round is a pretty significant omission.

Also, the music is AWFUL. It's so shrill and terrible. Kiwi Kraze does a much better job with the main tune, which I'm very sad to say, as I think NES audio is shitty in general. But on the plus side, the playfield seems "wider" here, less cramped, than in the NES version, giving you more room to move around in, which makes a number of situations play out a lot more smoothly.

It's too bad that HuCard NZS didn't end up as excellent as it could and should have been, but the game still rules, and it makes for a great pickup despite the issues I've enumerated. And while this might be small consolation, it fares better in almost every area than the MegaDrive version, which is wretched.

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