World 3 - Waitomo Caves
The true NewZealand Story starts here. Waitomo Caves- in the real world a village and huge system of caves, famous for their glowworms (Arachnocampa luminosa, a species unique to New Zealand) and boat rides through the cave system- is where things really heat up. Long waterways, winding and treacherous cavern paths, and a myriad of enemies await you here. Since we're playing on Hard, this also means the first appearance of the dreaded Mr. Needlemouse, Hold your bow and arrow close and take courage, though-
Before we go to the caves, though, from Round 3-1 onwards, the rules of life and death change a little, leading to one of the strangest secrets that Taito ever put into any of their games. From here on out, if you lose the last life of a credit by being killed by a solid projectile, one that sticks in Tiki's head and causes him to move down the screen during his death animation, your game will not be over just yet! This can only happen once per credit though, so make it count.
Tiki rises up with a halo over his head, and ascends to the afterlife.
The bad news is, Tiki's dead. The good news is, he's gone to Heaven.
Yes, you actually go to Heaven. As it turns out, Heaven is a spike-filled deathmaze full of dead bats and tricky jumps. Worlds 3, 4 and 5 have their own Heaven maps, so we'll call this Heaven 1. Follow the path of small cloud platforms (these jumps are actually surprisingly tricky) and avoid the Grim Bats, some of which actually drop five spikes (!) at a time. While you're here, take in the lovely surroundings. Ignore the spikes, just admire the fluffy tileset!
At the end of the path, you'll find a large statue. Step up to it, and...
... Oh. Tiki finally gets a kip (the long kip), leaving Phee-Phee and the other kiwis to their fate.
Game Over! But can't you change your destiny?
As it turns out, your objective in the Heaven rouds isn't to find eternal rest, but get back to the mission in the real world! Each Heaven round has a craftily-hidden escape route, meaning you literally have to escape from Heaven in this game. Taito games are no joke. As told to Victor Epitropou by Alan Carter, here's how to escape this first Heaven round.
Before you reach the statue, there's this set of cloud platforms above spikes.
You need to walk right off the platform Tiki's standing on here, and keep walking, so you land between the second and third set of spikes.
(You can also do this from the third platform from the left by walking left then changing course in mid-air).
It's a fake floor! You'll fall right through, and from there walk to the right corner to fall through and return to the fight!
You'll then skip ahead to the next level along from when you died.
After a long, long drop from the top of the map all the way to the bottom, new enemies appear almost immediately, and they are by a wide margin, the most dangerous in the game- the Flying Frankie and Mr. Needlemouse. Both of these are flying enemies (Flying Frankie using a pink Teddy Bear, and Mr. Needlemouse using a green String Balloon) and neither have projectiles. However, because they're spikey, they can harm you just by flying into you! The Flying Frankies will head in your general direction much like Bobs and Penguins, but Mr. Needlemouse will dog you. He will follow you and try to pre-empt you, going to where he thinks you're going to be, and especially likes to go above you and drop on you from there.
You have a choice once you reach the bottom, though- you can either go up through the waterways, or right to a series of spike-laden platforms. Upwards is longer and I'd say the more dangerous of the two, as you encounter Flying Frankies and Mr. Needlemouse immediately, and to get out of the water at the top, you'll need to dodge spike-dropping Grim Bats, and that's easier said than done. The jumps to the right aren't too bad, but you do have to contend with a fairly open area full of Cool Bobs, Spearmen and a lone Mr. Needlemouse. It's a good place to practice fighting them, as later in this world you'll have to deal with one in much more difficult circumstances, so get used to them here.
(In later revisions, the first Invader of the game will also spawn in the right-most area- steal his Missile UFO!)
Oh, and if you warped here from 2-4, here's where you start, so follow the route to the lower right.
Whichever route you take, you'll eventually wind up in the huge area in the middle, the setting for an all-out brawl as you make your way to the cage. Amongst the usual suspects, there's three more new enemies here- Mr. Wakelin's Zeppelin where he magics random enemies into the melee (you can get in it if you want and it takes a few hits, but it's slow and awkward, and you have to enter from above), B. B. Hoofer, a sheep who carts around a gigantic cannon and often appears alongside Mr. Wakelin's Zeppelin, and Screamer, who rides around on a deathtrap of a flying machine we like to call The Colonel- tall like the Metal Balloon, with four spikeballs trailing along. A unique vehicle, but one you'll have a hard time parking without getting stung. Your best bet is to approach from above- you only have to deal with the Screamer that way, and not Wakelin spawning who knows what into the stage or B. B. Hoofer's cannonballs.
Time for a little maze! You can grab a Duck instantly by moving to the right at the start, so grab one and make your way to the top-left (watch out for Mr. Needlemouse and some Spearmen) and enter the stone maze. The best route is the far-left to get the X and E letters, then going back up and taking the first right two times, then down for the rest of the way. You'll want to avoid the second right in the first shaft, as if you rush in there, a Mr. Needlemouse is spawned who'll kill you as you enter. Told you the game was getting rough! From here, you just need to make your way through the glowworm cave (an Astroman spawns in the mid-right in here- tempting to steal his UFO, but it means you'll have to take the longer water route out of here) and then either go up and around the waterfall, or below and through the waterway. There's a Mine floating about but neither route is particularly lethal. The final challenge here is the game's new favourite combo, Wakelin's Zeppelin and a B. B. Hoofer just in front of the cage. Should be no problem for you now!
As for that Warp between the two waterfalls...
It takes you to this part of the Warp Round, then on to midway through Round 3-2.
Oh, there's one more thing to talk about here. A wall inscription here is the source of a rather odd naming tradition relating to the boss of Waitomo Caves! In the top right corner before the little maze, there's a wall inscription that reeds 'AMIDA MEIRO'. Victor Epitropou's guide took this to be the name of the gigantic robo-doll that serves as this world's boss, and even Retro Gamer's Ultimate Guide: The NewZealand Story in Issue 115 uses that name. That's a fair assumption, and as we are nothing but sticklers for tradition, we'll be using that name too... But what does it mean? Rather than the boss, it seems to be referring to the maze below the signs. 'Amida' is shorthand for 'Amidakuji' ('Amida lottery') and is a reference to the lottery system Ghost Leg, something that's been seen in games like Amidar and Decap Attack's bonus games, where a series of vertical and horizontal lines lead the player to a certain result. 'Meiro' can mean 'maze' or 'labyrinth', and so the sign is referring to the path below, which does vaguely resemble an Amida lottery. So, a tiny mystery is solved, until we can get official names of the bosses.
While the previous rounds have been pretty generous in offering you multiple routes throughout, aside from one optional room for some bonuses and one room you'll only see if you fall, there's only one route through Round 3-3- the long way. Luckily, you start in a Hot-Air Balloon although you won't have it for long- there's a set of spikes on your way to the long shaft to the left that you can just barely get past, but you'll need to ditch it soon anyway. Down the shaft, you can either go straight to the first room, a series of platforms above a spike pit with no enemies, or keep going to a room with some Germs (they spawn overhead, so watch out) and a Penguin that leads you to some EXTEND letters. If you need a red E or an X to complete the word, you may as well grab them. Whichever way you go will lead you to a platform that takes you up a long shaft, presenting you with a large pit above moving platforms. Don't stand on the platforms too long- the small ones will move you down into the pit filled with enemies and spikes, while the larger ones move you up into the spiked ceiling!
Make it across and you'll go down another shaft, at the bottom of which are some Cool Bobs. Be sure to steal their balloons with at least two spare hits left in 'em, and cling to them from below! At the top of the next shaft are some Grim Bats who are just itching to drop some spikes on your head. You really don't have room to manoeuvre if you're standing on the balloon, so cling underneath instead and you'll be fine. The next segment is a standard swimming part- just be careful jumping in because of the spikes- but as you make it to the bottom-right corner, you'll again find some Cool Bobs as well as Spearmen. Take out the Spearman and cling to a Cool Bob's balloon, the next shaft up is incredibly mean- it's filled with spikes! You'll have to line yourself up properly by using the wall- hold the direction until Tiki stops bouncing off it. You'll have to switch sides a few times, but reaching the top leads to a violent battle for the cage. Fire Lizards spawn assoon as you enter, but the real threat are the Cool Bobs- a max of four can be guarding the cage, and they're not easy to take out. The safest approach is to go as high as possible, as then only two Cool Bobs will spawn, a less risky prospect. Watch out for the Fire Lizards respawning behind you, though!
Probably the busiest round up to this point, Round 3-4 has a lot going on, and honestly the game doesn't really get this rough again until the end of the next world (and at least you can skip that, at you'll see when we get to it)... Assuming you do the full route, as you can skip a huge segment of it. You can't escape the hardest segment though! The opening has you jumping between blocked-off areas so you can't take any vehicles with you- this is especially mean as the game taunts you with two Laser UFOs you can't use elsewhere!, leading to a series of fairly narrow corridors filled with annoying enemies like Pumpkos, Germs and at one point, a Zeppelin above a series of spikes. Nice. In particular, past the Zeppelin is a Penguin basically spawning on top of a set of Germs so you can't steal the Duck very easily. Another sticking point is just before the waterfalls where a Penguin and a Pumpko spawn above you- that Pumpko is a good aim with his bombs, so take cover and try to take them out before they get you!
At this point, you're forced to take a dip, and I always assumed that there was only one way out of here, the long way. As it turns out, that's not so, but we'll describe the longer way first for the full experience. Since it doesn't look like you can get past the waterfall here to cut through, you'll have to go under and follow the water to end up falling into the lower-right corner of the round. Here you'll have some Frankies fall almost on top of you, then get chased by Grim Bats across a 'bridge' (really a stretch of single-block platforms), then you have to steal a vehicle (don't hang from below, you won't fit) to make your way up, back to the main section of the round. You're still not done, then there's a lot of swimming, as you basically make your way back to the top and opposite side of that waterfall and descend it. It is, as they say in my local dialect, going round the Wrekin to get back to where you were, and the Frankies and Grim Bats in this section in particular are placed in really mean positions. Take care and do your best!
(Oh, and if you warped here from 2-1, joke's on you- you start right at the bottom of the 'bridge'. Haha!)
... So, about that waterfall from earlier. In that area, it looks like you really can't do anything- you can't jump out of the water, and you can't swim up thee waterfall as the current will just block you from getting there. Initially, I thought the Cool Bobs that spawn in this area couldn't have their vehicles stolen, because if they reach the surface of the water, Tiki can't hop high enough to knock the Cool Bobs off, and the Power Balloons are too low to hang from them. As it turns out though, you can steal them! You just need to be quick- you need to jump up before the Cool Bobs move down to the surface of the water. Once you do, take out the other one, then dismount from the Power Balloon at the top of the waterfall on the right, and you'll be able to squeeze into the gap with the N and D letters, and bypass the lower section entirely! The only warning is that as soon as you enter this alcove, two Frankies will spawn, so stay back and take them out before carrying on. From here you can just jump into the waterfall to the right and follow on from there.
Also, uh, we discovered this amusing glitch here. You can flap and fly while wearing the scuba gear!
You can also do this with the two waterfalls in Round 3-2 if you like. Not very practical, mind, but funny.
Whichever way you make it to this final area, we have one final challenge before fighting Amida Meiro- getting to the robot's door. Now, this isn't set in stone, but if you took the long way, there is a chance that you'll see an Axe Cat fly close to you while you fall down the waterfall- if it is, great! You should just about be able to jump on top of it and steal its Metal Balloon, which will make things a lot easier. If it's not there, you miss it, or you took the shortcut, you'll follow the waterfall to its end and fight two Frankies and an Axe Cat for the Metal Balloon. Why's the Metal Balloon so important? Amida Meiro can't destroy it, and it gives you a safe spot to hide if you need it in the fight ahead. If you have the item cycle right, you can grab a better weapon in this little corner, in particular a Laser Gun which will make the boss fight easier... But you have to get there first. Once you have the Metal Balloon, a Mr. Needlemouse will spawn outside the boss room! On lower difficulties, it's just a Bob, but now you have to jockey for position against this deadly foe with a slow Metal Balloon. You can do it, though! It's tough but can be done!
As for the boss itself, it's time to face Amida Meiro.
(We know the name's wrong, but we're suckers for tradition).
Best described as a gigantic robo-doll, Amida Meiro's weak spot is the hatch in its belly that opens up and fires missiles at you. A bit like the bats from the Stone Octopus, these missiles, fired five at a time, will arc up or down in Tiki's direction. This is why the Metal Balloon is so useful in this fight, it's immune to the missiles, and you can catch your breath by making your way to the top right corner. The hatch is only open when missiles are being fired, so the best tactic is to rise as the hatch opens so you can catch it but also avoid the missiles. If you're stuck with the Bow, this is a bit trickier as arrows won't penetrate the missiles. That's why having the Laser Gun is so helpful, it'll blast right through them. Other than that, if you have the Metal Balloon, this isn't a bad fight at all.
So if you ever find yourself on holiday in the Waitomo Caves and have to fight a giant robot, that's what you need to do.
That bit's probably not in the Lonely Planet guide. On to Wellington and Strait Cook! No, wait, Cook Strait.