Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Retro Game of the Day! Herzog Zwei

Retro Game of the Day! Herzog Zwei

Herzog Zwei is truly a one-of-a-kind. I probably started this retro-blog with the intention that "someday I would write about this game, "and now that the day is here, I am disappointed, since I no longer have that to look forward to! Released in early 1990 according to Wikipedia, which I have a hard time believing because my memory says otherwise, this was a standout title and the birth of a new genre of gaming.

Created byTechnosoft for the Sega Genesis, this game was billed as "something slightly different from the Thunder Force developers." It landed with a thud as people didn't really know what to make of it - Technosoft is famous for shooters, and this looks shootery but what the hellll? Most of the magazines famously maligned it at the time, but I picked it up anyway - to great surprise.

A hell of a game is what I found. I'd never really played strategy games before, but here was a Real Time one (the first, essentially) and you could play it with your buddy (or VS the CPU) in split-screen. The objective was simple - you have a main base at one extreme corner of the screen, your rival has his in the other, whoever's base loses all their (non-replenishable) HP first is the loser. Capture minibases in between to fuel up, generate more cash, and stage closer attacks to the the enemy. That's pretty much it. The big deal here besides, was that not only do you create/program/reprogram units (armored cars, bikes, infantry men, attack boats, anti-aircraft cannons, etc) - you are a soldier yourself, transforming between Jet Carrier mode and Robot Warrior mode, and you can participate in all the same battles.

To keep things fresh, there are a variey of different maps included in the game, each with their own unique spins on the terrestrial chalenges. Lava world, ice world, water world, etc. Everything was fairly well-balanced enough that it was fun to play each level, and the gfx/sound were really sharp at the time.

Herzog Zwei is pretty much a great grandpa in terms of video game age now, it's begat Dune 2 and the likes of Starcraft, Command and Conquer, lots of things have taken from this initial seed and no one really remembers it except for a few of us who serously worship the thing.

This game is a blast. I could still enjoy it as much now as I did then. Game of my Life? Nearly...


  1. It's about time you got to this game. Some of my fondest SEGA memories come from playing this title. This is one of the few strategy games that was truely designed for a console, and it was a blast! Plus, it made real time strategy accessible to people like me who are much more inclined towards the turn based genre. This is one game that definitely needs to be brought to a modern platform (iPhone maybe?)

  2. This is a really spectacular game. It may be the "father" of RTS games, but it's much more of a Japanese arcade feel. It's very intense and I could see matches going on and on forever....or lasting a couple minutes. Depeneds on your opponents, I guess.

    Sega really needs to get off their duff and reissue Herzog Zwei (and all the Technosoft games) on Virtual Console. What exactly is holding them back? Poor Sega really fell off a cliff after Dreamcast died, didn't it?

    Here, I wrote a detailed strategy guide to Herzog Zwei back in 2003, when I launched my arts website. I couldn't find any meaningful instructions for the game at the time, so I wanted to create something that would help new players. Here's the link:

    Great website, thanks for sharing all the retro memories, and good luck on your new games!

  3. It's a shame, I suppose all the Technosoft catalog is just considered too niche to hold much mainstream appeal nowadays; even with the much lighter costs associated with releasing game virtually as opposed to physically, I wouldn't suppose it would happen anytime soon unless someone seriously dedicated gets in charge of such things.

    I was an artist on Obsidian/Sega's forthcoming (?) "Alpha Protocol" RPG and placed an extremely obvious nod to HZ in one of the levels. If the damned game ever releases (and if they didn't cut my art!) then maybe it will make some waves and inspire someone, somewhere..