Thanks to SEGA for the review code
Title: Sega Ages Herzog Zwei
System: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Release Date: 09/24/2020
In the final Sega AGES title, you take control of an army who must defend their base from invaders, in this Technosoft cult classic! There’s not much plot in this game, despite it being an RPG, but it does have a lot of noteworthy aspects, such as including some parts of M2’s visual novel engine for a training mode!
Per the usual SEGA AGES routine, this port includes the same usual options you’ve come to expect, from multiple borders, screen options, and filters. Not much else to say here, except that Zwei’s border is way more in-depth than these borders usually are, as this one actually displays all of the in-game stats for both armies, including descriptions on what each unit and command does! It may sound like this would become a complicated eyesore, but I honestly felt it was a useful and natural use of the extra space.
As for the game itself, Herzog Zwei launched in 1989, and for a Genesis game from that time, it looks absolutely incredible. The menus are snappy, the sprites have a lot of interesting details and the game moves at a very smooth pace. You can play the game with the screen focusing on your army only, or with it focusing on both armies, but I personally stuck to my own.
By far the best part of the presentation, as expected from Technosoft, is the music, which is amazing! From the menu themes, to each of the battlefield themes, these energetic songs are more than worthy of occupying your time, which is a good thing considering how long these battles can take, yet I didn’t find any of these songs to get repetitive or drone on and on, which I was very happy to see.
Herzog Zwei is a Real Time Strategy game, and this is actually my first experience with the genre, save for some odd minigames in other titles, or trying out a game before quickly getting confused and not bothering to learn the ropes. Luckily, this port of Zwei has you covered with a twelve chapter tutorial mode, available from the main UI. This tutorial is presented in a visual novel-esque format using M2’s own engine for Visual Novels, and it works rather well for what they were going for.
Each chapter of the tutorial explains details little by little, before throwing you in a save state of the scenario in question, guiding you on what to do next. Needless to say, this worked tremendously on me, and before long I was able to grasp control of the situations without having to rely on the information given to me, leading to my first proper battle after the tutorial resulting in victory! As a cool sendoff to AGES as a whole, the tutorial bits are even packed with tons and tons of references to every single prior AGES release to date, and it was pretty darn neat to see the line come together like that.
So for the main battles, you have the option before starting the game to turn on “helper” features, which are basically handicaps you can apply on an army of your choice, usually to make the game harder or easier for yourself. Of course, if you want to play with the original settings, you can just turn helper off entirely, and these features include aspects like the production of units, the amount of gold you get to build units, and the speed of productivity in general, though you can’t adjust the health of your main fighter, so you still have to be careful with your units.
But once you set your conditions and pick a map, it’s off to battle! The main objective of Herzog Zwei is to guide your units from the red corner of the screen, all the way to the blue corner, where you deploy units to bomb their main base and claim victory. Of course, if you try flying straight to the enemy base without claiming neighboring bases, you’ll quickly run out of fuel and explode, so to get to the opposing main base, you’ll have to capture the smaller bases with infantry. You do this by carrying them with your main ship, and dropping them off next to an empty/occupied base. If four of one color occupy a base, that side claims the base and the main ship can use it as a refueling/deployment source, so claiming more and more bases to reduce the distance to the enemy’s main base is the key to victory.
Of course, the enemy can do the same to your bases, so you’ll have to make sure they’re well defended, either by placing defensive units like turrets and tanks near an occupied base to stop infantry, or by shooting the enemy’s main ship if they try to make a land assault. This tug and war is pretty damn fun, and I found it to be the most risky yet rewarding aspects of the game, as I found it was easy to take out the enemy’s main base if I used my mech form to take out their tanks and turrets on land, quickly rush to a neighboring base, and then build a tank and deploy it next to the enemy base while I bullied the main ship.
Of course, differing maps can make this task easier or harder. Some maps make the enemy have a big advantage due to more occupied by default, and some make the terrain hard to navigate or even impossible for certain units, meaning that you’ll have to use other units or find an alternative route. Each stage cleared gives you a password, but the game itself saves the password upon loadup, so you don’t really need to use save states for this one at all.
In conclusion, Herzog Zwei was a great conclusion to the Sega Ages line, cramming as much references and bonus stuff as I could have possibly wanted in such a release, and truly feeling like a proper sendoff. As one of my first RTS games, this was a really fun introduction to the genre, and the helper and tutorial modes do a great job of making this a customizable experience for newcomers and veterans alike!
While I wasn’t able to try a multiplayer match in time for the review, I did enjoy my bouts with the CPU, and the lengthy list of maps to go through indicates that you’ll have plenty of fun with this strategy game! Even if you’re an RTS newcomer like I was, this game is a really fun, retro introduction to the genre that works perfectly as the series finale for Sega AGES.
I give SEGA AGES Herzog Zwei an 8 out of 10.