Herzog Zwei, the Sega Genesis classic often credited for helping to invent the real-time strategy genre, is a game that’s as feared as it is revered. It’s very player-controlled. It’s frenetic and tense. There are so many units and orders and forms, and getting your mind around it all is tough enough that most didn’t manage it. Sega Ages Herzog Zwei seeks to rehabilitate the game, preserving it while building an infrastructure around it to make it easier to learn.
In Herzog Zwei, you play as a transforming mech plane that also serves as military commander in a fight for outposts and territory. It’s inspired by classic, 1980s-era anime, and part of that appeal is feeling futuristic and foreign. Units are known by model numbers like “TAX-52” and “GRM-34A.” What do you think “FWA” is? Did you guess… motorcycle? Because it’s the motorcycle. (Infantry units are, in a rare bit of mercy, just known as “INFANTRY.”)
So are unit orders. It could say what it does in a way you’d easily understand, but instead it’s a series of letters and numbers. Like “BDF-1SD” is “stationary base defense,” and “AT-101” is “destroy enemies, then go occupy a base that’s nearby.” Taking a base involves producing four infantry, ferrying them manually to their destination and defending them as they make their way inside. It’s a lot.
Here’s where all the new work comes in. Sega Ages series developer M2 really shows its love for the game, doing its best to help new players in. Or even… old players? There’s a suite of tutorials, breaking down the game’s elements through a new, military instructor character. Each part of the game has a separate lesson, and M2 uses save states and detection to throw you into the Genesis part itself between the Switch-native talks.
Sega Ages Herzog Zwei is built with awareness that it’s the finale for the Switch Sega Ages line, and outside of existing fans, it has an opportunity to convert Sega super-fans who are completing the set. The tutorials constantly make jokes about Alex Kidd or Sonic the Hedgehog or other classic franchises. They’re well-written and well-localized. They’ll help you learn how to play the game, at least some. Of course, high-level play is still hard. That’s the game’s charm.
The efforts don’t end at the tutorial. Utilizing the extra screen space on the sides of the Genesis display, Sega Ages Herzog Zwei shows unit stats and important meters depending on the context. Sometimes, these meters just duplicate the ones at the top of the screen, and we do wish there were a scheme that cropped that or something, but in the heat of the battle, you’ll be so busy that you can’t look at too many things anyway.
Herzog Zwei is still a tough game, especially with the passage of time and the conveniences we’d now expect. Still, this Sega Ages package goes a long way to help new players get settled long enough to finally give it a real chance.
Sega Ages Herzog Zwei is available now on the Nintendo Switch eShop for $7.99.