When I first got a Sega Genesis (used), I was introduced to my first RTS game, Herzog Zwei. I had never experienced anything like it before & fell in love immediately. Herzog Zwei slips under the radar for most people, no doubt due in large part to the fact that it is so different from what the unprepared might be expecting.
In this game you take control of a mech that transforms between a jet and a robot, your mech can fight on its own and it can transport units. The goal is to destroy your opponent’s base while protecting your own. While it is possible to do this directly with your own mech, that would be highly ill-advised, the way to win is through proper use of your military forces. Aside from the fact that Herzog Zwei is real-time while the others are turn based, Herzog Zwei has some marked similarities with Nintendo’s Advance Wars and its predecessors; You make foot soldiers to capture bases, which increase your income and give you more places to both generate new units and recover your own energy. You make a variety of units with different balances between speed, strength, and price to assault the enemy forces and bases. There are tough but slow tanks, weaker but faster cars, fast and cheap but very weak motorcycles, supply trucks, and some levels even have boats.
While in jet mode you can carry your units to other places on the map (one unit at a time) and shoot the enemy mech while it’s also in jet mode. While in robot mode you can shoot the other mech while it’s in robot mode, and you can shoot ground units (but you can’t carry your units). Most ground units can only shoot you while you’re in robot mode, but the rocket launchers can hit you in jet mode. While you are flying around you use up energy (significantly more so while transporting a unit), this makes having bases throughout the map essential, as you need to hover over one to refuel. If you run out of energy or receive too much damage, your mech is destroyed and will respawn back at home base, but any unit you were carrying is permanently lost.
On the unit building screen you can choose between different units and give each unit a command, these commands determine what the unit will do when you release it. You can have it stay still, patrol a circle, stay in place until an enemy approaches, attack enemy bases, or attack the enemy’s home base. The unit building screen also shows a radar view of the whole map, allowing you to see where the enemy mech & units are, in addition to your own units, and the various bases.
Now, Herzog Zwei translates to “Duke Two”, which begs the question “What happened to Duke One?”, especially since this is the only Herzog game on the Genesis. The answer is that the original Herzog game only appeared on the MSX and PC88 computers in Japan. I have recently been playing the MSX version via emulator. It’s a simpler and less difficult game than it’s successor, but it’s still fun.
In this game you simply go straight up to the enemy base instead of going all around a big map, and there are no sub-bases, this game also lacks the jet mode transformation (though you can still carry units). The difficulty in playing this game is figuring out the controls. There is no obvious way to purchase units (giving the impression that you have to fight with just your mech), and there are no manuals or useful guides online. I finally managed to figure it out though; If using a joystick you have to press both buttons at once, if using a keyboard you have to press ALT and the spacebar at once. I am currently working on a FAQ to post to Gamefaqs, but if you need help playing it now, you can check out an early draft of it here.
This draft provides all the info you’ll need about the various controls, what each unit does, etc, it just isn’t organized very well.
An interesting aspect of Herzog is that your route through the game & thus the length of the game varies depending on your own success. If you lose at a given location, you then have to take an alternate route around it. If you win all your battles, you can get to the enemy headquarters in just a few rounds.
In both games you get to watch the enemy base blow up when you win: