its time for a video game history lesson for everyone out there. The year was 1990 and yours truly was the happy and proud owner of a brand new Sega Genesis system. For those of you who weren’t born yet or have no clue what the Sega Genesis is/was then I am truly saddened for you.
Having grown up in the 80’s I was privileged to be a part of the industry during its golden years and in essence a time that really is the reason you have a XBOX or Playstation in your homes today. The era known as the 8 bit era which included systems like the NES and SEGA Master System evolved into the 16 bit era where game consoles came that much closer to surpassing their Arcade parents and eventually the industry would evolve to the point where the machines in your homes replaced everyone going into social venues like arcades in favour of high-speed internet connections to give us our daily dose of social interaction.
The 16 bit era hold a special part in my life as it was the time when I was most active in the hobby and acquired a massive collection of video games and systems ( all of which have mysteriously disappeared as I have gotten older?). In 1990 a friend and I rented a Genesis game on the weekend that we had never heard of before and boy where we in for a surprise. I remember that weekend well as it was the same weekend that he found out that I was dating his sister ( I’ll leave that one for another day) and the weekend where a little game called ” Herzog Zwei” took my soul and owned it!
Looking back on that game I now realize that it was my first experience in competitive gaming. Unlike current generation of consoles the 16 bit era required two people to play on the same screen to play any kind of multi player game and competitive gaming was limited to sports games and a small helping of fighting games that could be ported to the home consoles intact.
Herzog Zwei was a top down strategy game much like Starcraft or HALO Wars and allowed two players to compete with each other on the same screen via a split screen system. This game pre dated all other Real Time strategy games PERIOD! This was the First RTS ever delivered to the north american gaming public and it was on the Sega Genesis !The game put the players in control of a transformable jet much like a Transformer or something out of Robotech and allowed you to zip around the games maps in jet mode and then shift to robot mode to take on numerous enemy units that opposed you.
The game used a resource system that revolved around building bases and generating a pool that could be used to build more units such as infantry, motorcycle units, tanks etc. The presentation was that of a saturday morning anime show and had a very Japanese influence despite its German Nomenclature
There was no story mode; just a multi player option or an option to play against the computer. Red vs Blue in its earliest incarnation and it was AWESOME
The game eventually faded into obscurity like many of the 16 bit era games and as the technology in home consoles evolved this game was buried and forgotten. No ” next-gen” version ever serviced. The publisher responsible for bringing the game to us ( Technosoft) has also gone down a similar path as its beloved game.
Imagine my surprise when I came across an article on the web talking about a game that had ” Herzog Zwei” inspirations. A developer named Carbon had created a spiritual successor to one of my favourite games I have ever played! As I read on my interest grew and today I am excited to tell you that Herzog Zwei is no longer dead..it has been reborn as ” Air Mech”
Air Mech is currently in its ALPHA test phase and is available to anyone to play in their desktop browser.It also uses an identical perspective with of course a very improved visual presentation. The game is a PC ” browser” game meaning that you play it right inside your Google Chrome browser( you must use Google Chrome). The title is expected to make the leap to XBL arcade and hopefully PSN as well.
The game has a fairly brief tutorial to bring you up to speed and now uses an outright Anime art style complete with cool looking characters to draw you into the games narrative. The way the game is delivered to the player reminded me of the game ” Advance Wars” for the Gameboy Advance and DSI. nonetheless a very cool way to introduce new players and old players alike to the games new world.
Mechanics have been updated with tweaks to make it more robust and deep but the basics remain. What we have here is a game that could very well give some established RTS games a run for its money and I can definitely see this game becoming a premiere competitive title once its release in its full form.
One of the big differentiators this game has from all other RTS is its action elements. You do not move a cursor around in this game and simply click on troops and units. In Air Mech you are a soldier on the battlefield as well. You are the commander in your ” Air Mech” and have to take part in the fighting while moving around the map picking up units and transporting them to different parts of the battlefield to do their job. There is never a moment in this game where your fingers are sitting idle; you are a part of the action and it feels great to be zipping around and transforming at will to fight alongside your various units.
Upgrades are a major part of any RTS and in this case you can now purchase different types of “Air mechs” to use. Better jets, helicopters and variations of your basic jet found in Herzog Zwei are now a part of your experience in Air Mech.
Time will tell how the development of this game pans out but the sheer prospect of playing this game has me very excited. I hope that it makes the leap to consoles as it is my platform of choice when it comes to gaming. I will be playing the alpha while it runs and encourage everyone reading this to download it and do the same. If you want to get into some matches with me my user name is ” EVOKnight”
You can download the Alpha by clicking here
Long live Herzog Zwei !!!
Dwayne”EVO Knight” Morash