Sega Retrospective

Sega Retrospective
16-Bit Generals

Steve Butts | 25 Jan 2011 13:53
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I admit I've never been all that sentimental when it comes to old consoles. While some of my thirty-something friends seem unable to part with their precious Atari 2600s or TurboGrafxs, I generally couldn't care less about holding on to old hardware for the sake of a few good memories. As soon as something new comes along, the old one usually gets packed up and sold at my next yard sale. Atari? Gone. Game Boy? Gone. Dreamcast? Oh, you'd better believe that's gone. The one exception to my rule is my trusty Sega Genesis. While other consoles may come and go, there's just something about the Genesis that keeps me from putting the whole collection on eBay.

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Though the console was eventually known for action and sports games, that's not why I first fell in love with it. Sure, I was a huge fan of Gunstar Heroes and the surplus of EA Sports titles, and I even love the more quirky takes on those genres, games like General Chaos and Jerry Glanville's Pigskin Footbrawl, but what really keeps me hanging on is the 1989 TechnoSoft strategy game, Herzog Zwei. Complete with a variety of units, bases to capture, and resources to manage, the game opened the floodgates for the dominance of the RTS genre on the PC.

Given the long-standing supremacy of the RTS on the PC, it's odd that the genre took its first bold steps on a console system normally associated with Trip Hawkins and Sonic the Hedgehog. It's true that there were strategy games before Herzog Zwei, but Sega's 16-bit console was home to the most engaging, most promising entry the genre had seen. Within just a few years, Westwood and Blizzard would take over the genre entirely and move it to the PC, where it still continues to flourish, but in the late 1980s, Herzog Zwei made the Genesis the place to be for strategy gamers.

Players took control of a huge red or blue mech, which could transform between a super fast jet and a rifle-toting robot. As a jet, you could pick up units to change their orders; as a robot you could engage in direct combat with the enemy's ground forces. Your mech was in charge of a military base where you could buy and resupply units. On the other side of the map was a rival mech in charge of its own base. You won by destroying the other base before he or she could destroy yours. In between the two red and blue bases were a number of neutral bases. As you took them over, you gained more money to spend on new units to send against your enemy, and additional forward bases that your mech could use to purchase and resupply your forces.

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