A Cult Classic With Seemingly No Equal
Back in the irreverent days of childhood, I was glued to my Sega - and by '93 or so I'd amassed a decent collection of games spanning all the genres that were in vogue at the time, but one birthday I found myself beholding a very strange present. I have had a lifelong interest in aviation, and one game I loved for the Megadrive/Genesis was the 1991 title "F-22 Interceptor" and I'm sure my parents figured this game would be something similar since they saw "Aero" in the title. When I first gazed upon the box I thought it might be something akin to Pilotwings for the SNES... Pleasingly enough, it was anything but.
You don't fly any planes in Aerobiz and there's no direct action for the player to get involved in, but somehow KOEI managed to sedate my nine year old attention span with beautifully done graphics and excellent music so I actually found myself loving the unique challenge. The game mainly consists of carefully expanding your airline and like a game of chess you always need to be thinking a few steps ahead. You have twenty years to become the airline with the most passengers vs. your competition, and you must also become the most profitable. If you're playing against the AI, it can become quite difficult, even seeming unfair at times.
The gameplay consists of micromanaging the routes you start up, purchasing and selling planes from manufacturers, (Note: I rather liked how they were actual planes with some fictitious "future" models appearing later on) sending your people to "negotiate" for slots at airports so you can expand new routes, and a slew of marketing and some building options such as hotel/cultural center in a city in order to drive up business. There are "events" that happen in the game such as the Olympics/natural disasters/wars that will appear seemingly randomly which influence the amount of passengers and revenue in particular regions of the world.
This isn't a game where anything terribly outrageous ever happens. I've never had an alien invasion, zombie plague, or asteroid hit the earth causing turmoil, and I think at the time this is what put some of my friends off to the experience. I, however, loved the fact that this game was much more complex than anything else I'd played on the Sega and in playing it more recently, the graphics and music have held up nicely - now quaint and retro.
Also a point I must touch on is how there doesn't seem to be many, if any modern equivalents to Aerobiz. Apparently there is a sequel KOEI put out for the Playstation called Air Management '96, however it never got further than the Japanese market. A shame, because I certainly would've bought it back in the day. Beyond that there is Airline Tycoon which didn't rub me the right way with it's cutesy/cartoony look and total lack of realism, and various browser based airline simulation games which I've just never really been able to get into. One of these days I'll give Air Tycoon II for iOS a try - although after the "Tycoon boom" of the late 90s and all the rubbish that went with it, I'm somewhat skeptical of any game holding the title.
But for those of us who love the classic Aerobiz, there is only one.