Ranking in Sega Genesis Top 50: 16th
Genre: Biz Simulation
Koei has published some pretty unusual games in their day, but Aerobiz Supersonic is one of those ones that absolutely should not have worked. In Aerobiz Supersonic, you’re the CEO of an airline. You spend your time crunching numbers, taking in meetings with your advisors, and negotiating deals. That’s it. You don’t get to fly the planes, or beat up coach passengers who try to sneak into first class, or come up with creative ways to sneak in hidden fares. At least with Koei’s hyper-detailed strategy games, you still get to fight a war, assuming your pre-battle mismanagement doesn’t cause all your troops to desert first. And while a lot of the Uncharted Waters series is about shipping and trading, at the end of the day, you still get to explore the world and can commit piracy. There’s nothing “adventure-like” in Aerobiz; it’s just you trying to do the one thing that nobody in America seems capable of – keep an airline from declaring bankruptcy.
I’m the CEO of Australia? Thanks, Ron Jeremy!
On paper, this sounds pretty dreadful, but somehow it manages to be fun. Hey, you know the old cliché: that’s why they don’t play these games on paper. Well, except for D&D, I suppose – that’s a game that you do play on paper. Also, paper football. But not video games. You don’t play those on paper… although in the case Aerobiz Supersonic you’ll probably need to play it WITH some paper, you know, to write all your budget spreadsheets and airfare rates on.
At heart, all business simulations are strategy games, so if you’re not big on the genre, you’re probably not going to find much to enjoy here. And even if you are, you still might not like it. There’s big a difference between launching a well-timed invasion into enemy territory and hitting them with, say, a fleet of tanks they didn’t see coming, versus doing the same thing except your weapons are a steep price cut and aggressive marketing campaign.
In fact, it’s hard to say exactly WHO the target audience for this game was. I’d say it was meant for Genesis-playing adults who enjoyed strategy games, but would be like saying the game was designed the game for the iPhone – neither of those things existed back then. I first found out about the Aerobiz games from my friend Jay, back when Aerobiz Supersonic had just been released. Now Jay was an extremely brilliant kid who grew up to be a doctor, and he was a little bit eccentric, too, so you might think this kind of game would be right in his strike zone. But he was also 15 years old at the time. His favorite part of the entire game was renaming all the airlines. It was all downhill from there.
Though he also enjoyed playing in the 1970s time period so he could pretend he was watching Starsky and Hutch after he got home from running the airline.
I’m still tempted to chalk this up as more evidence that Koei’s business plan back in the Genesis days was to make a bunch of games that wouldn’t sell, then hold them in warehouses and auction them on eBay twenty years later when people finally came around to appreciating them. Talk about visionary – instead of making games for the average gamer, they made them for the adults those gamers would eventually grow into. Oh, and they apparently predicted the existence of eBay. Either that, or they just had no idea what they were doing at all.
Aerobiz Supersonic is definitely not a game for everyone, but it does have a certain geeky appeal to it. Part of it is that it’s not too hard to get into. I’ve never run any kind of business before (unless an unpopular blog about Genesis games that generates negative revenue is considered a business), let alone an airline, but I managed to figure out what I was doing before very long. Compare this to many of Koei’s wargames, which can get to be pretty demanding, and generally result in me executing the brilliant strategy of having my navy dump my entire food supply into the ocean, while I spend all my money researching more efficient ways to dump food into the ocean. This plan generally leads me to step two of my grand strategy – surrender to whichever rival seems the least genocidal. So I give Aerobiz a lot of credit for the fact that I’ve never had to contemplate which competing airline would be the most likely to murder all my customers by the second turn.
For the record, though, it’s Air LA. They’re monsters.
But while it’s easy to understand, it’s still very challenging. It’s not quite that old “easy to learn, impossible to master” thing, because AS isn’t impossible to master – you just have to be very attentive. There’s a lot here that you’ll need to keep track of – money, your inventory of planes, rights to use certain airports, and perhaps most importantly, timing. Keeping everything on the proper schedule is perhaps the most challenging and most critical part of the game, because it affects everything you do. You don’t want to spend three turns negotiating the rights to have a flight between London and Paris, and then have to wait an additional turn before you have a plane available to actually make the flight. The game is a race to accumulate wealth and market share, and every wasted turn brings your enemies that much closer to defeating you.
That’s another thing about Aerobiz Supersonic – it gives you a real appreciation for the cutthroat nature of business. Everyone is trying to maximize their profits, and the easiest way to do that is to wipe out the competition. There’s no silver medals here. First place is control of the skies. Second place is you and everyone who works for you loses their job, and whatever city had been unlucky enough to house your corporate headquarters receives irreversible damage to their local economy and goes into a slow death spiral (ok, that last part isn’t actually in the game, just some speculation I have from growing up in the rust belt).
Sometimes on the news you’ll hear about corporations screwing their workers just to save seemingly inconsequential amounts of money, and you’ll think “Why wouldn’t they treat their employees better? They made $1.4 billion last year, would have been so awful if they made $1.3 and paid their employees better instead?” Well, a nice thing about a game like this is you can follow your morals and do the right thing. Go ahead, give everyone raises. And guess what? That insignificant $.1 billion (which is $100 million, by the way) that your competition didn’t spend on wages they didn’t have to, they used that money to undercut you in your most lucrative market. Now spending that extra $100 million just cost you $200 million in sales that went to your rival. Next quarter it’ll be a billion. Quarter after that, instead of raises, you’ll be giving out pink slips, which in turns floods the labor market and gives your amoral competitor the leverage to drive employee wages even lower. Isn’t capitalism awesome?
It is when you’re the one winning.
Availability: Aerobiz Supersonic is a hard one to come by. For reasons that should be all too easy to understand by now, this wasn’t exactly a huge seller when it first came out. And unfortunately, it’s also not available as part of any retro compilations, or for download on any of the current gaming systems. That means the only way to play this one is to track down a copy for the Genesis (or SNES, the two versions are pretty similar).
Now we’ve tried to take a somewhat neutral tone while discussing the prices of the games on our Top 50. After all, what we’d be willing to pay for an old game might be a lot less than what you would. In fact, we’re pretty cheap, so it’s actually pretty likely that many of you would be willing to spend more for a rare game than we would. Having said that, the prices being asked for copies of Aerobiz Supersonic are completely outrageous. The cheapest price we were able to find online was $35 (before shipping), and most copies were going for far more than that. On the off chance you actually see one in a store (which we haven’t), don’t be surprised if they demand you pay them in diamonds or precious metals.
Or trips to Saipan.
Still, if you ever do find one for a better price (maybe at a garage sale or something) or can borrow a copy from a friend, don’t hesitate to do so. Alternately, you could try to track down a copy of its predecessor, Aerobiz. The differences between both games are pretty minimal, so it wouldn’t be much of a downgrade. Unfortunately, it’s also not much cheaper, so you’re still paying a king’s ransom to obtain a copy. Don’t do that.
Sorry to say, but right now your best bet is probably just to keep your fingers crossed and hope that Koei decides to bring it out for the Wii’s Virtual Console, as they did with New Horizons.