***This is a new series where I pick a game I’ve played not necessarily to completion but enough to get a strong feel for what’s in store for someone interested in picking it up. These games don’t warrant full reviews, but have been played enough to form a solid recommendation either way.***
One of the better finds I’ve had out in the wild was one of my first ventures out to a garage sale since I started collecting old games again. This guy had an okay collection of NES games that were pretty common, but he also had Sega Genesis games. He happened to also have a very specific taste in games as well, and good taste at that. I can’t recall with 100% accuracy, but for roughly $30 I became the proud owner of about a dozen games complete in their boxes, and among those were Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, Steel Empire, and almost every strategy game on the system that was also developed by Koei. Nowadays they are a joint venture with Tecmo (named, you guessed it, Koei Tecmo), but back then Koei was known for quality strategy games like the Romance of the Three Kingdoms series, Genghis Khan, and the Nobunaga’s Ambition series.
As you can tell a lot of their strategy-based games were set in certain historical time periods or focused on particular historical figures. Aerobiz is not one of those games. It’s actually a simulation game where you assume the role of president of a budding airline. You choose the city where you headquarters will be located, then you open field offices, tinker with budgets, get advice from your board members, buy planes, decide on advertising strategies, and ultimately aim to overtake the competition.
There’s a nice assortment of features to juggle and hone just right in order to achieve profitability. I don’t think the game comes anywhere near being overwhelming though. For a 16-bit console game I imagine it was thought of as fairly robust at the time. As it stands now I would say the number of options and factors to consider is extremely manageable but still plenty to think about.
The nice thing about games like Aerobiz and other 16-bit Koei games is that they’re great “Spotify games”, meaning they’re good for putting on some music and still getting the most out of what you’re playing. To be honest the in-game music is pretty damn drab and the tracks aren’t especially long. You’ll probably be dying to hear something else as early as your second try at starting a new campaign. That’s the great thing though: the same is stimulating enough but not so much that you won’t be able to concentrate or forget to do things you’d normally do without other media playing in the background. This isn’t Shin Megami Tensei or even Fire Emblem level strategy here. The game is turn-based in every sense of the word. Nothing happens until you say it does, and there are no dramatic moments that demand a proper reaction from you.
No dramatic moments you say? That can’t be good can it? Well it doesn’t really make the game “bad” in any way. It’s a game about airlines. Short of the Olympics being held in your airline’s HQ city or a natural disaster occurring, there’s not much in the way of pure excitement. The fun is mostly in learning what strategies work best and tailoring your business to how you’d want it in real life, and obviously: success when those things come together.
There’s a pretty apparent downside to that of course: Aerobiz is extremely dry. Like maybe the driest game I’ve ever played and still had fun with. The biggest pops of emotion you’ll experience in the game come from bar charts showing how many extra moneys you earned this month compared to last. The most picturesque graphics and epic sound work involve a five second animation of a plane taking off. The rest is basically a bunch of maps, lines, charts, and numbers with the occasional bland head shot of an employee.
That definitely takes Aerobiz down a few notches. The subject matter was already a risky proposition in terms of attracting anyone to it, but a presentation that’s even more drab than what it’s presenting is usually a really bad combination. If you don’t like strategy games, Aerobiz isn’t going to change your mind. If you like them a lot, this probably isn’t worth your time. It’s not unique enough compared to what you’ve already played unless you’re looking for something grounded in real life and the present day. Otherwise it’s mostly for people in the middle like myself. People that like strategy and simulation as parts of a much larger pie in terms of what they play. It’s not too much to learn what the games wants for you to win, and again it’s leisurely pace allows you to play as fast or slow as you want. Just don’t expect any “wow” moments.
(Aerobiz currently goes for about $10 cart only on the Genesis and $19 on the Super Nintendo. I can advise to consider the Genesis version at this price, but only after further research on the player’s part)