I know what you're thinking upon seeing Aerobiz Supersonic as the chosen title for Virtually Overlooked. While some of you dapper readers might have played the game and can't wait to read and reminisce, most of you (if you've noticed the byline) are probably hoping for JC's swift return to the column next week.
Before you pass this over in indifference, though, you should keep in mind that not only is this classic being "virtually overlooked" by Nintendo, but by virtually everyone else as well.
Aerobiz Supersonic is a business management sim game, which is surprisingly a lot more fun than it sounds. Japanese gamers know it by the less-snappy but more direct title Air Management II, while Europeans are likely not familiar with it at all. Koei (the developer and publisher) only localized its SNES and Genesis versions for North American audiences, releasing the game here in 1994. It was a follow-up to plain-old Aerobiz, and while they're essentially the same, Supersonic is better looking and offers a lot more management options for those who enjoy having total control.
The boxart above sums up the gist of this title: you're the CEO of an airline, so it's up to you to make your company succeed. "Success" is defined as more than doing well, though; dominating the industry is key. Since you must compete against three other airlines, you can either play against the computer's AI or take turns while playing against friends.
What's surprisingly wonderful about Aerobiz Supersonic is its depth. While you're "calling the shots," you'll find that it's up to you to control numerous facets of the industry. Every decision, even the seemingly small ones, will affect the bigger picture and your ultimate success or failure.
At the start, you must decide which (of four) twenty-year period you'll be building your airline in, beginning as early as 1955 and ending as late as 2005 (aka the future back then). Not only does the period you chose impact the type of aircraft available, but it also utilizes the world events and country relationships that existed at the time. Things like the Olympics and wars will affect where you do and don't want to send flights, for instance.
Probably the most important decision you'll have to make is where to build your hub. Picking a hub in Moscow during the Cold War, for example, might lead to rocky relationships with Western countries, and you'll only be allowed to buy Soviet plans. If you have a bad relationship with another country, you won't be able to send any flights there (or it may take a really, really long time to do so), which in turn can hurt your business.
But there's more to Aerobiz than just choosing hubs and flight routes. You also have to figure out what types of planes you want to buy (and can afford), and what specific planes should go with each route. If you neglect a certain aircraft company for too long, it might even go out of business or stop the production of a certain model.
You'll attend board meetings, choose ad campaigns, deal with crises, and more. Perhaps now that we're older and and either in or coming close to entering "the real world," these kinds of things are a bit less exciting and magical. As a kid, though, it felt like the skies were the limit, and even now the game seems like a less stressful way to try your hand at running a business.
Most importantly, Aerobiz has a ton of replayability. Since you're likely to do at least something different in every playthrough, you and your opponents will always have different cards on the table. For more extreme changes, you can even choose a different time period or hub.
Let's face it: most of us won't become CEOs of major companies in our lifetimes. With Aerobiz Supersonic, though, you can be one and have fun at the same time. Sim game fans should especially take note of this title, as you're even more likely to find the beauty in this cult classic.