Ancient Speculation – Art of War

Ancient Speculation is a review periodical that covers incomplete OHRRPGCE games that have long been abandoned since their original release. I do my best to cover what little the game has to offer, as well as theorize on what “could have been”.

Art of War was one of many games released around the time that Operation: OHR was still active (2000-2003). What makes it interesting to me is that it never received any recognition during its time on Operation: OHR. Surprisingly, it appears to have never been reviewed during its many years being hosted on Castle Paradox either. Maybe the game was not mentioned because it is terrible, or perhaps there isn’t enough to even really call it a game in the first place. I decided to download it and find out for myself.

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Upon loading the game, I was greeted with a title screen that, despite showing its age, could be considered “decent” even by today’s standards. Very few games from that OHRRPGCE generation had title screens worth a crap, so this would have likely been considered amazing art back in the day. I couldn’t help but get a Dragon Ball Z vibe from it though, and knowing how most old OHR DBZ games turned out made me a bit nervous to continue.

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The scripted introduction features the red/orange haired “karate man”, Trajan, from the title screen as an agent that is sent to earth on a mission to do something. Although it isn’t very clear exactly what Trajan’s mission on earth is, it doesn’t appear to be good for the world’s citizens.

After that, you are sent away to earth via an in-game cutscene that is animated by multiple backdrops (FMV). FMV’s and other animation techniques, while much more common these days, were pretty rare during the time of this game’s release. Regardless, the animated cutscene was a nice touch.

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You are then put into the body of Anix, who is apparently a huge karate enthusiast. He hears about a nearby town that was struck by a meteor (ie. Trajan), and is concerned that the upcoming martial arts tournament may be cancelled because of it. I think if a meteor fell in my town, the last thing I’d care about is chopping other people in the necks. Alas, with nothing better to do,  Anix decides to investigate the situation for himself.

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Sadly, outside of a few battles and an additional character, this is where the game ends. The manual that comes with the game suggests that there is more to do, but I don’t believe any of it was actually implemented fully before release. It is my understanding that this particular demo is an incomplete rehash of an older demo of the same game, though I couldn’t tell you whether the original demo was ever available to download or not. Art of War’s Operation: OHR page shows several screenshots of areas not present in this rendition, so it is possible that the older version was available at some point in time.

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It’s hard to say exactly how this game would have turned out if it were ever finished. I applaud the author for having a decent title screen and for using a well-animated FMV in the intro, but that is about where my appreciation stops for the game. The battles present are dull and uninspired, and there are just too many DBZ-like influences in the game to really make me care about it as a whole. There was also a game-breaking bug that I found in Anix’s home that will force you to quit the game unless you resort to the debugging keys. Due to how old this game is, it is certainly possible that the bug is from just from the game being old rather than neglect on the author’s part though.

In short, Art of War has a couple of neat tricks up its sleeve, but is ultimately not creative nor finished enough to make it worth your time. I think most people would agree with me that we’ve had enough trash, DBZ-inspired games to make our own landfill anyways. Perhaps it’s best that this title never came into full fruition after all.

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