One of the best things about collecting video games is that you’re never short of an interesting title to play when you’re bored. Enter The Unholy War, a 3D fighting game for the PS1 from Toys For Bob, the same development team that made the out-of-left-field success that is Skylanders. The Unholy War has some interesting things going for it that make the game not like any other brawler, and you know what… it’s pretty damn fun.
Video Review: The Unholy War (PS1)
So the story of this one is something like this: There are two factions going at it over control of this planet. The Arcanes are an organic alliance of creatures that have an elemental look and feel to them. Fire Witch is constantly immolated, the Prana Devil is a reptilian creature with a huge mouth and arms, and the Brontu is a rhinoceros like creature that gore foes. The other faction are the Teknos, which are an alliance of mechanical products and machines. Killcycle is a human-bomber jet hybrid, Razorfane is a humanoid machine with saw blades for hands, and Mantis is a robot insect that resembles, what else, a mantis. The two factions are fighting over Aur, the energy essence of the planet. There was also something about a forbidden child being born that is a cross between an Arcane and a Teknos or something, but it doesn’t really matter. We’re not here to learn about the story, we’re here to beat the everloving shit out of each other.
The Unholy War is a 1-on-1 fighter that plays out in a small arena, complete with teleporters, hazards like lava and poisonous gas, and walls and cover to hide behind. Each character has three different attacks to utilize, governed by the constantly refilling energy bar shown at the top of the screen. Pressing a button will take the shown amount of energy to pull off the move. A match is won once your foes HP is depleted. But things are bit deeper than that: each character is stronger or weaker to another, so there’s this sort of rock-paper-scissors element thrown in that keeps things very interesting. Mayhem mode has you picking a side to fight for and a team size, and you must battle your way through each of your opponents team. Battles are fast and fun, oftentimes leaning towards the insane when rockets are flying through the air, people are jumping all over, and razor blades are slapping you in the face. Except when you’re using a non-flying character and the computer is using a flying one and they just fly around and you can’t hit them…
The only other mode aside from Mayhem is Strategy. This is where The Unholy War actually does something pretty cool: Strategy mode also acts as a story mode for the game, but instead of taking you through a ladder of enemies to fight, you are placed on a hexagonal grid and must achieve certain objectives in order to win, like any good strategy game would have you do. I loved this part of the game: it gave variety to a straightforward fighter and made things even more likable. When you decide to fight an opponent, the game switches to the standard battle mode and you fight to the death, the winner staying on the board with their diminished health and able to fight on from there. Though it gets much more challenging later on, Strategy mode offers up a good single player experience if you don’t have any buddies to play with.
The Unholy War surprised me. I wasn’t expecting anything at all, but what I got was a very memorable gaming experience. I think it was the production values that made the game feel awesome: the graphics, for the PS1, are good, and the sound is great too. Every character has sound bytes they say when launching their attacks or after each victory. It’s a nice touch, and makes the game feel complete. A lack of four player support hurts though, because the arenas and gameplay are just begging to have four players duke it out at once. But for what it is, The Unholy War is a decent fighter for the PS1 that I recommend checking out if you’re looking for a fighting game that flew under many people’s radars when it first came out. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.