Revisiting The Unholy War

Some of the joy of game collecting is, well, playing the video games you purchase. I have always been one to jump into a game totally blind: finding something with a good price, fun box art, or a wild concept and taking a gamble on the game’s quality is incredibly fun. I think we’re kind of getting back in to that mindset with games on the PS4/PS5, Switch, and current generation of games; I feared around the PS3/Xbox 360 era we were straying away from those weird games that no one but me seemed to be interested in playing. Having grown up on games like that, though, it was sad to imagine a future where we didn’t have those titles.

One of those titles has to be The Unholy War on Playstation. Sure it has a following and some notoriety, but for the most part no one really knows or still plays The Unholy War. Being stuck on the Playstation and with no ports that I know of, that can be excused. But for those that did get a chance to play this 3D arena fighter were greeted with a game that really had no right being as good as it was. Developers Toys For Bob (that’s right, the same Toys For Bob that created the Skylanders series) made something unique for 1998; something far from the Street Fighter III’s and Marvel vs. Capcom 2’sof the era. Was it good? Well you know, that’s all in how you define what makes a fighting game “good”. But was it fun? Hell yes.

The Unholy War tells the story of a futuristic war between the robotic and technologically advanced Teknos and the monstrous and organic Arcanes. On a distant planet, the two races battle for supremacy over the planet Xsarra by waging all out war among anyone getting in their way. Gameplay is a combination of 3D brawling and ever so slightly platforming, as most stages have high and low ground which can be used advantageously. Depending on your chosen fighter you have a bevy of special moves and abilities to decimate your opponent. Fire Witch, for example, is straight up a woman on fire, and her abilities revolve around roasting her enemies. Razorfane on the Teknos side is instead a totally 90s depiction of a metal robot fighter, complete with buzzsaw attacks. The cast is colorful and fun, making up a lot of the charm this game has.

Speaking of charm, perhaps the most interesting component of The Unholy War is the Strategy mode. In this alternate game mode, you fight to destroy your opponents base by taking of hexagons of territory one move at a time. It’s essentially a tactical turn based strategy game, that breaks out into a ground battle fighting game. I was very surprised to see this as a mode, and even more impressed when it was actually good. I mean, think about that: a component console strategy game that is also a solid 3D fighting game. It shouldn’t work, but it does. You can easily spend hours upon hours playing this side mode alone, and I wouldn’t blame you. Though I do have to mention trying to understand some of the story can be challenging, so feel free to reference the game manual if you have it to get some more background!

I bought The Unholy War on a complete whim when I was in college. It was probably under $10 (maybe even under $5), and anything that looked cool and fit into something I like (I.e. Fighting games or RPGs), I likely bought it. Years later I found out Laura had not only heard of the game before, but she and her sister played it frequently growing up! So much so that I decided one of my earliest video reviews was going to be for this game. I’ll warn you now if you watch the video that past-Jason was very much in the past. I like to think I’ve grown since then, but …

As games moved into the newer console generations, risky games like The Unholy War were less favored for guaranteed money in big budget games like God of War or Halo. I do not dislike those games, but I have to admit it was a shame we didn’t get a lot of wackier games on systems like the PlayStation 3. Could you imagine how awesome it would be to have something like The Unholy War with massive 8-player multiplayer, online matchmaking, and potentially a brand new fan following? One can dream. And actually, I can dream even harder! As of this writing, developers Toys For Bob recently announced they will be moving away from parent company Activision Blizzard back to being an independent development house. Which means they can technically make whatever they want, so I’m not holding my breath for The Unholy War 2 on PS5!

The Unholy War is a prime example of why video game collecting is fun. It’s something I wouldn’t really know about from following most mainstream outlets, modern outlets and news at the time of release. I’m sure it had it’s own press campaign in 1998, but since it didn’t get the traction other games did it was quickly swooped into the “it was alright” category of games and forgotten. Well I didn’t forget you, The Unholy War, and I hope you grow a new set of wings or mechanical jets and can fly again!


DownStab has been a personal endeavor of mine for many years. Please enjoy the content and let me know if you have questions, comments, or just want to connect. And as always, game on.

– Jason J

Original blue and red Nintendo Switch controllers
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