Reimagining our 'Bayani': Into the world of the first PH-based fighting game

Pia Regalado, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 12 2019 07:51 PM | Updated as of Jun 12 2019 09:30 PM

Screenshot from “Bayani: Kanino Ka Kakampi?”

The Philippines has already gained its independence, but the country's heroes are not done fighting—at least in this game.

Set in the year 8096, Joe Rizal, armed with a rapier and a magical book, is seen standing near the Philippine national hero's monument in Manila. But instead of a Luneta park full of people, ruins of the once peaceful attraction is seen on screen, with the moss-covered monument at the center, and a shipwreck behind it.

This is just one of the many stages in "Bayani: Kanino Ka Kakampi?”, where our favorite “bayani” battles with other Filipino heroes in a fighting game made by a proud all-Filipino team. In this reimagined world set in the future, history books come alive with a bold twist.

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THE BATTLE BEGINS

The catalysts that brought this game to life were viral social media posts about a historical biopic some four years ago.

Back in September 2015, "Heneral Luna", where John Arcilla played the titular character, was struggling to keep itself in theaters during its first week. That ended when debates both online and offline stirred conversations and brought the spotlight to the film.

Among those topics were about Epy Quizon's character Apolinario Mabini. A certain tweet narrating a filmgoer's curiosity as to why "the sublime paralytic" was seated during the entire film sent the actor and the netizens abuzz on social media, with Quizon lamenting the uninformed remarks of the youth about Philippine history and its heroes.

The movie rode on the controversial topic and sent ticket sales soaring, propelling the movie about the life and death of General Antonio Luna to the top of the box office as the highest grossing historical film of all time in the Philippines.

"Para sa amin, [the controversy] was a big wake up call na, 'ay hindi na ba common knowledge 'yun?'" Ranida Games’ senior game designer and manager Robert Edward Cruz told ABS-CBN News during the pre-launch of “Bayani” on the eve of Independence Day.

Arch. Tony Dacayo II, who was among those who joined the “Heneral Luna” hype, creatively reacted on social media by posting his illustration of the slain general. It quickly made viral, garnering thousands of shares and reaching the eyes of Ranida Games.

After a direct message and an invitation to collaborate, our heroes were reborn. Their goal? To remind Filipinos about their rich heritage.

"Gusto namin, dapat ma-tap namin ang kabataan so what better way than using games?" Dacayo told ABS-CBN News.

Together, the team developed the fighting game for PC, with its mobile and console counterpart to follow.

"In fighting games, there's a big focus on just you and the enemy, it's literally one versus one matchup, kinda like boxing but in the digital arena," Cruz explained.

Dacayo added, "One of the difficulties na hinarap namin is, kakagatin ba ito ng tao in the first place?"

The team put that to test when “Bayani” first went public at the 2016 Electronic Sports and Gaming Summit (ESGS), hoping to catch the eye and woo gamers and others who were looking to sate their hunger for Philippine history-based materials. 

Instead of getting disheartened with the initially negative comments about “Bayani”, the developers behind it transformed those flaws into what it is today — a gateway game to introduce famous and unsung Filipino heroes, from the Spanish colonial era to the modern times, to the Filipino youth and beyond.

The all-Filipino concept of the game even got the band Slapshock on board with the project, with the heavy metal band’s song “Bandera” used as the game's theme song.

“This stuff, after 22 years [in the music scene], these are the things that keep us excited and the whole concept of Filipino-type brand na fighting game is really something that we should all support because it’s a big idea and it’s something we can be proud of,” Slapshock’s frontman Jamir Garcia told ABS-CBN News.

More than just the callbacks to historical figures and events, “Bayani” gives their characters rich backstories.

Jose Rizal here is reenvisioned as Joe, a fencer holding his ever-present book with special powers who has a split personality, torn between fighting with his words or with his brawns. “The Grand Woman of the Revolution” Melchora Aquino gets a magical revamp as Lolang Tsora, who trained in the art of magic to avenge her husband’s death. 

The game also brought to life a zombified Dre Bonifacio who was resurrected by Lolang Tsora using the remains of his brother Procopio, meanwhile his wife Oria, whose historical inspiration is Gregoria de Jesus, exchanged her sight for the resurrection of Dre.

“Bayani” also gave Rionin Mabini, inspired by the “Sublime Paralytic” Apolinario Mabini, the capacity to stand up and walk with the help of anito or nature spirits. The short-tempered Heneral Luna, meanwhile, was the inspiration for Tonio, who uses his sheer physicality to strike fear among his enemies. So far, the main villain is Fernando (Ferdinand Magellan), who was able to survive his fight against Lapu-lapu and has embarked on a quest to find the Fountain of Youth.

FROM THE PHILIPPINES AND BEYOND

Fans of “Street Fighter,” "Mortal Kombat" or “Marvel vs Capcom” can instantly connect to this fast-paced, one-on-one fighting game.

Ranida Games, which also happens to be the team behind the development of hit mobile game PBA Philippine Slam, tapped former EVO champion Ryan “Filipino Champ” Ramirez to create the gameplay for “Bayani.”

Ramirez, a Filipino-American based in the Bay Area who is armed with 20 years of experience in fighting games and has been playing competitively in the US and the Philippines, contributed to the game as a battle director and main consultant.

"I felt that it was really cool to do something that's very local, something special to my heart that is the Philippines," he told ABS-CBN News, adding that he actively promotes “Bayani” in the fighting game community in the US.

The game’s accessibility allows it to be played by casual or professional gamers with ease, regardless of age and experience in fighting games.

"Anybody can play ‘Bayani,’ you can enjoy the lore of our Filipino heroes, you can enjoy the simple game play but also has a lot of depth as well."

Bayani” is available on Steam starting this Wednesday, June 12.