If you didn’t know already, the Philippines has a very active Fighting Game Community (FGC) amongst almost all the major, foreign titles. The Filipino Smash Brothers community just held their biggest tournament last month, weekly Street Fighter tournaments are held all over the city, and the Filipino Tekken community has produced two world-class players (AK and Doujin), who regularly travel abroad to partake in international Tekken tournaments.
Bayani, developed by Filipino indie company Ranida Games, changes the game, quite literally. As the very first Filipino-inspired and stylized fighting game (at least on major platforms like Steam), the game is a comparatively simple title compared to the major titles, but it still retains the depth of your typical competitive fighting game.
The first thing I noticed when I opened the game were, of course, the characters. As of the time of writing, the early access version of Bayani has four characters: Joe, Tonio, Leon, and Oria, with more to come. All four of them are hyper-stylized versions of historical Filipino figures Jose Rizal, Antonio Luna, Emilio Aguinaldo, and Gregoria de Jesus, respectively. Each of them has his/her own fighting-game-appropriate backstory, loosely based off of the historical figure’s actual backstory. For example, Tonio and Leon are hardened leaders, just like Luna and Aguinaldo, and Joe is a booksmart aristocrat who’s also adept at fencing. The art style is very colorful and almost cartoon-like, emphasizing the over-the-top nature of the characters. To accompany these characters, the three available stages portray famous Filipino cultural landmarks (Vigan, Bagumbayan, and “Leon’s Fortress”), with more stages in development.
The backstories are limited to short excerpts for now, and we will learn more about these characters in future updates. There is also no Story Mode implemented yet in the Early Access mode to utilize these backstories. No worries though, as the developers have stated that such a mode will be implemented in the future. Game lore is a huge focus point for the developers, as they want the Filipino-ness of the game to really come out.
The gameplay, as stated above, is relatively simple to pick-up. Bayani is a 2D fighter, like Street Fighter, and utilizes a six-button input system, with three basic action buttons (light, medium, and heavy), and three special moves, differing with each character. In addition to these attacks, the game uses a power-up system called “Burst.” By performing a Quarter Circle Forward (basically, inputting Down-DownForward-Forward quickly) before pressing one of the three special buttons, you can power-up said special at the cost of one node of Burst. You can also use a unique, extremely damaging move by using up the entire, filled-up Burst bar. Managing the Burst bar is essential to performing combos and ultimately winning a round. Each character also has his/her unique moves that determine his/her respective playstyle.
I found my experience with the gameplay to be very rewarding, actually. Within an hour of playing, I was already performing basic combos with Joe, who’s probably my main character right now, and beating out the AIs most of the time. I still have a long way to go with my combos though. Even if the button system seems relatively simple, videos like the one linked above show the competitive depth of the game, as techniques such as juggling and comboing still require frame-perfect button inputs and perfect timing. A good fighter is easy to pick up, but hard to master — I feel like Bayani hits these two points in a solid way, even if it’s not completely finished yet.
Lastly, the soundtrack is simply badass. Slapshock’s Bandera is the main theme of the game, with each character also having their own instrumental theme song. I felt as if the soundtrack really compliments the game’s intensity— as if these historical figures were really engaged in fights to the death. Every fight simply felt epic.
Bayani is a great game, created by people who evidently love both Filipino culture and well-crafted, competitive fighting games. Ranida Games is doing something right.
Bayani is available on Steam, and you can visit the Ranida Games website here.