The e-Sports and Gaming Summit 2017 (ESGS) never runs out of great indie games to showcase. One fine example is a fighting game unveiled in last year’s ESGS, and has been on everyone’s radar since then: Ranida Games’ Bayani: Kanino Ka Kakampi? (trans: Hero: Whose side are you on?). Bayani’s creator, Tony Dacayo, took time from his busy ESGS schedule to tell us more about the game and its progress.

Bayani was initially conceptualized as a passion project by Tony, who by profession is an architect. It began with idea of imagining an alternate Philippines in a post-apocalyptic setting, and with it, the country’s national heroes with a different twist to their stories. Soon enough, the concept was picked up by Ranida Games, and was given the green light for development into a fighting game.

“All of [the characters’] stories were already fleshed out before development began,” Tony recalled. The heroes had their histories reimagined to fit the setting of the game. From a zombiefied Andres Bonifacio, a priestess-turned-witch Tandang Sora, to an armor clad Heneral Antonio Luna, Tony has interwoven the fates of these historical personalities into a bleak Philippines filled with magic and ruin. “We had to seek clearance from the National Historical Commission (NHC) for the use of these heroes,” Tony added. The NHC clarified that the names and likenesses of Bayani’s roster must have noticeable differences from their original counterparts. Otherwise, the NHC would be requiring the game to stick to historical accuracy if the original heroes were used instead. This prompted Tony and the team to change the character names, but can still be associated to its original version (IE Jose Rizal is Joe, Andres Bonifacion is Andre/Dre, and Gregoria De Jesus/Oryang is Oria).

The game is still in its early development stages. It currently hosts eight characters, which are either prototypes or in its alpha testing. For a relatively-small team of less than 10 people, Bayani’s progress since last year has been noticeably extensive already. The first working demo from last year’s ESGS only featured Joe and Andre as prototypes. At the time of writing, at least five out of the eight characters featured in the game already have their own unique fighting styles and techniques. Tony explains, “There are other characters being planned, and not just the well-known heroes, but even the obscure ones.” Tony expressed his interest in even adding foreign luminaries who allied with the Philippine revolution throughout the country’s rich history. Other heroes lined up in development include Apolinario Mabini, who references JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure with his “stand” called an Anito that helps him walk; Lapu-Lapu and Magellan, both of which are said to be immortals in the game’s lore; and Emilio Aguinaldo, who like the history books is responsible for Andre’s death.

True to its progress, Bayani still has a long road to development ahead. The current build’s gameplay is still slow and there are issues of delayed responses from button input. Included also in their timeline is the addition of subtitles for the international audience, and Filipino voiceovers. Regardless, the game already shines as an engaging alternative to mainstream fighting games. Ranida Games is pouring out their resources to Bayani as much as the team can. Funding comes from other projects the developers have under their banner, but Tony is optimistic and grateful if sponsors come forward to support Bayani.

“There’s nothing like this in the market today,” Tony said proudly. Bayani offers an enchanting and unique take on the fighting genre by using Filipino heroes as its primary roster. There’s still no word on commercial release, but Ranida Games is planning for Steam/PC release and a mobile port, like Injustice and King of Fighters, when the game goes live.

Game development is not just Ranida Games’ focus, however. The good people at Ranida has an annual tradition of giving back. Last year, their side project was to raise funds for the children in Bahay Aruga by selling artwork prints of Bayani. This year, proceeds from the prints will go to support their close friend’s daughter in the fight against Leukemia at such a young age.

Left: 2016; Right: 2017

There’s no shortage of Filipino creativity in the gaming industry. Bayani is proof of this; a rough gem that, with a little polish, can bring its A-game in the mainstream fighting genre. We wish nothing but the best for Ranida Games, Tony Dacayo, and Bayani.

Stay updated on the latest info about Bayani by heading to their Facebook and Twitter pages. And as always, #supportlocal.