Aptly titled “Mamayani” (which translates to ‘to prevail’), the game is a really straight forward RPG that talks about the oft-forgotten heroines in Philippine history. Act I of the game throws the protagonist, Maria (or whatever you named them), in the middle of the American occupation: the Sakdalistas are on the rise and the Asociacion Feminista Filipina are in the midst of championing women’s suffrage. These two groups provide the main routes that the player can take, each with their own incredibly informative endings.
First, the technical aspect. Right off the bat, Mamayani looks like if Pokemon happened in colonial Philippines. Environment art is nice and spiffy though I wish there were more environmental interactions available apart from reading sign posts. (I really just wanted to get a mango from the tree, you guys.) NPC sprites are a bit generic but that’s fine. That’s cool. We’re not being too picky. The art for the main characters, though, are really good and I am in love with all of them. And by all of them I mean Salud Algabre.
The music is amazing. It could use a bit more native sounds but objectively speaking, the background music did its job of keeping me amped up during fights or making me feel things during emotional scenes. And there will be an emotional scene. There will be–SPOILER–character death so I advise not to get too attached because it was pretty rude.
Gameplay is pretty standard turn-based RPG but what makes it the Absolute Best is that you get items like mangoes and tuyo, and special attacks like zarzuela and kundiman. I didn’t get to buy any new equipment because, even in game, I am poor but Maria could have had a new terno whilst defeating enemies like Self Doubt and the occasional American Soldier.
The protagonists also present an interesting dynamic: Maria, daughter of farmers, is best friends with Cena, an ilustrado and daughter of sugar farm owners. An unlikely friendship given the gap in social class but a good friendship nonetheless. Cena is not a snob as she’s exposed to the world through Maria and Maria gets access to education through Cena teaching her. They balance each other out, keeping the other grounded. The players aren’t privy to how they became friends, unfortunately. It would have been interesting to see how it came to be.
This game’s biggest achievement, however, was its ability to present history in a fun, engaging, and different manner without taking away its educational merit. Players are introduced to two women: Concepcion Felix de Calderon, leader of the Asociacion Feminista Filipina (AFF), and Salud Algabre, henerala to the rebels, the Sakdalistas. Eventually, the player will have to choose alliances. Whether they choose to side with the AFF which aims to affect change through infiltrating the government, or the Sakdalistas who take up arms to defend the country, the game presents both options as perfectly valid. The player can also opt to choose neither side, preferring to help the farmers in Cena’s sugar farm, and the game will not fault you for it. Ultimately, Mamayani emphasizes the importance of action and one’s genuine desire to love and protect the country. Whichever route the player chooses, the game shows that they are moving forward and each action, no matter how tiny, is a big help.
For a short game, there’s honestly so much to unpack here, you guys. I don’t know if Act II’s been released but please give Act I a try. It’s educational, it’s pure and good fun, plus it’s Filipino-made! What more can you ask for?! Go download it now!
UPDATE (June 13, 2019): Read our review of Mamayani Act II.