MANILA, Philippines – Filipinos appearing in video games are seen as rare, barring attempts at token characters that are a mishmash of Southeast Asian characteristics.
With the reveal of Josie Rizal as a new Tekken 7 fighter, however, it seemed like a good time to go digging around the world’s compendium of games for a roster of Filipinos portrayed in video games.
Barring token additions to games – such as Manny Pacquiao in boxing games or Jose Rizal in the 1999 Medal of Honor multiplayer mode, we’ll look at games where the Filipino characters are baked into specific titles, with a storyline to tie them into the games they’re in.
Below is a short list of prominent Filipino characters found in video games, spanning 17 years. While not all of them are identified as Filipinos due to storyline conceits, they do present themselves firmly within a Philippine frame of reference.
Sampaguita’s Maria, Boy, and Randy
There’s a Japanese visual novel titled Sampaguita that’s part of the Yarudora series, and Filipinos are prominent in this particular tale. Originally released for the PlayStation in 1998, this eventually got rereleased in 2005 on the PlayStation Portable.
The story, set in Japan, has you playing a man who finds a Filipina named Maria Santos, who suffers from amnesia.
During the course of the story, two other Filipinos are thrown into the mix: Boy, an assassin for a Chinese crime syndicate who treats Maria as her younger sister, and a fellow named Randy Santiago, whom I’m assuming is unrelated to the actor Randy Santiago.
TVTropes says that Maria, Boy, and Randy were street children when they were young, selling sampaguitas to make ends meet. Boy had to give up his innocence and work for a Chinese crime syndicate to find a better life for him and Maria, and they’re in Japan as a condition to let Maria leave the crime syndicate without dirtying her hands.
Front Mission 3’s Pham and Jose
Pham Luis and Jose Astrada (or Estrada, if you wish) are part of the Philippine story arc of Front Mission 3, a strategy role-playing game released in North America in 2000.
Pham Luis is a 17-year old girl who is a member of the Luis family, the richest family in the Philippines. Meanwhile, Jose Astrada is a 35-year old prisoner of the Oceania Cooperative Union military inside the Taal Volcano base.
Both characters can be recruited while your team is in the Philippines attempting to retrieve the equivalent of a nuclear bomb from the Taal base.
Eventually, you find that the retrieval attempt ends in failure, as the bomb is detonated over Batangas and vaporizes a wide swath of real estate, along with plenty of civilians and military troops.
Anito’s Agila and Maya
Agila and Maya are the playable protagonists of the 2003 Philippine-made video game Anito: Defend a Land Enraged.
Set in the 16th century on the island of Maroka in Asia, Agila and Maya are tasked with finding their father – the Mangatiwala tribe leader Datu Maktan – in order to restore peace to the island.
You’re also tasked with fending off armored invaders, which would presumably be the Spanish if this were an analog to Philippine history.
Namco Bandai Games’ Talim and Josie Rizal
In the present day, there are now two well-known characters in Japanese fighting games that have a Filipino flair to them. The first is Soul Calibur’s Talim, while the other is Tekken 7’s Josie Rizal. While Josie doesn’t appear to have a backstory as of yet, Talim’s story is fleshed-out throughout her Soul Calibur series run.
Talim is a priestess in the Village of the Wind Deity, an analog for a location in the Philippines. There, a small tribe of people could control the winds.
When the winds told of a grave threat – the threat of the shards of Soul Calibur, Talim set out on a journey to return the shards to their rightful place and restore peace to the world.
Looking to the future with Nightfall’s Ara
Let’s look towards the future now. Philippine indie game developer Zeenoh Games also has a Filipina protagonist in its upcoming first-person survivor horror title Nightfall: Escape.
Nightfall’s Ara is a journalist investigating a haunted mansion, and it appears she’s stuck in the mansion and is looking for a way to escape. As the developers explain, “Players are required to solve the mystery behind the tragic incident by exploring the maze-like mansion while pitted against popular monsters based on Philippine folklore.”
Nightfall is currently in a pre-alpha state, but has already been added to Steam Greenlight and the Square Enix collective for voting. You can check out Nightfall by visiting its product page on Steam.