x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Manny Pacquiao adds new sting to his blow

Martial arts video game starring the Filipino boxer and developed in Abu Dhabi follows a comic-book style narrative.

Manny Pacquiao of the Phillippines fights Antonio Margarito of Mexico during the second round of their 12-round WBC World Super Welterweight title boxing fight in Arlington, Texas November 13, 2010.
Manny Pacquiao of the Phillippines fights Antonio Margarito of Mexico during the second round of their 12-round WBC World Super Welterweight title boxing fight in Arlington, Texas November 13, 2010.

ABU DHABI // Manny Pacquiao, the rags-to-riches world champion boxer, film star, songbird and politician, can add a new role to his CV. This month he will star in a martial arts video game developed in Abu Dhabi.

Pound for pound is a story-driven game that will be released on iTunes this month to coincide with the Filipino's November 12 fight in Las Vegas against Juan Manuel Marquez.

The story follows a comic book-style narrative illustrated by hand-drawn pictures inspired by Asian comics. When Pacquiao's childhood friend, the beautiful Maricel, is kidnapped in a village raid, he ventures to the city to battle a kingpin and his henchmen.

The game costs $US2.99 (Dh11) and will be available for use on the iPad and iPod touch this month, with versions to come for Android and Facebook in the future.

When it came to the story, game developers had to learn about Pacquiao's personality as well as his fighting style. As the plot progressed, the developers Omar Jamal and David Ortiz would phone Pacquiao's friends to ask them: "What would Manny do?"

"I had to study Manny as a person: his background, what is he like outside of boxing, learn a lot about where he comes from, what his cultural values are, what he's like so I could make it authentic before I did the concept phase," said Mr Jamal, the game's art director. "So that's why it takes all this time to come up with an original story that is not going to be hurtful to his values. Once we had this, we started going through the whole process of putting it into a creative perspective."

The pair studied hours of training videos to learn how Pacquiao moves outside the ring. His victory pose in the game comes from a video of him goofing off in the gym.

"We mimic some of the moves that he actually has in his real life, his boxing life. It's a special stance that he has," Mr Jamal said. "We studied the way that he walks, the way that he carries himself, how he walks, how he interacts as a person and we incorporated those elements into the game so that people get to see it's him and not just a boxer."

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More on the Manny Pacquiao Story

•  Interactive: The Manny Pacquiao story
•  Pacquiao's promoters keen to push through fight in Abu Dhabi
•  Manny Pacquiao's greatest fights
•  The biog: Manny Pacquiao
•  Manny Pacquiao page
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Boxing moves cannot be the focus of the game because Electronic Arts, the biggest video game company in the world, has the exclusive rights to boxing formatting. Instead, Manny's moves have been incorporated into street fighting combinations with moves such as the dragon uppercut, the whirlwind kick and crushing skull. Despite these bone-rattling names, the fighting game is unique in that it is bloodless and has no weapons, out of respect for Pacquiao's values.

"Our hero is a reluctant fighter," Mr Jamal said. "He's a humble guy, he's the people's defender. In real life, Manny is a very pious person. If you cannot do it with your hands, he doesn't believe in it so you don't see any swords, you don't see any nunchucks, you don't see any actual weapons."

James Gregorio, 27, an insurer, was disappointed to hear that the game was bloodless. "I love to see the red stuff going in and out. It will be a hit if they put blood in it," he said.

"He's a hero. Being Filipino gives a lot of honour to us. He made it huge in his career as a boxer, he's an idol and we love him so much."

Winning combinations in the game earn golden points for gear that gives Pacquiao extra powers: gloves for strength, shoes for stamina and dress for vitality. These powers can also be purchased online for a dollar or two. Pacquiao's only "weapon" is the karate-style foot covers he has, which are made of metal.

It is the second game released by Kakanda games, a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Media, which also owns The National.

Pound for pound is their first smartphone game, allowing it to have a sharper resolution than other online games. The game will be available in Arabic, English, Tagalog, Spanish and Portuguese. The game was a long-term dream for Mr Jamal and Mr Ortiz, boxing fans who have followed Pacquiao for years.

But not all fans of the fighter were excited to hear about the game.

Rondale Gonzales, 28, a Filipino gamer who describes Pacquiao as "a religion", said the story did not sound strong enough.

"They're using his celebrity to make it famous," Mr Gonzales said. "If it's Manny Pacquiao saving a village and street fighting everybody, it doesn't make sense. A good role playing game would be based on a good setting and a good script. At the end of the game you need a great story."

The lack of blood also left him unimpressed.

"Why do you want to make a video game which is meant to be violent and then in the end just don't use weapons?"

azacharias@thenational.ae