It’s not everyday we get a brand new licensed video game, it’s even rarer to get a celebrity endorsed game that isn’t sports-related. Shaq Fu is all of these and so much more. While reviewers back in the 90s probably said the same thing about the original Shaq Fu on the SNES, this new instalment called Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn, really takes that subtitle to heart with its design.
Initially an Indiegogo campaign with Shaquille O’Neal himself, the game managed to get crowdfunded by 102%. It’s available right now on all major platforms (I played on the PS4) but unlike the SNES original, Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn isn’t just a fighting game. It’s a single-player beat-em-up game, omitting the weird, semi-mythical, random cast of characters from 1994, for a more cohesive (for the lack of a better term) cast and setting for the story.
The story starts off with baby Shaq being found in China by a kung-fu master named Yeye. Shaq is given the name Shaq Fei Hong and eventually grows up to be a kung-fu master himself. Things start to pick up as demons start attacking his village. Shaq must then play the hero and travel across the world to figure out the root of all this evil.
As Shaq, you’ll visit a variety of locations from across the world, from Hollywood to Fiji, where you’ll be beating up a bunch of surprisingly diverse bad guys. Many of the enemy types are the same, but their attacks and patterns change-up with every level, so that does add to the challenge of the game. Shaq himself is equipped with a pretty simplistic moveset. Left analog is to move, Square is to punch, X to jump, Circle is to do a finisher, which involves summoning giant size 22 basketball shoes to pulverize your opponents, and Triangle is an area attack that can wipe out a bunch of enemies. R1 and R2 does a dash attack, R2 and L2 lets you pick up weapons, and the right analog is used to dodge.
Shaq’s moveset does the job, but it is very basic. Throughout the game, you’ll be doing a three-hit combo with Square and ending it with the Circle button. It does change up with the weapons and power-ups, but basically you won’t go wrong with the basic combo. There are two power-ups in the game, one that turns you into a robot that can punch really fast, and another, weirdly enough, turns you into a cactus (or a Shaqtus as the game calls it) that lets you shoot out cactus spines at enemies rapidly.
The game is full of off-the-wall humor like that. It does have that hokey, old-school kung-fu movie thing going on, but it’s quite a mixed bag. The jokes can be pretty funny, as Shaq is quite self-deprecating and fully-aware that he is in a video game, but it does feel like the writers are trying too hard to copy the style of Adult Swim cartoons like Rick and Morty. Though that said, the jokes aren’t actually politically correct, so it can come off as pretty offensive or just plain out-dated.
The art-style is vibrant and owns its cartoony look. The cutscenes are animated in 2D and gives it a nice Saturday morning cartoon feel to the whole story. The game definitely has a high production value, much so than most crowdfunded games. Even Shaq’s voice acting is pretty fun, with him delivering all his own lines and breaking the fourth wall constantly. He even raps the game’s theme song.
So overall, Shaq Fu is an alright game, nothing too spectacular. It can be a fun afternoon romp as the game can be beaten in about 3 hours. It’s a pretty linear game, there are no branching paths, no unlockable abilities or the like. It fares a little better than the original, but that’s not saying much as the bar was pretty low. The Indiegogo campaign pitched the game as Streets of Rage meets Devil May Cry, it definitely draws more from the former than the latter. They also said there would be a 2-player mode, which would definitely make this a better game. All in all, buy it if you’re looking for a short beat-em-up, though it’s definitely better enjoyed if you got the game for free instead.
Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn is out now for PS4, XBox One, PC and Switch for around RM 80. We got the PS4 version of the game for free thanks to Play Interactive.