by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
Oh, Shaq Fu. I recall back when Shaq Fu came out on the SNES, back in 1994. I was in Middle School at the time and had only recently gotten a SNES of my own. A buddy of mine got it because he loved fighting games, and thought Shaq was just about the coolest. I barely knew who he was, because I spent more time reading Wheel of Time and a lot less watching Basketball (only if the Hornets were on TV, and barely then). So, we sat down together to try and play Shaq Fu. It was easily one of the worst games I’ve ever played in my entire life. I was already playing Street Fighter 2 Turbo at a buddies house every weekend. So we go from SF2T (which had been out for two years) to … this?! It was clunky, the characters were bland and uninteresting. It didn’t make sense, and the story was trite and barely/poorly written. Story isn’t necessary as much in Fighting Games, but it helps build the world, and the “world” such as it was was a disgrace. I was disappointed and I didn’t even buy it!
Fast Forward to 2018, and Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn is on the way. I thought it was all a goof, a joke when I saw it on Indiegogo. Surely Shaq Fu wasn’t coming back! Would it be a fighting game again? No, that well is definitely dry. I will say, to their credit, they acknowledged the original game in their advertising, which was a bold move. This new Shaq Fu game isn’t out to change the world and is definitely not a love letter to its predecessor. But what it is is a very tongue-in-cheek, side-scroller beat ’em up, starring Shaq. It’s here we learn he grew up in a small Chinese village, and surprise of surprise, he’s not really Chinese! He was adopted! I laughed much, much harder than I expected I would at it. So, the ultimate goal is for Shaq to travel and kick the crap out of these Hollywood elites who are out to corrupt and ruin the world. It’s life imitating art if nothing else. It’s very much in the same vein of the arcade beat ’em ups of old. You have a huge wave of enemies on a screen, you kill them, and you move to the next screen. Even more show up, you beat ’em up, and you move on. Then the next screen will probably have a new unit, that has a different way to fight, and they’ll start showing up more.
You fight a huge, annoying boss that’s frustrating to fight, and thank your lucky stars that there are checkpoints, and not inserting quarters. Had this been released in 1994, it would have eaten quarter after quarter without any mercy. I’m talking Captain America and the Avengers level of quarter chewing. Despite that, it’s very enjoyable to play, I’m used to that style of gameplay. You also have power-up forms, where you can just obliterate entire screens of enemies, and the first one, Big Diesel was very Steampunk, where Shaq rode around in Power Armor slapping the crap out of enemies, and it was very satisfying. Combat is simple though. You have an X and Y axis to walk, an attack button, a stomp button (for combo finishers), jump, a button to sort of grapple, and a power move that slams the ground and damages everyone. You wail through the game with fairly easy combos, and while I do appreciate that style of gameplay, I feel like the industry has grown past it.
But what I did enjoy was the humor. It’s kind of hit-and-miss, but it’s not politically correct and may offend some folks, but I honestly enjoyed it. References to the Indiegogo campaign, to Steel, and much more, I enjoyed the back and forth banter, the crude humor that made the grind through enemies a bit more enjoyable. He references both of his major products in the game (Gold Bond and Icy Hot), and like I said, it definitely may (and probably will) offend, with fat jokes and such, but I liked the parody/satirical characters, and Shaq delivers his lines with aplomb that I frankly did not expect. It’s however, not a very long game, and I have heard that some folks said promises made in the Indiegogo campaign were not delivered. Local Co-Op and such, but I cannot speak to those as I was not involved in the campaign in any way, shape or form. This is not a long game, and it can feel challenging if you don’t play arcade beat ’em ups. I did have some issues with the controls, mostly in the up and down roll but all around it was enjoyable as a tribute to Shaq and his earlier game.
His Crew Is Coming For You: 3/5
Shaq Fu is an interesting beast. I was expecting something more, but I don’t really know why. What I played I enjoyed, the repetitive rap track was (surprisingly) good. It would be fun with multiplayer, but I did enjoy this romp all on its own. It breaks the fourth wall, has ridiculous humor, and pushes the mythos of Shaq to a near godlike level. He’s truly on a pedestal all his own, getting ready to defeat Guan Yu, his evil demon boss, and every bad guy that threatens this world. It’s absurd, bright, colorful and action-packed. If you aren’t a fan of the meme, or a fan of ridiculous, borderline tedious side-scrollers, you probably won’t get much out of this. What you see is definitely what you get: It’s a decent side-scroller with a lot of jokes, predictable combat, and is fun for a few hours of gameplay. It’s pretty divisive, unlike the original, which was panned almost globally. It’s fun, a little (a lot) absurd, and it’s important you take it for what it is, instead of what you want it to be. It’s just a beat ’em up starring Shaq, who is a Chinese boy who is not exactly what he seems. My only major complaint is that it’s short, far too short for the budget they had. I hope more is on the way, because the fans definitely deserve it.