13th Jun2018

‘Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Britt Roberts

Shaq-Fu-Screen-5

I remember when the first Shaq Fu game came out in 1994, I borrowed it from a friend, popped it into my trusty Mega Drive and sparked it up, played it for a while and then, as the Egyptian’s say, ‘turned it off’. It was a cumbersome, middling fighting game on a console that couldn’t seem to get the one-one-one fighting genre right, regardless of how hard developers tried.

Over the years, Shaq Fu has gained a cult following and a certain notoriety for being one of the worst games ever made, which it isn’t. Much like film director Uwe Boll, it just became cool to hate (just watch Rampage or Tunnel Rats, they are solid, competent films.). I forgot about Shaq Fu pretty much as soon as I finished playing it, (much like I forgot about most of the fighting games released on the Mega Drive) and so when Indiegogo raised nearly half a million dollars, I assumed it was going to be some sort of re-master or re-make, either way I had no investment in it, financial, emotional or otherwise. Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn, as it turns out instead it takes a different road…a road that leads not to being a middling one one one fighter… but to being a middling side-scrolling brawler. Yay.

The story that propels Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn is that Shaq is born a Chinese orphan and raised by a martial arts master, one day being called to save his village from an evil Demon. As in most brawlers, the story is purely functional although I did get a few chuckles out of it.

The game takes a cartoon-ish angle with a lot of the humour being derived from either Shaq’s size or mildly un-PC jabs at various stereotypes. There were a few moments I found amusing but the humour is too broad and constantly goes for low-hanging fruit, so it gets tiresome. The music and graphics are decent, vibrant colours moving along with a bouncy sound track that was quite enjoyable and summery.The usual tropes exist in the game, smashing barrels to gain health and picking up orbs in order to raise energy for super moves etc. which are enjoyable to pull off. Shaq has quite a varied move set and the enemies require different attacks in order to defeat them, depending on their weaknesses. This adds some variety to the game as do the boss fights (which seem to be against caricatures of famous people, but I must admit that I wasn’t sure who they were supposed to be). The main issue, however is how the game isn’t two-player co-op (or more) it’s absolutely baffling that a game in this genre would be single player as it instantly reduces the longevity and fun factor. Combine this with the tedium that arises from the stretched-out levels, crowds of similar enemies and an unstable frame rate when the screen scrolls (inexcusable in this case, as are the lengthy loading times) and the game starts to become wearying before the jokes do.

Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn is clearly marketed at those who crave the definitive Shaq experience but as his forays into the film and video game industries were always somewhat lacklustre, this game being ‘OK’ doesn’t really feel valid enough to warrant its self-referential humour. I felt like the developers had more fun making it than I was having playing it. There are some nice touches in the game, the combat mechanics are solid and the visuals pop out, but the combination of everything I’ve mentioned makes the game one thing that it really shouldn’t be. Boring.

If you are a fan of Shaq or really hips deep into side-scrolling brawlers then Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn could be worth a look, but the fact that it’s single-player only will put off a swathe of people, myself amongst them.

Right, I’m off to play Space Jam on the PS1.

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