STAFF REVIEW of Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn (Xbox One)

Monday, June 25, 2018.
by Adam Dileva

Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn Box art The 90’s was a weird time with its trends, and on the gaming side it seemed like nearly every sports pro athlete was getting their own video game at the time. One of the most memorable ones from that era was Shaq Fu. Sadly it wasn’t remembered for how great it was though, as it’s usually on many 'worst games' lists of all times. It revolved around putting uber popular basketball player Shaquille O’Neal into a fighting game, and history wrote itself from that point on.

A few years ago a crowdfunding campaign began to bring Shaq Fu back with a complete reboot. This was no simple or small request either, as its goal was near a staggering half million dollars. Surprisingly though, the goal was surpassed, so the wait for the release on console began. It would be a long wait, but the time has finally come, as Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn is now available in an attempt to clear its sullied name. I’ll admit, given its pedigree, I was fully ready to write it off from the beginning, but it is much better than its predecessor, though that bar wasn’t set very high.

The story has an abandoned baby, Shaq, being found in the village of Hunglow in China, taken in by his master, Ye-Ye. Shaq was always teased for his size compared to all the other children and he became a lowly rickshaw driver, but Ye-Ye knew he had something special within him, so he taught him the way of martial arts. Shaq’s village comes under attack, and with his master’s last words, he warns him of an evil being that has been progressively trying to dumb down the population for years. Shaq’s mission from that point is to kill these demons who just happen to disguise themselves as famous celebrities. Yes, you heard me right, Shaq is required to kill some celebraties that you might just know.

I wish I could come up with crazy stories like this, but I can’t make this stuff up, as this is actually the game's plot. You’ll travel across the globe to find these celebrities in an effort to put a stop to these evil forces across six different stages. A complete run through should last you roughly 2-3 hours or so, and once you’ve completed the campaign you most likely won't find a reason to play again, unless you care about increasing your scores.

Once you reach the main menu, you’re greeted with a new rap jam from the man himself, Shaq, boasting about himself of course. As corny and as dumb as the jingle is, it’s catchy, and sets the tone when going forward with its grossly juvenile humor. For its gameplay, the core mechanics are based on your typical beat-em-up, with shades of classic Final Fight, you control Shaq as he beats up near endless hordes of enemies, varying from fascists all the way to whips on Wall Street.

Like most typical games in the genre, you have light and heavy attacks and a dash attack that can stun enemies. Your light attacks will be the bulk of your damage throughout, but charge your meter enough and you can unleash Shaq’s size 22 boots into enemies for more damage. Now and then you’ll perform a stylish finisher, slowing down time and zooming in on the enemies being defeated, but I’m not sure what the criteria on making this happen is, as it just seemed to occur at random. My favorite though is when you smash an enemy so hard that they fly into the screen, seemingly cracking it in the process, something I adored from the old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle arcade games and Battletoads.

Littered throughout the stages you’ll also find weapons you can pick up, like barrels, signposts, and more, that are quite powerful, but they also break after a few hits. Every couple of levels you’ll also get to transform into Big Diesel (another 90’s Shaq reference) or, get this, a cactus. Yes, Shaq turns into a cactus and shoots hundreds of needles at enemies. Again, I can’t make this up. Funny enough, these sections were fun since you are completely overpowered and simply need to defeat a certain amount of enemies before moving on.

Design throughout the game doesn’t really vary. You’ll simply have to defeat a handful of waves of enemies, walk forward a new scene, repeat numerous times until you beat the boss and you then move onto the next stage. Certain enemies require specific strategies, as one type will counter attack you if you try and use your heavy attack, or you will come across a lawyer who will shoot pages at you, requiring you to throw them back at him. The waves never really stop and you simply need to slog through until the end. Enemies and objects drop coins, something I was hoping to buy new abilities or movies with, but it’s simply for points, which I don’t see a reason to care about in a game like this.

The basics are all present, as combos seem natural, but after three hours of spamming the same buttons it does become a bit repetitive. Enemies and objects will drop health orbs to replenish your life, and in typical Shaq fashion, pick up an Icy-Hot and you’ll have a 100% heal to full. Again, an obscure reference that 90’s kids or Shaq fans will only know.

Boss battles happen at the end of each stage after hundreds of enemies have been beat down. These are the demons you must defeat to progress, but they are disguised to everyone else as a celebrity. You’ll have to defeat Donald Trump, Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton and more. Each boss level has its own tone and style to it, and while it’s interesting to have celebrity bosses, it’s very pop culture and won’t be relevant forever (is Paris Hilton still relevant?).

The humor contained within is very awkward at times. It starts out light hearted but silly, like Kim Kardashian turning into a large floating butt that farts gas to hit you, and the voice acting is terrible, but it has that “so bad, it’s good” vibe to it. There is even numerous fourth wall breaks, a la Deadpool, but with shallow and corny jokes. What took me by surprise was how insensitive the humor eventually becomes, cracking insults at overweight people, gays, and the use terrible Chinese accents. I’m no prude by any means, and make terrible jokes when I shouldn’t, but this game almost feels like they were desperately trying to be edgy, but it can come across borderline racist at times. I’m not one to get offended, but others most likely will, so just a forewarning.

20 bucks for a 3-ish hour campaign is asking a bit much, especially when it’s repetitive, short, and has little to no replay value. I fully expected Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn to be a complete disaster, and while it has faults, it’s competent, but yet mediocre at best. Even though it’s not completely terrible like its predecessor, Shaq needs to be remembered for his ball skills, not voice “acting” and games. Icy-Hot won’t save you from this one.

Overall: 5.0 / 10
Gameplay: 5.0 / 10
Visuals: 6.5 / 10
Sound: 5.0 / 10


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