Reviving the Past
In 1994 Shaquille O’Neal took advantage of his popularity and released a one-on-one fighter called Shaq Fu on 16-bit consoles as well as handhelds. Remembered for all the wrong reasons, this Street Fighter knockoff gained a reputation for being bad and nonsensical. Now, over 20 years later, Shaq has made a new game that is even more absurd than the first called Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn. This sequel is available on pretty much every modern system including Switch.
Instead of being a 1v1 fighter, A Legend Reborn is a brawler similar to Final Fight or Streets of Rage and everything about this game is intentionally made with bad fourth wall breaking humor. Shaq was raised as a Chinese orphan and trained by a stereotypical kung fu master. When his master dies, Shaq goes on a rampage killing hundreds of bad guys and bosses that take the form of real life celebrities just as Justin Bieber and Paris Hilton. Along the way, Shaq gets powered up by Icy Hot and Gold Bond, two real world products that he has helped advertise for years. The shameless plugs are trying to be humorous but instead are nothing but eye rolling.
I played through the first level for the first time in the stream embedded below:
Besides the normal button mashing attack, Shaq can use his size 22 foot to stomp bad guys, use the shoulder buttons to dash, and pick up barrels or signs to use as weapons. There is no leveling gameplay element and combat is little more than mindless button smashing. Along the way, Shaq will outfit himself with a metal mech suit for rapid fire punches or transform into a cactus, aka the Shaqtus, in which he can shoot spikes like the machine gun in Contra. The worst part about these occasional power-up segments is that once they end, they make Shaq’s regular attacks feel boring and underpowered. Levels are also long too, taking about 20-30 minutes to complete and that is if you don’t die. At least the checkpoint system works with the player as any of these starting points can be selected from the main menu.
Combat, the heart of the game, isn’t all that interesting and quickly becomes tedious. After punching your first 100 enemies with mindless attacks, you will pretty much experience everything the fighting has to offer. Before the credits roll, Shaq will have murdered hundreds of the same enemies, the constant fodder at every moment. Boss battles, however, are more like acts of attrition. Once the boss’s pattern is determined, the player simply must be patient and whittle down the big energy bar. The Paris Hilton boss fight is especially annoying, cheap, and not fun at all.
A Legend Reborn is strictly a single player outing but the gameplay seems suited for two or four player co-op. Honestly, no one wants to play a game like Double Dragon solo; brawlers lose their charm without a buddy at your side. Other than milking Achievements or Trophies, there is also little reason to keep playing. The included Shaqlopedia is pretty worthless as well, especially since the text is impossibly small to read.
Shaq recorded a new musical track specifically for this sequel and the lyrics are all about kicking asses so it is doubtful you’ll hear it on Spotify anytime soon. Everything about the game also feels low budget too. Shaq doesn’t move fluidly, especially when jumping, and gameplay is little more than walk to the right and punch everything. Even the Achievements are not creative as almost all of them involve killing a high number of enemies which involves tedious grinding (I was able to unlock all 1000/1000 gamerscore in just a few hours). I also experienced a few bugs during my play through including an instance where both Shaq and a boss, which I was right about to kill, froze in place forcing a full restart. At least the anime cutscenes offer some sort of presentation values despite Shaq’s limited voice acting skills.
I think with Shaq Fu, you know what you are getting so there should be no surprises. While it isn’t the worst beat’em up, it surely isn’t great. Could you imagine a Carrot Top or Martha Stewart game instead?!? <shutters>
Also Try: Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City
Better Than: that bad TMNT XBLA reboot
Wait For It: Kazaam 2