For gamers, one of the biggest jokes is Shaq Fu. The title stared Shaquille O’Neal in, of all things, a fighting game facing off against various foes. Not only was it a bad title, it had nothing going for it, outside of a name that was memorable enough to stand the test of time. Having lived with the joke for a while, Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn revisits the idea of a video game, this time with hopes of being a more positive experience. With Shaq, a new genre and an actual story, is Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn enough to redeem past mistakes or is it another shameless cash grab?
The story follows a fictionalized version of Shaquille who grew up in China and currently works as a rickshaw driver. However, one day Yan-Lo-Wang attacks and Shaquille’s teacher Ye-Ye tells him it’s time to accept his destiny and save the world. From there the story follows his quest to defeat Yan-Lo-Wang, which involves a number of fights against pop culture parodies.
If there is one thing that works in Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn’s favor, it’s that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Instead, players go through a number of Icy Hot and Gold Bond, both of which are products the real Shaquille has been in commercials for, which start off fun and quickly become tiring. Where these things would be fine as a one-off joke or even as usable items, there are probably 10 billboards for Icy Hot and Gold Bond is likely mentioned 20 or so times throughout the brief story.
Most of the stories fun comes from the boss references. With characters like Trump and Justin Beiber, it’s hard to complain about them, even if they’re randomly thrown in. It’s enough to make them memorable but not enough to elevate them beyond the joke they’re suppose to be.
Between story segments is gameplay similar to Streets of Rage, Battletoads and things of the like. Sadly, much like the story itself, there is little to no depth. One button attacks, another does a powerful kicking attack, with the remaining buttons covering dodge, rush, counter attacks and an AoE for when things get overwhelming. The issue that comes into play is things like dodge are poorly implemented and most fights boil down to repeatedly pressing the same button for the exact same combos.
There are a couple suits and mechanics that break up the monotony, such as Shaqtus or throwing barrels, but they too suffer from being rather simple and are used excessively. After you’ve defeated 200+ enemies with a weapon or shooting them with needles, it feels just as tedious as normal attacks.
Unfortunately for Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn, this feeling hurts replayability. With the game taking about two hours to beat, with an additional hour or so needed for trophy/achievements, the only thing to keep people playing is high scores. Where Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn goes wrong is counting the number of attacks throw, instead of hits. By this I mean, you can get a higher score by isolating every enemy and beating them up one at a time than you can by grouping them together. Not only does this vastly increase the time needed to complete the game, it’s such a tedious way to increase your score that it will likely turn players off.
Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn accepts and understands it’s a novelty but is too heavy handed in it’s approach. With a couple references to the other silly things Shaq has done in the past (Steel, Kazaam), countless TV appearances (Static Shock), other endorsements (The General Car Insurance) or even his delightful NBA 2K18 commercial this approach might’ve worked, though in its current form it just isn’t there. If this is enough to amuse you, something that certainly gave me more than a couple laughs, especially at some of the delightful animations, then you’ll likely enjoy it.
[Editor’s Note: Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn was reviewed on PS4 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]