Get ready to throw down with the biggest, meanest baddies around as the Chinese God Of Death Yen-Lo Wang wants to wreak Hell on Earth. It is up to the chosen one, Shaquille O’Neal to deal huge can of whoop ass on Yen-Lo Wang and his demons and save humanity in our Shaq Fu: A Legend Rebornreview.
Once upon a time, back in the early 90’s, Shaq O’Neal was a rising Basketball star and his face was everywhere. He was in commercials, Rap videos and even movies. He was riding high and was asked to star in his own video game. An Arcade Fighting game that combined basketball with martial arts and was named… Shaq Fu! Unfortunately, the game bombed and bombed hard. So much so, that there is a website dedicated to eradicating every copy of Shaq Fu from existence. This has left a huge smear on poor Shaq’s record but now it is time to put things right. Enter Saber Interactive.
Saber Interactive is an America based, video game developer that have worked on games like NBA Playgrounds, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, Time Shift and Battle: Los Angeles, just to name a few. Saber Interactive like to take on a challenge and make something pretty cool out of it, like an artist that makes sculptures out of aluminum cans. Though sometimes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder so what might be amazing to some, might not be so fanciful to others. Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn is a complete overhaul on the original game including story-line, graphics, music, etc. The only things that the two games have in common, is the name and Big Diesel himself. It started off as an indiegogo project that managed to raise its $450,000 mark. Shaquille O’Neal also donated money and time into the game development as well.
The Story of Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn begins much like the story of Moses from the good book. An orphaned baby that has been abandoned and washes up on along the shoreline and found by a peasant. That is where all familiarity with the bible, ends as Shaq Fei Hung grows up to be a poor rickshaw driver who is trained by an old man to learn the ancient martial art of Wu Xing. When his hometown of Hunglow is invaded by demons. It is up to the legendary Shaq to put a stop to the evil Chinese God Of Death, Yen-Lo Wang’s plan. Shaq must kill all of Yen-Lo servants that are disguised as famous celebrities who are using their status to dumb down humanity. After sending the demons back where they come from, Shaq Fei Hung must take on the biggest threat of them all; the Chinese God of Death himself.
The game is not meant to be taken seriously and is more or less a parody of the original. The celebrities that you have to kill bare a likeness to famous people and are intended to be a mock-up of their status as opposed to a personal dig at them. Shaq does his part to keep the game comical, constantly referring to himself as a Chinese orphan and a poor rickshaw driver despite the fact we know different. The tone of the game is certainly humorous and though it may not have you Laughing out loud, there are certainly moments that will make you giggle. The cartoony nature of the game also help to make what should be extremely grotesque look comical.
Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn is a 2.5D arcade fighter game with cartoonyish graphics and cartoon cutscenes voiced by Shaquille O´Neal himself. Some of the songs are also sung by him too. The graphics have changed for what I think is for the better as the earlier trailers looked a little too CG and the cartoon look is far more appealing and is more fitting for the tone of the game. It actually reminds me of the animated series of Jackie Chan. The music will warp you back to the 90’s with its reminiscent tones of the Rap music of Old. Though the animations of some of the enemies look unnatural, they are intended that way to over-accentuate the behaviours of stereotypes today and yesteryear. The actual fighting animations are fluid and are particularly nice to watch in slow motion. There are a couple of instances where you kick an enemy in one direction and his flies off in completely the opposite but I won’t hold it against the game designers.
As regards to gameplay, You travel from left to right on each stage, beating up waves upon waves of bad guys to eventually reach a boss that you have to send back to hell. Each boss requires a different technique in order to whittle down their health and they have some attacks that are at times really tough to avoid. Each stage has its own generic enemies that are “palette swapped” on progressive stages and wear different outfits but attack pretty much the same as those before. There are your standard grunts, bruisers, projectile throwers and frigging Ninjas. Once you know what technique works best on each enemy, it becomes much easier to take them down, even when you are surrounded.
There are a number of items you can collect that will help regain health and power up special moves. These can be found by smashing up objects lying around on the ground or spawned after defeating certain enemies. There are also bottles of Icy Hot that fill up your health and special bars completely but they can only be found in the open and usually just before a checkpoint or boss fight. In some parts of a stage, you will get to use special power-ups like the “Big Diesel” which fits Shaq like a mechanical armour that allows you to pummel enemies. The “Shaq Tus” power-up turns Shaq into a Cactus and allows you to fire needles at your opponents. Some enemies carry weapons that you can also pick up and use for a limited time.
There is a single story mode which has three levels of difficulty, Easy, Medium and hard. You can also replay levels from their checkpoints after completing them. Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn is a single player experience so there is no co-op team-ups here and you must rely on your skills and Shaq’s power alone. Mind you, I managed to clear the game on Medium and only died a hundred times or so. Fortunately, there are no “Lives” So you can keep coming back over and over again until you finish the level.
As regards to controls, they are reasonably pretty responsive though jumping can sometimes be an issue. You can jump left and right along a single plain but not up or down. This is difficult when trying to avoid projectiles as you will almost land right on top of them. You can roll up or down to avoid them but this can be a bit fiddly at times as well. You use the Ybutton to attack and rack up a combo which you can follow up with a smash attack using A. Some enemies require using special moves in order to topple them and sometimes have button prompts so you can counter certain attacks. Knowing what technique works best on which enemies, is important as becoming surrounded by enemies can be overwhelming and they can reduce your health meter to zilch in an instant.
Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn is an enjoyable romp but it does have some rather short gameplay. Whilst being a parody of itself and more than makes up for the travesty that was the original. It does fall slightly flat in that it focuses probably too much on making up for its tarnished reputation than for rewarding players for playing this game. There is no post-game content or leaderboards, to make you aim for a better score. There was a promise of a variety of power-ups to use in-game and in the end, we only got two, which are each used like twice for the entire game. I enjoy the humour but it may fall flat on those that were expecting a more in-depth game. Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn is aimed more at people looking for a casual romp than opposed to those that are looking for a serious arcade fighter. The loading times can be quite tedious as well, especially when launching the game and feels to get longer and longer each time you boot the game up. Hopefully, the devs might be able to speed it up with a patch update at some point.
For all of you that bought NBA Playgrounds for Nintendo Switch before October, you will won’t be too concerned about downloading this game as it is free to download until July. If you thinking about buying the game, $19.99 seems like a big ask to get it digitally for about 3 hours of gameplay. Though it is just over 2.3 GB to download to Switch, you may find you could probably use that space on your Memory card for something else. There is DLC coming to the game, but it would certainly depend on the price to make it worth buying or not. I won’t lie, what I played, I enjoyed it and for a “Free” game because I bought NBA Playgrounds when it first released, I am not disappointed but I would have liked a bit more content.
So, I guess to sum up and to answer those all-important questions. Has Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn done its best to redeem itself and it’s murky past? Yes. Has it done enough to be a worthy title to own on Nintendo Switch? The jury is still out on that one. I mean, if it had two-player co-op, you could extend the longeviity of the game by playing it with friends. However, It is a fun but very short romp that you may come back to every now and again but unless it has a string of free updates to add more content, Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn may just drift back into obscurity once again.