Did you hear the joke about the sequel to a bad game? You know, the one that managed to find a following and get funded through IndieGoGo? If not, then you haven’t been following the tale of Shaq-Fu: A Legend Reborn. Let’s go back and start from the beginning. Shaq-Fu was a fighting game made for Sega and Nintendo consoles in 1994. It was almost instantly labeled as one of the worst games of the time period. Despite being a sub-par fighter it has a little bit of a cult following. Needless to say, no one thought that the game starring NBA Legend Shaquille O’Neal would ever have a chance at a sequel.
In 2014, IndieGoGo announced a campaign for a sequel. If funded, Saber Interactive promised a game that wouldn’t disappoint. Shaq-Fu: The Legend Reborn achieved its goal, and the game spent the next four years in development. It’s finally here, but not as a fighting game. Its instead a side-scrolling beat ’em up that surprisingly fulfills its promise.
The game begins with you taking control of “Shaq Fei Hung,” a poor Chinese rickshaw driver. He’s voiced by (you guessed it) Shaq himself. Shaq Fei Hung is a young orphan trained in the style of Wu-Xing by a wise old man named Ye-Ye. While learning some of young Shaq’s backstory during the opening cinematic, demons from Hell interrupt the scene. As these enemies attack, the game immediately reverts to a classic side-scrolling beat ’em up reminiscent of Streets of Rage.
Let me be abundantly clear: Shaq-Fu: The Legend Reborn is not politically correct by any stretch of the imagination. In each of the levels, you face enemies with politically incorrect names. They range from generic fodder to armored demons that must be stunned before defeating. Each follow a motif for their respective level, but still feel like a skin swap. Still, the was a good enough variety to keep it interesting.
The first stage’s boss is a recognizable celebrity who, as it turns out, is a demon hell-bent on mind-controlling humanity. But he’s not the only familiar face you’ll come across on your journey. Every end-level boss is based on a an actual celebrity who gets made fun of in their own way. You’ll meet Justin Beiber, our current sitting President, and others to witness their “demon transformation” before stopping them.
The game’s humor is definitely its strong suit. The characters break the fourth wall on occasion and make fun of themselves. The dialogue may be cheesy, but I loved every moment. It brought me back to my childhood when I played similar games, which made it a nostalgic treat as well.
I played through Shaq-Fu on normal mode just to give it a good run through. Early on, the game is fairly easy to handle, but as it progresses it does present a decent challenge. For example, some enemies become immune to certain combos in later levels. You’ll have to figure out new ways to take them down.
The combat in the game is also highly entertaining. You’ll find the standard beat ’em up controls such and light and medium kicks, which is expected. But the hilarity comes in some of Shaq’s special moves and power-ups. There’s the “Size 22 Shoe Kick”, and one special move that transforms our hero into a Shaq-tus (A Shaq Cactus that throws needles). You also collect energy as you break objects. Once you read a certain amount, you can perform an area of effect ground-slam damaging multiple foes.
The production presented in this amazing, especially considering it’s a budget title at $29.99 ($19.99 on Steam). The cutscenes are well-animated and remind me of some earlier anime titles. Successful counter attacks may result in a satisfying slow-mo animation. Shaq sends his enemies flying across the street or straight up in the air with no landing in sight. I had as many as thirty different enemies on the screen at once with no latency issues. The soundtrack is also catchy, and Shaq lends his vocal talent for multiple rap songs with hilarious lyrics. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality, and I loved the subtle jokes sprinkled throughout. For instance, I saw a restaurant called “F.P Changs All-American Food.”
Shaq-Fu is not without its flaws, however. The game is rather short, but I’ve paid the same amount for a low-quality movie in the theater. The writing gets really corny on occasion, but for someone like me this is not a problem. On two separate occasions, the game froze in the middle of a boss fight, and I had to reload from the last checkpoint. Luckily, there are quite a few in each level. I was also mildly irritated on one fight. The boss was knocked out of the play area and not able to hit me, making for an effortless finish to the area. Additionally, some of the breakable objects in the game were difficult to see or hit.
Be warned: this is probably not a game you should let younger children play. Some of the content and jokes may be inappropriate for the kids. At one point in time, you have to fight a celebrity’s hindquarters. Though I found it hilarious, some may not.
Shaq-Fu: The Legend Reborn Final Verdict
As a fan of the original game and a fanboy of this genre, I absolutely adore this game. I’ve already started my next play-through on the hardest difficulty. If you’re a fan of nostalgia and this style of game, I would highly recommend picking this game. It would be a disservice to not give this game a try, especially at its low price point. I am hoping that maybe in a time another sequel may suddenly appear out of thin air and surprise us all.