Aaand he’s going in for the defense, and he’s got the ball! No wait, that’s no ball, that’s his opponent’s head! Where is this guy going? Well, to your most favorite gaming console, of course! Too much? Sorry, was really trying to be a b-ball game commentator. Too bad Shaq Fu is nowhere near a basketball game – but you know that already, right?
The first Shaq Fu, released two decades ago, is a fighting game featuring professional basketball player Shaquille O’Neal as the main protagonist. I’ve only seen the original Shaq Fu is listicles about some of the worst video games in history. Coming from that thought alone made me realize why they made a new one.
A lot can be said about Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn, and half of them are not good. Which, fortunately, could also mean half of them are not bad. Heck, from what I’ve seen (and heard and read), I can positively say Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn is a better game than its predecessor.
Platform Reviewed: Nintendo Switch
Platforms Available: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Developer: Big Deez Productions
Publisher: Wired Productions
Initial Release Date: June 5, 2018
This review is based on a retail copy purchased by the reviewer.
The cutscenes are skippable, and if you’re easily offended, I suggest you just skip them. In A Legend Reborn, Shaq was abandoned by his biological mother as a baby, dumped into the ocean in a floating basket. Like how the Prince of Egypt started. He was then raised by an old stereotypical Chinese man, who acts wise but is actually not. After being killed by some enemies, Shaq then seeks revenge for his fallen mentor as he travels overseas to kill some celebrities.
Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn, unlike the original, is your typical side-scrolling beat-em-up. You move Shaq to the right as while waves and waves of enemies try their dumbest to defeat you, halting you from progression.
Enemies come in different types, and all of them gets hit by every other obstacle another opponent throws at you. This gameplay lets some players be creative by how they eliminate each one of the villains. But that’s only if you’re bored by all the mashing of buttons for kicking and punching. There are flashy moves and slow motion takedowns, but it gets a hell lot repetitive after the second level.
This version of Shaq Fu introduces numerous ways to kill your enemies faster, like a mecha suit where you only get to hold down one button while Shaq unleashes a flurry of punches. Though you have to keep an eye on the overheat meter because if it boils to a point, Shaq loses control. But it’s as easy as pressing a button to let the steam off, literally. That could also send the baddies flying.
At the end of every level is a boss fight so slow and borderline boring and repetitive you’d wonder if you’re just fighting a mid-boss. There are gimmicks on them to make them unique, like this one robot puppet where you have to destroy the electric beams before you can deal damage to the main target. There’s also this Beiber-looking mastermind named Baby, with his Dance Dance Revolution-like minigame getting him served by our man Shaq.
Along the way, you collect health potions and coins. However, the coins you collect serve no real purpose to the gameplay. You can’t even upgrade your skills. Took me a trip down to the main menu to know this – which I did when I was halfway through the game. Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn can be finished in just a couple of hours, by the way.
Blandness aside, I have to admit the writers are superb. They made A Legend Reborn self-aware. Starting the game, you are greeted with a disclaimer stating all characters are fictional, yet they’re obviously based off of real-world celebrities. They also made sure to make the in-game tutorials and script sarcastic at their best.
A Legend Reborn is a safe entry to the beat-em-up genre. It’s pretty basic but the writing is phenomenal. It’s also safe to say people might get offended with some of its humor. Not to mention the whole game is an apology letter for Nintendo Switch owners who purchased last year’s NBA Playgrounds before an online update was released. And in my opinion, this is the best way to play the game – for free.