I can still remember the day I bought Shaq Fu for the Sega Genesis back in 1995. I begged my mom to take me to the mall, where a local store (KB Toys perhaps?) had new copies marked down to $20. Since it was the pre-internet days, I had no idea whether Shaq Fu was good or bad. As a huge basketball and Orlando Magic fan at the time, purchasing the game was a no brainer (it even came with a bonus CD with a Shaq rap song!). Fast forward over 20 years and a sequel has finally seen release. Officially known as Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn, this crowdfunded follow-up switched genres from fighting to 2D beat-em-up. This proved to be a welcome change, as Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn is leaps and bounds better than the original.
Shaq is completely honest from the opening narration, “his story is convoluted and full of holes”, thankfully it is also hilarious. Taking place in China, Shaq is discovered by a woman near the ocean, floating in a handbag and completely abandoned. As he grew older and much taller, the village elder, Ye-Ye discovered Shaq and taught him martial arts. He has been preparing Shaq for the arrival of Yen-Lo-Wang, who breaks out of hell and tries to destroy the world every thousand years. Shaq’s journey takes him across 6 different areas until the eventual showdown in hell. Along the way, Shaq will dispose of thousands of enemies and various bosses. Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn won’t win any awards for its story, but what’s there provides just enough motivation for the player.
Combat is enjoyable but a bit basic; the X button provides a simple attack combo, the B button unleashes a size 22 boot attack and the Y button is the Shaq wave (ground pound) that takes out many enemies within range. Shaq can charge enemies by pressing both shoulder buttons or pick up items in the environment like signs to swing at baddies or barrels to knock them over like bowling pins. The combat would have been much better if you could unlock new moves or attacks, instead you’re left with the same arsenal from start to finish. There are some environmental items Shaq can also use like a crane that takes out enemies or pushing boulders over onto enemies below.
These were a slam dunk:
The writing in Shaq Fu 2 is the biggest highlight of the game, Shaq and company are constantly spewing one-liners and jokes that made me legitimately laugh out loud. The dialogue in both gameplay and cutscenes kept the tone of the game light and funny. It helps a lot that Shaquille O’Neal provided his actual voice for the game. Shaq and Ye-Ye also continuously break the fourth wall during cutscenes, only adding to the enjoyment.
The sponsors you would expect in a game about Shaq are both here: Icy Hot and Gold Bond. In the game, Icy Hot tubs are a welcome sight, as they provide 100% health. While not an item you use per-se, Gold Bond plays a large role in progressing the story.
Throughout each level there are multiple checkpoints, which allow you to retry from that location upon death. What I love about Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn is that you can level select from every checkpoint in the game. This comes in very handy for mopping up the last few achievements in the game. I wish more game developers would do the same.
These were an airball:
Shaq-Fu 2 has little to no replay value, and the game is incredibly short. I would have loved to see local and/or online co-op to go along with the story. How cool would it have been to get the license to Penny Hardaway as a sidekick, or hell even Ye-Ye? Players can change difficulty from easy to hard to provide more challenge, but I can picture most gamers completing Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn in just a few hours.
I can’t help but feel that combat in general was a missed opportunity. Throughout the game, Shaq collects coins that scatter about after killing enemies or destroying objects. These coins have no use whatsoever except to help tally your overall score for the level. These coins would have been perfect to unlock new fighting combos, weapons, or even outfits. How about a skill tree that branches off into different styles of fighting? That would help alleviate the problems of both stale combat and low replay ability.
Achievements and Barack Fu:
Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn has 43 achievements for 1,000 total gamerscore. Many of these achievements will be earned without even trying, whether they be story based or combat based. Anything leftover by the end of the game can easily be farmed, for example I had to earn two achievements for countering attacks along with killing enemies with a specific number of boulders. Everyone with modest gaming skills can easily get the completion.
Included in the physical versions of Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn was a voucher for free DLC known as Barack Fu: The Adventures of Dirty Barry. This DLC is very short, consisting of two levels, that put you in the shoes of the former President. Barack has his own attacks which include multiple guns and a drone strike that wipes out all the enemies on screen. Instead of Icy Hot, packs of cigarettes are Barack’s vice which give him full health. Just like the main game, Barack Fu is hilarious and well-voiced. I found the difficulty to be tougher than the main game, especially in level one. Lastly, I was very disappointed to learn that Barack Fu has no additional achievements on Xbox One (But does have PlayStation trophy support). Publisher Wired Productions wants it to be known that it is a limited time exclusive to retail copies of Shaq Fu.
Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn is not a perfect game, but instead provides gigantic steps in the right direction for potential sequels. The writers already know how to script enjoyable dialogue and the art style in place is clean and appealing. After getting Shaq and Barack, I can’t help but think of who could star in their own game too. I want more replay value in any future installments in addition to fleshed out combat. As it stands, anyone looking for a fun and quick palette cleanser between games might want to consider stepping into the size 22 sneakers.