Reviews June 19, 2018

Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn

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Reviewed By: Ricardo Benitez
System: Xbox One (Also on PS4, Switch, PC)
Genre: Beat 'em Up
Rated: T
Players: 1
Cost: $19.99
Release Date: 06/5/2018
Publisher: Saber Interactive
Developer: Big Deez Productions

Growing up in the 90s, I fondly remember going to my friend's house and playing Shaq Fu on their SNES; we weren't very picky back then. In fact, we were limited by what our parents decided to purchase for us due to name, brand, and advertising bombardment. It wasn't Street Fighter 2, but we had a great time eating and drinking sugary snacks and cola while getting through the fights. Fast-forward to 2014 and Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn is prominently featured on Indiegogo's crowdfunding site. A retry on the game that I so fondly remembered…

Yes, I have rose-colored glasses when it comes to Shaq Fu. No, I haven't played it since the early 90s. My memory of the game is loads better than the reality - I came close to supporting the game’s development via Indiegogo but decided against it. So, I can understand why some might have seen Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn as a wasted endeavor. That said, the idea of it being a Beat’em Up instead of a fighter was intriguing. Especially considering that Shaq (and everyone involved with making this game) weren’t taking themselves too seriously. Which is the right move considering the random premise. Basically, it looked like it would offer up a fun, old school experience. Four years later, Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn is finally released. Upon receiving our review code from Saber/Big Deez Productions and jumping into the game, I quickly learned that my predictions were wrong!

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A Legend Reborn takes it all back to the drawing board, with an opening animated sequence telling the story of Shaq as an abandoned orphan growing up in China. Since he was so tall, he was bullied by his peers. This led to a martial arts master taken interest in him à la The Karate Kid. From there, he grows up and…no one cares. You’re Shaq and you beat dudes up because reasons; the shallow story is just a means of getting into the action. This wasn’t a bad thing of course (not taking things seriously is key). Fans will be looking forward to the action-packed gameplay, over-the-top baddies, and challenging encounters. Maybe some humorous one-liners. But mostly the punching and kicking.  

Unfortunately, the fighting is stilted. Characters seem like poorly dressed, cardboard versions of the bad guys from older games. The hitboxes seem slightly off as well; you never seem to connect with Shaq on screen. Pressing jump will make Shaq jump, but not in one fluid motion. It’s like he has to think about his movements before acting. That, along with the seemingly random special moves (where characters are tossed into the screen) and portions that require you to DDR your way through an encounter, make A Legend Reborn feel cobbled together. As if Big Deez pulled ideas from other Beat’em Ups, threw them into this game, but forgot to polish them up/do anything new with them.

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There were no humorous one-liners either. That’s not to say that the developers didn’t attempt to add in some comedic moments. It just that the game is laden with cheesy humor that doesn’t really work. The jokes are mostly crass and tasteless, with some that are borderline racist. I’m actually concerned about the writing process – was Shaq even involved? One thing I can say for sure is that it he had a great time recording his lines. That kind of enthusiasm, for what it’s worth, goes a long way to making A Legend Reborn okay to grind through. Just ok. For short periods of time.

Honestly, it seems as if Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn should've been released on the Xbox 360 or PS3, which makes sense considering when the crowdfunding originated. One would have hope it could've taken a bit more advantage of the technology available today. Or, if it was sticking with the old school vibes, at least polished them. As it stands, classic titles like Turtles in Time play better than this. But my biggest complaint though, has to be the lack of co-op. Shaq Fu SCREAMS for local co-op and it is nowhere to be found. It is, quite literally, a travesty that there are no cooperative modes of play, even online options. With all the faults that Shaq Fu has, the game would still be worth a run through with a friend. I could see having a few drinks with the buds I played with back in the day and barreling through this thing. But it's just not there.

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There's a lot that isn't there, to be honest. With subpar jokes, subpar gameplay, and dated graphics and material with no regard to what makes a Beat 'em Up work, I can’t recommend Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn to fans of the genre. It’ll most likely collect digital dust on your dashboard, never to see the light of day…

Gameplay: 2
Stiff and generic controls oppress an already depressingly subpar game.

Graphics: 4
It would have better if Big Deez had utilized a retro look. Instead, the 2.5D visuals feel dated.

Sound: 6
Enthusiastic voice acting from Shaq. The rest remains forgotten.

Replay Value: 1
No local co-op, generic controls and gameplay, and dated (slightly racist) pop culture material put this game in the "delete now" section of my hard drive.

Final Score:

3.3