Review by Jack Bankhead
Shaq Fu has an interesting history. In the 90’s, Shaquille O’Neal starred in Shaq Fu, a game known to be so bad it’s good. A couple of years before 2018 it was announced that Shaq Fu would be revived into an actually great game, even if Shaq wasn’t in it. Now, it is 2018. Does Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn live up to the promises made? Yes, it does.
The game is a sidescrolling beat-em-up in 3D. The player controls the titular Shaq, who uses a variety of martial arts to take down his foes. Shaq can kick, punch, and use other special abilities such as an earthquake punch to eliminate his enemies. You may become concerned with watching footage of the first area that there is no depth. There is no worry here, as Shaq Fu has plenty of depth.
As you progress through the game, the depth opens up. Some enemies cannot be hit with certain attacks, some may dodge, and some may counter your hit. If you think that’s simple game mechanics, there is still more to explain. Many enemies of different types will come at you at the same time. Refining your strategy to fight enemies with different types of attacks will up your game.
There are about 5-6 areas with multiple levels each. As Shaq progresses, new mechanics and environmental variation appear. This can be weapons that can be picked up, new monster attacks, the Big D, plus more. The addition of new mechanics and changing environments as you progress keep Shaq Fu from becoming stale. Each area isn’t short, but not long either. The areas are largely replayable, for scores, time, and difficulty.
Boss battles are not totally unique, but provide an extra challenge. I had difficulty with a few, actually. I had trouble from the unclear patterns of the boss. That’s a good thing, it’ll keep you in check.
The art direction is wonderful. I love the environments, the animated cutscenes, and character portraits. Life has been put into Shaq Fu, thanks to the design. Even cooler, the voice of Shaq is done by the Big Man himself, Shaquille O’Neal! His voice acting is hilarious. It feels like Shaq. Maybe I’m ranting about it, I dunno. I do know that to get the actor that’s supposed to play a character and actually cast him/her is a big deal. I imagine the devs are quite pleased with having the one and only Shaq voice their game.
Humor is a strong point in Shaq Fu. Shaq will quip a one-liner or make funny remark in dialogue. Fourth wall breaks are there, too. While the story isn’t anything powerful, it is funny and to the point. Shaq Fu will not get any awards for writing, but it will make you chuckle.
Shaq Fu has replayability, just like many beat-em-ups. There’s even DLC with Barack Obama, coming to digital stores soon. Shaq Fu is something you can play once and be done, or try beating a score or time.
Shaq Fu is great. Not amazing, but great. If you didn’t get the Nintendo Switch deal with NBA Playgrounds, it may still be worth picking up on a sale or without a sale if you love beat-em-ups. Either way, Shaq Fu is worth your time. Great humor, art, and gameplay that stays fresh is what this game is all about, and it is done well.
Reviewed on the Nintendo Switch, not provided by Saber Interactive