The original Shaq Fu video game is probably one worth forgetting, but interestingly enough Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn manages to hit the mark where the original failed. For the most part, A Legend Reborn pokes fun at itself, leaning several pop culture references throughout, and it also highlights how much Shaq truly adores himself and that he’s obviously quite the character outside of the game.
A Legend Reborn is all about Shaq, an orphan who is found and raised by a peasant and trained by a master to overcome the evil challengers ahead of them. The game is set in various locations, but features a loose Chinese theme. The humour can be quite tongue-in-cheek, but nothing is ever too offensive.
Shaq Fu’s gameplay is reminiscent of games like Double Dragon and Streets of Rage, so enemies spawn into frame, you beat them up, and then walk right to the next frame, continuing with this until you eventually face a boss. It’s the classic formula for the beat ‘em up genre. Shaq’s abilities are quite spectacular, as you have an overpowered ground pound attack, jabs, kicks and jumps. You’re also able to find suits that transform Shaq into an armoured version of himself called Shaq Diesel, which makes him really effective in beating up the larger hordes of enemies.
As fun as the gameplay is, I would have liked to see some co-op multiplayer. It’s a staple of the beat ’em up genre and would have been a great fit for Shaq Fu’s silly, mindless fun. It will be especially disappointing for those who backed and followed the game’s development, as a feature promised in the original crowdfunding campaign.
Without spoiling much, the game’s six levels take you to locations such as China, Bel Air, Fiji and more. The varied environments are very well presented and each level offers you to interact with items in the environment to deliver more of an ass-whoopin’ to the surrounding enemies. There are even cool Easter eggs and pop culture references to spot throughout the games levels.
While the game is meant to be somewhat funny and not-so-serious, sometimes levels and boss fights can feel a bit too long. That being said, the artwork, voice acting and music throughout these levels are a solid effort. The humour itself is a bit forced and sometimes overly cheesy, but the dialogue and narration hits the mark when it’s at its best.
Though not that spectacular, the 2.5D visuals do the genre justice, as everything feels modern and avoids the more typical path of using retro pixel art. Playing on Switch, the game looks crips and delivers consistent quality when flipping between docked and portable modes. I haven’t noticed a single dip in the frame rate while playing, which is good considering there were slight dips in the version at EGX Rezzed a few months ago. However, when booting up the game on the Nintendo Switch, the initial load screen takes over a minute before you’re at the title screen. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue, but it’s a strangely long load time for a game that loads sections of levels and enemies over time.
Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn is everything the first game should have been; it doesn’t have to be “so bad it’s good,” and it features some good honest fun at its core. A Legend Reborn is definitely one to pick up if you’ve missed the beat ‘em up genre and are fancying something with a modern twist.
Version tested: Nintendo Switch – Also available for PS4, Xbox One & PC