Shaq-Fu was a fighting game infamously known for starring Shaquille O’Neil and being absolutely terrible. However, instead of letting the past stay in the past, Shaq-Diesel himself has decided to give it another go. Enter Shaq-Fu: The Legend Reborn, a reboot that doesn’t resemble the original fighting game in any way, other than having its titular basketball star be the hero. But that doesn’t mean you won’t be seeing Shaq bust out some kung-fu moves in this side-scrolling brawler. Can a heavy-overhaul to one of the worst games ever made become a big deal for the big basketball star? Simply put, absolutely not.
Shaq-Fu: A Legend Reborn does change up everything you might’ve known about Shaq-Fu, but it doesn’t do it very well. Outside of the genre shift from the original game, much of this Shaq-Fu is rooted in self-aware and self-glorifying cheesy humor, as well as loose cheap pokes at celebrity culture. Remember those Icy-Hot commercials that Shaq created years ago? There are Icy-Hot packs that completely refill your health found in breakable stage objects. Ever saw the movie Steel? There’s a goofy homage to that as well that has Shaq smashing everything on screen.
The story itself isn’t too great either, which pulls a lot from older kung-fu films and bad jokes about rap culture and Hollywood. Some of the character designs will make you chuckle from time to time, but the majority of them fail to stand out or look visually interesting. If you don’t know anything about Shaquille O’Neil however, then nothing here will appeal to you whatsoever.
But is the gameplay any good? Not really. A lot of what get here is your basic brawler against groups of copy & pasted enemies across six stages. Shaq himself can attack and do special moves to beat down hordes of enemies, some of which are very loosely based on his moves from the original game. For the majority of the time, Shaq-Fu suffers from a lot of collision detection issues and moments where the controls lock up before interacting with objects and enemies on screen.
This can get very annoying when you have a large group attacking you from all sides and you’re prevented from picking up a weapon or executing a special move. It doesn’t help either when most of the enemies you fight never seem to stagger at any of the moves or combos you land on them, leading to you lose health from attacks that seem invincible.
By the time you complete all of the stages in Shaq-Fu: A Legend Reborn, there’s little reason to go back again. You don’t get any unlockables or bonuses worth looking over, only a very basic gallery of enemies that appear in each stage. It’s a shame that we don’t get any behind-the-scenes content or interesting things to view or read about Shaq himself, especially since the humor is self-aware and self-glorifying throughout.
How come we couldn’t see any of the Icy-Hot or Gold Bond commercials for laughs? There’s a big missed opportunity here to go even further with the humor. Everything feels so meager when there isn’t much to enjoy after you complete every stage.
If you’re a fan of Shaquille O’Neil or just curious about this reboot, you might get a laugh from playing through Shaq-Fu: A Legend Reborn, depending on how much you know about Shaq himself. Otherwise, there’s very little else to enjoy here. The gameplay is shallow for everyone, and the collision issues and control lock-ups make a very mediocre experience. This reboot does nothing to change the legacy of the infamous game it’s based on, but also shows how some things are better left in the past.
This review is based on a digital review code for Shaq-Fu: A Legend Reborn for the PlayStation 4, provided by Saber Interactive and Big Deez Productions.