Why Remake This?
There have been plenty of attempts to remake old games that were either beloved or despised by the public. When the latter occurs, it usually results in another bad game that everyone is willing to forget mere hours after it comes out. Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back is a perfect example of this.
Still, this doesn’t stop people from still trying to remake famously awful games. That brings us to Shaq-Fu: A Legend Reborn. This is a remake of the Shaq-Fu fighting game that was released in 1994 to poor reviews and was the poster boy for bad licensed games.
Now that we’ve moved on from then, is there a chance that Shaq-Fu: A Legend Reborn can buck the trend of bad remakes and even redeem its past?
A Story of General Tso’s Chicken
Right from the start, Shaq-Fu: A Legend Reborn treats you to a cutscene that lets you know this game doesn’t take itself seriously. That is, in my opinion, a smart move considering how ridiculous the game is on its own. What follows is some clever humor (some a little more crass) about how Shaq was adopted by a Chinese lady and the “only distinguishing feature” that clued people in that he wasn’t actually Chinese was a birthmark on his neck.
Growing up, he was picked on for his size (and only his size, mind you) until he was found by Master Ye-ye, who taught him a secret martial art. After becoming a master, Shaq’s abilities are needed to save the world when a demon tries to take over by creating fake celebrities to make the entire Earth dumber by following them.
I have to say that the story did make me laugh a lot. It’s bolstered by every bit of dialogue being fully voice acted, and that makes the whole thing that much more ridiculous. It’s a game that is intentionally politically incorrect and, hate me or not, I found it funnier because of that. There is one occasion where the humor gets a little too “out there” for me (in the case of one boss), but the rest had me entertained.
Shaq-Fu: A Legend Reborn was smartly re-imagined as a beat-em-up game rather than another fighting game. This means that you’ll control Shaq through a handful of long levels using combos and special power-ups to take on hordes of enemies and bosses.
Shaq can use a combo by pressing the “Y” button a few times before capping it off with a kick from his size “22” shoes by the press of the “A” button. The combos are fairly satisfying to watch, but I wish there was more variety to the moveset. There are times where it feels like I was just pressing the same buttons over and over again until all of the enemies were down for the count. Had there been more combos and moves Shaq could unlock as he progressed through the game, that would’ve been preferable.
Thankfully, you won’t be fighting the same enemies throughout the game. There are several different types from demon lizards to ninjas. Each one of them will require Shaq to mix up his strategy a bit, and that does help to break what would’ve been an otherwise painfully monotonous game. The first level teaches you how to fight all of its different enemy types, but every level after that expects you to figure it out on your own. I would’ve preferred the game tell me in every level as I took a lot of damage trying to learn.
Shaq won’t only be bringing his fists to the fray. The levels contain one of two power-ups in them: either the Big Diesel or the Shaq-Tus. When gaining these abilities, Shaq then becomes nearly invincible and will mow down waves of enemies. These sequences do a good job of changing up the gameplay a bit, though they can drag a bit at times. That said, I’ll never get tired of seeing “Shaq-Tus” pop up on screen in big letters.
Between Shaq-Tus, lawyers who throw flaming papers, and Icy Hot that fully restores Shaq’s health, there’s a lot to laugh at even in the gameplay itself. There are even a handful of moments where Shaq will talk directly to the game developer in the hopes of getting a better music track in the background.
Shaq-Fu: A Legend Reborn is also bolstered by a surprisingly sound production design. The game looks decent and runs pretty well. On top of that, it has a soundtrack that is as ridiculous as it is catchy. It would’ve been easy for the developers to skimp out in this area, but it seems they tried their best.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review code for Shaq-Fu: A Legend Reborn was provided by Saber Interactive and Big Deez Productions.