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Review: Shaq-Fu: A Legend Reborn (Nintendo Switch)By Gabriel PVJ Jones At 04.08.2018 19:22

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Released in 1994, the original Shaq-Fu was very much a product of its era. Thanks to the success of Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat, fighting games had become massively popular. Around the same time, Shaquille O’Neal had already become a household name, so it only made sense for him to star in a fighting game. EA figured that people would line up around the block to see their favourite basketball player fight mummies, beasts, and cat-girls. Seriously, though, while it might have been a dumb concept, Delphine Software dedicated a lot of effort towards making it into an interesting game with some great animation. Unfortunately, it really wasn’t that good, and nowadays everyone treats it like a bad joke.

Speaking of bad jokes, it’s time to discuss Shaq-Fu: A Legend Reborn. Unlike its predecessor, this game fancies itself a beat ‘em up. Shaq walks from left to right through traditional belt-scrolling environs, thrashing everyone who dares to get in his way. As would be expected, celebrities wait at the end of each level, and they are armed with a variety of weapons and quips. The entirety of Shaq’s adventure is a fever dream of product placement, dated references, and casual racism. Where else can life-restoring jars of Icy Hot be picked up and a demonic Paris Hilton beaten up, all while perpetuating Chinese stereotypes? Luckily, the game’s attempts at humour are more inept than offensive. One of the bosses is a giant butt; it has a special attack called “Twerkules,” as in Hercules meets twerking…yeah. Try not to think about it too much.

As far as genre conventions go, this one doesn’t stray far at all. Shaquille has a basic combo, jump-kicks, power-attacks, and context sensitive moves, like countering bat swings and reflecting projectiles. The general idea is to wear enemies down with a few punches, and then finish them with a devastating power attack (which all seem to involve Shaq’s size 22 shoes). There’s also a shoulder tackle for stunning foes, which occasionally works, and an earth-shattering ground pound to take out multiple goons at once. At certain points, a power-up will appear that transforms Shaq into a Steampunk mech or a cactus. Unlike most modern era beat ‘em ups, there aren’t any skills to unlock or experience levels to gain, and that’s fine. The idea is to deliver a pure, focused brawler with refined mechanics and fun gameplay.

Of course, the problem with Shaq-Fu: A Legend Reborn is that it doesn’t even try. Punching baddies is like punching mashed potatoes; there’s no impact at all. Combat encounters feature little in the way of consequence or entertainment. The challenge mostly comes from dealing with cheap hits and poor hit-boxes. A lot of attacks have a surprisingly large area of effect, so Shaq is constantly getting slapped by something. Still, the generous healing items guarantee that anyone will see this adventure through to the end, not that they would want to, since things won’t ever get any better.

The one constant is repetition. It’s normal in a beat ‘em up to see a lot of the same enemies over and over again, but here even the newer baddies are usually just model-swaps. The strategy never really changes, either. Shaq cycles through his tired arsenal over and over again. Occasional gimmicks, such as stage hazards or rolling boulders, don’t inject any real variety into the action. Everything wears itself out almost instantly, leaving players to go through the motions as they grow increasingly bored.

It’s impossible to point out a single enjoyable quality. The frame-rate is intolerable; this isn’t a looker, by any means, yet it struggles to get above 30fps. Fans of load times are sure to be happy, because the initial loading screen is excessively long. Then there’s the awful soundtrack. Most of the songs are either nonsense or drowned out by excessive sound effects. The sole highlight is Fu Schnickens’ What’s Up Doc? (Can We Rock). This song plays for a couple minutes in the final level, before being inexplicably replaced by dead silence. Of course, the one actually decent thing that occurs in this entire ordeal is cruelly ripped away.

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Final Score
As bad as [i]Shaq-Fu: A Legend Reborn[/i] is, it could always be worse. Playing through this terrible beat ‘em up won’t cause eyeballs to melt or fingers to lose their functionality. Still, there’s absolutely no enjoyment to be had here. All players have to look forward to is a two-hour spectacle of mindless button-mashing. This is nothing more than an incomprehensible blob, lacking both form and substance. Occasionally, it gives off the appearance that something meaningful is happening, but really it’s all just an elaborate prank at the player’s expense. Don’t bother humouring it.



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