Shaquille O’Neal is out to settle the score of ‘94 with his latest game, Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn, but is it the redemption from the tragic flop, Shaq Fu? I think so, because this title pretty much wipes away the terrible legacy of its Super Nintendo counterpart with a new style of gameplay, funny story, well crafted cutscenes and music, and this all meshed, despite one bad glitch, and a couple of missed jokes.
Shaq Fu: A Legend reborn separates itself from its predecessor by being a side scrolling beat em up, as opposed to a fighter. While there is not a variety of different moves, Shaq can use items like street signs and boulders to clear enemies. Also scattered throughout each level are the two upgrades; Big Diesel and the Shaqtus. With the Big Diesel upgrade, you can dispatch enemies with fast, high powered punches, and as the Shaqtus you can use ranged needles to clear the area from a distance. I found the gameplay to be simple, but always timed these mechanics in a manner that kept the combat fresh.
The plot is basic, and is “full of plotholes” to quote Mr. O’Neal. The story begins in Hunglow where our hero is found in a basket by the river. He is then taken in by his future Mentor, Ye Ye, a guardian of Earth who teaches Shaq to become a rickshaw driving martial arts master. Everything was fine until demons destroyed the small village, thus motivating Shaq to fight these demons who have taken on parodied forms of celebrities. While not the greatest narrative out there, I found plenty of jokes about hollywood that made me chuckle, as well as Shaq taking a few shots about himself. I found only two gags that didn’t land, and these were product placements for Icy Hot as a health pack, and Gold Bond having a crucial element to the plot. Despite those bits overstaying their welcome, I found the rest of the comedy to be a great tongue in cheek homage to the failure of its older iteration and the state of Hollywood.
Cutscenes are well animated and performed. I found these colorful cartoons to be the best part with the unique character designs and vibrant colors. These instances are enhanced by the wonderful voice actors, especially Shaq himself who keeps a straight face through some of the silliest lines I think I have heard in a video game in quite some time.
As far as the soundtrack goes, it jumps between hiphop and the occasional orchestral scores. While these tracks are not memorable, they fit the mood, but the real star of these musical numbers is the catchy opening theme that is rapped by the star himself. I found myself getting this tune stuck in my head throughout my daily life and I still catch myself thinking about the chorus.
I did come across one major problem that caused me to reset my PlayStation several times at the third boss, Kandy. I would get to a certain point in the battle and the characters on screen would run in place endlessly. This became a nuisance after this happened three times, but is balanced out by the checkpoint that is placed right before the encounter.
Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn, at its core, is a very basic title, but I had a lot more fun with this than one should have the right. From the silly jokes, cutscenes, and opening themes, I found myself thoroughly entertained throughout my journey. I can say that I laughed quite a bit and if you enjoy silly humor and beat em ups, this is worth a purchase.