Also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows
Sit down, children, and let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, there was a fighting game called Mortal Kombat that took the world by storm. This story is not about that game. This story is about a game called Shaq Fu, a hilariously cringe-worthy attempt to cash in on both the popularity of the 1v1 arcade fighter, Mortal Kombat, as well as the star power of NBA star, rapper, actor, and occasional professional wrestler Shaquille O'Neal. While receiving mixed reviews at the time - fighting game fans weren't too terribly difficult to please at the time - Shaq Fu has since gone on to be considered one of the worst games of all time. While it does have a cult following (-raises hand-), there's also a group dedicated to finding every Super Nintendo, Genesis, Game Boy, and Game Gear cartridge ever sold and destroying them to rid the world of the game. Gamers everywhere were in for a shock, then, when an Indiegogo campaign appeared to reboot Shaq Fu as a modern and hopefully less craptastic game. Gamers were even more shocked when the game actually got released. The biggest shock of all, perhaps, was that not only did a reboot of a LONG despised game get crowdfunded out of the blue and actually see release, it's also actually a pretty good game.
The original Shaq Fu was a 1v1 fighter, and while that may have been a commercially wise choice back in 1994, things are a bit different in 2018. The fighting game genre's heyday has long come and past, and while there are still popular, successful fighting games, the genre as a whole doesn't have the success it once did. With that in mind, development of Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn shifted the game's genre from the original's 1v1 fighter to a 2.5D beat 'em up similar to 2012's Double Dragon Neon. I pre-ordered this new Shaq Fu as soon as it was up on Amazon because not only am I (mostly ironically) a fan of the original Shaq Fu but I love seeing old, dead IPs from the early and mid 90s get revived with reboots for modern consoles. It was a fantastic surprise, then, when I started playing the game and actually found myself really enjoying it. Like, this wasn't a "Oh, this game sucks less than I expected!" sort of situation; this was a "This game is actually legitimately good" sort of situation, and that's the last thing I expected out of a new Shaq Fu.
Visually, the game's good. Not amazing. Not disappointing. Just kind of "Oh, this is nice." Like watching a high school football team's championship game. Few if any of the players are actually going to make it to the NFL, but they're pretty good. The music is the big surprise win here. While it's VERY 90s in style - it's got a bit of a Will Smith rap vibe - it's actually pretty good if you're cool with somewhat cringey lyrics. The game's title screen song will get stuck in your head EXTREMELY easily. I'm definitely going to be downloading a few of those songs. #NoShame The game's dialogue and humor can be just as cringey as the music's lyrics as the writing breaks the fourth wall a bit too obviously and a bit too frequently, but if you don't take the game seriously, it's good for a chuckle or two.
Although I was EXTREMELY impressed with how not-shitty and actually downright fun the game is, there are some flaws - one of which is pretty major - that I need to address. I played on Switch, so I don't know how this compares to the other three versions, but the frame rate was fine but not great. It seemed to hover between 25 and 30 fps throughout the game although it did stick closer to 30 than to 25 from what I could tell. Still, it would have been nice to see a locked 30 fps or at least variable between 30 and 60. The hit detection and telling where exactly you are on the Z axis isn't the best it could be, but it's nothing that breaks the game. What is a pretty major issue, however, is the loading time. Most of the game, the loading time isn't bad. When you launch the game, however, it takes literally about five minutes to load to the title screen. Once you're at the title screen, you're fine. Loading times in the game aren't amazing, but they're not horrendous like when you launch the game.
Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn is likely to be the biggest surprise game of 2018 for me. I seriously went into this game expecting it to be crap, but it truly is legitimately fun. It's not Game of the Year material or anything, but I can't say that it's a waste of money. I had a really good time with it, and I can see myself replaying it every now and then. The visuals look fairly good, the music is extremely catchy, and the gameplay, while extremely repetitive, is a lot of fun in moderate bursts; I played one level per night, for example, and never got tired of it. This rebooted Shaq Fu won't knock your socks off, but if you give it a go, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
My Rating - 3 Neps
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.