Saturday, June 9

Review: Shaq Fu - A Legend Reborn [Nintendo Switch eShop]


Putting together a sequel to possibly one of the most mocked titles in video game history isn’t for developers lacking in ambition or guts. While perhaps delivering something that’s at least better than the original shouldn’t be too difficult it’s an effort that also carries some baggage with it. Certainly Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn makes a smart move by ditching the weak fighting game setup of the original, opting for a brawler / beat-em-up instead. Unfortunately, on the whole, for each step forward it makes it also takes at least a half step back with issues of its own creation.


Through a set of circumstances I’ll leave for you to discover (wouldn’t want to give away the story, for what it is) in this game world Shaq has grown up an orphan in China who has been bullied for being too big. Sympathetic to his plight an elder master, Ye-Ye, decided to take him under his wing and teach him the ways of Wu Zing. But, since Shaq has a particular mark on his neck, it turns out he’s the Chosen One from a prophecy and that means conflict must ensue. Deciding to take the fight to the people who are after him this sets Shaq on the path to his destiny, and through a truckload of stereotypes and juvenile humor.


Before getting to that detail we’ll review the action itself, which for the most part is adequate if a bit on the button-mashy side. In general throughout you’ll be working with a basic attack that builds up a meter that allows you to use a strong attack featuring Shaq’s massive feet or a powerful ground punch that knocks out anything in the immediate area. The Z shoulder buttons can sometimes be used for a counter, a finisher, or to pick up weapons when they’re available. The regular shoulder buttons enable a dash. If you’re using the joysticks (though I wouldn’t recommend this since at key moments it can be inconsistent at best) the right joystick will have you do a roll vertically on the screen but if you’re using the D-Pad you can just double-tap. As a whole the controls are relatively good aside from the occasional issues with the joystick when trying to break a stun by some characters which requires you move back and forth. Sometimes the joystick will work, but sometimes it just won’t register well and you’ll die for nothing.


Getting into the areas of concern I want to address the weak tea defense I’ve seen for what passes as humor in the game. It’s not “politically incorrect”, it is sophomoric, shallow, and lazy. Some things that start semi-humorous like the blatant advertising for Icy Hot and Gold Bond are run into the ground and get tired through sheer repetition. Then there’s the “fun with stereotypes” humor that’s run into the ground with Asians and homosexuals as the primary targets that feels at least a decade out of place. Throw in some pretty sad “celebrity” bosses like someone meant to be Kim Kardashian who, I kid you not, turns into a giant thong-wearing butt that harms you with flatulence and you get the impression some teenage boys were in charge of providing their “best material” for this effort. Don’t forget a whale that looks like Michael Moore. Get it? He’s fat… so he’s a whale! Oh, how they really skewer these celebs with that biting commentary!


What you’re left with, in the end, is an adequate brawler that tends to vary between too easy (while the enhanced Big Diesel and Shaq-tus modes are cute they’re not very challenging) to tough for the wrong reasons (control issues breaking out of stuns). Through each of the areas you visit enemies can be cosmetically different, and have some nuance, but they’re still a bit cookie cutter and all come from roughly the same 5 core types. This makes for finding patterns you’ll follow to success and, for the most part, there’s not much of a need for more than some basic strategies to stay alive until you get to the boss and need to figure out their patterns. The result is just a run-of-the-mill beat-em-up that seems to be using its “humor” to compensate. If that all sounds great to you, enjoy.

A copy of the game was provided by Saber Interactive and Big Deez Productions for coverage purposes

Score: 5.5

Pros:
  • The choice in genre this go-around is a better fit
  • There are moments that break out of the generic beat-em-up groove the are fun, though usually not terribly tough
  • If your sense of humor aligns with teenage boys (or you are one) perhaps it’ll be funny

Cons:
  • Peddling in cultural stereotypes and kiddie-pool-depth “caricatures” of celebrities feels woefully out of date and gets very tired quickly
  • Some of the boss fights mistake being cheap with upping the challenge
  • Once you remove all of the trappings it mostly plays as a merely generic beat-em-up