Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn (Nintendo Switch) Review

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Welcome to the rebirth of Shaq. The spiritual successor to what has been dubbed the worst game of all time, Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn looks to right the wrongs of Shaqs long-since passed. With a fresh story and a clean slate, can our basketbrawling hero be forgiven?

A Legend Reborn

Our story begins with a misshapen tale of Shaq’s origin; a Chinese orphan bullied and abused for his height. In his isolation, a village elder named Ye-Ye takes an interest in him and teaches him the ways of Wu Xing, an ancient fighting technique. Shaq’s incredible power is soon needed to fight off demons in the form of celebrities, each aiming to subjugate humanity by brainwashing them into moronic subservience. I have rewritten this introduction seven times now, and this is the best way I can describe the plot. It is perhaps the most bizarre and outlandish story I have ever encountered in a video game. Beyond the realm of rational and sensical, it smashes together familiar faces for the sake of a cheap laugh and a cameo, and it shouldn’t work. It really shouldn’t work; and yet here I am bewildered by just how much I enjoyed it. It almost serves as a metaphor for what the antagonist of the game aims to achieve, putting forward something so stupidly enjoyable you might believe the game has come to life.

The humour of this game is a particular stand-out factor. Be it through the storytelling, or simple remarks made to introduce each new enemy, it’s present throughout. It served as my main driving force to continue playing, and what a force it turned out to be. Of my time playing, only one joke really fell flat, where Shaq broke the fourth wall and started talking to the game designer. In that instance, I felt the game trying a little too hard to keep up what it had already done so well, but it was only there I really find fault. Obviously, humour is brilliantly subjective, so your experience may be a little more hit and miss. If the idea of the story has you amused however, you should find plenty to enjoy.

Shaq Attack

Beyond the nonsense and the humour, there is the gameplay. If you have played any modern, or classic for that matter, beat ’em up game, you should know what to expect. You play as Shaq and take on hordes of monsters a screen at a time, until you reach the end of the stage and fight a boss. Rinse and repeat until you beat the game. Everything about this contrasts the unique and interesting storytelling, putting forward something so generic in nature it almost feels wasted in this setting. To be perfectly clear, there is nothing necessarily wrong about the combat in this game, but I also struggle to think what sets it apart; what it does so differently to stand out. There really isn’t much. I find myself disappointed in this respect, the thought of how simply this could have been escalated ever-prominent as I played. If Shaq’s attacks were bigger, more boisterous, more outrageous and unique; if they worked the hilarity and stupidity into the combat, this game could have pushed its limits far beyond anything we have seen.

When I first played this, I found myself expecting to see wacky combat like I had never seen before. It was a bit of a kick to see something so standard, but the game rather unexpectedly grew on me. With the story as motivation, and the gameplay itself not flawed by any means, it didn’t take long to enjoy it as a generic beat ’em up. While I wish it could have gone beyond this, it does a good enough job of providing a means of appreciating the more praiseworthy elements.

The Third Dimension

Graphically speaking, Shaq Fu had me conflicted. On one hand, it puts forward a beautifully colourful and alive art style in its cutscenes and character design; on the other the somewhat muddied 3D space used for combat. At first, the difference really struck me. The 3D space in itself isn’t an issue, but to go from something so fluid and refined to something quite simply less so; it’s jarring. Like many of my complaints, they only really stand out as you start the game, and soon fade from your mind. Even so, it again lingers in my mind just what could have been. For everything the game does right, its fault to the core is in its consistency. If the gameplay matched the humour; if the artistic direction of the cutscenes flowed into combat. Each individual component is fine in and of themselves, but I’m left wanting to see them in better harmony.

All things considered, Shaq Fu surprised me in all the right ways. Through its lack of consistency, it still puts across a brilliantly stupid narrative delivered by the Big Diesel himself. Although only containing six stages and around two hours for a complete playthrough, the experience offered goes beyond justifying its £18 price tag.

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