Shaq-Fu – WTF Wednesday

Shaq Attack Strikes

Welcome to WTF Wednesday! A series where we’ll be looking at strange and often times, awful games that make us scratch our heads in confusion and go “WTF?” in response. We’re looking a hallmark classic of a cult fighting game that could only have been made during the 90s, and it’s a fighting game based around popular Basketball figurehead: Shaquille O Neal. Yes, a fighting game was created that is based on Shaq.

To credit Shaq here, he only lent his name to the project and had no direct involvement with the creation of the game. It was a simple case of trying to cash in on the height of his popularity at the time, the world would quickly realise how much of a mistake it would be to do that with most sports stars really. Shaq isn’t a special exception to this case. Though his stint in the movie Steel is pretty much unforgivable, sorry Shaq!

If you’ve never heard of Shaq Fu before, don’t worry. We’re going to take a brief look at the game and break a few things down for you to better understand WTF Shaq Fu was.

Plot

The plot isn’t the main focus in 16 Bit era classic Shaq Fu oddly enough. Shaq is on his way to a charity basketball game while Tokyo, Japan. On his way to this game, he walks into a dojo somewhere in Tokyo because reasons. He ends up speaking to a martial arts master named Loetsu, who just sort of sends Shaq to a different dimension. The normal things that tend to happen in dojos in Tokyo of course.

The dimension is called ‘The Second World’ and instead of going crazy and screaming because he just got teleported to a new dimension, Shaq accepts his fate and is tasked with saving a young boy named Nezu from an evil mummy named Sett Ra. Seriously wish it was possible to make this up, but no. A company sat down and decided this is how they’d justify the creation of a game called Shaq Fu. Evil mummies and different dimensions.

Eat your heart out Metal Gear Solid.

Game

The game is a bit different across which version you decide to go for, so just be aware of that. You can find it on the Mega Drive and SNES, as well as ports for the Gameboy and more. The SNES version has fewer characters than the Mega Drive counterpart and even holds a few product placement bits, like featuring Pepsi advertisement for example. It’s a strange couple of difference that still has yet to be explained, but if we had to suggest a version to go for, then choose the Mega Drive version.

After the story, you get just a standard fighting game. No sugar coating this one, there are no arcade modes, time attacks, etc. You get dropped into a fighter with characters who could really use some help from a creative design team. No seriously, these characters are just… strange. About as strange as you can manage when you are dealing with a game about Shaq fighting evil mummies and cat people.

But your battles matter little as the mechanics of the game really leave something to be desired. It feels like the flow of movement really wasn’t given a lot of attention here, as you’ll go for a jump in and go flying halfway across the screen with no real feeling of control, so you’ll need to memorize the distance your jump will take you and try and work with that. The combos take some serious patience too, as the controls are slightly delayed and feel rather sluggish.

Interestingly enough as well, the yanks will of had a harder time controlling the Shaq Fighter as the NTSC version was actually faster than the one we go here in the PAL regions, making the already tough to control game that much harder by being sped up a bit more. But you don’t have to concern yourself with learning the game with combos and timing, some characters have moves which have some unfair frame advantages, so you can just spam things like Shaq’s side kick to win just about any match.

The only redeeming qualities for the game is graphics and music. The sprite work for Shaq Fu is surprisingly good, and the shades and level designs really show some level of personality. Considering the subject matter of the game, the team could have easily packed it in with trying to deliver a visually appealing experience. The music follows a similar experience, while the sound effects are dull, the songs in the game are decent enough to engage. Not exactly on par with the Castlevania soundtrack, but certainly a listenable experience.

Overall Shaq Fu is a disappointment in most departments gameplay wise but does hold some level of redeeming qualities.

Summary

So Shaq Fu. Is it good? No. Not whatsoever, the few shining bits it does have going for it do not fix the glaring issues at the core. It’s just not an enjoyable fighting game no matter how many hours you try and put into it. It’s really strange to think that people thought this would be a good fit. Shaq plays basketball, not… fight evil mummies. No matter how good a personality is, it’s just too weird to try and put them into something that clearly does not fit. That is why Jack Black works so well in Brutal Legend!

But we won’t lie. It is silly enough to smile at. Like there is something incredibly amusing about the prospect of Shaq being some sort of Kung Fu master waiting to save the universe. It’s like the prospect of The Rock running for President of The United States. It’s silly and it’s kind of funny. So Shaq Fu is endearing in that respect, and a lot of people while not fans of the game, do find the concept good enough to bring a smile to their face.

Those same fans have even gone on to help bring a NEW Shaq Fu game to the recent year. Yes, there is a new Shaq Fu game that is currently in development for modern consoles. Called Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn, the game is a beat em up this time that’ll be fully acknowledging the cult status of the game with plenty of references and in jokes. A tongue in cheek game made by a bunch of young people who appreciate the B-list quality of the previous game and want to try and bring a fun little game for people to enjoy that taps into the ‘Shaq Fu’ spirit a bit more.

Check out the trailer here.

While not the best game ever, by any stretch. Shaq Fu has its place and we can say we smiled a few times while playing it. We’re looking forward to the ‘Legend Reborn’ game that will release soon.

Are you a fan of Shaq Fu? If so, why exactly? What about it do you enjoy? Let us know in the comments down below!

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  • Pedro Ferreira

    Never understood what was so terrible about this game. The gameplay was flawed but there were so many other good things about it. The gameplay wasn’t even THAT flawed.