Shaq Fu is not the kind of game most gamers will naturally gravitate toward. Instead it’s one of those things that tugs at the same part of us that causes people to curiously tilt their head at car wrecks or turn around and search for the animal they just hit to see just what their tires did to the thing. Point is, I don’t think anyone is actually expecting a game called “Shaq Fu” to be a gold mine of quality, and in that respect you won’t be let down.
Actually I’m not really sure if Shaq Fu can qualify as a game. Games are enjoyable and amusing forms of entertainment. This is more like a vessel for Shaquille O’Neil glorification; a sort of Trojan Horse of Shaquillian propaganda, if you prefer. See it goes like this – Shaq is sightseeing and absorbing the rich culture of Tokyo before his all-star charity game (no wait, it gets better) when he finds his way to a small shop. The elderly man there refers to him as the “Chosen One” and bids him to enter a portal (disguised cleverly as his back room) and rescue an innocent little boy from the clutches of evil. Shaq, of course, jumps at the opportunity.
PUH-LEEZE. Why don’t we just put a robe on him and call him Mother Theresa? We all know that Shaq would be “sightseeing” at the local titty bar before the “charity game,” in which he will still find a way to make about a hundred grand for himself on the side, likely in commercials.
The rest of the game can be played in Tournament or Story mode. Story mode tells some ridiculous tale about a second dimension and evil ancient Egyptians. It doesn’t really matter though, as you just run around islands looking for locations to fight. After a brief title screen where some words are exchanged, you jump right into a brawl with one of the game’s six other characters. Now here’s the important part – you fight, indeed, as Shaq. Whether Shaq learned how to fight immediately upon stepping into the second dimension, Matrix-style, or whether he just knew it all along and practices on the weekends, is never explained. But for whatever reason, you’re Shaq and you know kung fu.
Well, a martial arts master Shaq is not. In fact, for a giant man who can supposedly dunk a basketball in one hand, while cramming a “Shaq Pack” into his gaping maw with the other, while crushing Iverson beneath his shoe, he’s a horrible fighter. He can kinda punch, and kick, and jump around really well, but that’s about it. This is funny because he fights enemies with supernatural powers including magic swords, lighting bolts, and the ability to send electric dragons rushing toward you. Shaq can… kick. Oh, he has one projectile attack, but a weak one, called the “Shaq-uriken.” (Insert eye-rolling here… “Look, it’s the Shaq-Signal! Quick, Kobe! To the Shaq-Cave!”)
I think it’s safe to say that Shaq comes ill-equipped for battle. The lack of special moves and apparent inability to do combos makes the game pretty boring – unless of course you like having your ass handed to you. You do get to play as the other characters in the game’s Tournament/Versus mode, and they are somewhat more interesting than Shaq, but still extremely poor compared to other games’ varied fighters. Any real enjoyment you might have would be in the Versus modes, but the combat system still sucks and you’re MUCH better off getting a different game. Although, this is the only game where you can control one of six different characters and pummel the unholy piss out of Shaq (if you need a reason, may I recommend Kazzam). Perhaps this is how the game should have been marketed.
I’ve said some pretty good things about Delphine Software in the past, some of which I see now I will have to take back. They are the ones responsible for this abomination, and I only hope that when they sold out, they did so for a ton of money. Interestingly enough, they animated the game with their standard tricks, so it has the same look and fluidity of their previous games. Imagine Conrad from Flashback kung-fu fighting and you have an excellent idea of the game’s visuals.
Though they may be fluid, they’re also tiny, which kind of ruins the point. It was also apparently too much trouble to draw animations for the characters reacting when they’ve been hit, so good luck telling whether or not your attack was blocked or a success. As said before, Shaq can’t link moves or pull combos, or really even set up a proper attack in any way. His foes pretty much just hang back and exploit their magic. I hope you like jumping around and kicking, because it’s all Shaq’s good at.
There’s not much else to say. I came to this game expecting an embarrassing disaster, and that’s exactly what I got. Avoid this thing. I know the kids used to look up to Shaq as a role model, but I seriously hope no one expects him to be the Chosen One. If he were, his showcasing of skills in this game are enough to prove that we’d be taken over by nasty pharaohs any time they damn well please. I would have liked to see a bonus round though, or perhaps as sequel where Shaq takes all he learned from this game and applies it to the court, destroying Patrick Ewing with deadly jujitsu and slamming the ball home while riding the back of the electric dragon with a magic sword in his other hand. Now that might just make this game enjoyable, and half as silly.
You’re right. It’s as bad as you expect.
Shaq… kung-fu… c’mon, who thought this would work?