Shaq is back, and way better than before.
When I heard that Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn was coming to the Switch, I had to give it a shot. My memories of the original Shaq Fu, released for the Super Nintendo in 1994, aren’t great. The weird premise, poor controls, and substandard gameplay made it so bizarrely bad that it is still remembered today as one of the worst video games of the era. But here we are in 2018 and NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal is back with Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn. It’s a significantly better game than its predecessor, but still has its own set of problems that make it a wholly average experience.
As a mysterious orphan who grew up in China, Shaq uses his training under his mentor Ye-Ye to seek revenge against forces who took out his master. It’s six levels filled with humor that, while I thought was funny and self-deprecating at times, can be off-putting. A lot of points in the story are sure to be polarizing, but I overall liked A Legend Reborn’s humor. After all, this is a game about Shaquille O'Neal, Chinese Wu Xing master who is on the hunt for mean aliens -- it really doesn’t need to take itself all that seriously.
I like that the developers turned Shaq’s adventure into a brawler reminiscent of Streets of Rage or Final Fight, making it nothing like the original fighting game. A Legend Reborn is easy to pick up and play after a few minutes, and controls always felt responsive and tight. Landing combos was easy and the power ups were fun, despite being repetitive.
Unfortunately, A Legend Reborn feels too much like a brawler straight out of 1992. Enemy variety is lacking as I was constantly clearing foes that were just repainted versions of the numerous baddies I was clobbering in the first stage. I also wish the pacing was quicker, as each of the six levels were overly long. As someone with a short attention span, I got bored spending 20 to 30 minutes clearing each stage featuring the same enemies over and over again.
Once you beat A Legend Reborn, that’s pretty much it. You can play a harder difficulty if you want but no reason exists to play through it, especially since the enemy variety still remains an issue. The lack of co-op is very strange and could probably be pretty fun, but alas, it’s nowhere to be found. A gallery featuring some write-ups of all the characters you’ll come across while playing is nestled in the menu, but that’s essentially everything there.
A Legend Reborn is a fun, simple brawler but nothing more. I enjoyed the humor for what it was, and it doesn’t take an overly long amount to time to clear. It’s one of those games you can spend a day playing and not feel like you’re being cheated out of anything if you never play it again. Shaq Fu’s return won’t earn the horrible reputation of its predecessor, but will probably be easily forgotten before the year is over.