The 90s were definitely a weird era, and that weirdness extended to video games. Every famous mascot had a game at some point, such as Cool Spot, McDonalds Global Gladiators, and Chester Cheetah to name a few. One of the more infamous games to come out of the 90s was Shaq-Fu, a game so infamous that not only is there a cult out there hunting down every copy of the game in order to destroy them (they’ll never get my copy, I’ll protect it with my life), but it also managed to get a crowd-funded sequel that released earlier this month. Having owned both of the games now, I figured it was high time I reviewed the original, often considered to be one of the worst games of all time.
While the game is regarded as one of the worst of all time, there’s one compliment it consistently gets: the graphics. Keeping in mind that this is from the Mega Drive and SNES days, I can see where they are coming from. The game’s sprites are actually well done. Shaq looks spot on, and the other characters (who are all unique to the game) look great and varied. The stages also look solid as well, each looking unique, although not too memorable, there’s no stage that stands as iconic like Mortal Kombat’s Pit, but they are definitely serviceable. If there’s one thing you can’t fault this game for, it’s the graphics.
The story is weird to say the least. The basic plot is that Shaquille O’Neill enters a dojo while on the way to a charity basketball game in Tokyo. He is then pulled into ‘the Second World’ where he must beat up a variety of characters in a bid to rescue a boy named Nezu from Sett Ra. The story is incredibly oddball, and it’s probably best if you don’t think about it too much, it’s simply an excuse to have Shaq beat up a variety of characters.
A fighting game is made by its gameplay. Shaq-Fu’s gameplay is undoubtedly flawed. It has dodgy hit detection, with some attacks just not connecting with your opponent. Special moves are also tricky to pull off, although not as bad as people make them out to be. The special moves seem to require precise timing, which I managed to get the hang of and ended up pulling off said moves consistently. I can’t speak for the SNES version, but in the Mega Drive Version the frame rate is actually surprisingly smooth. It’s not 60 FPS or anything but it’s smooth enough. When I first played the game, I was using a 3 button pad, and the controls were simply bad. You had to press the start button in order to toggle between high and low attacks, whereas games like Mortal Kombat had you press 2 buttons at once in order to vary your moves, which was a much better option. However, the game’s experience was improved dramatically when I used my 6 button pad. There was no longer a need to press start to switch between high and low, and the experience was better because of it. Because of the game’s dodgy hit detection, as well as the incredible floating jump, I wouldn’t play this game in a competitive sense, but it’s competent enough to be a good laugh with friends in a couch session.
The Mega Drive version also has a decent amount of content. While both main versions have a decent sized roster and stages, the Mega Drive has 5 more characters and 3 more stages. While some who hate Shaq-Fu may hate the concept of more of the game, I enjoy it, and was surprised by how much content this game had to offer.
The sound is the weakest part of the game here. It’s not awful by any means, but none of the music stands out and the sound effects are generic at best. This isn’t helped on my Mega Drive version either, as the inferior sound chip makes it sound a bit more bit-crushed than say, the SNES version. The sound is passable, but is definitely weak.
Shaq-Fu is definitely a mixed bag. The story is nonsense, the hit detection is flawed, special moves are finicky, and the sound is generic. However, there is a decent amount of content on offer, the graphics look nice for the console generation it was on, and it’s just stupid fun. If you want to enjoy Shaq-Fu follow my advice: Play the Mega Drive version, grab six button controllers, grab some friends, and don’t take it seriously not matter what.