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Shaq-Fu (SNES) artwork

Shaq-Fu (SNES) review

"If you’ve been playing games and surfing the internet for any considerable length of time, you’ve no doubt come across a review of Shaq Fu that was filled with witty remarks, jabs at Shaq’s bald head, and the unabashed bashing of voodoo (something that Shaq Fu proudly supports) No doubt, said review convinced you that Shaq Fu sucks, complaining about it’s bad storyline and its bad graphics and its bad controls."

Why are you reading this? You know Shaq Fu sucks. It’s one of the most mocked games in the history of mocked games, and for obvious reasons. Shaquille O’ Neal has been many things over the years…a rapper, a genie, a superhero that no one cared about before or after he had a movie…but his stint as a martial arts master is the easiest to make fun of.

If you’ve been playing games and surfing the Internet for any considerable length of time, you’ve no doubt come across a review of Shaq Fu that was filled with witty remarks, jabs at Shaq’s baldness, and the unabashed bashing of voodoo (something that Shaq Fu proudly supports) No doubt, said review convinced you that Shaq Fu sucks, complaining about its bad storyline and its bad graphics and its bad controls.

Well, here’s something to chew on: Chances are good that whoever wrote that review never actually played the game. In all likelihood, he was just going on what he read from some other witty reviewer, and that witty reviewer was just going on what he read from some other witty reviewer, and so forth and so on and BLAH BLAH BLAH. The world is full of idiots, and most of those idiots have Internet connections.

Here’s a little something else to chew on: Shaq-Fu is bad, but it’s not THAT bad.

Yes, the story is dumb. Very dumb. Easily one of the dumbest stories since whatever the hell Boogerman was about. Shaq is hanging out one day, waiting for his basketball game…excuse me, his charity basketball game in Tokyo, and he wanders into some old Japanese dude’s antique shop on a whim. As anyone who’s anyone knows, if you’re black and you visit a foreign country’s antique shop, you run a high risk of being drawn into a magical quest that requires you to use your ‘street smarts’ (which not all black people have, but try telling that to Hollywood) to save the day. But Shaq, apparently, is not one of the five people who’ve seen Eddie Murphy’s The Golden Child, so he falls for it. A few seconds and a magical door later, he finds himself in an alternate dimension putting the Shaq Attack on catgirls, a Persian prince, and a voodoo witch named…Voodoo.

Who cares?

I swear, no matter where I go, no matter what gaming board I visit, there’s always someone…a lot of someones… saying that stories don’t matter in games and that anyone who thinks so is blowing it out their fanny. So why does it matter now? Yes, the story is incredibly inept and probably took all of one minute to create, but it’s the gameplay that matters, right? Right?

The gameplay is…well, Guilty Gear it is most definitely not, but, like almost every other aspect here, its suckiness is over exaggerated like a mother.

It has the graphical goods. Characters flip around, twist, taunt and breath with realistic motions; all happening at a consistent and smooth frame rate. Not a hitch. Backgrounds range from a dark, zombie-filled bayou to a lush mountaintop with a river running through it, the gentle waters flowing beneath your feet. Not only that, but the background are wont to change, showing the different times of day and giving you something to notice if you ever have to play a level over, which you might just have to do.

Shaq Fu’s AI has been described as brain-dead, and it’s true: it’s entirely possible to beat any enemy by getting them into a corner and mashing away the buttons. But, every few matches, the AI smarts up and pulls this same tactic on you. So, while Story Mode is only a real challenge on the Hard setting, not paying attention can cost you at any level.

But that’s okay, because Shaq Fu’s Story Mode isn’t the prime spot. The fun comes from the Duel and Tournament modes, playing it with friends and screwing around with the characters.

And, oh, is there so much to screw around with.

Try Kaori the Bipolar Catgirl, who, besides one projectile that may or may not be a hairball, has no cat-themed moves to speak of. She zips around, dashing in range and out range. Spins around and turns into a mini tornado, mowing down anyone in the way. She can even beat you straight up, pushing you back with a barrage of scratches and clawed kicks.

Or try Mephis, a green goblin wearing a bunch of rags to (thankfully) conceal his gentleman parts. Force-fields, lighting strikes, even an electro-dragon to takes bites out of you. Despite his lame look, the only thing that sucks about him is how his skirt flies up when he’s lying on the ground after defeat.

And then there’s my favorite, Voodoo, the quasi-sexy witch doctor/token eye candy. She’ll summon hawks to peck a hole in your bald head. She’ll pull the voodoo doll act and impale you with a needle. She’ll even transform into a wolf, dash across the stage, and take a big chomp out of your ridiculous ‘Shaq’ jersey. The lady does not mess around.

The characters have enough variety to keep the game interesting, and they’re genuinely original; not a single one riffs of another fighting game. No Ryu clones. No Chun-Li clones. You could make the argument that Mephis is a Raiden clone, but you’d be a douche for doing so. For better or worse, Shaq Fu stays true to itself.

It’s got a simple sort of charm to it, and I think that’s why I find myself liking it despite the flaws. It’s just so whacky that you can’t help but have a little smile as you play. The controls may be a little sluggish, but it’s not crippling. Only being able to jump straight up or jump halfway across the screen in a crazy somersault sucks, too, but you grow into it.

Am I saying that Shaq Fu is good? No. But it is far and away better than most people give it credit for. ‘Mediocre’ and ‘crap’ are not synonymous.

lasthero's avatar
Staff review by Zack Little (February 22, 2006)

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