Shaq Fu

Review by Derik Moore

For Review a Bad Game Day, I chose a game that I actually played and bought as a kid thinking it wouldn’t suck. Dear God, was I wrong. I try to be fair and balanced when reviewing games, but to hell with that. It’s time to rip off make an Angry Video Game Nerd homage. However, I’m going to try and make it through this without cursing. God help me.This will be long, so I don’t blame you for not reading the whole thing.

Spoilers for those leaving: Is it worth it? Dear holy God, no. No. No. No. No. NO. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

This is a game that Trevor and I bought when we were kids because we like fighting games and Shaq was awesome. He still is, but this killed some of his awesomeness. From the moment we started playing both of us knew we’d be had and that we spent $60 on a horrible game. Then we stuck through it and beat the game. Unlike every single other game we owned I don’t think we played Shaq Fu more than a handful of times, and then only to show off to our friends just how craptastic the game is.  I still have it for my Genesis but I refuse to play the game because it’s so horrible. Until now. I won’t review a game unless I’ve beaten fairly recently so I’m going to have to play through this whole crapnado (see what I did there?) of suck first. Sigh.

Let’s do this, headings.

STORY/WRITING

Seriously, in this game Shaq goes to an old store ran by a ridiculously old Stereotypical Asian Guy who thinks because Shaq is an all-star he is actually the one sent from the stars. Yeah, that actually happened. The only way this dude could be more of an Asian stereotype is if he confused L and R. So moderately retarded old guy sends Shaq through a magical doorway that he cleverly concealed with just a sheet to save some dumbass kid from an evil mummy.

Yeah, I’m not making this up.

After entering the magical universe on the other side Shaq somehow knows where to travel, and is completely familiar with all the magic and other crap that exists there. I’ve never understood how movies/games give a character an item they’ve never used or even seen before yet they become an expert in less time than it takes me to type “expert.” Too bad REALITY DOESN’T WORK THAT WAY. For example, I’m a gun owner and a fairly good shot yet if I’m given a rifle I’m unfamiliar with I’m not going to transform magically into a damned clone of Carlos Hathcock. But I’m digressing…probably because I want to avoid thinking about this horrible conflagration of the worst in bad game design.

Every single character is some overused trope from the magical animal girl shaman to the angry big guy who only talks in growls..and wears a chest plate with boob holders.  Then there’s an evil wizard, a Arab stereotype prince and of course an evil mummy.

I’m going to go ahead and say it: The plot is standard “save the princessfrom evil monster” crap. Shaq runs around and beats up the various tropes and stereotypes asking about the prince and I wanted to say every time “I’m sorry, Shaq, but your prince is in another castle.” It doesn’t get any better, ever. It’s the worst kind of thrown together crap. Now, sometimes that works if the game itself is solid. Keep reading to find out why that’s not the case.

One of the most unintentionally funny parts of the whole game is that before each fight in story mode Shaq mouths off to his opponent. That’s not bad per se, but the writing is either so cheesy or so 90’s that it’s hard not to laugh. It’s like they mixed the worst of 80’s action movie villains and 90’s “attitude” in a blender and threw it at a wall to see what stuck. The answer is none.

SOUND/GRAPHICS

This hurts me to say, but there is one good thing about the game. The graphics are well done sprites. Eww, I feel dirty now.

Unlike many fighting games of this time Shaq Fu eschewed the use of crappily done motion captured actors and used hand drawn sprites, which works much better in my opinion.  The sprites are highly detailed, and the animation is smooth. Every the simple animations for idling before a fight look good. The only thing I can say bad about them is that Shaq’s pre fight insult image doesn’t look anything like him at all. Curiously, the tiny picture used by the health bar looks a great deal like Shaq. There is nothing about that quote that makes any sense. The backgrounds are very detailed with lots of stuff going on all around, with animations for many levels. In a really cool idea, some levels have a day and night variant.

The colors are good for the most part, although the game almost predicts the rise of the “real is brown” trope in graphics, with a surprisingly high amount of greens.  Minus the thing about Shaq’s insult picture, the detail on all the fighters for those cheesy scenes is great.  So apparently the only team that actually did their work and did it correctly was the graphics department. Maybe they thought it was a different game?

Sound and music are mediocre at best. Nothing wrong with them in particular, just “meh.” I do have to point out that for each ethnic stereotype fighter there’s an “appropriate” ethnic stereotype music track to go along with it.

Enough of talking good about this crapstack, back to hatred!

GAMEPLAY

The game takes it’s inspiration from Street Fighter style games more than the Mortal Kombat clones common at the time. Interestingly, on the Genesis version hitting start switches the three buttons from kick to punch and vice versa, which is actually a neat idea for dealing with the button number limitations. That, however, is the ONLY thing the gameplay gets right. The attacks are slow and stilted, hit detection can be iffy and pulling off a special move qualifies as a miracle under most religions.  The game becomes less a matter of beating difficult opponents then a matter of overcoming serious design and programming errors.  What’s funny is that the design team apparently knew their limitations, and made adjustments when it came to AI opponents.

There is absolutely nothing I hate more in video games than opponents that break the rules of the game itself to beat you. From racing games where the enemies rubber band back in place after you pass them to fighting games where rules are just for your pitiful self, there are a multitude of ways that programmers can conspire to screw you over. This game features just about every fighting game variant of that. How bad is it?

How about every single opponent throwing their special moves around like it’s the simplest thing ever while you can’t pull one off to save your life.  How about every opponent having a move that can cause damage from anywhere when you can only block when crouched. .If that’s not enough, how about half of the opponents throwing special moves at youbefore the fight actually starts! Yeah, that happens. They’ll throw the fireball analogue at you as the “FIGHT” image appears. How is that even possible? Then of course there’s the SNK Boss crap of their attacks always having priority over yours. In case that’s unclear priority means that one attack is considered to override another. This is fine if one attack starts earlier, but if their regular attacks always counteract yours it makes the game unfairly difficult. This is what cheap difficulty is, modern gamers. You know what else this stuff is?

Grade A Industrial Bullshit. That’s what it is.

So much for not cursing, but this kind of crap just gets my blood to boil. I love a game that offers a legitimate challenge without resorting to outright screwing the player. To me cheap difficulty is a shady way of admitting “We can’t program good AI for anything, so we’re going to cheat. Why? Because we hate you and everyone that you love.” If you’re getting paid money to program, then learn to make a decent AI, don’t just say “screw it” and violate the laws of your game to make “challenge.”

I’ve got a challenge for you cheap game programmers: I challenge you to pull your heads out of your asses and make a functional game, you pricks.

SHIT’S WEAK

All of it. Just all of it. With the absolute lone exception of the graphics, this game is nothing but deep fried crap.  It boggles my mind that a game that’s this horrible ever got released, much less got a big name license like Shaquille O’Neal.  It is one more in the thousands of games that we can point to and say “licensed games always suck.”  This isn’t a game. This is the textbook on how to not develop your game. This is a testament to everything that is wrong with bad design, and a edifice on what shouldn’t be done. This game is regularly listed whenever a set of the “Worst Games Ever’ is compiled, and rightfully so. With the possible exception of Action 52 this is single worst game that exists for the Sega Genesis. I could spend hours extolling just what “shit’s weak” with this game, but the easiest way to do it would require no words at all.

When someone asks what’s bad about the game, just point to the cartridge. That’s all that needs to be said.

IS IT WORTH IT?

I need not state after 1500 words that this game hold no worth whatsoever for those of us who enjoy playing retrogames, or is that restate? In any case, I will in this section actually defend owning the game for three reasons alone. Any other reason I cannot in good faith recommend this game for any reason. I simply do not hate you enough.

1. Collectors: If you are going for a complete Genesis or SNES library you’ll have to own this game. Just leave it on the shelf, it’s for the best.

2. For humor’s sake alone. It’s fun to pull this out and show friends just how insanely bad it is, like watching a movie that the guys at Mystery Science Theater took down already. Hell, riffing on this game would likely be a lot of fun with friends though any you make play this game may quit being your friend.

3. To stop the “Destroy All Shaq Fu Cartridges” crap. There is a group on the internet who ask you send them your cartridges so they can destroy this game completely. As a collector this is so horrible because games deserve to exist, no matter how bad. Thankfully there is another group who asks the opposite. Yes, Shaq Fu should not be played but it was released, and it belongs in the libraries of the consoles that reluctantly hosted it. If the cartridge does nothing but take up space like mine, at least it’s still there and future players can know just how bad some games were. Think of it as a lesson: this is what happens when you think people will buy a game just because Celebrity X endorsed it. God help us if we forget it again.

I will finish with a statement that anybody who hasn’t played this game should for the simple fact that every gamer should experience something like this at least once.  If you really consider yourself a retrogamer I think you need this as part of your initiation as it were into actual retrogaming. No hobby ever is nothing but good so why should retro games be any different? It takes truly bad things to let us know what is actually good, and Shaq Fu is a shining example of a truly bad game. If you don’t want to buy it, even though it’s BELOW $3 on SNES/Genesis, at the very least play it on an emulator for a bit just to say you have. Then go play a good game to wash the horrible taste out of your mouth.

Read the Full Review

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