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Shaq Fu (1994)
Released in 1994, Shaq Fu is one of the most baffling video games of all time. This 2D fighter sees one of the NBA's most famous basketball players fighting otherworldly monsters. These days you're likely to see Shaq Fu on snarky "Worst Of" lists. Much like movies and music, this game proves that Shaq wasn't afraid to dive head first into every form of entertainment imaginable. Now where is the Shaq TV show?
So get this; Shaq is not only the biggest name in basketball, but he's also a trained martial artist. One day he gets sucked through a dimensional portal and has to fight a bunch of ugly (albeit well animated) characters. While traveling around this alternate world he runs into Sett (a mummy), Kaori (a cat lady), Mephis (an undead ghoul) and Voodoo (the sex appeal). They fight.
From the People That Brought You Flashback
Before teaming up with Shaquille O'Neal and forever sealing their fate, Delphine Software was a respected player in the games industry. Despite working on games like Future Wars and Cruise for a Corpse, this French outfit was best known for
Out of this World (also known as Another World) and Flashback: The Quest for Identity. These two sidescrolling adventure games took influence from Prince of Persia and other games using rotoscope technology. The result were games full of realistic animation and otherworldly graphics.
By 1994, Delphine was the master of rotoscoping. It shouldn't come as a surprise that Shaq Fu's most impressive asset is the realistic animation. Hopefully Electronic Arts was looking for a Flashback fighting game, because that's what Delphine delivered. Unfortunately, the jaw-dropping animation
came with a game breaking downside. It turns out that fluid animation does not always equal good gameplay. Flashback may have been pretty, but nobody was raving about its precise gameplay mechanics. Taking these unruly controls to a fighting game was a disaster in the making.
Thankfully Delphine Software was able to shake the memory of Shaq Fu. The studio moved on to a poorly-received Flashback sequel (Fade to Black) and a number of motorbike racing games. The company closed down in 2004, due to financial problems leading to bankruptcy. Thankfully Shaq Fu had nothing to do with the company's closure.
And the Best Version Is ...
So let's say you really wanted to track down the best version of Shaq Fu. I'm not sure why you would want to do that, but
for the sake of argument let's say that you can't live without the sweet, sweet touch of the Shaq Daddy. It turns out that not all versions of the game are created equal and you'll have to do a little digging to pick up the best of the best.
First and foremost, we can eliminate a few versions. Let's start with the pathetic Game Gear port. That goes for the Game Boy version, too. I doubt anybody was clamoring for a portable version of Shaq Fu. We can also get rid of the Super NES version. Despite offering slightly better graphics, the American SNES installment offered fewer characters and stages. The Amiga version keeps many of the characters, but is missing stages and music.
So the Genesis version is best, right? Not so fast! It turns out that the European Mega Drive release is the one to get, thanks to the faster gameplay and improved mechanics. What's more, the computer doesn't cheat and the Mega Drive version features the most characters, stages and options. That doesn't make it a good game, but American gamers have no idea how good Shaq Fu can be.
People Want to Destroy Shaq Fu
True story: Once upon a time back in the late-1970s, the Chicago White Sox had a promotional event where people could go on the Comiskey Park field and burn their disco records. They called it the Disco Demolition Night. It proved popular, with 90,000 people turning up to a stadium with 52,000 seats. As you can imagine, a riot broke out and things got way out of control. Violence aside, there's one thing that the Disco Demolition Night proves: Americans love to destroy entertainment they hate!
For many years, Shaq Fu was something of a Genesis speed bump at the used game store. The failed fighting game was everywhere, much to the chagrin of 16-bit fans all over the world. Some gamers have taken it upon themselves to destroy Shaq Fu on their own (seevideoabove), while others created a website pleading with people to destroy their copies of Delphine's one and only fighter. Just for the record, I'll never destroy my Genesis, Super NES and Game Gear versions of Shaq Fu.
It Came With a CD Single
Gamers that picked up the Genesis or Super NES versions of Shaq Fu were in for a real surprise. The 16-bit installments were bundled with a CD single, featuring the big guy himself doing his best Will Smith impression. The song was called Stand and Deliver, and it's ... well ... maybe you should just listen for yourself.
If you've been waiting for a rap song that seamlessly transitions from Hall & Oates to that TV show Cops, then Shaq Diesel has a little diddy for you. At one point Mr. O'Neal notes that he has bigger balls than RuPaul. How would Shaq know that? And just when you think he's actually going to get rebellious, the NBA star reminds you that he doesn't smoke. The Donkey Kong rap had more bite than Shaq!
What Does Electronic Arts Have Against Basketball Stars?
When Electronic Arts picked up the exclusive license for Shaquille O'Neal, I imagine everybody involved thought it would turn into a popular basketball franchise. Think: Shaq's NBA 1994. But that's not what happened. Instead we get a 2D fighting game from
the makers of Flashback. Did everybody at EA take acid that year? On second thought, that was the year of Mutant League Football and Hockey ... maybe EA actually was on drugs after all.
Much like Shaq, Michael Jordan was picked up for an exclusive contract. And rightfully so, as Jordan was coming off of one of the most successful careers in the NBA. How perfect would a Shaq vs. Jordan game be? After all, EA had already released Jordan vs. Bird and other basketball games. But that's not what they did. Instead they opted for the baffling Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City. This Super NES exclusive featured a 2D Jordan throwing basketballs at aliens. It all leads to the question: What the hell does EA have against basketball stars?