Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Project Spotlight: 'Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn' by Big Deez Productions

Everyone deserves a second chance, right? We all makes mistakes, whether it's doing things we shouldn't have done, missing out on opportunities we should have taken, or making a subpar fighting game based on one of the (literally) biggest basketball personalities of all time. That last one is admittedly a bit of a niche situation, but that's what happened with the original Shaq Fu video game of the early '90s. What should have been wild, absurd, and fun was plodding, uninspired, and, frankly, boring. It seems like an impossible task, making a game about Shaquille O'Neal that turned out to be fairly pedestrian, but so go the unexpected twists of history. It's not really surprising considering the mediocrity of rest of Shaq's non-basketball entertainment - Kazaam, Steel, those rap albums he released - but luckily he's not content to let Shaq Fu be remembered as a failure, so it's Big Deez Productions to the rescue, bringing Shaq Fu to a new generation of consoles and gamers. And this time it looks like it might actually be good.

The main problem with the original Shaq Fu is that it didn't capitalize on the craziness of the concept. A Legend Reborn looks to rectify that. It's a far more stylized game, with Shaq being muscled in comic book-sized proportion. The action borders on cartoon silliness, which is kind of what you need for this sort of game. There hasn't been any gameplay footage released, but judging from the trailers and art (above), it looks like the game's tone will match the larger-than-life personality of its namesake.

Most of the backer rewards center around the game, which is being published for PC (note: the $450,000 goal is to get the game on consoles. The Indiegogo campaign is set up so that the development team keeps the money raised regardless of if the goal is met, but according to the developers the PC version is the one that is guaranteed whether the goal is met or not). You can get DLC for life - which, if you've played any game in the last few years, you know is a good deal - exclusive characters, and beta access to jump into the game even sooner. If it's been your dream to be in a video game, you can get close with a voice recording, special move motion capture, or even your face in the game. For the true Shaq fanatics out there, there are cool additional perks like t-shirts and signed basketballs, personalized messages from the Big Diesel, or getting him to follow you on various social media platforms. A lot of the higher-priced tiers, like Kings tickets or playing ball at Shaq's house, are gone, but if you've got a few ten thousand dollars burning a hole in your pocket you can still get a trip to the TNT set or have Shaq DJ a party. I'm not sure how Shaq's turntable skills measure up, but you can at least say you've done it.

It's great that Shaq and Big Deez Productions are looking to bring back Shaq Fu, and it's cool that they're choosing to do it via crowdfunding. It's the kind of game that has "fan favorite" written all over it and for some reason feels like it'll feel much more at home in the internet age of memes and social sharing. Having the original Shaq Fu may be a boon to this project: the team knows they have a lot to make up for regarding the original's failure. Even though, as the team says, this game has nothing in common with its predecessor besides "the name, and the starring character" there's no denying its legacy, and hopefully the team will capitalize on these second chance points. Or will make this one a slam dunk. Pick your metaphor.

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