It’s hard not to like Shaquille O’Neal. The giant basketball star had a great work ethic, respected teamwork, and had a quirky sensibility (readily displayed in his affinity for Nestle’s Crunch bars). He’s even gone through police training and is now serving as a deputized police officer in Florida.
The man’s affability led to some movie contracts, all of which should have had him questioning his agent and screenwriters. He portrayed a genie in Kazaam, and followed that up with a role which could have been created for him… Steel, the DC comics superhero that rose up in the wake of the Death of Superman storyline. When a studio pays for the rights to a superhero and then intentionally jettisons all of the associated trappings, the movie is going to fail… and Steel did, spectacularly. Many audience members didn’t even realize there was supposed to be a Superman connection.
Still, neither Kazaam nor Steel measured up to Shaq’s greatest humiliation… Shaq Fu.
Shaq Fu was a one-on-one fighting game in which Shaquille O’Neal (as the default character) fought various opponents, working his way up to a grand battle with a mummy. Before anyone starts complaining that a mummy hardly seems like the type of quickly-moving monster which would benefit from martial arts training… okay, no, complain about that. And complain about the idea behind a basketball star being Earth’s chosen champion in an interdimensional combat championship. And while you’re at it, complain about Shaq starting the whole thing off by encountering a secretive Kung Fu dojo in downtown Tokyo (which is in Japan, home of Karate, as opposed to the Chinese kung fu.) Then you can start complaining about the combat system, which used detailed animations that started and ended out of synch with the actual controls, rendering gameplay difficult for all but the most experienced (read: practiced) players.
It got worse. The problems with the original game were magnified as it was recreated (“ported”) for other game systems. The end result was what is often considered one of the worst video games of all time. This, despite the album he produced to promote it.
Perhaps the album only made people less inclined to feel kindly toward the game. But when you’ve produced a terrible game, what can you do about it?
Answer: a remake.
The game’s bad play, combined with Shaq’s continuing popularity, led to it becoming a legend in the gaming community. The lingering buzz about the game (and the jokes at its expense) led a game company to approach O’Neal with a proposition: if they could demonstrate that there was enough interest for a remake, and further could prove to O’Neal that they could avoid the mistakes of the first game, they would like to produce Shaq Fu – A Legend Reborn. It would be a side-scroller instead of a one-on-one game. There would be humor and a coherent (if ludicrous) storyline. The setting would actually be in China. All of the mistakes of the past could be forgotten…
Indiegogo was used to create the game, just barely squeaking over the $450K they needed for full production with $458K in crowdfunding. To their credit, the game was much better than the original. It still wasn’t remotely good, and the buzz quickly turned from positive to negative as nearly all of the promised features failed to materialize. Character customization, player-vs-player, a giant sponsored tournament: none of them happened. All of the mistakes of the past had been corrected only to introduce a host of new mistakes.
Still, the remake was better than the original, and that’s something which can rarely be said about any creative project. Now we just have to wait for Warner Bros. to remake Steel….
Question of the night: What sports star do you most appreciate for their activities outside of the game?