Genesis, SNES, Gameboy (1994)
Developed by: Delphine Software
Published by: Electronic Arts
Genre: Fighting, Random celebrity license, Professional athlete battling supernatural intrigue
Written & Directed by: Paul M. Glaser
Starring: Shaquille Oâ€™Neal, Francis Capra, Ally Walker, James Acheson
It can be said that athletes today are overexposed. I, for one, am pretty tired of Blake Griffin. Seems like every day he hijacks the top ten plays, tries to sell me cars and sandwiches, and flaunts his overrated highwire sideshow like he was sellingâ€¦ a carâ€¦ or a sandwichâ€¦ or something. Does the commoditization of the modern professional athlete have to be so transparent? What about a simpler time? A time when it was just the game. When it was just the art. A time when athletes’ images and personas could be used with integrity, to present only truth in art. Crying in a corner I watch Kazaam and play Shaq-Fu, weeping for the past.
So, I think I really should say that I am not a big fan of the Big Aristotle or The Diesel or The Big Cactus or the Big Shamrock or the Big Chumbawamba. Growing up a Sacramento Kings fan, some wounds go too deep. There are people I hate more, though, namely Kobe Bryant and myself, so I morbidly enjoy subjecting myself to this kind of entertainment, if only because I am fueled off of my own rage and bitterness. I started with the intention of just playing through Shaq Fu and giving my low exchange rate two cents, but then I thought to myself, â€˜you know, me, Shaq made horrible movies, too, and music, I think you should go the extra mile.â€™ I hit myself and then decided I was right, so I made it my mission to watch Kazaam as well. There was no way I was going to dig up any Shaq albums, though, so Iâ€™m still half-assing. I have to say that I do appreciate that Shaq has left his handprint of signature crap in just about every form of mass media, few can really say thatâ€¦ heâ€™s like the reverse Barbara Streisand.
Shaq-Fu is one of those high profile bad video game classics. Everyone knows it sucksâ€”itâ€™s along the lines of a Plan-9 or a, I donâ€™t know, Kazaam, maybe. I had never played it, and I didnâ€™t really want to read a bunch of stuff about it before playing it myself. Please allow me the luxury of being so ignorant as to not know that it was a fighting game. Itâ€™s a fighting game. I thought it was a side-scrolling adventure game, becauseâ€¦ I donâ€™t know, a side-scrolling adventure game at that time featuring an all-star professional athlete Â would have made some semblance of sense (Chaos in the Windy City is completely acceptable). If I was going to walk into a fighting game with a player of the era I would have probably chosen someone like Charles Oakley or Dikembe Mutombo (elbow fatality followed by finger wag?). Shaq was a pretty big star in 1994, and I suppose it was his star power that allowed developers to make him the star of this game. After the success of Bill Russell-Fu, I canâ€™t say that I blame them.
I believe that what has allowed Shaq-Fu and Kazaam to live on as both infamous missteps and camp classics is the fact that they have the most outlandish plots that you could not dare write yourself, even after your most intense binge of Hi-C, cocaine, bath salts and vodka, or whatever you kids are doing these days for kicks. If you have played this game and watched this movie, I dare you to explain the plot of either. I will try my best: Â In Shaq-Fu, thereâ€™s like some mummy or something, that has likeâ€¦ I donâ€™t knowâ€¦ come back to life or something, built some army or something, and then thereâ€™s like some kind of factory, or a robot, and the genie comes out of the boom box, and likeâ€¦ Da Brat is in it, and they are all under attack from the Kurgan, and Aragorn leads the armies of Middle Earth to the Black Gate under the tutelage of Phil Jackson, and then the Death Star is destroyed under the tutelage of Pat Riley, after Shaq Â gets the Master Sword from the realm of Â Outworld, then he wins three championships with the Lakers and one with the Heat, and then likeâ€¦ thereâ€™s a problem with Kobe, and he has to save boy, or protect a boy, or grant a boy three wishes, and Aaron Carter beats him, then thereâ€™s a quickening, and then thereâ€™s like a mummy or something? Yeah?
The sad truth about me is that, like most things, I suck at fighting games. Mostly Iâ€™m just a button masher, in this genre and in life. So sue me, I played Shaq-Fu on easy. I was never going to get through it otherwise, and I really wanted to see the resolution of the plot, so I feel I had no choice. A brief synopsis If I didnâ€™t explain well enough previously, which I think I did: Thereâ€™s some guy called Sett Ra who has been reincarnated into a mummy or whatever, some crap like that, and he resides in the Second World where he has kidnapped some ridiculous boyâ€”of course this boyâ€™s only hope is an NBA All-Star who is in China for a charity game, where he has magically wandered into a martial arts dojo and is recruited by this mysterious old Asian guy under the guise of being the chosen one. My theory about the plot is that the mysterious old Asian guy, growing tired of seeing too many young boys go missing as part of a plot to destroy the world, decided to tell the next customer no matter who it was that he/she was the chosen one because he was just too damn tired of saving the world himself, it just happened to be Shaq this time. It could have been anyone. Blank walks into a dojo and gets sucked into supernatural intrigue. Anderson Cooper is in China working on a story about a growing middle class in Shanghai when he wanders into a martial arts dojo and is sucked into a world of supernatural intrigue; Sherri Shepherd is in China when she wanders into a martial arts dojoâ€¦ and so on.
I did actually get through the gameâ€”I rescued that damn boy and destroyed Sett Ra, all in about twenty minutes, only to realize that my time would have been better spent watching an episode of Hot in Cleveland or something. Basically I just button mashed, mostly backing my opponents into the corner and kicking them, I guess. One thing I noticed was that, maybe outside of the little boy, whose evil incarnation you must fight along the way, is that Shaq is probably the least desirable character to play in this kind of game. All of the characters seemed cooler than him. Mostly they were standard generic fighting game charactersâ€”a voodoo priestess, a hell-beast kind of thing, a cyborg or whateverâ€”and somehow you are an oversized seven-footer whose only master martial art is one that doesnâ€™t existâ€”Shaqido. Iâ€™m not going to knock Shaqido or anything, butâ€¦ I think mastering Antoine Walkerâ€™s shimmy not only takes more discipline but would serve you better if you ever found yourself in a situation that came to violence.
If only you could button mash your way through movies. Â I grew up in the â€˜90s but somehow I never watched Kazaam. Whether I missed out as a child, you tell me. My favorite movie growing up was Babyâ€™s Day Out, soâ€¦ A quick synopsisâ€”Shaq plays a genie called Kazaam who comes out of a boombox to the aid of a troubled young boy with dad issues. The kid in the film, Max (Francis Capra) is constantly berated by young hoodlums for whatever reason, maybe the fact that he is quite a whiney little bastard. His father ran out on him a long time ago and now his mother (Ally Walker, TVâ€™s Profiler, remember?) is set to marry the goofy father figure he doesnâ€™t want. Maxâ€™s problems seem so big, even though he gets to run around all other New York City, has a cool hangout, his own room, and seems to pull an endless supply of Sunny Delight out of the refrigerator. Why couldnâ€™t Precious have found Kazaamâ€”thereâ€™s someone that could have actually used a genie.
Through a series of circumstances, whatever they are, Max comes in possession of a seven-foot rhyming genie. Donâ€™t try to put it back, youâ€™re stuck in a movie with Shaq. Kazaam says he has to grant him three wishes blah, blah, blah, the kid is skeptical blah, blah, blah. With his first wish, juvenile diabetes be damned, Max wishes for junk food from floor to ceiling and of course he gets it. Kazaam doesnâ€™t go away because itâ€™s a 90-minute movie and it needs a deadbeat dad or it isnâ€™t going to work. So Max meets his dad, a greasy club owner. There is some kind of plot with a cassette tape worth a million dollars, then thereâ€™s like, Da Brat, and Spinderella, and Kazaam raps and becomes some kind of rap star, and then there are these ethnic types that become hip to the whole genie thing and scheme to steal Maxâ€™s final wish. Those ethnic types were just thankfulÂ not to be cast as cab drivers in a movie for once. There is a rapping scene with Kazaam and Max, KRS-None and Lilâ€™ Whiyne, which stood out to me, and Shaq demonstrates his Shaqido as well, as if you needed proof of its effectiveness. He also dances in what can only be described as the precursor to Mark Madsenâ€™s infamous display of rhythm. Max dies or something and Kazaam delivers a speech that was, I can only assume, conceived inÂ an unfinished brainstorming session that took place in a public urinal. I watched a movie with Shaq, I want my 90 minutes back? I tried.
Outside of the odd cameo in a parody film or Darius Milesâ€™ star-making performance in The Perfect Score, I canâ€™t really think of manyÂ times in the last ten yearsÂ in which a big time pro athlete is slapped into the starring role of a b-grade movie. Iâ€™m not sure the elephantine mass marketing war machine can really get away with such a thing anymore. They still think that youâ€™re stupid, obviously, but the game has changed. Whereas once they thought you were so stupid that you would buy a game like Shaq-Fu or watch a movie like Kazaam just because you like the name on the back of a jersey, now they covertly convince you that Â you create the stars and their opportunities. I remember LeBron James and Sebastian Telfair sharing a cover of Slam magazine as high school students, wondering to myself why we should really care who or what the next big thing is, they are only going to ask us for money in the long run.
And so I hearken back to this film and this game, a bit nostalgic, wishing that we had this same sadistic money-making gimmick today, because at least with this kind of b-grade crap we can get a good laugh out of it. Itâ€™s like Kazaam says, we are all Djinn and we are all free. Donâ€™t be hysterical, say thank you for your miracle? Whatever.