There’s a long running joke about how the Shaq Fu fighting game is one of the worst games ever created. There was even a joke site dedicated to collecting and destroying Shaq Fu cartridges to to make the world a better place.
In my opinion, Shaq Fu is simply a mediocre fighting game forcibly combined with a half-baked concept. The publishers really bet on the Shaq license too – the game was released on the Super NES, Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, Game Gear, Game Boy, and even for Amiga computers.
Sadly, the game was never given a Japanese release, though. But this got me wondering: if Shaq Fu is such a notorious game among Western gamers, what do Japanese gamers think about the game? Do they even know about it? Actually, do they even know who Shaq is? So I decided to look into these questions a few months back.
Before anything, it’s probably best to know if Shaq is even known in Japan. And the answer is “yes”. He’s indeed known in Japan, but mostly among basketball fans and casual sports fans. Surprisingly, he’s also had lots of his movies translated into Japanese. In short, he’s not a completely unknown guy in Japan, but he’s definitely not a household name either. For most people, he’s probably remembered as “that big American basketball guy who shattered basketball hoops”.
As mentioned before, Shaq Fu was never released in Japan. So is the game completely unknown there? I took a look around the Japanese side of the Internet to find out.
From what I can tell, Shaq Fu is almost entirely unknown among Japanese gamers. There’s very little on the topic, and whenever there is a mention of it, it’s usually just part of a big list of every Super NES game made. There are like two or three Japanese sites that briefly explain what the game is, but they don’t offer much in the way of details or commentary.
Still, I was able to find copies of it for sale on Japanese online shops and online auctions. The descriptions usually mention nothing about the game, so it’s entirely on the potential buyer to know what Shaq Fu is. I can almost imagine a Japanese Shaq fan coming across a copy and thinking, “Whoa! I gotta get this game!” and assuming it’s a basketball game starring Shaq… only to realize the truth too late.
I don’t know how much Shaq Fu sells for normally around the world, but it seems to have some higher prices in Japan than I expected.
I’d love to see if it’s sold at any of the big used game shops in Japan, and if so, how much it sells for. But alas, I’m not in Japan and can’t easily check. If anyone knows more info or can help, let me know!
Anyway, during all my searching, I kept reaching the same conclusion over and over: it seems the Angry Video Game Nerd helped introduce Japanese gamers to Shaq Fu more than anyone or anything else. It feels like I’ve said that several times before about other games too.
Again, since there isn’t much info about Shaq Fu on the Japanese Internet, there aren’t many thoughts or opinions about the game. Still, I gathered what I could from message board comments, social media posts, video comments, and more.
oh, I’ve heard rumors about this game
I learned about this from the AVGN
I recall there was a site that was gathering used copies of this game with the sole purpose of destroying them
Why is a basketball player fighting lol
It actually looks kind of fun
It’s got that Strip Fighter feel to it
Why is the camera so far away??
The above comment is understandable – here’s how the game looks when compared to other fighting games from the same era:
I can definitely tell that serious work was put into the game
The animations are actually pretty detailed
It reminds me of Mortal Kombat
The most entertaining comments I found were about specific parts of the game’s story – namely the introduction.
The game’s story is basically that Shaq visits Japan for a charity basketball game. Before the game, he decides to walk around Tokyo. He randomly stumbles upon a kung fu dojo and meets a kung fu master inside. The kung fu master pushes Shaq into an inter-dimensional portal to save some people or something.
Here’s how some Japanese commenters responded to this:
THIS is Tokyo ROFL
So I guess this is how they see the Far East?
This is supposed to be Japan?!
It’s more like China if you ask me
this music! and Pepsi?! lol
Tokyo? This is somewhere in China!
For a bunch of reasons, Americans tend to confuse Chinese culture with Japanese culture. That’s why the game starts at a kung fu (which is Chinese) dojo (which is Japanese) on the streets of Tokyo. The clearly over-the-top, stereotypical Chinese kung fu master makes the culture clash even stronger.
This all combines into a weird amalgamation that would make much more sense if the game took place in China instead of Japan. That’s why the Japanese commenters are surprised to see Japan represented this way.
On complete different note, I also saw the kung fu master get some comparisons to Japanese actor Naoto Takenaka. I can see why!
There’s definitely not enough to say much about how Japanese gamers feel about Shaq Fu. It’d be silly to assume the above comments are how all Japanese gamers feel about the game – the truth is that 99.9% of Japanese gamers probably have no idea it even exists. I guess the next step would be to just go find random Japanese gamers, show them Shaq Fu, and record their reactions… but it’s probably not worth the effort. Who knows, maybe some YouTuber will do that someday for us.
Anyway, it’s a shame that there wasn’t more to discover about Shaq Fu in Japan, but at least we learned about Shaq’s presence in Japan, his pile of poor acting choices, and how some Japanese gamers feel about the infamous Shaq fighting game. It’s a weird topic I’m glad I looked at!