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.
Shaq in Japan
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”.
Shaq Fu in Japan
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.
Japanese Thoughts About Shaq Fu
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!
I totally get where they’re coming from, but with how America is represented in Japanese games sometimes I dunno that they should be the ones to talk 😛
Although they pretty much nailed America in Tengai Makyo IV.
Side note, when trying to see if I was spelling ‘Makyo’ right, I found mixed results. Even the wiki page for the series uses multiple spellings (with u, without u, with accent over the o). Heck, it’s even spelled two different ways in the same sentence. Is there a ‘right’ way? Is it kinda complicated by the accent on the o?
“Makyo” is the same spelling system as “Tokyo” “Kyoto” “Kobe”, so you’re in good company. To type it into a computer you’d write “makyou”, but people are not computers, probably.
Thing is, the game isn’t even American: it’s French (by the now-defunct Delphine Software, who’d never made a fighting game before). If anything, confusions between Asian cultures were more rampant here than in the US back then, despite a head start in massively importing anime.
Let’s send a copy of the game to Kusanagi Tsuyoshi and ask him to make his friends play it for his YT channel.
That “Cartridge only Game Gear” picture is actually a bootleg Megadrive game. Game Gear cartridges don’t look like that.
Haha wow, that make the situation even weirder. But maybe that’s why it’s cheaper than the other one. I’ll keep an eye out for more copies on Japanese sites and see what happens with reviews/prices.
I actually have seen Kazaam, curiously enough. You are missing nothing. It’s terrible, but not even terrible in an especially interesting way; it’s a completely formulaic children’s movie with the world’s lamest message: that bootlegging rap albums is bad. I’m not even making that up.
I remember thinking the Game Boy port of Mortal Kombat 2 was decent. It was way stripped down, of course, but at least the gameplay was reasonably fluid.
Kazaam suuuuuuuucks. My parents used to let me take a bunch of friends to see a movie for my birthday when I was growing up, and I chose Kazaam one year. I probably loved it, but it does not hold up at all.
Yeah, Shaq Fu is just yet another cash-in on the Street Fighter II craze with laggy controls and overly long animations. Arcades and consoles had a ton of these. It’s the marketing hype that condemned this game to mockery. If Time Killers had the same promotion budget we’d be making fun of that, too/instead.
What the holy heck is Strip Fighter?! I can take a good guess based on the name.
Also, when one person compared it to Mortal Kombat, it reminded me of something i always wanted to ask. What is Japan’s familiarity/opinion on the Mortal Kombat franchise. While it’s an American-made franchise, so much of it is based on Asian mythology that i’ve always been curious as to what they think about it over there. Is any of it accurate, or is it as insulting as Shaq-Fu’s depiction of Tokyo?
The text at the top of the image of the bootleg Game Gear cartridge says “Mega Drive”. That’s weird.
Well, Mega Drive is the name Genesis was known over in Japan. That said, why it appears alongside a Game Gear cartridge is quite a mystery…
I have a copy of the SNES version autographed by Daigo Umehara. When I handed the cartridge to him, he first squinted at the label with a confused expression, completely unfamiliar with it. At that point I simply said “Kusoge”, which made him laugh and he cheerfully signed it. I still keep it on a shelf, displayed on a small plate easel.
“So I guess this is how they see the Far East?”
Not any more ignorant than how the Japanese view the west as some burger-gargling culture of cowboys who live in grungy cities based on Blade Runner. XD
Say what you like, but they nailed American inner-city street life. Observe:
To be fair, I think it’d be a natural reaction to be guarded and skeptical about a hyperactive girl that just jumped out of the sewer and another girl who apparently teleported there in the middle of the confusion. Also, in the 90s people were still bitter about Excel copying Lotus 1-2-3. The guy with the chain was just giving Microsoft some spirited feedback.
Actually, Excel Saga is amazing. It’s perhaps the single greatest comedy anime ever made. Also if you think that’s something, that entire episode goes way further with the concept. This specific episode even goes as far as parodying Wonder Woman and The Simpsons.
I might check it out. That clip was pretty funny.
The Gameboy version of Battle Arena Toshinden is actually pretty good.
I think — at least at the time — Takara’s SD Game Boy ports of Neo Geo fighting games were regarded well (basically, think like an earlier version of the Neo Geo Pocket approach to SNK fighting games).
I used to play the Game Boy Street Fighter II, and for the time, it was a reasonable downport of the experience that felt mostly the same, but by today’s standards, it hasn’t aged well at all.
I just want to remind everyone that the “destroy Shaq-Fu” site itself got big enough to generate a joke site.
It’s quite interesting to know how Japanese would feel about games not sold in there in first place. The feeling’s quite mutual I suppose. That said, I wonder if there’s any Japanese thoughts about games such as StarTropics and Secrets of Evermore out there somewhere… And while on topic, I suppose it would be worthwhile to take a look at how Japanese games in turn represent USA and the West in general.
If you’re interested in that topic in general, here’s how a Norwegian movie from the mid 80s represented American culture.
(Great movie, for the record.)
You know, all I could think about is how I could go for one of those giant burger things and an enormous Coke.
Hi 🙂 Japanese ShaqFu player here. I don’t know much about the reaction in Japan when it was released in NA, but let me explain a ShaqFu situation around me.
First, almost all Japanese doesn’t have any idea what ShaqFu is, but as the article point out, some may hear the name thanks to AVGN, who is famous in Japan mainly because his video is reproduced with Japanese sub on niconico, introducing it before. A few people who I met have any knowledge about ShaqFu regarded it as one of MegaDrive (Genesis in US) cartridges, not the most notorious fighting game people in general look on. Such kind of position is taken in the place in Japan by e.g. “Fight Fever” and “Shura no Mon” (both have interesting feature imo).
By the way, I confirmed most comments cited in this article is from a certain video on niconico, where AVGN is relatively famous as I mentioned before, so though I’m agree with the influence of AVGN, I feel it might be possible the citation is a bit biased when taliking about Japanese gamers and ShaqFu.
Sorry I got off track. Turn to the availability and price. ShaqFu is made as region-free software, so we can play this without any converter on Japanese Megadrive if we get a cartridge. However, sadly I’ve never seen ShaqFu in any used game shops even though there are actually a bunch of shops which sells overseas cartridges. I found someone’s comment on twitter saying it was sold at Akihabara game shop far ago but couldn’t pick up more datail. Also, One of My friend told me he bought one by importing at that time it was released. Speaking about my personal experience, I bought one at an import game shop on the Web four years ago and if I recall correctly it cost around 15USD. After reading this article, I checked the price at the shop I bought and it is 53USD. In our country, the price increase of old games has been claimed for these years, and that seems to happen to ShaqFu, too.
And now let’s talk about the reaction to the playabilty from my friends. I’ve introduced this game to some of my friend and had some casuals, and the majority reactions are… yeah, exact same one what you are guessing. Not friendly operability and too unique game system for most fighting game players. On the other hand, I have to say there are surely a few who felt there is a possibility in this game (they used top-tier characters btw). In my opinion, this game is too outstanding and obscure for beginners to learn. Recently Zool(@Zool_TE) and Rockforge(@Rockforge420) made incredible guide and combo movie of ShaqFu (srsly recommend to check out his YT channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/wingedyoshi), and if such kind of knowledge and technique is diffused among the gamer, possibly the reaction will be different.
To close I would like to express my gratitude. It is brilliant to see someone talk about ShaqFu and you made a great contribution to this 🙂 Thank you for writing this article.
If it is possible to explain, why is AVGN popular in Japan? Much of his appeal stems from specific word play that I think wouldn’t come across in translation. What does “he’d rather have a buffalo take a diarrhea dump in his ear” turn into?
But that’s not word play. It could be translated literally and retain all of its meaning (“I’d rather have something extremely unpleasant happen to me than do X”). I’m sure you realize Japanese has words for everything in that phrase…?
Wow, thank you for all the great information! It was difficult finding Japanese information about Shaq Fu, so your comment is very insightful.
Not at all and again thank you for the article 🙂
Actually even in Japan it’s hard to see Japanese info about ShaqFu. Only a tiny amount of tweets are remaind.
Probably because people love old games and someone being mad with old games… I think. Also he indicates his anger by his expression and gesture well, so it’s easy to realize even for Japanese when to laugh.
The lyric is translated in literal way. Though I understand what each words mean but actually have never got the picture what he is singing about by the lyric, except that today he’ll introduce another kusoge as well.
sry I don’t understand how to reply lol. This comment is adressed to Whelkman.
Thanks, I got it. I appreciate the reply.