Halls of EA -Shaq Fu
What do Paris, Shaq, and Kung Fu, have in common? Spoiler alert: They're all part of the creation of the in-your-face fighting game featuring Shaquille O’Neal who challenged gamers with, “Come and get yours!”
I talked to Producer Jim Rushing about the game and how it was made back in 1994. He told me that it was the success of EA's other sports celebrity games—mainly Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City, Jordan vs. Bird: One on One, and John Madden Football—that inspired them to approach Shaquille O'Neal for a project. Besides being a relative newcomer to pro basketball (his second year at the time), Shaq's other passions included rapping (he released his first album, Shaq Diesel, a year earlier) and kung fu. All of these ideas emerged into one game: Shaq Fu.
Once Shaq was on board, the publishing team traveled to Paris, France to meet with the developers at Delphine Software (the studio behind classic games like Out Of This World and Flashback). That's right, Shaq Fu's stunning 2D graphics on both Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo came right from developers making games off of the famous street, Avenue Des Champs-Élysées. Shaq Fu marks one of EA’s early attempts at creating games with studios from all over the world.
What most people tend to remember is just how zany Shaq's adventure became—even for a 90s video game. Who wouldn't chuckle at a premise where Shaq's curiosity for kung fu resulted in him traveling through an alternate universe to fight cyborgs and mummies in locations like Gargoyles' Peak or Vagabond Temple? Even the dialogue has that Shaquille O'Neal touch with exchanges like:
“Be careful, Prince. You might hurt yourself with those swords.”
“My swords will make you think twice about that comment.”
An interesting detail about the Street Fighter-style 1-v-1 fights: EA had to "coach" Shaq in kung fu. Since Shaq wasn't classically trained in kung fu, the developers helped him out a little by having one of their graphic designers demonstrate some of the moves he'd use in these fights—the same moves you see on Shaq Fu's promotional materials.
Deep in the corners of EA, we managed to find a salute to the old days with the Shaq Fu poster (pictured above). We also found, hidden in a bag in the EA marketing pit, an unwrapped and new copy of Shaq Fu. Whoever owned it didn't even want to break the seal; that is how prized the game is today.
Although this game won't make any “best games of all times,” it does have a soft spot in our childhood memories. Even though it ranked #4 on Gametrailers' “worst videogames of all time” list, we prefer to think of it as a cult classic. Looking back, despite how you feel about it, Shaq Fu was one of the more notable and surprising collaborations between EA and a pro-athlete, and we continue to pay homage to it by keeping a 4ft x 4ft poster in the halls of EA.
The Halls of EA is a look at the people, places, and artifacts that define EA history