NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal will be in attendance at The Game Awards tonight, with a special announcement for fans of cult 1990s fighting game Shaq Fu.
Video game sponsorship deals have produced some strange releases over the years, but it’s fair to say that few of them are quite as bizarre as the interdimensional Mortal Kombat knock-off Shaq Fu. If you’ve never heard of that particular title, get ready for an education during tonight’s broadcast of The Game Awards.
Star of the game and NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal has taken to Twitter to tease a ‘little Shaq Fu surprise’ set for the awards ceremony later tonight. O’Neal is set to appear in person to deliver the news, although it’s unclear exactly what he’ll be announcing.
Released in 1994, Shaq Fu came at a time when the NBA star was on the verge of becoming a pop culture icon. In the years that followed, O’Neal would star in movies like Kazaam and Steel, as well as releasing hip hop albums like Shaq Diesel and You Can’t Stop the Reign.
Like those movies and albums, Shaq Fu was derided by critics as yet another me-too fighting game trying to ride the wave of popularity that the genre was experiencing at the time. Since then it’s only been criticized further in terms of its overall merit — but the pop culture relevance of O’Neal has given it something of a second life.
Today’s industry would be unlikely to produce a fighting game starring a major NBA star, and there’s a certain sense of nostalgia for a time when video games could afford to be so bizarre. As such, last year’s Consumer Electronics Show saw the announcement of a sequel.
This project would gain the subtitle A Legend Reborn when it surfaced on IndieGogo a few months later. The campaign managed to reach its funding goal of $450,000, and development has been ongoing ever since — although little progress has been shared publicly outside of some samples of concept art and early gameplay.
It seems likely that Shaq’s big announcement will relate to A Legend Reborn in some way. It could be details of a release date and perhaps some in-game footage, or it could be a re-release of the original game in an effort to raise awareness of its sequel.
Either way, it’s another celebrity and another reveal set to make The Game Awards a must-watch for any video game enthusiast. The ceremony starts at 9PM EST tonight, and will stream via a variety of services including YouTube, Twitch, Steam, PlayStation Network, and Xbox Live.