No one would have paid attention to Shrek SuperSlam if it wasn’t for the Internet. Even its developers at Shaba Games knew the game they were building wasn’t a hit. Against all odds, Shrek SuperSlam grew a niche audience thanks to a surge of popular Shrek memes and a loyal online following in the fighting game community. Now, one fan is remastering the 2005 fighting game almost entirely on his own.
“I love Shrek unironically,” says Victor, the creator of the remaster, in an interview with Fanbyte. His last name is omitted for privacy reasons. “I love all the movies, all the short films, and most of the games. I have played almost every Shrek game there is.”
Despite having zero game development experience, and driven purely by his love for the game, Victor has been working pro-bono on the fan-made, high-definition remaster since last September as a hobby. He had just graduated high school and the coronavirus pandemic kept the world at a stand still, so he had a lot of time on his hands.
But what’s so special about a 16-year-old fighting game that, for all intents and purposes, was created as shovelware? Why make a remaster? There’s no denying that its license, especially at the time of release, was huge: Shrek debuted in movie theatres in 2001, grossing $487 million worldwide. Its sequel, Shrek 2, grossed more than double that amount. The films are ripe with humor, making them an easy fit for Internet culture in how they make fun of Disney’s capitalism, yet are monsters of it themselves — it’s exactly the type of irony that memes delight in. But ShrekSuper Slam isn’t popular just because of memes.
Beneath its surface lies a surprisingly engaging fighting game that keeps its competitive nature alive. The game isn’t exactly polished, but that’s also part of the attraction: Broken mechanics mean players have found creative exploits to turn the game into something far more complex than it was originally meant to be. Like an onion, Shrek SuperSlam has layers upon layers. This has led the fighting game to amass a cult-following online through forums like ShrekBoards, which has a Discord server with over 1,000 members, and a growing community on Reddit. Tournaments are regularly held online.
“As a movie tie-in game, it’s honestly a lot better than you’d expect it to be,” Shrek SuperSlam player and tournament organizer Flick (who prefers to keep his real name confidential) says. “And on a competitive level, the movement rivals Super Smash Bros. Melee, which also gets a lot of praise for its movement options.”
If you haven’t played it before, Shrek SuperSlam is similar to Power Stone and the Super Smash Bros. series. The aim is to build up a meter to unleash smash attacks that knock other players off the stage. As these characters are thrown off, the stages become destructible, adding chaotic charm to fights.
Many players are drawn to ShrekSuper Slam because of their love for Shrek, including Victor. He’s watched Shrek 2 30 times, collected a ton of merchandise, and even has a Shrek sticker on his front door. He’s played many of the licensed games, including the Mario Kart-inspired Shrek Smash’n Crash Racing. But Shrek SuperSlam always stood out as his all-time favorite.
Seeing the rest of the community build their own fan-made touch-ups, including remastered textures made by a ShrekBoards user named Lunoz (which was eventually added to Victor’s own remaster), influenced Victor to create his own full-fledged HD remaster.
“I got the emulator, the game, and the textures,” he says. “I quickly questioned myself, ‘Is it possible to do your own textures for this game?’”
It turned out it was. Victor spent his days carefully studying the textures in Shrek Superslam, beginning with touching up every character in high definition. He finished the entire roster in just two months. Afterwards, he moved on to reworking stages and other textures which took him about five hours every day. The results are remarkable, especially considering this is one man’s work with the exception of Lunoz.
“It is a hobby which gives me the opportunity to make my most favorite game of all time look better, and to simultaneously make the experience for new players better,” Victor says.
But building the remaster and remaining faithful to the source material required significant care and time. Fiona’s plain purple dress, for example, now has an ornate pattern, and her eyes are a brighter blue. Victor had to place an additional HD texture layer atop the originals. “It has to look good, and that’s the hard part,” he says. “Some are easier than others, but all of them took quite a lot of time.”
Victor didn’t limit his work to just the characters, either. Eventually, he moved on to other details, such as giving the gingerbread house a facelift with more vivid textures, adding a lavish frame around the fairy god mother’s portrait, and putting a touch of icing atop the cake that appears in the happy birthday stage. The game’s colors have been given more vibrance to match the saturated art style of the Shrek films. He’s even working on the UI.
Victor viewed every stage within the game like a puzzle to solve, slowly working at each separate texture and figuring out the best way to make them look crisp in high definition.
While the audience for this specific remaster is relatively small, the love and attention Victor poured into it will hopefully catch the community at large’s attention. He also hopes it will rein in new players to Shrek SuperSlam. Flick, however, thinks differently. While the newer textures are very exciting for some players, he thinks that it won’t help grow the relatively small competitive scene.
“I think there are a lot of people who just play this game because Shrek has become an Internet phenomenon,” says Victor. “They probably just play it because of the memes for a few hours, and then never again.”
For Flick, he believes the quirkiness of the competitive scene has its own allure, too. “I imagine even being able to say you’re in a competitive Shrek party game Discord is funny to them,” he says.
The idea that the Shrek series has become a meme saddens Victor. “It is an Academy award-winning movie with great characters, a great story, and great messages,” he says. “The fact that Shrek has become a meme kind of makes the whole franchise laughable for most people, which is rather sad.”
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The remaster is still in development, but it’s pretty far along. All the characters, skins, some stages, and even the menu have all been remastered, but there’s still a way to go. Victor still needs to work on nine more stages, some items, the HUD, the challenge stages, and the cutscenes in order for it to get to Version 1.0.0. Earlier this year, Boris uploaded a seven minute-long compilation of what the latest version of the remaster has to offer. You can watch it below.
He can’t offer a solid release date for the fan remaster yet, but he says that once he has more free time, the “next version won’t be far away.” He’s also hoping to secure more help with finishing up HD textures, since it’s been a massive undertaking as a mostly solo job.
The competitive scene, according to Victor, is made up of fighting game fans who want something different to the standard 2D fighters like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. But there are also groups of people who consider themselves Shrek fans first, and unironically love the franchise, who play Shrek SuperSlam for its nostalgia. Victor falls firmly into that camp.
“Just like the Shrek movies are a parody of fairy tale movies, Shrek SuperSlam is a parody of fighting games,” Victor says. “But even though they are parodies, Shrek is still a great fairy tale movie, and Shrek SuperSlam is still a great fighting game.”