Hands On: Streets of Rage 4: Mr. X Nightmare

15 Jul 2021

If you’re anything like me, you saw the release of Streets of Rage 4 as a wonderfully pleasant surprise in an apparent sea of new beat ’em ups (check out our review here). It’s no surprise that the devs behind this would want to expand the content through DLC, but the way that they’re approaching this specific one can strike some as a bit odd. Given how fantastic the base game is in general, I do personally find any worthwhile content to be something to take a peek at.

However, the aim for Mr. X Nightmare really does feel like more of an expansion of gameplay more than anything else. Because of that, it didn’t feel super apropos to give this sort of content a full on review. While I’m always happy to see more support for Streets of Rage 4, tempering my expectations seemed like the safe play for this sort of thing. We are talking about DLC that will run gamers $7.99, after all. In any case, making any return to Wood Oak City is welcome.

Developed by DotEmu/Guard Crush Games/Lizardcube and published by DotEmu in association with SEGA, Streets of Rage 4: Mr. X Nightmare will release on PC (Steam/Xbox Game Pass), PS4 (playable on PS5) XBox One (playable on Xbox Series X|S), and Switch on July 15, 2021. The Steam version was played for this hands on.

Strength in Numbers

While I wouldn’t exactly call this a value add with the DLC, it’s worth mentioning right off the bat that owners of the base game will be getting some additional content without having to purchase the Mr. X DLC. It’s nothing ground-breaking, but it is nice to see that those who aren’t interested in that content are getting some nods as well. With the free part of the update, you’ll be getting an additional difficulty mode (Mania Plus, har har), a fighting game-style training mode, and a few balance and quality of life tweaks to make the experience a little more bearable for those who might have balked at the original release’s balancing. Given that the base difficulty is no slouch, Mania Plus is definitely for those who have their skills on lockdown. The training mode is good preparation for that mode if you so choose, but it is nice that it wasn’t hidden behind a DLC paywall.

However, the content involved in the paid DLC is still a pleasant addition to the base gameplay. Players will notice the return of three characters from the base game will now be playable through this purchase. Given how many characters were unlockable in the initial release, this may seem like small potatoes, though some may really enjoy playing through the main game as Estelle Aguirre, the brick wall known as Max Thunder, or as the martial artist Shiva. Just like the main cast, they all have their own attributes unique to them, but generally speaking they’re fun as hell to play. While I tend to prefer the mobility of Cherry, I can say that these folks are a welcome addition to the roster.

Unsurprisingly, these three are able to plow through the main campaign as you see fit. No surprise there. They’re balanced in a way that doesn’t break the flow and design, but varied enough from the rest of the cast that they feel like they should have been there from the beginning. Cutscenes play out like they did initially, which might throw some people off, though that’s more of a nitpick than anything else. Some may not enjoy the attributes they bring to the table, so your mileage may vary here.

Danger Room

The focal point for Mr. X Nightmare is the addition of a Survival mode. Framed as an endless simulation that’s based on an AI built upon the brain of the deceased Mr. X (ridiculous as that sounds, just go with it), this is where you’ll take on a seemingly roguelike format for each set of foes you fight. However, this is unsurprisingly reserved for the Random Sim section of the mode. While the Weekly Sim is fixed, the name of the game is the same here. You have one life, and you’re taking on endless waves of n’er-do-wells in a rotating set of environments. Sometimes you’re taking on a posse of random mooks, other times you’re tussling with boss characters from the base game.

With the completion of each combat encounter, you’re able to choose from one of two buffs or perks before moving on to the next level. These can range from overpowered weapons, perks with a tradeoff, enhancements to your star attacks, or just more star attacks in general. They give you a fighting chance with health during each encounter, and you’re able to use the additional weaponry at hand to take everyone down at will. Honestly, I did find it rather entertaining to be smacking foes directly in the face with a pufferfish, though the additional weapons in general are fun to use.

Though once you fall in battle, that’s it. Your run is done. This has been seen before, naturally, but is angled in a way where constant replaying of the mode with different characters is encouraged. Once you pass the post for a certain character, you’ll unlock a new move or such that can be used across all modes. Take, for instance, Cherry. If you thought her star move of power sliding everything on the screen was fun, just wait until you unlock a more general move for her through this mode. Stack that with elemental perks in game, and you can just go nuts as a power sliding machine. If you’re just looking to unlock moves for your main here, that’s fine. But I can’t see anyone other than completionists going to level up every base, DLC, and unlockable character. Again, your mileage may vary here.

If you’re looking for anything new in the presentation department, it’s going to be through Survival mode. Yes, Oliver Deriviere and others did man the soundtrack for the base game. Though this time around we’re treated to the talents of one Tee Lopes for the tracks in Mr. X Nightmare. Considering his prior work with Sonic Mania and the like, I was expecting a very specific vibe from him here. This time around, it absolutely fits with what you’d hear in the base game. That’s not a bad thing obviously, but expecting him to pull off the same vibe from Sonic Mania is a bit disingenuous. Personally, I’m glad he was able to adapt to what was set before him. Because of that, I’m happy to see that he’s able to further expand his musical repertoire. It’s pretty obvious I dig his work, so seeking out his back catalog might do you some good if you’re interested in it at all.

In The Simulation

I’ve always looked at Streets of Rage 4 as a game with its feet straddled between two eras. Save for maybe the Sonic and Knuckles expansion cart, you didn’t get this kind of additional content in the Genesis era. Much less for one of the three Streets of Rage games on the console. You’re still getting more of the classic beat ’em up action you’ve come to expect from the base game, though everything presented here is absolutely more of an enhancement to the base game than anything else.

Sure, you’re getting more content and replay value as a result. Though your own enjoyment here really does hinge on how much you enjoy survival mode content. If that’s more your bag, then I would absolutely recommend going for this. If not, you could get away with ignoring it. I personally dig the hell out of this game, but my views on the base game should have made that abundantly clear. There are worse ways to waste eight bones.

Review code provided by DotEmu for PC. Screenshots taken by writer. Feature image provided by publisher.