Over a year ago we reviewed Streets of Rage 4, and gave it high praise. It’s a challenging beat ’em up that rewards mastery, featuring a well made comic book art-style, gorgeous character design, fluid animation, and a dynamic soundtrack that slapped. It also had plenty of fan service for fans, and a little of the other fan service to boot.
In fact, our only negative was that the game didn’t do much to push the genre forward. It was a classic beat ’em up, and there is nothing wrong with doing that when you do it so well. Now, Dotemu and the rest of the game’s developers have unleashed new DLC to bring more to the table.
Does a new mode and characters make the Mr. X Nightmare DLC a dream come true? Or is it just a drop-kick to the throat?
Streets of Rage 4 – Mr. X Nightmare DLC
Developer: Lizardcube, Guard Crush Games, Dotemu
Platform: Windows PC (Reviewed), Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release Date: July 15th
Players: 1-4 (Online Multiplayer)
Price: $7.99 USD
The DLC is pure gameplay; but the premise given in the text beforehand is sufficient. Redeemed former Syndicate scientist Dr. Zan has helped Alex and the gang create a virtual simulator from the remains of Mr. X’ brain (as you do). This is so they can be ready for whatever challenge next comes their way. One must wonder what part of the former crime boss’ mind dreamt up of using sea-life as weapons.
Survival mode has one goal; fight an infinite number of random rooms filled with progressively tougher goons (or fixed rooms, foes, and abilities for weekly challenges). Every time you clear a room, you can pick from two abilities or other perks (or three after bosses).
The most basic of these grant a flat stat improvement. Certain attacks can also be given elemental properties, each with their own ways to spread damage, but beyond that it gets wild. Forfeit jumping for better overall stats, making rockets rain down after a Star move, attacking to heal instead of food; and more.
For everything the player can do, you can have a flat improvement, make it elemental, or make it even better for some kind of sacrifice. Sometimes you are offered a golden weapon if you’d rather jump pummel foes.
The whole system is completely random, but utterly delightful. Do you specialize for a particular move you want to spam, or make yourself a diverse little scrapper? Do you try to rack up combos for better scores (to also nab more stars for star moves), or play it safe with weapons and pot-shots? You’ve got one life, and there may not always be a roast chicken to save you.
There are also a variety of weapons to utilize. There’s plenty of new with the old; all with different ranges, damage, swing speeds, endurance, and special effects. The real delight comes from how wacky they are, with toxic blowfish, pugil sticks, and a suitably devastating tribute to Kentaro Miura to name a few. Retro weapons taken between stages even keep their appearance and sound effects.
To further add to the challenge are arena hazards and bosses. These include recolors of those you fought in the campaign (who can also be regular enemies), holographic versions of playable characters, and a few retro bosses in the 16-bit stages. While they put up more than a fair fight, the AI seems to struggle a bit with stage hazards, and you can easily cheese some foes to walk into them.
The only reason we suspect it’s not intentional is that this can occur at higher difficulties and later stages. Some enemies will stand dumb-founded across a pit they would walk around, or continually walk into a laser for free tattoo and life removal. Enemy pathing is usually OK, but you’ll get carried more than once by it.
While the game can run on most systems, the holographic effect on some bosses (and from the Ally upgrade) occasionally seems to cause a little slow-down. This is likely only to be an issue on the most toasted of toasters; but will hopefully be patched to prevent anyone being thrown off as the challenge ramps up.
Another thing some players may notice are how it feels like there’s only a few new stages. While there are admittedly a handful of themes (Gladiators style arena, sci-fi factory, Aztec temple, volcanic crag, and the deck of an aircraft carrier), each come with several variations and different combinations of stage hazards. Not to mention several of the aforementioned retro stages.
Even so, after a few hours you may feel like you’ve seen everything the new mode has to offer. Far from so. Aside from coming across new stage layouts, foes, and weapons; you unlock alternate moves for your character a ‘la experience points. These moves can be chosen when picking that character in any mode; giving new ways to play story, boss rush, survival, and multiplayer modes.
Combined with the random nature of power-ups, the DLC offers huge replay value. It almost acts as training for those hoping to conquer the harder difficulties on other modes, and a new challenge when those stages have been burned into your brain. Players can pick up new combos thanks to their new moves, and put them under a live-fire test while earning yet more rewards.
Speaking of, a new free update has added a new training mode to bring you through the basics. Foes and weapons unlocked in survival mode can be set to appear under a wide variety of options.
You can ditch infinite health and turn on AI difficulty for a real fight, and create your own battles the game couldn’t provide. You can even summon multiple end-game bosses on the hardest difficulty as sparring partners. Y’know, if you’re insane. There are no notes on the different behavior or stats of recolors, so you’ll have to eyeball it.
While the tutorials provided are a great way to help introduce the basics and combos to new players (even showing what has i-frames), wall bouncing isn’t always as easy to pull off. The timing seems a little demanding compared to everything else, considering the numerous frames and angles a player can boot foes into the sides. Nonetheless, they will soon learn what makes a character special, and their combos.
The new characters also bring new experiences. Estel’s charge attack follow-ups tend to combo better than most, and Max takes Floyd’s slow-and-heavy style to the extreme; baring some devastating drop-kicks and slides. The real highlight is Shiva, with rapid and powerful strikes that will seize the day. True to his lore he won’t wield weapons, but kicks them into the air and launches them at foes.
While the DLC boasts new tracks from Tee Lopes (Sonic Mania, and the upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge and Metal Slug Tactics), it’s somehow mostly unmemorable. Far from poorly made; the new music fits perfectly with the new stages and the game overall. While boss themes are a little better, none of them have particularly catchy melodies when compared to the base game.
The boss themes of Mr. and Mrs. Y (themselves an adaption of the Mr. X boss theme) are still the stand-outs of the base game, and it’s surprising we didn’t hear something of a similar caliber with who was involved. The retro stages tend to be a little catchier as limitation once again breeds creativity, but even that is following an older crib sheet.
Even so, it’s worth stressing that with heavy concentration, you’ll all but forget the background music. Instead the air will be filled with pummels, slashes, and the occasional “Yeargh!” of another fallen assailant.
I mean this as no insult; the DLC feels like stuff that had been planned but never made it in the main game, and came back with aplomb. The different rooms may have been early sketches for story stages, and Estel, Max, and Shiva were all bosses in the base game.
But, rather than just throw in these elements haphazardly and leaving Survival mode as an endless box of soldiers, effort was taken to make a fun experience with plenty of replay value for itself and other modes; and at a reasonable cost. The Mr. X Nightmare DLC for Streets of Rage 4 offers more than a new mode and characters to play, it changes how you play the game.
Streets of Rage 4 – Mr. X Nightmare DLC was reviewed on Windows PC using a review copy provided by Dotemu. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.