Streets of Rage 4 was critically acclaimed and adored by fans of the franchise and newcomers alike. I admit: I missed the early buzz, and didn’t manage to get into Street of Rage 4 until I finally got around to playing it on Xbox Game Pass—and holy shit, was I missing out. I was a huge fan of brawlers as a kid, but as I got older and technology got better, I moved on to 3D games like first person shooters. Streets of Rage 4 singlehandedly reminded me how much I enjoyed the beat ‘em up genre, and I’ve been playing modern and classic brawlers since. The release of Mr. X Nightmare almost feels like I’ve come full circle since I first played Streets of Rage 4 a year ago—and it’s good to be back.
Streets of Rage 4 – Mr. X Nightmare is DLC that adds three new playable characters, all of which made an appearance in the main story for Streets of Rage 4. You can play these three new characters through the game’s story mode, its additional Arcade and Boss Rush modes, and the new Survival Mode. The Survival Mode is where the name “Mr. X Nightmare” comes from, since Dr. Gilbert Zan (the guy with the metal arms from Streets of Rage 3) put Mr. X’s brain in a computer, using the evil mind to prepare Axel, Blaze and the rest of the crew for potential new threats. In-game that translate to an endless mode that challenges you to play through as many stages as you can with a single life.
Streets of Rage 4 has a lot of potential characters to unlock, with Adam Hunter as an unlockable, plus twelve classic characters that unlock after meeting certain score thresholds. The Mr. X Nightmare DLC doesn’t make you jump through any hoops to unlock these new characters, however—Max Thunder, Estelle Aguirre and Shiva are available to play right away, even if you haven’t beaten the story mode yet. It’s always fun when a boss becomes a playable character later on, and all of these characters show up as bosses in the Streets of Rage 4 story mode. In fact, Shiva is an infamous reoccurring boss. Each of these new characters have their own moves and feel—with Max Thunder being the slowest fighter in Streets of Rage 4, but one that deals massive damage, and who can potentially keep combos going with large arcing swings. Estelle is an Amazon of a woman, and is pretty quick despite her speed—and has a hell of a special move. Shiva is the character I was most excited about though. I honestly thought this was the first time Shiva was playable, but in doing research for this article I discovered that he was a secret unlockable character in Streets of Rage 2–something I didn’t know as a kid. Shiva is perhaps the most unique of all the fighters in that not only is he the fastest, but he also can’t/doesn’t hold weapons, and will instead just kick them, essentially turning them into a projectile. So you can “throw” them, just not hold them—something that makes unlocking the secret stages in the main game presumably impossible with Shiva.
I have to admit that I wasn’t as excited for the new Survival Mode as I was for the new characters. I first used the new characters to play through the story mode for Streets of Rage 4 (who could resist?) before jumping into the Survival Mode—though it should be noted that Survival mode doesn’t have to be unlocked by completing the main story, unlike Boss Rush and Arcade modes. Honestly, I should have started with Survival Mode, because it’s a lot different than I was expecting. It’s almost roguelike with its power-ups, randomness, and permadeath. The goal is to play through as many stages as possible, but if you’re dead you’re done. The more you play with any single character, the more alternate moves you’ll unlock—these alternate moves can be used in any of the modes, and is a good way to customize your character’s moves, something that wasn’t possible in the base game. But Survival Mode is much more than fighting endless groups of enemies: after each round, you can get a power-up, and with the right combination of power-ups, you can build a character to specialize in damage output, or in point accumulation—which allows you to use your special ability more often. You can also get power-ups that add elemental effects to weapons or your special ability, and more.
Each “stage” in Survival Mode is just a single screen, however, so don’t expect an endless Story Mode. But each stage is full of randomly placed items and hazards which can make fighting a little easier, or even harder. And if you’re looking for a challenge, you’ll definitely get it here as you’re forced to fight overpowered versions of bosses and even playable characters that do nothing but spam their special move—I’m looking at you simulated Cherry, with your damn guitar slide.
I went into Streets of Rage 4’s Mr. X Nightmare DLC thinking it was just a small chunk of content and a few more playable characters. And honestly, if it was just that, it would still be great. But Survival Mode is genuinely compelling, and adds a roguelike twist on Streets of Rage 4 that I didn’t realize I wanted. I haven’t had a chance to jump into with friends yet, but I can only imagine the four player co-op would not only be chaotic, but loads of fun.
Streets of Rage 4 – Mr. X Nightmare is available today for PC on Steam and for Xbox, PlayStation and Switch.
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