Streets of Rage 4: Mr. X Nightmare | Developer: Dotemu, Guard Crush, Lizardcube | Publisher: Dotemu | Played on: PC | Year: 2021
This expansion for Streets of Rage 4 unloads a mixed bag of extras that only slightly strengthen the core experience.

Streets of Rage 4: Mr. X Nightmare key art

Streets of Rage 4: Mr. X Nightmare

Between its recent balance patch and this new expansion, several things I disliked about Streets of Rage 4 have since been polished. Enemies now have fewer invincibility frames and less annoying move sets, player characters are faster and slightly more rewarding to play, and any new music gets straight to the point. Dotemu’s committent is great to see, even though some concerns remain over the direction this DLC has taken.

Mr. X Nightmare takes three bosses from the Arcade mode and turns them into player characters. Shiva is still fast and brutal, even if he refuses to use weapons, and Max still hits like a truck in exchange for his painfully slow movement speed. Speaking of painful, Dotemu have sadly nerfed Max’s famous atomic drop, so players will likely prefer his devastating brainbuster instead.

Our final new character is Estel — a fighter I hoped would be playable in the base game. Regardless, her unique look and move set are a superb inclusion. It’s a similar case with the new colour palettes that playable characters can wear, and the new attack customiser that remixes your default special attacks with awesome variants exclusive to this DLC.

To unlock those new attacks though, players need to enter the new Survival mode; this being the marquee feature of Mr. X Nightmare seeing as the action takes place in his weird dreamscape or whatever. Either way, up to four players battle across endless kill screens featuring newly randomized weapons, enemy variants and environmental hazards. This mayhem is good fun to begin with. The whole point of Survival is to create over-the-top spectacles of zany violence, as players slam an endless parade of punks and bosses inside wacky arenas like wrestling rings and temples, and volcanic pits that rain deadly meteors down from the sky. Thank goodness for that balance patch because this mode would be hellish with the old enemy behaviour.

Although fun for a while, things become repetitive. The balance in Survival is meant to be nutty, but it’s upsetting that the perks players earn for clearing waves end up feeling so pointless. Perks offer bonuses to concepts like weapon durability, blitz strength and damage reduction. Some infuse powerful elemental effects into your heavier attacks whereas others can change everything by exchanging your character’s ability to jump for huge buffs, or altering the way they restore health.

Sadly, no matter what perks you select, this mode becomes rather excruciating between waves 20-30, with subsequent waves being when the game outright wants you to stop playing. It’s when the environmental hazards start posing an unreasonable threat and the sheer number of enemies on screen becomes overwhelming.

Various gameplay screenshots of Streets of Rage 4: Mr. X Nightmare

To unlock Roo as a bonus fighter, at the main menu, highlight “Story” and then press and *hold* these buttons in order: Attack, Up, Start. After the chime is heard, release the buttons and enter Story mode to see Roo’s portrait unlocked. Note on PC, you may have to use a keyboard to enable this cheat.

No matter how many defensive buffs your character earns, wave 30+ introduces red-tinted enemies whose boosted parameters make them swift and lethal. A player’s basic attacks and throws never get buffed and would be too slow even if they did, so surviving at these waves becomes a total spam fest as players repeatedly abuse their high priority blitz attacks in the face of constant enemy aggression and dwindling health items.

Not only does this make it hard to get excited by perks, the mode drags on and the grind to unlock those remixed attacks I mentioned earlier is tedious. You can invite friends to play both offline and online, but perks must be sacrificed to bring defeated allies back to life, so I’ve not found it any easier in that sense.

I might have preferred Survival if there was a more of a point to it. If it was balanced accordingly, a target of clearing wave 40 for example, could have made things more purposeful than this endless treadmill of battles that gets boring before long. The mode is scored by composer Tee Lopes with tunes that certainly have the right flavour. It’s a shame you can’t create a custom playlist though to prevent the limited number of tracks from also becoming repetitive. Considering the large chunk of content it represents, the disappointment of Survival is what keeps this DLC from being a bigger success.

There is also a new training mode reminiscent of the one in Street Fighter IV. Players learn the finer points of battle via its familiar concepts of cancels and juggles, and advanced tutorials which are thankfully not tied to achievements. Speaking of which, there are new achievements (including more of the boring single-player ones) and a Mania+ difficulty for any masochist who prefers the Arcade mode to be nonsensically hard.

Mr. X Nightmare represents decent value for its price point, I just don’t feel Streets of Rage 4 was radically improved here. Survival was a worthy attempt and things could still improve via patches, but until a potential second DLC arrives, Mr. X Nightmare, silly name and all, doesn’t have the wow factor to create the definitive Streets of Rage experience.

Streets of Rage 4: Mr. X Nightmare on Steam »