Streets of Rage 4 was a big hit in 2020, tempting in newcomers with its stylish visuals and weighty combat, and delighting series veterans of a certain age that had been waiting many years for an official sequel. It's a game with plenty of replayability, too, with a good number of unlockable characters and a generally moreish campaign. We called it a "a perfect modernisation of a beloved franchise" in our review.
Of course, more of a good thing is always welcome, so the Mr. X Nightmare DLC has been an exciting and long awaited addition. At $7.99 / £7.19, it's also a relatively low-priced bit of DLC, which is a fair way to set expectations.
Let's quickly clarify what this extra content doesn't do, and what you also get in the accompanying free game update. The DLC does not add story content in a meaningful way, though as we'll go on to explain what is included represents excellent value. Those that don't buy the DLC also got some new goodies recently: first up is 'Mania+' difficulty, which is insanely challenging. We couldn't even clear the first stage, but that said there'll be more skilful players that have invested hours mastering each character's most effective combos, so it's a fun extra.
The other big free addition — and this one is for everyone — is a rather good Training mode. Many of us will have stumbled across combos and strategies through persistence, but this mode takes you through the basics but also specific combos and moves for each character. It's a Street Fighter-esque approach as it shows you the inputs and clears the lesson once you've nailed it, and even those that have played through the game numerous times may learn something new. If you do buy the DLC, the new characters also get their own individual training modules to help players learn their capabilities.
So, onto the Mr. X Nightmare content. First of all, if you're yet to clear the main game you'll have three new characters available right away: Estel Aguirre, Shiva and Max Thunder. Each brings something a little different to the table, and the trend across all three is that they're up to the same standards in animation and moveset as the core cast, which is excellent to see. When you play through the story as these characters it's similar to when you use unlockable retro fighters - the story is unchanged. Cutscenes are the same, with the only wrinkle here being that these DLC add-ons are bosses in the campaign; when you fight 'yourself' the enemy takes on a multi-coloured hue to avoid confusion, so it's about as elegant a solution as was possible without fundamentally changing the story.
Estel Aguirre, a tough cop that you encounter first in the campaign, blends a bit of Axel's rugged up-close combat with some decent speed. Her jump attack has terrific range to get across the screen, with a 'Blitz Move' similar to Blaze. The Star Move is particularly fun, replicating the 'boss' equivalent but taking up a large part of the screen — for those with fond memories of the original Streets of Rage, it's an awesome throwback.
Next up is Shiva, who feels a little more unique in his approach. For example, his Blitz Move has more of a cool-down animation than most, but when used effectively is a perfect finale. His Offensive Special, similarly, performs a little differently depending on the enemy's location. Combo potential is very high, especially when you transition from ground to aerial attacks, so there's little doubt Shiva will become a favourite. And as a neat touch he does something different with weapons; eager fans can probably guess what this is.
Finally, we have Max Thunder, a retro favourite and one of the more challenging — arguably irritating — bosses in the campaign. As a muscle-bound wrestler he is, naturally, very slow. Yet he is extremely powerful, in standard and special attacks. Grapples are fun, of course, but we will say that his Blitz Move is arguably broken — in the player's favour, but still broken. If you successfully execute it (double tap left or right + 'Y'), you can spam it repeatedly with practically no cooldown, even making it possible to pin enemies against the side of the screen. It wouldn't surprise us if it gets a little 'balancing' tweak in a mini update down the road.
All three characters are a lot of fun to use, and considering how much we routinely pay for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate characters, they're arguably enough value on their own. However, the main new mode is 'Survival', which is meant to be the core offering in the DLC. It doesn't put much effort into the 'story' aspect of it beyond a screen of text, but the mode itself makes up for that small lack of flair.
Once you're in there, you can choose any unlocked character and work through increasingly difficult levels and waves of enemies. Each level is a single arena with varied foes and environmental factors, and when you clear a room you choose a neat perk — poison effect on moves, random 'companion' to help, increased walk speed and many more — and move on. Each level ramps up in difficulty, with boss encounters at regular intervals, until you go from comfortably trouncing everyone to just about surviving. There's new music, throwback enemy types and some fantastic environments thrown in that bring nostalgia for veterans or simply look cool to newcomers.
There are two options in this mode, too. Our favourite is Weekly Sim, a curated set of stages for you to try and beat. The first week's set stumped us quite a way in with a level that had pits of doom and swinging obstacles; the 'one death = game over' formula can feel cruel in stages like that. That's our only mild criticism of 'Random Sim', the other option, as some arenas and enemy combinations can feel a little cheap and unfair on rare occasions. Yes, we know, some will say 'git good', but a run can end abruptly with what feels like limited control.
Overall, though, Survival mode is great fun, and particularly well suited to the Switch version. A run might take 15-20 minutes, so it's an excellent bite-sized fight. For each run you gain experience for the character that eventually unlocks alternative special moves, which you can then use across all modes. Throw in unlockable gallery goodies and some quirky new weapons etc, and the incentive to regularly do a few runs in the mode is high.
And so, as a relatively affordable add-on to enhance Streets of Rage 4, Mr X. Nightmare delivers. The new content matches the quality of the main game, shaking up the experience with enjoyable new characters and a strong extra mode to dip into. For fans old and new, it's well worth a look.
This DLC was played on Nintendo Switch courtesy of a complimentary code from the publisher. At the time of publication the Mr X Nightmare DLC is not available to purchase on the Switch eShop due to a technical issue, this is expected to be fixed soon and we will update the article when it is resolved.
- Further reading: Best Nintendo Switch Beat 'Em Ups