Dead Rising 3 struggled with the balance of its tone. It portrayed a grittier, serious world while still trying to appeal to the fans who enjoyed the series' more offbeat humor. Super Ultra Dead Rising 3 Arcade Remix Hyper Edition EX Plus Alpha swings as far in the opposite direction as possible, going completely over the top while also paying more homage to Capcom's arcade history than all three Dead Rising games combined.
Unlike previous downloadable content for the game, Super Arcade Dead Rising 3 takes the bare-bones controls and format of Dead Rising 3 and does something very different with them. The world is not open, your weapons cannot be combined, and there is no real progression of characters or story. Instead, you are given a time limit to you fight your way through a series of arcade-like challenges, ranging from "Kill 50 zombies" to "Retrieve the vehicles" to Escape the city." While you can accomplish this alone, the challenges are best played with a group of up to four online friends, all working together while at the same time fighting for a higher score.
This isn't because the co-op is innovative or expertly designed. Honestly, you do the exact same things with one person as you do with four. However, tasks that might become monotonous alone are accomplished far more quickly with help, which makes for a brisk, exciting pace through the game's challenges. For example, one of the tasks you come across more than once is "Rescue the survivors." The survivors in question--8-bit-style citizens crying out for help--are merely pickups that you need to touch to "rescue," but running around the environment to find them all can take a long time when you're on your own. With friends, you can each explore different sections of the map and be done with the matter.
The way it moves you briskly from one challenge to the next is one of Super Arcade Dead Rising 3's strengths, as each individual task doesn't stand tall on its own. While the basic act of killing zombies (whether with weapons or in vehicles) in Dead Rising 3 is as fun as it ever was, the game is great about giving you different goals to accomplish, usually in rapid-fire succession. You may be asked to kill 100 zombies, yes, but then you are immediately sent to destroy specific items around town before you need to escape the area altogether--all as a timer ticks down, encouraging you to hurry. With skill, you can finish a list of tasks within a few minutes before moving onto the next round of challenges.
You do this across four districts, each based on a different section of Dead Rising 3's map. Fundamentally, these are the same environments from the base game, but they've been brightened up with lots of color, neon arcade signs, and a generally cheerier atmosphere than the drab color scheme you're probably more familiar with. So while the city's major landmarks won't be new to you, the coat of paint makes them at least a bit fresh.
Super Dead Rising 3 Arcade Remix's main draw isn't the slaughter of the undead; it's the zaniness surrounding it. The second you jump into the DLC, accessible from Dead Rising 3's main menu, its arcade influence is front and center. You're greeted with an old-school memory check screen, a joke about those old "Winners Don't Use Drugs" PSAs (fitting in with Dead Rising 3's canon, this one reads "Winners Get Chipped"), and then Capcom's classic logo jingle, right before a remix of the old Street Fighter II menu music starts up.
It's clear that Capcom aims to tug at the nostalgic heartstrings of its old fans, and frankly, it works. At just about every point possible, the developer shoves something in your face and says, "Hey, remember this old game we made? What about this one?" These references are old enough that they don't feel like advertising (there are no references to the likes of Dragon's Dogma or Monster Hunter) and instead evoke the feeling you might get when flipping through an old video game magazine and looking back at the biggest hits of the 90s. Whether it's Frank West dressed up as Mike Haggar or a billboard for Mega Man X4, you see signs of Capcom's history everywhere.
But it doesn't feel like outright exploitation of old brands. In fact, it feels like a celebration of them, as if at least a few people at Capcom woke up one morning and said, "We haven't paid as much homage to our classics as we perhaps should have." So when you see references to Rival Schools or Power Stone, or when you turn into Tofu (a particularly obscure Resident Evil 2 reference), it all seems to come from a place of genuine appreciation.
This is also true of the character selection. Each of the 20 options on the character select screen are different variations of established Dead Rising characters Nick, Annie, Chuck, and Frank, but more than half of the options are nods to other characters from Capcom's past. And these aren't mere costume changes. Each character feels unique, with its own attributes and attacks. Each character also has a unique special attack that is directly influenced by the character's source material. So when you play as Annie dressed as Regina from Dino Crisis, it feels more like you're playing as Regina herself, especially when her special move involves a pterodactyl that swoops in to attack the enemies in front of her.
The result of all of this is an homage to classic Capcom. When developers cash in on its audience's nostalgia, they often do so through half-measures such as classic costumes and other trinkets that have little to no bearing on actual gameplay. Instead of taking that route, the developers of Super Dead Rising 3 Arcade Remix have created something unique and heartfelt, and ultimately much more entertaining.
The entertainment has its limits, though. Nostalgia can take you only so far, after all. The game is obviously intended for co-op players and is most enjoyable when played with friends or even strangers, and you can blaze through the game's four districts in no time at all, whether you're playing alone or not. The replay value comes in unlocking all of the game's 20 characters, which requires replaying levels many times over with different characters, as well as hunting down arcade cabinets hidden throughout each district. If you don't have allies to do this with, you might find the experience a slog, and whether it was due to technological inferiority or the DLC's unpopularity, I often had difficulty finding strangers to play with.
If you don't have much love for Capcom's back catalog, or you don't already enjoy Dead Rising 3, there's not much for you here other than a possible chuckle or two. You need to understand and revel in a bonus level that involves nothing more than destroying a car in order to fully grasp why this DLC is special. But if the idea of fighting a giant zombified M. Bison as Nick Ramos dressed as Felicia from Darkstalkers is exciting to you, then Super Dead Rising 3 Arcade Remix is a blast.