Azur Lane will not be an unfamiliar name to many readers here. It started as an incredibly popular mobile game that gained over five million players within months of release. It has been the basis for an anime. And now with Azur Lane: Crosswave it has become somewhat of a 3D shooter on the PlayStation 4 and PC.
Azur Lane: Crosswave primarily follows the new member of the Sakura Empire, a girl named Shimakaze, but we do see things from the perspective of the more experienced Suguru at times. These and most characters you encounter are what are known as ship girls – girls who fight at sea using special armaments known as rigging. It doesn’t give too much information about the hows or whys of this, but it’s cute girls and battle – it’s anime so that’s about all that’s needed at times. The ship girls are generally anime personifications of real historical ships from various countries.
Early on, the ship girls of the Sakura Empire are ambushed by a group called the Sirens. They are protecting a transport ship of mysterious cubes that seem to ignore the laws of nature. These cubes end up in the nearby sea and it is decided that they need to be recovered and investigated.
As an excuse to cover up the events and to gain some help with the recovery, it is decided to create a joint military exercise, not only with the Sakura Empire but all of the friendly nations. They create a contest to collect the most cubes, which they pass off as just part of the exercise. As the story moves on, you start to uncover the mysterious events going on in the background.
I felt like this was a pretty thin premise. I wouldn’t give this game any awards for the plot itself, though it does have the occasional interesting moment as you go through the game.
What the game does do well is the character interactions. The plot seems more of an excuse to get all of these characters in the same place at the same time than anything else. This allows some rather fun and friendly dialogues between ship girls of all factions, rather than just showing existing relationships of allies. These are all voiced too and very well voiced at that, with personalities really shining through. Some of these were outright hilarious and I found myself learning a lot about Azur Lane from them.
As a bit of background, I wouldn’t consider myself as overly engaged with the series as a whole. I’ve never watched the anime, but I did play the mobile game for a couple of weeks after much convincing from friends. I found that in ten minutes of playing Azur Lane: Crosswave, I learned more about the world and characters than I did in those two weeks. In part, this is likely because it is incredibly dialogue-heavy.
Moving onto the gameplay, outside of the story scenes you participate in battles where you control a team of three ship girls which can be switched between mid-battle. You move these around the field and have to clear certain objectives – most often shooting down certain targets normally being ship girls, actual ships, and airplanes. You have four actions to do this, most of which have to recharge over time.
Ship girls come in different varieties with their own special attributes and a few classes which play differently – some being slow and powerful, some being quick and nimble. You can choose your team of three controllable characters from ones that you unlock as you play through the story. You can further customize your battle strategy by selecting support characters and equipment which can then be upgraded. You can also level up characters and ‘marry’ them, both of which increase their power.
Those familiar with the Azur Lane mobile game will find many similarities here, as it is essentially the same concept. You unlock characters, build your team and upgrade them. Many of the terms used in-game are the same. They even have a selectable secretary on the menu screen who is seen a lot less often than they would be in the mobile game but used in the same way.
I did find that changing characters to suit the type of combat was useful, but realistically I did not believe it was needed in normal mode. The game is easy enough that it’s possible to push through every battle in the main story and I often found myself getting top scores without particularly trying to until near the end. There are some more difficult battles outside of that, but as long as you have a well-balanced team that you keep upgraded then they are manageable. It could be worth going for hard mode from the onset for players who enjoy a challenge.
Beyond the story, there are some post-game missions too. As a warning for completionists, you are reliant on randomly getting the required mission. This may not happen for a long time so getting that full clear can be quite time-consuming. There will be plenty of grinding to find them all.
One thing to note for PC players – the game expects you to use a controller. You can use a keyboard and mouse and it works fine, but even if you select to do so in the menu it only shows prompts for an Xbox-style controller on the user interface.
I described this as somewhat of a 3D shooter earlier – if you watch the trailer that would be the impression I feel. I would say that at times it feels more like a visual novel with gameplay and RPG elements, rather than a 3D shooter with RPG elements. The vast majority of the game is dialogue. The battles are all very short and quickly over, even if there are a lot of them. The upgrading and item management doesn’t take too much of your time. This is fine – I enjoy visual novels and similar games, but some players may go into this expecting something different.
I mentioned that the battles are short, but the dialogue is too – just there’s more of it. One slight annoyance is that to see what I would consider a single scene, sometimes I have to move to different events on an overworld map and select events somewhere between five to ten times. It feels like a bit of an exercise in timewasting.
In the end, I find myself rather mixed on this title. It has some very good points – the character interactions, the voicing and the way it works as an introduction to the world of Azur Lane, even if not intended as such. There’s a huge selection of characters to unlock, which doesn’t cover the full range of Azur Lane characters but does include a DLC Neptune from the Neptunia series.
While there are positive points, there are certainly negative ones too. The constant button pressing and going back to the map to proceed. Battles being too short and too easy to need to do much. The user interface only really works well if you have a controller.
In the end, I think this is going to be one mostly for fans of Azur Lane in general rather than fans of anime games in general. I may recommend it to those people, but not in general unless on a good discount.
Azur Lane: Crosswave can be bought digitally on Steam and the PlayStation 4 console store. It can also be bought via the Humble Store for PC which helps to support our domain and server costs.
You can also buy it physically for PlayStation 4 from retailers such as Amazon (US) / Amazon (UK). Purchases made via Amazon links earn a small commission which again goes to help supporting domain and server costs.
Many thanks to Idea Factory for the review copy.
Nook has been gaming since the Amstrad and DOS. He enjoys a wide variety of genres, but has been focusing on visual novels and virtual reality in recent years. Follow him and the website on @NookSite.