Taking historical figures or items and transforming them into girls has been a fairly long standing tradition in Japanese games as we have seen everything from historical and mythical figures, to firearms, locations, and of course boats be transformed in such a way. While Japan may have had their own ship girl game flourish at one point, it never quite made a splash worldwide until a Chinese take on the same type of story by the name of Azur Lane exploded in popularity. With plenty of fans around the world it only made sense that a console game would eventually be developed and now that Azur Lane: Crosswave has made its way to the West, is it worth picking up for fans of the franchise?
For those unfamiliar with the franchise, Azur Lane places players in the role of Commander over a military base where ship girls are constructed using “Wisdom Cubes.” These ship girls, called Kansen, are all derived from World War II ships and feature various bits of personality and themes that can relate to their historical counterparts. That being said, players for Azur Lane: Crosswave do not really require too much knowledge from the original mobile game to enjoy the story as it is mostly separate, outside of certain themes, from the original story going so far as to place the focus on a ship that hasn’t been added into the mobile game at the time of release.
In an alternate world four powerful nations have managed to find peace with one another, Eagle Union (USA), Royal Navy (England), Iron Blood (Germany), and the Sakura Empire (Japan) have flourished throughout the years of peace with only “friendly” military exercises being conducted between the four great nations. That is until a new mysterious threat appeared by the name of Sirens. These strange and otherworldly seeming foes threaten the peace that has held the world together for so long and it is up to the ship girls named “Kansen” to find out just what the Siren want and eliminate the threat.
During a military drill a pair of ships from the Sakura Empire, the energetic and eager to prove herself Shimakaze and spotlight hating Suruga encounter a fleet of mass produced Siren ships that have floated into their territory. Despite Suruga’s warnings to stay away, Shimakaze charges forward and sinks the Siren fleet only to find that they leave a number of strange physics defying cubes floating around. After reporting their findings, Akagi chooses to hold a special exercise that gathers together a number of ships from the four great fleets, including a couple from Dragon Empry, under the guise of training in an attempt to find more of these cubes. Only once everyone arrives, new more powerful Sirens make their appearance and things begin to grow far more dire for the Sakura Empire.
Azur Lane: Crosswave tells an almost exhaustive story that sees many of everyone’s favorite ship girls interacting with one another in various ways with the core storyline following the growth of Shimakaze and Suruga learning to work with others while facing off against the Siren threat. That being said, it is a bit unfortunate that those who may be fans of other nations will be disappointed to see that so much emphasis is placed on Sakura Empire with the Eagle Union and Royal Navy playing mostly second fiddle and even then many popular characters are only given a bit of time to shine, generally through secondary side events, compared to the main role of Shimakaze.
It is also worth noting that Azur Lane: Crosswave can be seen as more visual novel than shooter at times since there are some extremely lengthy dialogue sequences that seperate most fights. Some of these scenes are optional but for the most part players can spend upwards of ten minutes between fights and while this isn’t much of an issue considering one of the highlights in Azur Lane: Crosswave is seeing these ship girls interact directly with one another, it does feel like these story segments could have been broken up a bit better to pace out the action more.
When not watching the various ship girls talking with one another or potentially facing down a Siren through conversation players will be spending the rest of their time on the ocean battling against a variety of mass produced war ships, airplanes, and even other ship girls at times. All battles in Azur Lane: Crosswave take place in the ocean where players can bring a party of three attacking ships and three assistant ships to take down a variety of foes that spawn in the area using a number of tools at their disposal that vary depending on the ships being used.
These tools will vary depending on the types of ships that the player is controlling with destroyers being able to use low damaging but constantly firing cannons as well as torpedos, light cruisers that have stronger cannons that require some reloading alongside torpedos, aircraft carriers capable of launching ship attacks, and even battleships that fire devastating attacks that require quite a bit of reloading though nearly every ship will also be equipped with anti-aircraft guns that automatically target incoming planes. Each of the ship girls also has two special skills that vary from character to character though generally they involve a lock-on cannon barrage/air-strike and then either a team buff or extra volley of cannon fire and these skills also recharge throughout combat.
It is worth noting that the three assistant ships that are part of the player’s party only provide back-up bonuses to the primary team through skills that either activate randomly or on timers with these bonuses ranging from boosting various stats for a short period of time to providing some repairs to the team. It is nice to see that fleet building in Azur Lane: Crosswave continues to take advantage of various team bonuses that are similar to those found in the mobile game as some ship girls gain additional bonuses when paired with one another.
That being said, nearly every battle in Azur Lane: Crosswave won’t require too much extra planning as they are designed to feature the same style of success as the mobile counterpart. To receive an “S” rank on a mission players must defeat all foes, not allow any of their party to sink, and complete it in under two minutes and every fight in Story Mode was easily able to be completed under these circumstances. This is rather unfortunate as these quickly finished fights can be a real delight but due to their nature they often end far too quickly considering how much story content often takes place between fights. That being said, there are some “Extreme” fights that can be fought outside of the story mode that do require some extra grinding and careful team composition but for the most part players will be able to bring their favorite ship girls into combat without worrying about failing as a consequence.
Those that do want to power up their characters, or add more to their roster, will find that Azur Lane: Crosswave allows for some fairly straightforward character building, New ship girls are built using “A Points” that are obtained after completing battles and it is possible to replay battles to earn extra points while more ship girls unlock for building by advancing the story. As for powering up these characters, it is done by acquiring gear either through item crates that spawn on the map or by purchasing them through either of the two shops in the game. Shiranui’s shop is simple and offers a wide variety of goods while Akashi’s shop is far more expensive and occasionally offers rare items in-between fights. This gear can then be powered up further using upgrade plates that vary depending on the item type. It is also interesting to note that the “Pledge” mechanic has also been carried over to allow for players to provide one final boost to a ship girl’s stats once their affection reaches the maximum limit.
Visuals & Audio
By taking advantage of the fact that the source material already has highly detailed character art the developers of Azur Lane: Crosswave were able to easily create some amazing looking visuals for the game’s lengthy visual novel segments, there are even some extra variants added in for some characters to provide a bit of extra detail to some scenes. Additionally a number of new pieces of CG artwork has been created to show off a few events and these are similarly high quality. The in-game 3D models for the ships that players can control are nicely detailed, especially some of the fancier ships such as Unicorn, Kaga, Akagi, and others and these details really stand out when players use the “Photo” gameplay mode that allows players to take three of their favorite characters and pose them in various ways. One thing that must be said about the design of the game is that the water that players battle on is absolutely gorgeous looking, something that is essential in any ship fighting game even if the ships this time around happen to be girls.
This release of Azur Lane: Crosswave features only the original Japanese voice work accompanied by English subtitles but players will be rather surprised at just how much of the game’s dialogue is actually voiced. Nearly every single line in the game’s story mode is voiced by the original Japanese voice actresses for the characters which is a nice touch to help keep players interested in longer scenes. It is a bit unfortunate however that voice clips that play while traveling on the map and during a battle are not subtitled however. As for the game’s soundtrack there are a number of decent sounding tunes that play alongside boss battles but for the most part the background music is rather forgettable.
Azur Lane: Crosswave is a solid fit for fans of the original mobile game and maybe even a decent enough starting point for those looking to get into the franchise as the game’s core combat is enjoyable, albeit a bit too easy and kept to far too small of a level and the storyline, while a bit rough around the edges and featuring scenes that are so long that, despite being enjoyable most of the time, can drag the pace of the game to a crawl, is solid in presentation and gives players plenty of time with their favorite characters, though mostly if they are from the Sakura Empire.