Overview – developed by Felistella in partnership with Compile Heart and Idea Factory, Azur Lane Crosswave is an action shooter set in the world where cute girls fight with battleships. This title is an enhanced port of the Steam/PlayStation 4 release, with bonus content included in the package. This title is available on the Nintendo Switch as both a standard version and a “Deluxe” release, links to both versions of the game on Switch, along with the other platforms will be at the bottom of this review.
Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank Idea Factory International for providing the copy of Azur Lane crosswave used for this piece. The provision of this software has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own. Please note, the version covered in this piece is the standard release of Azur Lane Crosswave, so I will only be covering the included content.
Special Announcement: the Swimsuit Neptune DLC character will be free in North America until March 16 11:00am PDT and in Europe until March 12 (no time given). This DLC content is exclusive to the Nintendo Switch and will only be available for a limited time, so pick it up while you can.
Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review, starting off with the story of Azur Lane Crosswave.
Story – Azur Lane Crosswave takes place in an alternate universe setting, following the exploits of new recruits Shimakaze and Suruga as they train and battle with characters from the Azur Lane franchise. The following details were taken from official sources at Idea Factory International.
The four nations of Azur Lane: Eagle Union, Royal Navy, Iron Blood, and Sakura Empire. The military of each nation marched towards yet another season of diligent training. Suddenly, in the middle of their normal routines, a Joint Military Exercise was enacted. In this monumental event, a select few from each nation were chosen, causing all of them to train even harder in anticipation of rigorous battles ahead. But how did this event come to exactly? Are there ulterior motives at play?
Gameplay – the core gameplay to Azur Lane Crosswave is reminiscent of games like Virtual On, with roaming battles that take place on the oceans of the game world. The intense battles are made up of over the shoulder arena-style combat, with the player having a variety of attacks/skills available to them. There are four playable modes that the player can access in the game, however only the story mode is accessible from the start of the game.
Here is a breakdown of the game modes that are in Azur Lane Crosswave;
- Story Mode – play through the story of Azur Lane Crosswave, laid out in several chapters that explore the exploits of Shimakaze and her partner Suruga, build a fleet and take on powerful opponents in battle. Playing through the story allows players to unlock new characters, game modes and other bonuses. The story mode introduces the two protagonist ship girls, with additional main units and supports that can be unlocked which I will discuss later.
- Important note: please be aware that more main ships are available at the start with the DLC and included bonus content on the Nintendo Switch version.
- Extreme Battle – take on preset enemy fleets under various battle situations, with over 100 total battles to take on. Rewards are given for completing the battles, based on their level of difficulty.
- Photo Mode – arrange characters in different poses and on several backdrops, allowing for players to create stunning images and recreate scenes from the anime freely.
- Episode Mode – view special story events that take place between the many characters of the game, giving greater details about the happenings at the joint military event. There are more than 50 stories to discover in this mode.
Now with the overview of the game modes covered, I want to go into more detail about the story and core gameplay.
The story mode is where the majority of time will be spent playing the game, exploring the narrative that is exclusive to this release. The player takes on the role of the rookie ships Shimakaze and Suruga, battling the other members of the cast. In story mode, the game plays out through various events set out on a large map that can be explored freely to locate the chosen event, along with items that can be picked up while moving between events.
Story events are visual novel style segments where the narrative of this title is told, using anime styled portraits to depict each of the characters. There is two types of story event, major events tell the main plotline, progressing the narrative forward. The second is sub event, conversation segments where other characters are shown, telling different stories and fleshing out the world that the player experiences during the course of the game.
Battle events are as described, battles where the player pits their forces against a designated opponent. The combat stages have their own story sections that tie into the major plot events, usually setting out the opponent that the player will face. Before entering battle, the player will be able to set up their party for that encounter, choosing from the main ships and support ships. Main ships are the playable characters whereas the support ships purpose being to use skills to aid in the stages.
The main units each have their own weapons that can be upgraded and switched as the game progresses, allowing for the characters to get stronger. Players are able to select up to three ships in both the main and support categories, however the game only provides two main ship units for the player to use (not counting bonus DLC characters). New characters for both classifications can be unlocked during the course of the game extending the options available to the player in battle.
At the start of a battle, the player will be given an objective to complete, which can be a single large combat encounter or several smaller fights that chain together. The requirements to clear each stage are to eliminate a set number of enemies, with a boss battle to clear the stage successfully. When the stage is cleared, the player is given a ranking based on their performance and rewards that are suitable for that ranking.
Rewards include items that can be used to strengthen ships, money for purchasing items, points to unlock new characters (which will be discussed further in the review) and experience points to level up the party. Characters will level up when experience is earned, providing stat increases over time to boost the strength of that unit. Cleared stages can be replayed in story mode, providing more chances to level up the ships in the player party and easing the challenge of tougher stages.
In the stages, players have access to different attacks based on the type of ship that the player is using, however all characters share the same set of basic inputs and the ability to lock onto enemies. The basic layout for all main ships is two armament attacks, two special skills and a defensive move which is either a dash or a guard. The skills and some armament attacks have a meter that charges up before it can be used, so learning what weapon works best for each situation will aid in taking down each of the enemies that are faced.
The effective use of character skills and attacks are the key to victory in battles, with experimentation being the best way to find out what works best. During stages, if the player has more than one main ship in their party then they can switch freely between them, allowing for more strategy to be used in combat. Learning what each character in the party is capable of can help clear out enemies quickly and effectively.
The last thing I want to talk about is the resource management and shop/dock system, starting with gear upgrades. One of the rewards that players can earn is upgrade parts, which can be used to power up the equipment/skills and increase the benefits for that ship. The cost of upgrades increases over time, making power-ups more expensive the stronger the weapon gets, so effective management of all earned resources is important. Next to talk about is the shop.
Another resource that players earn for completing battles is money, which is spent on upgrades, but more importantly in the shop. There are two functions in the shop, the Shiranui that allows players to buy/sell items and the Akashi Laboratory. The lab is the more important part of the shop, because here the player can exchange items for rewards, obtain upgrade materials and unlock new equipment by trading in blueprints.
The final thing that players earn is A Points, a special currency that is used in the Dock mode. These special points are earned at a lower rate, but are worth the effort to earn because they are used to unlock new ships. The cost for new character ships can range from as low as 50 points to as high as 1000 points needed to unlock, giving a reason to replay battles more often to fill out your collection of cute ship girls as quickly as possible.
In total, there are more than fifty girls that can be unlocked separated between the Main and Support categories (with more added through DLC). This huge roster covers many of the fan favorite characters from the four nations, offering a diverse range of options for all players to work towards unlocking. There is even a bonus combination system that will give the player a boost depending on the party composition, rewarding the player for experimenting and collecting different ships.
Now with the gameplay covered to an extent that I feel I am happy with, I will be moving onto the other aspects of the game.
Difficulty – when starting a new game, the player is presented with three options (this can be changed during the game). The settings are easy which is for those more interested in the story over combat, normal which is the most balanced choice offering a moderate challenge and hard for those who want a punishing experience. All three options can have any difficulties mitigated by grinding and powering up the characters, easing up some of the more challenging encounters.
Controls – the controls are effective in their simplicity, using the thumbsticks to control movement of the character and camera with ease, along with the buttons/triggers being used for attacks and skills. The inputs and reactions all work well, with zero lag in combat, making for a comfortable experience in all system setups. Although there is one minor issue that I found during play, when using any attack or skill, there is a lack of feedback through vibration which would have made the overall quality of gameplay better.
Presentation – the visual style of Azur Lane Crosswave uses a mix of 2d Anime art for the narrative and menu sections, contrasted with the 3d models and environments used for the battle stages. Graphically, the models used for each character works well, bringing life to the different ship girls but unfortunately the lack of diversity to the stages is a minor let down. The performance of the game during the combat is stable and optimized well, unfortunately the text is a little small so it may be difficult to read in handheld mode or on the Nintendo Switch.
The sound for this release is very good, with a high quality soundtrack that utilizes a navy motif throughout and traditional bright, happy compositions for interactions and heavy rock sounds for more intense moments. The story is fully voiced and the characters have voice samples that play during stages. All lines are acted very well and use a very talented voice cast, I was unable to find out if the voice cast for the anime and the game are the same or share voice actors, so I am unable to comment on it.
Final Thoughts – during my time with Azur Lane Croswave, I gained an appreciation for the characters and world presented as this was my first exposure to the series. I can say that the story is engaging and something that I will happily return to in the future for a secondary playthrough. The action flows well, but has the potential to seem repetitive for those who want more variety to the action. However, I can happily recommend this to people who like arena style battle games and visual novels in general.
The characters, world and overarching narrative are all crafted excellently and there is so much more hidden away that would make this review much, much longer if I were to cover it. The work that the development team has put into this title is very impressive and I have nothing but positive feelings from the overall experience. There were a few technical hiccups during play like the lack of vibration feedback in battle, but it wasn’t serious enough to sour the experience.
In the end, I give Azur Lane Crosswave a final score of 4/5. A fast paced and intense arena style battle game, featuring exciting combat and depth of gameplay that brings the world of Azur Lane to a whole new dimension. The story is crafted well, the characters all fit together and the artwork is simply breathtaking. If you want to check the game out for yourself, links to all versions of the game will be below.
REMINDER: the Neptune swimsuit DLC will only be available for a limited time and is exclusive to the Nintendo Switch system.
Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)
Link to PlayStation 4 version (HERE)
Link to Steam version (HERE)