Originally a mobile game, turned anime, turned console title, Azur Lane: Crosswave surfs onto PC to grace you with anime battleship waifus. Come join us as we join Shimikaze and Suruga as they make friends, blow stuff up, and collect detritus.
If you’ve heard of Kantai collection, you basically know what Azur Lane is about. For those of you who are even more confused, essentially Azur Lane as a series is about anthropomorphic ships that fight off the “Sirens”, a group of animal-based enemies that create “mirror seas” and attack humanity. Crosswave specifically deals with Shimikaze and Suruga, two new recruits for the Sakura empire (that would be the Japanese navy, essentially). After encountering a siren fleet while performing a training exercise, a bunch of cubes are dropped in the ocean. In a bid to try and get other nations to help collect them, the Sakura Empire organizes a “Joint Training Exercise” with the other three major nations (Eagle Union, Royal Navy, and Iron Blood), with a guest appearance from the Dragon Empery. Cue some friendly, and not so friendly, combat matches between the Kansen, which are what the ship-girls are referred to as.
As someone who has played the mobile version of Azur Lane for a while now, I was wondering how Crosswave was going to turn out. Luckily, it turned out better than I was expecting, given the original nature of the game. Gameplay consists of battles with a team of up to six Kansen, three front row fighters that take place in the battle, and three support members that simply provide passive effects for your teammates. Combat consists of a sort of free-roam action style, where you have a square sort of arena, and you are given objectives to complete to move on to the next objective, until you’ve completed them all.
Objectives can range from “shoot down 20 enemy planes” to “defeat the enemy”, although it almost always ends with defeating an actual opponent. Getting into the actual battle, each unit has four basic “attacks” they can perform. There is a main gun, a secondary gun, a lock-on attack, and a skill. Depending on what type of unit you’re using, your main gun can either be a continuous attack, or it could have a reload time. The secondary, lock-on, and skill all also require a reload time, so you can’t just spam fire them. While in combat you have a sort of reticle around the centre of the screen which acts as your lock-on. If the little indicator is red, your shots will home in on the enemies, and the closer you are, the more damage you’ll do, but so will your enemies, so be careful!
All of your available missions will be either from story missions or from the “extreme battles”. Story missions tend to be mostly just talking events, using artwork from the Azur Lane original game itself in a more classic Compile Heart style, with the anime-stylized characters “shifting” on-screen or changing only facial expression as the text scrolls by. After you hit about two-thirds of the way through, the battles do tend to pick up a bit, which was nice because I found it really easy up until Akagi and Kaga challenge you to a match and I almost cried. While it generally isn’t too difficult to complete a battle, even if the enemy is double your level, getting an S rank requires you to complete the battle within 120 seconds and without losing a unit, which gets progressively more difficult. Especially if you fight Suruga. Seriously though, she’s slow and a little clunky, so I wasn’t a fan at first. And then I gave her an actually set of weapons. Nothing feels quite as satisfying as activating a skill to halve the damage you take, slowly waltz up to an enemy, blast them in the face for half their health, and then regain 30% of your own health. It’s dirty but I love it, when not used against me :’(
You can collect or purchase gear as you play through the game, although the best gear requires you to earn blueprints that you get from the bonus battles that are part of the “extreme battles”, all 110 of them, ranging from easy to “why on earth would you ever think that enemy unit combination is anything other than sadistic developer pleasure?!?”. I think that one was battle 99 and took me about 12 minutes to complete. Considering you need to finish within 2 minutes for an S rank? Yeah. But I mean, there are a lot of bonus battles for you to take part in.
I’m really glad to see they went with the original game artwork for Crosswave, and while the 3D models you get in battle aren’t the worst I’ve seen, I’ve also seen better. On the plus side, loading times are virtually a second and a half at longest, and after clearing a stage you can continuously repeat it without going through either dialogue or the “world map” if you’re in story mode. Also, not once did I encounter any lag, which is rather impressive given that there is water physics going on, which I normally find to be a contender for leading lag producer in, well, pretty much everything.
Crosswave also continues in the same vein as the original title, allowing you to perform “cognitive awakening” once a unit has hit level 100 and you’ve earned enough isomers to trade for a chip, bumping the level cap up to 200. You can also “oath” you ships, or marry them, if you’d prefer, by meeting certain conditions. Hint, you need a certain amount of S rank completions in story missions to awaken a ship. All that being said, Crosswave isn’t a particularly long game. I finished all the missions and story mode within 7 hours. Keep in mind I don’t yet have a unit that has hit level 200 though, so if I wanted to keep earning levels and going for cognitive awakenings and oaths I could, although it does get fairly same-y after awhile.
Earning all the units is surprisingly easy at least, as you earn “A points” after battle, and you can exchange those to “purchase” a unit for use permanently, although you can’t use the same unit as the enemy team has, so for example if they have Enterprise on their side, you won’t be able to use her. A little annoying when 4 or 5 of your standard units are now on the other side of the field, but because all unlocked units earn experience from battle whether they participate or not, it just becomes a matter of proper equipment and actually upgrading your gear and skills. No really though, I forgot you could upgrade these because I wasn’t earning the items I needed, and then when I remembered I could, battles went from “urgh” to “HAHA, SUCK IT AKASHI AND YOUR PASSIVE HEAL”.
Despite how much I rather enjoyed Crosswave, it isn’t without its faults. The game seems to not really want you to figure out how to awaken that easily, battles get fairly repetitive rather fast, and the storyline, while interesting as a bit of a veteran player, may confuse the heck out of anyone who’s new to the series. My biggest two gripes, however, are the fact that you can “hit” the edges of the arena and get stuck, essentially opening you up for a murderous bombardment, or the fact you can get stuck on your teammates. Yes, it’s nice to be able to basically switch at will, no, I don’t want to get stuck trying to dodge an artillery bombardment, and yes Suruga, you have a wide rigging, please move. Other than that, I would’ve liked to see some more Iron Blood as playable units, and a lot of the units are relegated to support so they can’t be actually controlled.