Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
Azur Lane is a franchise you may be familiar with, as it started out as a mobile game and has since spawned an anime adaptation. You may also know the publishers from their other majorly known work: Arknights. Azur Lane Crosswave is a more traditional game compared to the mobile game, which I’m actually quite fond of, but still retains many of the same elements. So then, it’s now time to take a look at some of your favorite anthropomorphized ship girls, now in 3D!
Azur Lane Crosswave takes place in the Sakura Empire, the Azur Lane equivalent of Japan, and one of the four (ish) major powers in the game. Crosswave focuses on two specific kansen (the name for ship girls), Shimakaze and Suruga, a destroyer and a battleship respectively. Shimakaze is the upbeat and outgoing type while Suruga is the serious type that doesn’t want to be in the limelight. Unfortunately for Suruga, the training exercise that she’s on with Shimakaze gets crashed by Sirens, the in-universe bad guys.
Upon destroying a transport ship, a bunch of wisdom cubes are released into the water. In order to collect the large amount of cubes and try to get some help examining the mysterious Siren technology, Atago and Nagato, the leaders of the Sakura empire, call a joint military exercise with the Royal Navy (Britain), Eagle Union (America), and the Iron Blood (Germany), with guest appearances from the Dragon Empiry (China). Needless to say, things don’t exactly go as planned when the Sirens are involved.
Crosswave is largely in the form of a visual novel with the occasional battle, at least throughout the first two thirds or so of the game. You control a little chibi character moving around a restricted map, collecting boxes full of equipment and selecting event points. Event points are either battle or text, being labeled as Event Battle if it results in a skirmish.
Battles allow you to bring a total of six units in to the fight, three vanguard and three support units. Each unit has a unique passive effect that will help you in battle, such as passive health regeneration or increased torpedo damage. Unfortunately I can’t bring my beloved Erebus as she wasn’t included, but hey, I still get Kaga, Akagi, Eugen, and Bismarck. Battles may be rather sparse until the end game, but fans of the series may note that they are rather similar to the mobile game version.
Your three vanguard units will be out on the water shooting at enemy ships and ship girls. You’ll have four basic moves you can perform, and while the type and reload speed differs between unit type and what equipment you have on, I’ll use shimakaze as an example. Your first move is generally the fast firing low damage type, Shimakaze defaults as a constant bullet stream, while your second attack is usually the longer charge time but higher damage, for destroyers this is the torpedoes. Your other two attacks are rather universal, one being a lock-on attack that has a longer charge time, and a special move unique to the unit you are controlling. Shimakaze increases speed by a large factor, for instance.
Battle takes place in a 3D environment with enemy ships, shipgirls, and flying units, and you are free to move and dash across a square segment of the water during battle. You are free to swap between any of the three vanguard units still alive, and while cooldowns aren’t shared, the AI will attack using your other members while you are controlling the third. The closer to your enemy you are, the more damage you do, but the more damage you take.
Battleships can get downright dirty with this, as a couple of times I came across a sturdy opponent, I swapped to Suruga, sidled up next to them, and unleashed a barrage that inst-killed them. Makes sense that Suruga was the hardest to face off against for me, really. Your abilities and weapons can both be upgraded, and you can find new gear, or create it in the shop, to outfit your kansen with better equipment. You also need to pay attention to the type of ammo each gear uses, as some are AP (armor piercing) or HE (high explosive).
You technically have two game modes, although one isn’t unlocked for a while and might be challenging to start. On the main menu you have access to all your amenities from story mode, just not in the story proper. You can visit the store, check out the warehouse for items you’ve obtained, visit the dock where you can outfit your units or pay points to permanently unlock new units (be careful as they can’t be used if you’re fighting against them), story mode (which allows you to pick up wherever you left off rather easily), extreme battle mode (which is a series of 100+ one-off battles that get progressively more difficult but aren’t locked behind walls of text), a gallery and photo op mode, and a scenarios section (where you can see some text only side stories that are rather entertaining.
Honestly, the game only really picked up for me right at the end, as the epilogue chapter is a bunch of fights with almost all the possible units you can get from the base game, except two. This is where you’ll probably be farming the parts for the cognitive awakening, which allows you to break the initial level cap of 100 and increase it to 200. For those of you curious, the isomers for the two leftover units can be obtained from Chapter 1 and Chapter 4. While the estimated level requirement for battles certainly doesn’t get that high in the base game, the extreme battles certainly do, not to mention the final fight absolutely demolished me the first time I did it in the post game. Good lord, Suruga put the fear of anything cute in me.
For those of you interested in going for the full 100%, let me give you some pointers after having done so. First off, the gallery is only fully complete with all the oathing scenes. This means increasing affection with every single unit, and then presenting them with their character specific ring. Affection increases from: 10 battles fought while in the formation, 10 battles as secretary ship, cognitive awakening. Might not seem too bad, but you also need to earn the isomers for the cognitive awakening through story mode, and the heart tokens for the rings from extreme battle mode. Another pointer: some scenes are tied to rating in battles. Try getting an S rank in every battle. It might sound a little daunting, but by the end game, you can easily replay many of the stages to crush your opponents. All you need is to complete the fight within 2 minutes and not have one of your units incapacitated.
So let’s talk a little about the music and graphics here. Graphics first, I was really glad to see they kept the 2D designs from the mobile game for the cutscenes, as it really does keep the fans around. In combat is a bit of a mixed bag. I felt that graphically, the Switch version looked a little better than the PC version, and the water physics weren’t as awful. The 3D rendering looked nice when displayed on the TV, but looked a little squished on the “mobile style” screen, although I’m not too surprised by this.
Map movement has the cute little chibi forms that I’ve grown to love from Azur Lane, and it was interesting to note that all the units that could have retrofits were in their retrofit outfits. Music wise, I’ve gotta give props to the composers, as there are both new tracks and remasterings of tracks from the mobile game. Yes Iffy, I see your influence here with that one track you put in almost all of your games. No, I don’t think it’s a bad track, just I’m starting to pick up on this too frequently for my personal taste. Seriously though, the music is actually really stellar. Every nation gets a theme song, the battle tracks are really kickin, the map themes match the setting pretty well, and some of the tracks you just want to groove to.
This all being said, battles are quick and the game is really mostly a visual novel. With a time limit of 2 minutes for an S rank in a fight, of course the battles won’t be super long. The Switch port is nice because you can pick it up and put it down easy enough, but I really would have liked to see some more battles in story mode before the finale, even if they were optional. The story is unique in its own way, but isn’t anything too spectacular. The characters are true to their mobile game versions at least, which is a positive, but there really is too much talking before you get to the action. The battles also tend to be either super easy, super tough, or drawn out sponge fights, for the most part. Did I have fun? Most definitely. Would I recommend it to anyone who isn’t an Azur Lane fan? Probably not. On the plus side, it seems the Switch version comes with the DLC included.