Game Review: Azur Lane: Crosswave (PlayStation 4)

Military warships merged with female anime characters can only mean one thing; Azur Lane, and now the iconic mobile franchise is available in the west as a full-fledged PlayStation 4 release known as Azur Lane: Crosswave. Will this title sail away to victory, or will it sink like the many before it? Let’s take a look and find out.

Title: Azur Lane: Crosswave
Publisher: Idea Factory International
Developer: Compile Heart
Platform: PlayStation 4
Resolution: 1920 x 1080
Audio: Japanese
Subtitles: English (White)
Local Players: 1
Online Players: N/A
Install: YES (4GB)

Our View:

Based upon the Chinese-developed iOS and Android game of the same name Azur Lane: Crosswave is a third-person-shooter with visual novel elements that brings the world of Azur Lane to the PlayStation 4 (and Windows PC via STEAM). Developed by FELISTELLA and Compile Heart, while being published outside of Japan by Idea Factory International, this first western console (and PC) entry into the Azur Lane franchise offers something strangely familiar but oddly unique at the same.

The fundamentals of Azur Lane: Crosswave, much like the original iOS and Android game, is that it takes place in an alternate world whereby Military War Ships are moe anthropomorphic characters  that take on the appearance and personality of said War Ships.  In this fictional world these characters (or war ships if you prefer) belong to one of four different nations, known as Eagle Union, Royal Navy, Iron Blood and Sakura Empire, with each nation fighting to protect their land from enemy threat.

In Azur Lane: Crosswave the conflict between each nation is just as heated as it ever has been, but thanks to the introduction of a video-game-exclusive story newcomers will be able to immerse themselves in this world, while fans of the original will be able to experience their favourite characters in new light. This story, of which sees the new recruits (namely Shimakaze) and commanding officers of each nation invited to a Joint Military Exercise that soon spirals into a bigger threat, has been designed to be easily accessible and introduce fans and newcomers alike to the various characters from the Azur Lane franchise.

Although the story is the driving factor behind the game, as it makes the player progress forward in order to unlock additional characters and weapons, it can become slightly tiresome for those uninterested in this alternate world of warships and the games tried and tested style of pacing. This is, as with most Japanese IPs, because of the consistent bickering and banter between characters that take place in between each mission. Love it or loathe it, it is a common trope amongst Japanese developed IPs and it continues here within Azur Lane: Crosswave – which, if you are a fan of the franchise, may be a positive thing.

The story plays out as such; Shimakaze is introduced to the world of warships during routine training exercises, but when a mysterious enemy threat appears her nation forges the start of a joint exercise with other nations in an attempt to unveil the culprit. As the exercise gets underway, and the missions progress, the mysterious threat that appeared before Shimakaze in training resurfaces and soon they form a plan to stop to that threat. As part of this story players will be able to use a variety of characters, with more being unlocked the further you progress. These characters are not only unique by design, but also by skill – as each character has a set fight (shoot) style and as a result each character (ship) feels slightly different to play as – even if their weapons can be changed.

Regardless of the narrative for the story it is played through the traditional combination of missions and visual novel elements. At first completing missions will automatically begin dialogue, all of which are voiced in Japanese, but upon starting the Joint Exercise, and the main bulk of the story, players will be granted access to a world map that occasionally separates the dialogue from the combat.

On this map players will be able to freely navigate the sea and interact with various characters on screen. It seems this ‘world map’ recreates elements from the original mobile game, especially with the use of chibi styled artwork; but more importantly than that it acts as your way to begin missions, interact with characters and learn more about the world.

On this map screen different icons and characters will do different things. For instance icons that are represented as a ship will start a Battle (or Mission) while characters will generally trigger an event, which starts the visual novel styled portion of the game that helps progress the story before entering a battle, or trigger some helpful advice on what to do next. The map also has items scattered around, items which may be used to further enhance or refine your character. In short the map is basically the hub screen, as with most Compile Heart developed games (i.e. Hyperdimension Neptunia), but on this occasion it adds a bit of interaction with it. A nice touch, even if it can sometimes be a little bare.

When it comes to Battles, or missions, then the gameplay style shifts to full on 3D battles within a set area and unfortunately these are not as fulfilling as one might expect. Most locations are rather bland and bare with only endless amounts of water underneath your character and coloured skies above. Attention has been made to water at least, which not only looks realistic but acts it as well when characters glide across the water.

The enemies themselves are mostly unmanned machines with very little to be interested about; but that hardly matters due to how easily they are shot down. Fortunately as you progress some varieties are offered in both the combat and enemies. As an example some missions may task you to destroy a larger enemy ship or another playable character while others may ask you to survive or collect various things within the area. Regardless of the task, they all look and play relatively the same.

The controls are also as expected, but unusual at the same time, with the Analog Sticks being used to move the character, and the camera, while trigger and inputs buttons are used to fire. The confusing aspect is that R1 and R2 buttons are used to fire basic weapons while Square and Cross are used for special attacks. Each weapon also has a form of cool down, while some weapons (Anti-Air cannons for instance) can only be fired three or four times before having to be cooled down.

Generally it takes some getting used to, as you cannot simply hold down the trigger button and keep firing. Lock-on is also done automatically which is both a nice and an annoying feature. It’s nice, as it means it will always lock-on to a nearby opponent, but annoying as in most cases it will lock-on to an opponent that you do not want. As long as the target is within the large circle on screen then you are always guaranteed a hit. This is also handy for fast-paced boss battles.

It’s simple and effective combat, but at the same time does almost feel ‘a little bit too easy’ during the first few chapters of the game. To make combat a little more interesting players can customise their ‘team’ before a battle, with characters unlocked being added as team-mates or support depending on the character. During regular gameplay three playable characters and three support characters can be chosen at once and you can ‘swap’ between each of the three playable characters during a mission using the D-Pad while support characters can be used to aide in combat.

Naturally with such an expansive roster of characters in the iOS and Android game it is of no surprise that a large number of characters make their appearance in this console game. Some of these characters are playable, but a large variety of them are non-playable support characters that can help turn the tide of battle; especially when you are in a bit of pinch.

In addition to team load-outs players can also customise their characters stats and abilities with various weapons and upgrade parts. Some of these are dropped through regular missions, or on the world map, but additional content can also be purchased from the in-game shop using in-game currency. Generally all weapons can be strengthened to make stronger via the ‘Warehouse’ option and weapons can be interchanged between any of the characters currently unlocked.

It’s also important to note that Azur Lane: Crosswave features a level-up system like most RPG games and as you would expect this increases attack and defensive stats of your characters. As a result some replayability can be added by replaying older levels – not only for the S Rank award, but for the experience to increase your preferred characters.

Whether you love Azur Lane, or hate it; Azur Lane: Crosswave certainly offers something – but it is not without a few niggles. Firstly the visual novel dialogue elements, of which are voiced in Japanese, do not feature any reactive or movable character artwork and instead are still character portraits that change depending on the results of the conversation. It is understandable, given the IP and the amount of characters, but it makes visual novel segments very static and a little dull to watch.

When it comes to combat then while character models look great, and so does the sea, the enemies and environments are bland; furthermore the missions are generally over within a handful of minutes so there is plenty of loading screens and menu screens to interact with before jumping to the next story element or battle. Those who are new to the Azur Lane franchise will find this quite tedious and tiresome, especially if they just want to jump-in to the third-person-shooter combat that, at times, can be fun.

Azur Lane: Crosswave is a real mixture of a game and it is obvious to see that the game has been designed to cater toward the Azur Lane fandom with its similar artwork, presentations and unique storyline. For fans of the franchise then Azur Lane ticks all of the right boxes (assuming your favourite characters made it of course), but for newcomers to the franchise it is a third-person-shooter with cute moe-styled characters that offers something different to the norm. The sole focus here is the story, but that aside there is not really much to look at other than a large selection of cute looking warships.

Score: review-stars-3

Azur Lane: Crosswave is available now for the PlayStation 4 and Windows PC (via Steam) across Europe and North America.

 

About Scott Emsen
Scott is the Founder and Executive Editor of AnimeBlurayUK but in the past he has worked at ZOMGPlay, Rice Digital and Funstock and was once a Community Moderator for the Nokia N-Gage forums. Based in the UK, he loves anything related to Games & Anime and in In his spare time you'll mostly find him playing on one of his many gaming consoles; namely the PS Vita, PS4 or Xbox One.

One Response to Game Review: Azur Lane: Crosswave (PlayStation 4)

  1. I can’t trust anything coming out on the Soyny CensorStation anymore.

    Sad to say as a big PS fan in the past.

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