Game Review: Azur Lane: Crosswave (Nintendo Switch)

It has been more than a year since Azur Lane: Crosswave first reached our shores in the UK on the PlayStation 4 and today we will be exploring what the Nintendo Switch version of the game has to offer. Will it sail to victory? Or will it sink in the ocean? Let’s take a look and find out.

Title: Azur Lane: Crosswave
Publisher: Idea Factory International
Developer: Compile Heart
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Resolution: 1920 x 1080
Audio: Japanese
Subtitles: English (White)
Local Players: 1
Online Players: N/A
Install: YES (8.2GB)

Our View:

Developed by FELISTELLA and Compile Heart, and previously released onto the PlayStation 4, and Windows PC via Steam, in 2020 the third-person-shooter come visual-novel game Azur Lane: Crosswave makes its way to the Nintendo Switch.

At its core Azur Lane: Crosswave is the same game as it was last year, except with the added bonus of having an upgraded photo mode and a handful of downloadable content pre-built into the base game, but that’s not to say Azur Lane: Crosswave  is worth passing on Nintendo’s hybrid console.  Usually for Nintendo Switch ports of Idea Factory International published titles we would edge on the side of caution, due to poor optimisation and visual downgrades with pat releases (Arc of Alchemist and Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force to name a few), but with this release there doesn’t seem to be anything of the sort.

From this perspective at least the Nintendo Switch port of Azur Lane: Crosswave is truly an upgrade from the original experience, both in content and play style. Even if you’ve experienced the original release it still offers something new while being more accessible thanks to the Nintendo Switch’s pick-up-and-play style of gaming. Whether you want to re-experience the story, or experience it for the first time, Azur Lane: Crosswave on the Nintendo Switch should be considered.

That aside for the moment the fundamentals of Azur Lane: Crosswave, much like the original iOS and Android Azur Lane game that this title is based on, is that it takes place in an alternate world whereby Military War Ships are recreated as moe-styled anthropomorphic characters  that have the appearance and personality of said War Ships.  In this fictional world these characters 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 threats.

In Azur Lane: Crosswave the game offers an original story which sees Shimakaze, a low-ranking and in training warship, and her comrades encounter the mysterious enemy threat known as SIREN and attempt to uncover the mysteries surrounding cube-like objects. To overcome this situation, and to ensure that none of the great nations are involved, a Joint Military Exercise is organised with each of the nations competing in battle to demonstrate their skills and firepower. As you would expect this story soon begins to unfold to deliver a bigger plot point that encompasses all of the different nations.

This story, which has been designed to be accessible to both newcomers and fans of the franchise, is the driving factor to unlocking new characters and weapons within the game. Naturally the further players progress through the story the more variety players will have in character selection and weapon availability. This story is played through the combination of third person shooter battles and visual novel elements that are separated into individual missions, with additional dialogue sequences being displayed as events.

These visual novel elements are fully voiced in Japanese, but sadly the characters are static pieces of art with no interaction or movement other than sliding off screen. It’s a very simplistic approach to presenting characters, especially when compared with other Idea Factory titles, but compared to the source material then they are presented in a similar manner so it was perhaps intentional.

At first the visual novel elements will play out seamlessly with the battles but eventually, after clearing the initial prologue, players will be taken to a world map which indicates battles and events.  On this map players will be able to freely navigate the sea and interact with various characters on screen. Battles will generally start a battle (after seeing some story-related dialogue) while Events will usually see dialogue exchanged between the relevant characters. Some of these will be compulsory, but most are events that add further context to the world of Azur Lane.  This map also has items scattered around, items which may be used to further enhance or refine your character.

In short the World Map, which changes depending on the chapter being played, is basically your hub screen presented in a cute chibi 2D aesthetic.  When it comes to Battles, or missions, then the gameplay style shifts to full on 3D third-person-shooter battles within a set area and while we praise the performance on the Nintendo Switch console they are not as fullfiling as one might expect. Most locations are rather bare with only water below your character and coloured skies above. Attention to detail has been made to water at least, which not only looks realistic but acts it as well when characters glide across the water – even on the Nintendo Switch.

The enemies themselves are mostly unmanned machines with very little to be excited 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 other playable characters 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 with only some minor differences being offered.

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 R and ZR buttons are used to fire basic weapons while A and Y are used for special attacks. The placement of attack buttons feels unusual to me, even more so when playing the game in handheld mode. 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 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 styled inputs 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 replay ability can be added by replaying older levels – not only for the S Rank award, but for the experience to increase your preferred characters. Sadly these missions will only appear while playing that current chapter, so you may wish to replay for S-Rank bonuses before moving forward.

Story mode elements aside Azur Lane: Crosswave also features a selection of additional modes in the form of Extreme Battle, Photos, Epsode and Gallery. Extreme Battle will allow players to challenge pre-set teams in combat, with bonuses awarded depending on the rank, while Epsisode, which is added through downloadable content, is where additional side-stories and combat missions can be played that related to that DLC character. Photo mode meanwhile, which has been expanded to allow six characters at once, allows players to pose and create photos of their favourite unlocked characters/ships in the game. Finally Gallery is, as you would expect, a Gallery mode to view unlocked artwork and content earned during story mode.

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 seconds  (let alone minutes) so there is plenty of loading screens and menu screens to interact with before jumping to the next story element or battle. Fortunately the loading screens are pretty quick, even for the Nintendo Switch. 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, is pretty fun.

This Nintendo Switch port meanwhile provides everything you would expect and more, it offers the same gameplay content as the original without compromising on the performance and visual asthethic of the original game. Sure the visuals have had a slight downgrade compared to the previous PS4 & Steam release, with visuals being slightly blurred and jagged, but that can be overlooked due to how well the overall performance of the game (and the fact that most of it is visual novel styled) and that this Switch version includes additional characters and an enhanced photo mode. It simply retains the elements of the original and expands upon them, which is what most ports should do if released at a later date on a less powered system.

In general 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-4

Azur Lane: Crosswave is now available physically and digitally for the Nintendo Switch, as well as for the PlayStation 4, and digitally for 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.

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