[Review] Azur Lane: Crosswave – Nintendo Switch

  • Developer: Idea Factory, Compile Heart
  • Publisher: Idea Factory
  • Release Date: 16/02/2021
  • Price: $49.99 / £44.99
  • Review code provided by Idea Factory

Introducing Azur Lane: Crosswave Switch Review

I love Japanese video games. I find myself saying this in conversations about how I miss the days of getting weird and challenging games for the NES, SNES, Genesis and PS1 that felt out of left field but may have been a big deal to our neighbors in the East. Yet, every time I say this, I feel I am gifted with experiencing a game that hits me like an 18-wheeler of WTF. Dear reader, today I will detail my experience of Azur Lane: Crosswave and how I doubt I am the target market for such a title!

Royal Eagle Union

Azure Lane: Crosswave tells the tale of a group of battleships, destroyers, and aircraft carriers that possess female bodies and have very long and drawn-out conversations. One such vehicle turned girl is Shimakaze, the heroine of the game. She wears an extremely tiny dress, sports large bunny ears, and is stacked with mounted guns! Apparently, all the Kansen (the name for the anthropomorphic girls) have access to “rigging” that can be switched out or upgraded!

I am getting ahead of myself, now back to the story! There are four main nations in the world, Sakura Empire, Iron Blood, Eagle Union and Royal Navy and they all have an uneasy truce. Fear of war becomes prevalent when Shimakaze of the Sakura Empire has a run in with the Sirens, a pirate/alien group that leads to the discovery of new technology. Akagi, a high-ranking member of Sakura Empire, arranges a plan for a global military exercise involving this technology, but hides her true intentions to the other nations.

Thus, begins the drama filled battleship visual novel-esque story of Crosswave. Over the next ten hours, we will see Shimakaze interact with other Kansen, strengthening bonds and often having goofy run-ins with the vast cast of characters presented. With this being a spin off to a wildly successful mobile game in the Asian markets, it’s possible for people picking this up to have no clue who the massive cast is or why they are important. During the last few chapters, so many new characters were appearing for very brief moments that just had me flabbergasted.

Iron Blood Sakura

Azur Lane: Crosswave’s main attraction is the story mode. It follows Shimakaze and her partner Suruga as they take part of the joint military exercise with the other nations present. The story is usually told with two static characters on screen at a time. The stills of the characters will change from time to time with different emotions being shown on the characters face, but don’t expect multiple poses or anything. All the dialog is fully voice acted in Japanese, which adds a nice touch hearing these characters get flustered or excited.

When not dealing in the moments of the Kansen’s everyday life, you are battling on the open seas. Starting off, only Shimakaze and Suruga are available to choose, but every battle gives you EXP, A-points, gold and sometimes items. A-points are your gateway to getting more characters. You can have three main characters for your team, and three supporting Kansen. The three you choose to take into battle with you can be switched out on the fly by pressing left or right on the d-pad. The support unions offer up bonuses to your overall stats but gain levels as well. Azur Lane lets you choose from dozens of girls that can be main units and support units and dozens more that are support only.

Sirens?!

When the time comes to finally get into battle, the first few chapters are a bit of a let down as the combat is over in seconds. I was playing on the default difficulty and was mowing down every enemy in sight. The combat was fairly simple, you control one of three Kansen as they aim to decimate the enemy’s fleet. This is usually made up of other battleships, airplanes, and Kansen. Thankfully, the battles get more challenging as you proceed and you are given the option to grind out previous missions to get more exp, gold and A-points.

The battles are straight forward enough. Most have simple objectives that require the player to take out bosses (battleships and Kansen) or airplanes. Doing so is pretty easy with your characters rigging. Attacks are assigned to the R, ZR, Y and X buttons. Each one has a recharge time, which adds a bit of strategy as they can be replaced and upgraded based on items found. All-in-all, I never found the combat to be too demanding, and I didn’t fail a single mission. Upon completion of the story mode, extreme mode offers more challenging battles to fulfill any request for more fighting.

Gaze Out into the Sea

All of the character designs in Azur Lane had great detail given to them. Most of the models transitioned well into 3D when playing as them in the battle scenarios. For someone who needs a waifu, this game is for you as each of the Kansen can be set as your navigator for the main menu, and you can even propose to them if you build up a good enough relationship. I am not even making this up, this game is wild.

For all the praise I give the designs, they are still inanimate sprites for the most part and I wish they were being used in a 2D fighting game to show off how well these charismatic characters can really cut loose! The music in Azur Lane never stood out but felt like average anime game fair. There was only one instance when the battle music felt out of left field. I was fighting a challenging battle in one of the optional events and the music felt like I was in a bazaar buying goods, not fighting for my life.

Better Together

Azur Lane ran smoothly during my ten-hour playthrough regardless of me playing in docked or handheld mode. The battles looked, and played, smoother in docked mode, but I had zero issues when playing in handheld. As a port, Idea Factory and Compile Heart did a bang-up job of making sure this game performs exactly as it should.

Final Thoughts

Azur Lane: Crosswave was not the game I was expecting to play. I had expectations of Earth Defense Force, but with ships and planes. Instead, I got a story heavy anime romp with dozens of anthropomorphic ship-girls in a visual novel meets third person shooter with RPG elements. To say this is a weird game is an understatement, but I appreciate it for what it is, even if I am not the exact brand of customer it is intended for.

Pros

  • So Many Characters
  • Great Designs

Cons

  • Story is Muddled
  • So Many Characters (too many for the story)
  • Game Feels a Bit Easy

Verdict
Azur Lane: Crosswave is a fun spin-off for a very popular mobile title that is held back by the sheer volume of history therein. Only true fans need apply!

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