Azur Lane: Crosswave Review (Nintendo Switch)

Published on September 20th, 2021 by Kierra Lanier

Azur Lane: Crosswave Review (Nintendo Switch)

Azur Lane: Crosswave is an action shooter RPG joining the long line of Idea Factory and Compile Heart video games. Originally a mobile gacha game, the series revolves around personified boats battling against an alien force known as the Sirens. While there are obvious similarities shared between the mobile and console game, Azur Lane: Crosswave does appear to have its own original content. While not the first gacha game to make its way to console, how does it fare on the Switch? Let’s find out!

Story

Within the world of Azur Lane, there are young women who are personified versions of well known battleships, such as the Enterprise and Hood. Known as Kansen, they possess powerful rigging weaponry and typically don’t desire conflict. As such, all of the Kansen across Earth live without any major threats between four different nations.

The four nations within Azur Lane are the Eagle Union, Royal Navy, Iron Blood, and Sakura Empire. Each has its own culture and way of ruling and alludes to real world nations based on the battleships represented within Azur Lane: Crosswave. However, the peace soon comes to a screeching halt when the Sirens, a group of aliens, appear at sea. After a confrontation with the two main characters, Shimakaze and Suruga, the Sirens scatter strange cubes across the sea.

Story Mode - Azur Lane: Crosswave
The story of Azur Lane is told in a visual novel-esque fashion.

In the Story Mode, you will primarily play through the lens of the new recruits, Shimakaze and Suruga. Each chapter is shown in a visual novel-esque format in-between gameplay portions. Unfortunately, Azur Lane suffers from it’s gacha background by having a decent chunk appear in this game, and while all 50+ characters don’t appear in the main story, it’s still overwhelming to constantly meet new characters. It is difficult remembering which ship is associated with what nation and even worse remembering which anime quirk is associated with whom.

When it comes to the storytelling, there is honestly nothing to truly note in Azur Lane: Crosswave. There are some interesting characters and relationships, but they seldom, if ever, get explored. There also feels as though there is a lack of conflict within the story. While there is an enemy force, you never truly feel as though they are a real threat to you. Everything wraps up almost a bit too nicely.

Gameplay

Azur Lane: Crosswave’s gameplay is primarily described as an action shooter, where you control up to three characters and move around a closed off area, attacking waves of enemies as they appear. As you win battles, you gain EXP, material drops, and currency (to purchase weapons, materials, and unlock new ships).

Formations

Before you enter battle, you enter a formation screen where you can select your main fleet and your support fleet. The main fleet is composed of characters that you directly control while the support fleet acts as skill support. The support fleet does not enter battle, so if all of your units in your main fleet are defeated, you will end up with a game over. Only characters that appear in the main story can be used in your main fleet during Story Mode.

Formation building in Azur Lane: Crosswave
You can build your main and support fleets from characters you’ve unlocked.

While you are building the perfect formation, you can also view attributes to your layout, such as the total fire power and HP. Along with those, there are different fleet builds that can give you additional effects, such as increasing HP and firepower. These fleet builds can be very simple to learn, such as the Protagonist build featuring Shimakaze and Suruga. Others may take some guessing, such as H&W featuring Belfast and Unicorn. It’s an interesting mechanic that can make team building more fun, especially if you’re attempting to clear the game in the hard difficulty or attempting to clear through all of the Extreme Battle Mode levels.

3D Battles

In battle, you are stuck within a small square area that you can move around in to shoot at enemy battleships and characters. Outside of not being able to move beyond barriers during battle, you can move your characters around wherever you see fit. You can aim your fire anywhere around you, although you can only aim so high up into the air. While there will be some missions that tell you to destroy airships, those aren’t frequent. The attacking mechanic is a bit lackluster, with very little impact being felt when attacking other units. Several of the early battles end before the battle can be appreciated.

3D Battles in Azur Lane: Crosswave
You can control one of your three main fleet characters in battle at a time.

There is a lock-on zone designated by a white dotted circle in the middle of your screen. As you move your camera around, a red circle will appear where enemies are at, and using any of your attacks or skills will automatically lock onto those enemies. Once you have defeated all enemies in a wave, the barriers around you will lift and a green arrow will appear, alerting you where to go next.

You will want to constantly be on the move, as your enemies are constantly firing at you. Along with being able to see enemy fire as its coming at you, bright red spots appear on the water, letting you know to move out of that spot before you end up taking damage. There are also torpedoes that will come towards you and the only way to anticipate them is by paying close attention to the waters around you.

Skill activation during battle in Azur Lane: Crosswave
You have several skills that you can activate during battle.

You have four different skills/attacks that you can use during battle, each with their own timers. Each character has their own skills, differentiating one ship from the next, if ever slightly. Truthfully, not much skill or care is necessary when building your main and support fleets. The main story combat is almost painfully straightforward (at least on Normal Mode). There is no variation in battle, with all of the missions being either to destroy battleships, defeat characters, or destroy enemy air fleets. While you can enhance your skills to decrease reload time and increase power, you do not unlock any new skills.

Victory Screen in Azur Lane: Crosswave
After winning a battle, a victory screen will appear displaying your winnings.

After you clear a battle, you will get a rank depending on three battle conditions. Battles can be played through as many times as you wish, making it easy to go and clean up any battles where you may have missed a condition. Along with money that can be used in the shop, item drops, and EXP, you will gain another currency known as “A Points”. With A Points, you can unlock new ships to use in battle. Any ships that you unlock will be set to level one, but they will gain experience as you go through battles, even if they aren’t set to your main or support fleets.

Character unlock screen in Azur Lane: Crosswave
Using A Points, you can unlock a variety of characters.

If you wish to unlock all ships, you will need to grind to gather A Points. Harder battles award more points, but generally, you get around 40-100 points per battle. Unit costs range greatly between costing 40 points, all the way up to 1000.

Enhancing Your Ships

You can equip your ships with weapons crafted from materials found on the ocean map in-between cutscenes or bought at the Dock shop. Each ship can be equipped with up to three different weapons and two auxiliary add-ons. The weapon types that can be equipped (artillery, torpedoes, anti-air, and aviation) differ depending on the ship type, so you’ll want to make use of different ship types if you want to use all of your different equipment. The auxiliary add-ons give additional passive upgrades to units, such as increased attack and invincibility.

Equipment Editing Screen in Azur Lane: Crosswave
You are able to equip up to three weapons and two auxiliary add-ons.

You can enhance equipment that you have using materials dropped in battle or found on the ocean map at the Warehouse. As you strengthen your weapons, its power and reload times improve, but you’ll need more materials to continue upgrading it.

Equipment enhance screen in Azur Lane: Crosswave
If you have the correct materials, you can enhance your equipment.

Ocean Map

In-between battles and story cutscenes, you can control your character and move around a 2D map of the area. There isn’t much to interact with, outside of characters, event nodes, and crates holding materials. A compass on the top left hand corner will guide you toward the main story. Main story battles are highlighted as red points. If there are no red points available, then you must clear all of the green points to reveal the next story node.

Ocean Map - Azur Lane: Crosswave
In-between story cutscenes, you can navigate around the ocean map.

While being able to control your character around this map is cute and this is one of the two moments where you can collect materials, there isn’t much use in the Ocean Map. There are no side quests, so you’re pretty much moving from point A to point B. Given how long the cutscenes can feel sometimes, having the occasional break is nice, especially since you can’t exit and save during these cutscenes without quitting the game.

Extreme Battle

Extreme Battle
Extreme battle is where you can battle against teams of ships, increasing in difficulty.

As you play through the game, you will unlock Extreme Battle Mode, where you can battle against the characters of Azur Lane: Crosswave, one after another. Enemy ships can’t be used in your teams, meaning that you’ll need to adjust your team layout as you progress. The difficulty does increase as you continue to win battles, with special characters appearing if you fulfill specific tasks. These battles play similar to Story Mode and start off easy, so if you’re looking for a challenge, you will need to clear through several first.

Photo Mode and Episodes

Other Modes in Azur Lane: Crosswave are the Photo Mode and Episodes. Both are fairly straightforward and truthfully, will probably only satisfy a niche group of players. With Photo Mode, you can choose any character and setting that you have unlocked and take pictures. You have full control of the camera and where the characters themselves are at, allowing for some interesting shots if you have the patience for maneuvering the characters around. Even just playing around in this mode, I found the movement to be very sensitive, with a light touch sending a girl much farther than anticipated.

Photo Mode - Azur Lane: Crosswave
In Photo Mode, you can take pictures of any ships you have unlocked.

As you unlock characters, you will see a message appear that mentions that you’ve unlocked a new episode. These episodes act as mini stories, giving some background and characterization to all of the side characters.

Aesthetics

Those familiar with Azur Lane will be right at home when jumping into the console game. Perhaps though, they may be a little bit too at home. Most of the character art is the same that is currently used in the mobile game. While that is understandable given the large cast, it’s still a disappointment that the art is reused. That being said though, the art of all the characters does look nice. Through the visual novel portion of the game, the characters appear as 2D sprites against a splash background with minimal movements. A fair bit of warning, if anime fan service is not your thing, then Azur Lane may throw a wrench in your side, as many of the characters are dressed provocatively or are in very… strange positions. Standard anime fair, but still worth mentioning.

CG Splash Art - Azur Lane: Crosswave
You can unlock several CG scenes by playing through the story mode.

However, there are also 2D CG art that appears to be original to this game that looks amazing. The downside though is that there aren’t many of these images. The game offers Japanese audio in Story Mode, which includes characters that only appear for a short while. The voice acting did help to make the abundance of characters a little less grating to have to read through.

During the gameplay battles, the game switches over to 3D, with all characters having a dedicated model of their own. The models are pretty simplistic, almost smooth like figurines when not in movement. While moving around, the models do look a bit choppier. Although when it comes to performance, the game runs well on Switch and I personally didn’t experience any lagging.

Collecting materials in Azur Lane: Crosswave
You can collect a variety of materials on the ocean map.

The soundtrack for Azur Lane: Crosswave matches the lighthearted energy of the game. Many of the tracks are upbeat with an emphasis on piano and flute-like sounds, especially when navigating the Ocean Map. However, there are also a good amount of hardcore tracks as well, with great guitar riffs and snappy drums to motivate you during battle.

Conclusion

Azur Lane, as a gacha game, works well due to its large cast of characters that can keep its mobile game alive. But when brought over to console, its large casting does not do it favors. The storytelling is longwinded at times, and without any real sense of conflict. As soon as an issue appears, it’s fixed without much pomp and circumstance. Unfortunately, the gameplay is just as one note, with all of the battles blending together. There is very little strategy one can implement when playing normally. While that may or may not be the case for harder difficulties, the majority of the game just isn’t satisfying.

Score: 5/10.

About Kierra Lanier

Kierra has a major love for RPGs, visual novels, and tactics games. She loves playing weird anime games and screaming said games on Twitter.