Let’s get this out of the way first: I don’t play Azur Lane. However, I did play Azur Lane: Crosswave, and it was surprisingly good, even for someone with only passing knowledge of the game. The title is developed by Compile Heart, and came out earlier this month in the US, and just earlier this week in Europe.
The story itself takes place in a parallel universe, and there’s much less of a focus on the commander (the player), instead focusing on the the story of Kansen newbies, Shimakaze and Suruga. By focusing on two primary Kansen, we’re able to take a glimpse from a newcomer’s point of view into a world where historical battleships are not only moe-fied, but also have friendly (or sometimes strained) relationships with each other. It’s even better when you know a bit about the historical context behind the character relationships.
This is of course a common approach seen in adaptations of gacha mobile games to other media. For example, in the anime adaptations of Idolmaster: Cinderella Girls and Kantai Collection, we are put into much the same position. It’s still a great way to flesh out the world without requiring people to have prior knowledge, but it falls entirely upon the strength of its leads to carry the story.
Fortunately, Shimakaze and Suruga make a great pair of Kansen who are always fun to follow. While they start off at odds with each other, with some help from the other Kansen they become fast friends who are able to patch up each other’s weaknesses, and focus on investigating the mystery of the Sirens.
Sadly, I can’t say I’m as enthusiastic about the gameplay. Graphically, the wave effects and 3D models look stunning. But it doesn’t matter when gameplay is so lackluster. Essentially, you can pick up to three Kansen as your main party, and three support Kansen. Compile Heart has tried to emulate the gameplay of the original smartphone game, adapting what is essentially a casual shmup-esque shooter game in 3D. However, when all the enemies are high HP damage sponges, it quickly becomes just a battle of circling around the enemy while unloading every weapon when it becomes ready. It can be satisfying to accurately dodge or block incoming bullets while firing back with your own barrage, but the game’s lack of secondary objectives or other objectives period is its downfall.
There is a slight strategic element involving the ship types and choosing when to swap characters. But it’s cancelled out by the awful UI that shows skill activations with giant cut-ins that can block your view, and battles somehow don’t have any sort of minimap. Thanks to this, it’s very easy to go too far and keep bumping into the boundaries of the map. Thanks to all these issues, a rather inoffensive experience turns into one that is sometimes frustrating as well.
Overall, the game isn’t too bad, but I’ve seen better games in the same vein, like the Gundam Battle series on PSP and PS Vita. That said, the game is a treat for Azur Lane players who want to see more interaction between Kansen girls, and is made so that even new players can ease themselves into the series.
Azur Lane: Crosswave is available on PlayStation 4 and PC via Steam.