There is no denying Japan uses some interesting ideas and there isn’t many more abstract than the idea of anthropomorphic ships. There the concept has to lead to a couple of big franchises, among which Azur Lane falls. With the West being a bit more open to these unusual ideas, Azur Lane: Crosswave hopes to give new players an idea of why this concept has been so successful. With cute girls, designs from a number of difficult countries, everything you expect from Compile Heart and a new adventure, is it enough to justify or is it a rather lackluster experience?
In a lot of ways Azur Lane: Crosswave sticks to what Compile Heart knows best and made Neptunia so popular, character interactions. Sandwiched between a story of various nations coming together and eventually having to deal with a new threat is a wide variety of comical and silly interactions between a wide array of characters. This all begins with Shimakaze, who is based on a Japanese warship from World War II, starting her training and realizing she has a long way to go before she can be as impressive as her fellowships.
Slowly the cast starts to spread, with each girl having her own design based on a famous ship and quirks that come into play. Be it Javelin making bento boxes for everyone or the regal charms of Hood, to others dealing with the pressures of being a role model and more. It allows the concept to be more than just a game with cute girls that have tons of ships around them but not enough to step out of Compile Heart’s comfort zone.
This can be best seen with the optional episodes. Instead of following the main story, they take place outside and add some additional depth to a number of different girls. Sometimes they’re silly things like the naming of a bento and other times they involve asking a girl to model for their shop. It’s the type of silly side stories that are probably best associated with Neptunia and will likely appeal to anyone who enjoys that and rough for those who don’t. But, before you can see every story, you need to overcome some battles.
Where Azur Lane: Crosswave starts to fall short is combat. With the exception of a single mechanic, the gameplay is the same from start to finish. Every stage starts with your girl(s) entering battle with some kind of comment and an objective. These are almost always destroying a certain number of bosses, enemies or staying alive for a period of time. Fighting is limited to the resources you’ve to obtain and powered up and depending on your type of ship, equipment, and overall build, you’ll have different attacks.
Most have some kind of limit and reload time, meaning fights are little more than dodging until you can do an attack, followed by trading blows until one of you die. It’s shockingly easy, to the point where currently 96.6 percent of players have achieved S rank once, but only 35.6 achieved A. Given the requirements for S are winning, not losing a ship and winning within 120 seconds, with two giving A and one leaving you with a B, it stands to reason very few are struggling. In fact, I almost finished four of the six chapters without ever losing or achieving lower than an S rank, I just fell short on the second to last mission.
Outside of combat, you’ll gain materials, parts, cash and more to build up your girls. Most things can be leveled for more power, a lot of the resources are used to make better gear or perks and cash can be used to buy better weapons or simply upgrade existing. It makes for a fairly basic gameplay loop, one that isn’t particularly special or exciting.
Watch some events, load up a battle, defeat enemies, go to another place, defeat more, earn some resources, see if you can buy something new and repeat. Some characters offer more nuanced gameplay, just like certain enemies are a little deeper than avoiding red circles but most of Azur Lane: Crosswave will come down to fighting the same four or five ships and maybe a named character. For some, this will be enough, whereas others it will fall short and wear out its welcome fast.
Azur Lane: Crosswave Verdict
Despite the rather negative sounding review, Azur Lane: Crosswave isn’t a bad game, it’s just nothing particularly special. Fans of Neptunia will likely enjoy the silly antics of cute girls, but others will probably fail to see the appeal. It’s a character-driven adventure with rudimentary gameplay and a hollow story that manages to be oddly dialogue-heavy. Beyond that, enjoyment will come down to how interested you are in upgrading your ships or figuring out why one character might be better than another. If this sounds good, odds are you’ll enjoy Azur Lane: Crosswave, whereas everyone else need not apply.
[Editor’s Note: Azur Lane: Crosswave was reviewed on the PS4 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]