The inevitable goal for any successful mobile game over the last few years is multi-media expansion, turning a simple game about collecting knights and gun-girls into television shows, arcade games, console adaptations, ramen flavors, and more. Azur Lane has been hitting all of these milestones, with the seriously popular free-to-play phone game about scantily clad anime-girl versions of your favourite naval warfare vessels now having all sorts of adaptations, promotional campaigns, and crossovers.
Last year, the series made the leap from mobile phones and browser windows to home consoles thanks to Compile Heart and Idea Factory launching Azur Lane: Crosswave. Initially, the game only dropped anchor on PC and PlayStation 4, but now ship-heads around the world can dive in for the first time or take a second dip with the new Nintendo Switch port.
Azur Lane: Crosswave marries an original story full of fan-pleasing interactions and appearances with a gameplay loop that plays out much like a 3D alternative to the combat and upgrade grind of the original mobile game. The story does a decent job of involving you in the experience even if you have very little knowledge of the overall lore – simply come into it with the fact that these over-designed gun-toting girls are meant to be personifications of actual warships and fighter planes and you’ll be good to go.
There are a variety of different factions and groups in Azur Lane, but Azur Lane: Crosswave focuses heavily on the Sakura Empire, alongside newcomer ships Shimakaze and Sugura. While the laser-focused attention on the Sakura Empire helps make the story approachable for newcomers, longtime Azur Lane fans hoping for the spotlight to shine on other notable factions won’t have as much to chew into here. Story scenes all play out through visual novel interactions, and moments between battles or narrative events will have you navigating a top-down hand-drawn map of each environment to get to your next conversation or battle. These are hardly resource-intensive scenes, so they all play out on the Nintendo Switch just as smoothly as they would on the other versions of the game.
When you end up in actual combat, you’ll be bringing three controllable ship-girls, as well as up to three additional support units, into a watery arena to face off against hordes of generic battleships and fighter planes. In some instances, you’ll also fight rival ship-girls in more hectic one-on-one battles. All of these engagements take place in a wide open ocean environment with invisible walls keeping you within a specific smaller section, so there isn’t really anything too graphically intense going on here either. The resolution of the Nintendo Switch version seems a bit lower than the PC or PlayStation 4 counterparts, and the framerate can get a little funky when there are massive amounts of projectiles on-screen at once, but on the whole combat feels fast and fluid.
Unfortunately, as I explained in my review of the original release of Azur Lane: Crosswave, the gameplay isn’t all too exciting. With a small variety of enemies to fight, regular battles quickly become a repetitive chore. It’s a little more exciting when you get into battles with rival ship-girls, but the floaty nature of aiming and firing in this game means that these aren’t the graceful one-on-one bouts I’d hope for from a typical action game. Additionally, as you progress through the game, your skill doesn’t end up being nearly as important as how much experience and how many upgraded pieces of equipment your girls have, which can end up leading to some more mind-numbing grinding to get them properly equipped.
The full Azur Lane: Crosswave package looks and runs just about as well as it would on other systems, with minor exceptions. Still, no matter what system you play it on, you’ll likely only truly connect with it if you’re a diehard fan of the series who’s able to forgive some big flaws. For newcomers, while the story offers plenty of exciting characters and fun dialogue, the combat might be too much of a chore to sit through for the long-run. Azur Lane: Crosswave can be a treat for fans, but even on Nintendo Switch, it’s a hard sell for first-time ship-girl enthusiasts.