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Azur Lane: Crosswave

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4
Genre: Action
Publisher: Idea Factory International
Release Date: Feb. 13, 2020 (US), Feb. 21, 2020 (EU)

About Joseph Doyle

Joe has been known to have two hands with which to both play games and write reviews. When his hands are not doing those, he will put books, musical instruments, and other fun things in them.


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PS4 Review - 'Azur Lane: Crosswave'

by Joseph Doyle on May 20, 2020 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Azur Lane: Crosswave is a 3D action shooter game that takes place in a world where personified battleships from around the globe engage in side-scrolling shooter gameplay.

If someone had gauged my interest in an anime game with alternate histories and boat-women, my curiosity would've been piqued. Anime usually has a way of reinterpreting major themes in contemplative ways, and looking at history through the lens of the high seas? I couldn't be more excited! Azur Lane: Crosswave, an adapted version of Azur Lane for smartphones, focuses on controlling these femme-ships and the political quagmires that follow in a 3D action-shooter experience. Ultimately, Azure Lane: Crosswave offers very little, is misleading in its advertising, and is incredibly problematic in its character depictions.

In terms of plot, Crosswave is overwhelming, wacky, and all over the place. The game opens with narrative spillage, lazily sharing all of the different characters and kingdoms that will be featured throughout. After a flurry of names and scantily clad girls, we're introduced to Suruga and Shimakaze — who are oddly not even mentioned as characters on the Wikipedia page — anthropomorphized battleships tasked with protecting their nation. After defeating the mysterious angel battleships in the tutorial, we're introduced to the other nations, with their own slew of boat-girls and dozens of names and relationships to remember.

From a story-telling perspective, it's an absolute onslaught and massacre to one's attention span. It becomes exceedingly difficult to follow any of the characters due to the sheer number of them. They're also all fair-skinned, mostly incredibly busty girls and women. It's a shame because the lore is absolutely fascinating. All of the different nations in the game represent different countries and their navies, and the scenario mirrors World War II. Women are personified versions of warships of the era, which sounds absolutely fascinating, but sadly, the characters have little personality. Different countries interact with each other in different ways, but hardly any character traits are defined — again, likely due to the sheer number of characters. Ultimately, a lot of the potential of the concept is lost in poor execution of long, drawn-out sequences with tons of different, hollow characters that have little substance.

As far as gameplay goes, calling Crosswave an action game is misleading. Sure, there are segments where you play as some of these vessel-ladies and use the shoulder buttons to decimate enemy ships, aircrafts and adversaries in the open sea, third-person shooter style. You also collect new parts to buy and upgrade the four different actions you have, including shields, torpedoes and all-out missile attacks. The battle sequences mostly have you flying around a small area, and you don't need a real strategy to point and shoot. The controls are fine and everything works as intended, but it's boring to just spin and fire on everyone. On top of that, the equipment and upgrades systems are largely cryptic and unfulfilling. It's difficult to know which attack you're powering up until you go out into the field to use it.

In the first four hours of the game, you fight these ships for maybe 20 minutes. How are the other hours spent? Some of that time is spent on the world map, collecting more items and moving from scene to scene, but the majority is spent on visual novel plot progression. In a visual novel, you get to make choices that affect the story. Here, you watch dinghy-dames prattle on plot points for extended periods of time. It largely feels that the actual gameplay is just a vehicle (pun intended) for the aforementioned dizzying (but sometimes intriguing) plot. This gameplay is only formidable for those who want the occasional break from the cut scenes.

As far as it goes for Crosswave, the visuals are the bread and butter. In the 3D action sequences, we see our resident craft-wenches gliding over surprisingly well-rendered water and firing yellow hailstorms of bullets upon their foes. The water also shimmers under the player in the paradise island map sequences, featuring bright blues and greens, along with chibi versions of the characters, a welcome respite from the nuts and bolts of the cut scenes.

The cut scenes are why the game exists at all. In these dialogues, you'll see the characters talking to one another, slightly changing their expressions as their conversation progresses, showing large swaths of emotions from indifference to mild stress to being miffed by catastrophic and life-endangering situations.

The heart of it all lies in the hypersexualized character designs. If you searched the wiki above, you'll know what I'm talking about. The game begins with every barge-dame looking like gravure idols, sometimes with a few anti-aircraft guns strapped on them in umm, unfortunate anatomical locations. The way that they portray every character in this game is offensive.

But don't worry. It only gets worse! You see, in the early game, we get heftier, stronger boats: destroyers, heavy cruisers, etc. When you progress past the world leaders to the everyday, smaller and less powerful ships, that's represented in power as well as physique. Crosswave unapologetically goes full lolicon! I don't understand how a game that's rated acceptable for teenagers can feature pre-pubescent girls in skimpy attire and questionable positions. Maybe this version was cleaned up a little, but it's difficult to divorce this title from the brand that it's spent so much time cultivating. This shows that Crosswave isn't a game but a vehicle for the hypersexualization of females; it's "hidden" behind a thin veneer of interactivity, but it's disgusting.

Azur Lane: Crosswave is essentially a visual novel with some brief moments of action. Everything works as intended, and there's no need for a combat strategy, but the equipment and upgrades systems are cryptic. The visuals look good, and the chibi characters are adorable. The game can be a decent way to pass a weekend. However, Crosswave and all games under the Azur Lane banner espouse views on females — especially young girls — that I cannot look past, and it's troubling to me that this title is deemed appropriate for teenagers.

Score: 3.0/10

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