What Azur Lane Crosswave Can Learn From Senran Kagura

Last month Idea Factory released Azur Lane Crosswave, a third person shooter that uses characters from the insanely popular Azur Lane mobile gacha game. The game is mediocre and forgettable, however I couldn’t help but think of another series when playing it; Senran Kagura. Both are games full of fanservice characters thrown into a small arena to fight each other within a goofy story mode. However where Azur Lane Crosswave is a very forgettable experience, Senran Kagura has a large dedicated fanbase who like to play it. I used to think that the only reason people liked Senran Kagura was the girls and that the game structure only existed to justify showing them, however after playing Azur Lane Crosswave I have a newfound appreciation for Senran Kagura. So, why don’t we compare and contrast the two to see where Azure Lane Crosswave fell short while Senran Kagura succeeded.

Let’s start at the simplest of comparisons, the gameplay differences between characters. I won’t delve into basic gameplay differences between the games much – they are different gameplay genres trying to do the same thing – I’m just comparing the aspects of the games that can be reasonably compared. In Senran Kagura, each member of the cast plays different from every other character and they all feel unique. In Azur Lane however, there are a few classes of characters and everyone in that class plays exactly the same. The few classes plus the smallish character list of Crosswave makes the roster feel stifled and discourages trying out other characters because you know how they’ll play immediately upon unlocking them.

My prefered party in stages

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s look at the basic stage design of both games. Both games have a very similar design of fighting off a bunch of weak mooks and then fighting one or more of the other girls as a boss. However, Senran Kagura’s structure of these stages is significantly better. Each stage is Senran Kagura has a unique look and feel even if you’re doing the exact same thing in each stage. Areas in Senran Kagura range from a school, to mountains, to a hot spring allowing for plenty of visual variety to stimulate the play. Crosswave in contrast has every stage look exactly the same. Just an ocean at different times of day, with some distant background islands occasionally looking different.

Azur Lane Crosswave theoretically has the excuse that because each girl is a boat they needed each stage to just be on an open sea like this. However I don’t think that excuse slides. There are plenty of ways to make ocean stages distinct from each other. Just a few examples are having icebergs or having small islands to go around. As it stands just having open ocean is visually stale and makes every stage feel the same. Yes in both games every stage does have you do the same thing, but the visual variety that Senran Kagura provides makes things feel much more engaging.

On the left is one Senran Kagura stage, on right is every Azur Lane Crosswave stage

Then there’s the structure of selecting stages. Both Senran Kagura and Azur Lane Crosswave have a story mode and secondary mission mode. There aren’t any major differences in the story structure other than the fact that, unlike Senran Kagura which would restrict your character choices on each stage the first time you play, Azure Lane Crosswave lets you choose any character you’ve unlocked the first time through. While this is fine on paper, being combined with how so many characters in Crosswave play the same this just becomes another factor that discourages players from trying out other characters. After all, they don’t have to.

The map for selecting stages in the story mode is cute in Crosswave

Then there’s the secondary mode of selecting stages. Azur Lane Crosswave takes a method similar to Senran Kagura Burst Renewal where the extra stages don’t have any story and exist only for gameplay. However unlike Senran Kagura where there’s around 30 or so of these stages, there are 200 in Azur Lane Crosswave. 200 stages that all feel like the same exact thing for reasons stated above. It makes Azur Lane Crosswave’s main gameplay feel like a grind.

Now perhaps this grind could be settled by having some incentive like character actions and such, similar to what Senran Kagura Estival Versus does. Well, the games do have character episodes full of character interactions that unlock when you unlock the characters. So obviously you’ll view them immediately, and that’s all the game has to offer. After you unlock the characters (which you’ll have more than enough points to do by the time you get even a quarter of the way through the secondary stages) all incentive to play is gone. This could easily be remedied by having the character episodes unlock as you play the secondary stages, giving players incentive to play the game to the fullest. As the game stands there is no incentive to play a significant portion of the game.

And even outside of that incentive, Senran Kagura also had another way to make playing secondary stages like this worthwhile. By hiding scrolls in the stages to unlock stuff in the gallery, a small but nice reward. Of course, that wouldn’t really be possible in Crosswave’s stages since they are, as I said, just a field of water.

The next point is less important in making a comparison because the majority of people who would be buying Azur Lane Crosswave are Azur Lane fans, but I feel the need to bring this up anyway. Azur Lane Crosswave’s story mode cutscenes, and how short most of them tend to be, make it very hard, as an outsider to the series like myself, to become a fan of the characters. Their character designs are all that can really carry them because their actual characterization is so little. Senran Kagura’s much longer cutscenes help much more with getting attached to the girls in the cast.

Shiranui best shipgirl. Ikaruga best Senran Girl. Any questions?

And that’s really all I can feasibly compare between these two titles. Both games have a photo mode as well that works the same in both, not much to really say there. I wish I could talk about more, but Azur Lane Crosswave is so devoid of any content outside of it’s short story mode that I don’t have to even talk about. However, I am glad Crosswave exists. Sometimes it takes something mediocre to help you really appreciate what else you have. I have now gained a new appreciation for Senran Kagura’s game design thanks to this game and am grateful for the experience it gave me.

Thank you for reading. If you want to read another article about a Japanese games I’ve written, check out my review of Sakura Wars (2019)

If you want to read about another recently released game, check out Naa’s review of Megaman Zero, recently rereleased in the Megaman Zero Legacy collection