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Azur Lane

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Azur Lane
Azur Lane English Release Logo.png
English release logo
アズールレーン
(Azūru Rēn)
GenreAction[1]
Game
DeveloperShanghai Manjuu, Xiamen Yongshi
Publisher
Produced byYuwan[a]
Music byShade[2]
Deadball P[3]
GenreShoot 'em up, Simulation, RPG
EngineUnity
PlatformiOS/Android
Released
  • CHN: May 25, 2017
  • JP: September 13, 2017
  • ROK: March 27, 2018
  • EN: May 20, 2019
  • HK: October 4, 2019
  • MAC: October 4, 2019
  • TW: October 4, 2019
Game
Azur Lane Crosswave
DeveloperFelistella
Publisher
GenreShooter, Simulation
EngineUnreal Engine 4
PlatformPlayStation 4
Released
  • JP: August 29, 2019
  • EN: 2020
Anime television series
Directed byTensho
Written byJin Haganeya
Music byYasunori Nishiki
StudioBibury Animation Studio
Licensed by
Original networkTokyo MX, SUN, KBS, BS11, AT-X
Original run October 3, 2019 – present
Episodes12[b] (List of episodes)
Audio drama
Written byTsukasa
Print media
Manga
Light novel
Wikipe-tan face.svg Anime and Manga portal

Azur Lane (Chinese: 碧蓝航线) is a side-scrolling shoot 'em up video game created by Chinese developers Shanghai Manjuu and Xiamen Yongshi, released in 2017 for the iOS and Android operating systems. Set in an alternate timeline of World War II, players engage in side-scrolling shooter gameplay, using female moe anthropomorphic characters based on warships from the war's major participants. Other gameplay elements, like customizing a home and marrying in-game characters, are also present.

First launched in China in May and in Japan in September 2017, Azur Lane has briefly become very popular, especially in Japan where the player count reached five million within four months after its release. Successive Comiket numbers have yet to confirm a long-term popularity of the game in Japan, with Azur Lane ranking around 10th below franchises and genres like Fate Grand Order, Kantai Collection or Virtual YouTubers. Players have voted the game among the top five on Google Play's Best Game of 2017 list for the region. Critics have attributed the game's popularity to its original and well-designed gameplay system. An English-language version started open beta in August 2018 and was released in May 2019.

The game has been adapted into several manga and novelizations. Azur Lane Crosswave, a 3D adaptation for PlayStation 4, was published by Compile Heart on August 29, 2019 with good reception. Crosswave's English localization is set to be published in 2020. An anime television series adaptation by Bibury Animation Studio premiered on October 3, 2019.[5]

Gameplay

Main interface, with the character Long Island. Players may select a character to appear on main interface as a "secretary".

Azur Lane is a side-scrolling shoot 'em up, simulation and role-playing video game. Players collect characters that are moe anthropomorphic interpretations of World War II warships ("shipgirls"), mainly from the United States Navy, Royal Navy, Imperial Japanese Navy and Kriegsmarine, with other ships from French Navy (both Vichy and Free France flavors), Republic of China Navy, People's Liberation Army Navy, Regia Marina and Imperial Russian Navy were being added later. Players organize them into fleets of six and confront AI-controlled enemies or other players' fleets.[6]

Personifications of American destroyer USS Laffey (DD-459), British destroyer HMS Javelin and German destroyer Z23 (Chinese, English release) or Japanese destroyer Ayanami (Japanese, Korean release) are available for players to select as a starter ship. They are referred to as protagonists in-game.[7] As of May 2019, more than 330 characters have been introduced to the game, representing ships from nine countries that participated in the war.[8]. The game were also notable for including preserved museum ships as its characters such as Japanese Mikasa and Russian Avrora.

Battle

When preparing for the game's main mode, players can organize two fleets consisting of a front row and a back row, with three slots available in each row. Destroyers, light cruisers, and heavy cruisers can be allotted to the front row, while the back row is reserved for battleships, battlecruisers and aircraft carriers. Different combinations of ships are required to achieve victory in different battle situations. Players may then select and enter a map.[6]

On entering a map, the player's fleet is placed on a grid-like map similar to that in the game Battleship. The map hosts enemy fleets, some immobile and others that pursue the player, and bonus nodes that provide supplies such as health and ammunition. Players must navigate optimally and assemble their fleets tactically, to clear obstructing enemies and, using minimal movements, reach the map's boss. When the player moves their fleet across the map, they can be ambushed in random encounters from which they may take damage, or they can be forced to engage the enemy, using fuel and ammo. Fuel is one of the two in-game resources. Ammo points are assigned to player fleets at each map, with one ammo point deducted at each battle. Fleets that run out of ammo can still fight but may only deal half damage.[6]

Battle interface of Azur Lane.

When battling an enemy, players can use a virtual joystick to control the front row, which can automatically fire shells at targets and manually launch torpedoes. While stationary, the back row can send shell barrages and the player can manually call in airstrikes. These will activate a bullet-clearing effect, removing all projectiles and torpedoes on screen. Players have an auto mode option to give up this control to the game's AI. Characters' health is fully replenished when completing or exiting a map. Morale points are deducted for each fleet character in a battle. Should a character fall in battle, they cannot join in further action on the map and a larger number of morale points are deducted for the fallen character at the end of the battle. Sustained low morale for a character decreases their stats and affection points. Low affection points lead the character to greet the player with vocals reflecting their disappointment.[6]

The game features a player versus player mode. The player may prepare a defense fleet and organize an offense fleet to challenge opposing players' defense fleets. In this mode, battles are controlled entirely by AI, and the bullet-clearing effect of airstrikes is disabled. Tokens can be gained and the player's ranking can rise through victory in this mode. Players receive no penalty if they lose a challenge or their defense fleet is defeated by other players. Exclusive characters and other items can be obtained using tokens. Ranking is refreshed every 15 days.[9]

Additional mechanics were introduced after the game's release. Submarine and anti-submarine warfare systems were introduced in May 2018. This included anti-submarine campaign maps, and characters based on German U-Boats, and American and Japanese submarines.[10] A ship's cat system was introduced in September 2018. Various cat breeds can be obtained at a cattery. They can be trained to provide buffs when brought along with fleets to battle.[11]

Dormitory

The game sports a "Dormitory" feature. Characters in their chibi forms may be put in the furnished Dormitory where they can walk around and sit, sleep, or bathe.[6] Characters may passively gain experience points and recover morale when they are given food by players. Players can purchase food using fuel or in-game currency. Players can also purchase various themed, and occasionally time-limited, furniture sets and decorations using "furniture coins" obtained by sending characters through special quests. Furniture and decorations raise the rate experience is gained. They can be arranged freely. Players may increase Dormitory character capacity, unlock a second floor which recovers morale, and buy special interactive furniture using in-game currency. As well, monuments can be awarded by clearing event stages. Players may inspect other players' Dormitories.[12]

Marriage

When a character's affection points are raised to 100 through battle, secretary, or Dormitory, players may choose to give a "wedding ring" to this character. A "wedding ring" can be obtained through quests once. Additional rings can be purchased using in-game currency, essentially allowing polygamy.[13] Players may also give customized names to married characters but may only do so every 30 days for each character.[14] Furthermore, a few of the most popular characters will also gain unique wedding dress costumes for the wedding. They will also gain additional stat bonuses after being married.[13]

Synopsis

The start of the game features an anthropomorphic recreation of the Battle of the Denmark Strait, where the personification of famed British battlecruiser HMS Hood is sunk by characters representing the German forces. The game features an eponymous military alliance, "Azur Lane", formed by nations of Eagle Union (United States), Royal Navy (United Kingdom), Sakura Empire (Empire of Japan) and Iron Blood (Nazi Germany).[6] The alliance split in two because of alien intervention with Iron Blood and Sakura Empire form an opposing faction, "Crimson Axis", using technology provided by the aliens to invade "Azur Lane" countries. The rest of the game's main plot partially follows United States naval engagements in the Pacific War. Chapters represent several decisive battles of the war including the Battle of Midway, the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, and the Mariana and Palau Islands campaign.

Anime voice cast

Character Japanese English[15]
Enterprise Yui Ishikawa Rachael Messer
Akagi Mai Nakahara Amber Lee Conners
Unicorn Ai Kakuma Alexis Tipton
Javelin Nozomi Yamane Madeleine Morris
Laffey Maria Naganawa Tia Ballard
Kaga Ai Kayano Dawn M. Bennett
Cleveland Saya Horigome Kristen McGuire
Prince of Wales Chinami Hashimoto Mallorie Rodak
Ayanami Yō Taichi Lara Woodhull
Bailey Eri Suzuki Dani Chambers
Beagle Sarah Roach
Bulldog Rachel Glass
Illustrious Sora Amamiya Jad Saxton
San Diego Asuka Itō Bryn Apprill
Vestal Maia Megan Shipman
Zuikaku Risa Taneda Michelle Rojas

Development

Azur Lane's producer, Yuwan,[a] a well-known uploader to the Chinese video sharing website Bilibili, began developing the game with five of his college friends, with the initial notion of "creating a doujin game, if a commercial one is not possible".[16] Seeing many similar games created in Greater China after Kantai Collection's success, the developers aimed to create "something different from previous works of ship moe anthropomorphism". As such, they intentionally avoided using a turn-based strategy game mechanic like that used by Kantai Collection and most of its followers. They also shifted the focus on Japanese ships to those from other countries involved in World War II.[16]

One particular difficulty was incorporating shoot 'em up elements, as there were no existing works to reference. An early version of the game featured a combat system of a five-character fleet in a single or double column line of battle. World of Warships, a World War II naval warfare simulation game popular in China, influenced some of the gameplay design.[16]

The developers sought to further differentiate the game by featuring characters based on preserved museum ships from earlier times, such as the pre-dreadnought battleship Mikasa of World War I and the Russian protected cruiser Avrora, the ship famed for its October Revolution involvement. Keeping game balance and rarity with these characters was difficult, however, the developers were intent on featuring museum ships, and intend to introduce more characters like this in the future.[17] A series of characters based on proposed or unfinished World War II warships, including Neptune, Saint-Louis and Ibuki, were introduced as part of a collaboration with Wargaming, publisher of World of Warships.[18]

Many young and some critically acclaimed voice actors lent their talents to the game. The decision to employ an all-Japanese voice cast with a focus on younger actors was the result of a lack of professional voice actors in China, as well as the team's intention to give younger Japanese actors opportunities to perform.[16] The game's notable voice actors of include Yui Ishikawa,[19] Rie Takahashi[20] and Risa Taneda.[21]

Shanghai's Manjuu Ltd. provided the audiovisual design and the writing for Azur Lane. Xiamen's Yongshi Ltd. (Chinese: 厦门勇仕网络技术有限公司) was responsible for programming, game data design and content. The companies share joint authorship of the game and share its copyright, with a 65%/35% share of its revenue.[22]

Release

The game first launched in China in May 2017, published by Bilibili. Shanghai Yostar published the Japanese version in September that year.[6] XD Global published the South Korean version in March 2018.[23] The English language version was announced as being in development in June 2018. Open beta began on August 16, 2018.[24][25] On May 20, 2019, the English version was formally released along with the rollout of the 2019 UI overhaul.[26]

Li Hengda, president of Yostar Inc., revealed that although he saw Azur Lane's potential, he did not expect the level of popularity the game experienced in Japan. Believing that around 10 people would suffice, Li later admitted his mistake in only having four full-time employees and two interns before the game's release, as they had to work from morning until midnight as the game's popularity grew until the end of 2017. Through Azur Lane, Yostar established contact with distinguished Japanese enterprises and creators, and was met with welcoming responses. Tony Taka, known for his work on the Shining series, was delighted to be invited to provide character design for HMS Centaur (R06), marking his first work in a mobile game. Jin Haganeya, writer for Demonbane, agreed to write the script for the game's anime adaptation.[27]

Artwork for the Korean release was provided by Korean artist Nardack. In March 2018, XD Global asked her to condemn feminism and feminist groups on Twitter after some players filed complaints accusing her of maintaining relations to Korean feminist "antisocial" groups. Nardack refused to comply, and her artwork was then removed.[28]

Promotion

A special program featuring voice actress Yui Ishikawa visiting the office of one of developers, Manjuu Ltd., in Shanghai was aired on the Japanese streaming television platform AbemaTV in May 2018.[29] However, misuse during the program of the trademarked term "kanmusu" (Japanese: 艦娘) to refer to the game's personified warship characters led to Yostar being publicly warned by DMM.com, publisher of Kantai Collection. Yostar issued an apology, and called on players of Azur Lane to provide alternative terms for the game's personified warship characters.[30] More than a thousand submissions were received.[31] In September 2018, Yostar announced the new term would be "kansen" (Japanese: 艦船).[32]

Yostar has held two illustration contests with Japanese art community Pixiv to promote the game. Winners in a contest held in December 2017 were rewarded with cash and their designs featured on the game's loading screens.[33] Winning designs from a wedding dress illustration contest in July 2018 were also planned to be implemented in the game.[34]

Yostar licensed the Japanese company GRSPER to create virtual reality wedding ceremonies with the game's characters in August 2018.[35] The crowdfunding project was cancelled in October 2018 because GRSPER did not meet its funding goal and was having communication difficulties with voice actors and their agencies.[36]

Collaborations

A December 2018 collaboration event with Compile Heart introduced protagonists of Hyperdimension Neptunia to Azur Lane. Players may obtain Neptunia's protagonists with naval elements, as well as their "goddess forms" as separate characters.[37]

In April 2018, Yostar and Wargaming Japan announced a collaboration between the game and World of Warships. Azur Lane players may obtain characters based on ships from World of Warships through a new interface called "Development Dock", while World of Warships players may purchase Azur Lane characters as voiced captains, and skins for ships based on design elements of Azur Lane's namesake characters.[38] In April 2019, the WoWS collaboration was further extended by season 2, introducing new characters into both games.[39]

A collaboration with Sunrise Inc. in May 2018 featured a crossover plotline with the anime Armored Trooper VOTOMS The Marshydog mecha from the show was added to Azur Lane as a furniture item.[40] A collaboration event with Aquaplus in November 2018 made characters from the visual novel Utawarerumono obtainable in Azur Lane.[41]

An April 2019 collaboration with Kizuna AI would introduce the virtual YouTuber as 4 different in-game characters.[42]

Other media

Cover art of Manga 4-koma Palette vol. 132 featuring Very Slow Advance!, with protagonists Z23 (upper) and Javelin (lower).

Print media

Azur Lane was adapted into several manga and novels. An official yonkoma comic, titled Azur Lane: Very Slow Advance!,[c] is being published in Ichijinsha's magazine Manga 4-koma Palette. It features the character based on HMS Javelin and three of the game's other protagonists.[43] Chapters of Very Slow Advance! are regularly posted on the game's Japanese Twitter account as a means of promotion.[44] Azur Lane Comic Anthology, a comic anthology series currently up to four volumes, is being published by Ichijinsha and sold on Amazon Japan.[45] Azur Lane Queen's Orders, a slice-of-life comedy manga centering around the characters based on HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Warspite, is being published by Ichijinsha in Comic Rex.[46] Azur Lane Comic à la Carte, another comic anthology, was published in October 2018.[47]

Kodansha published a spin-off light novel featuring the character Laffey as protagonist, titled Starting My Life as a Commander with Laffey,[d] in June 2018.[48] Shueisha published another novelization, Episode of Belfast, featuring the character based on HMS Belfast, in June 2018.[49] Overlap, Inc. published the third spin-off light novel featuring the character Ayanami as protagonist, titled Ayanami, Happily Married,[e] in December 2018.[50]

Console adaptation

Azur Lane Crosswave, a 3D shooter game for PlayStation 4 was announced in September 2018. Crosswave features Azur Lane's characters battling against realistic warships and warplanes. The game will follow a different story with new characters also making their debut. This console adaptation was developed by Felistella using Unreal Engine 4 and was published by Compile Heart in August 29, 2019.[51][52][53] An English language release will be published by Idea Factory International in North America and Europe in 2020. The localization will feature Japanese voice-overs and will be sold in both digital and retail formats.[54]

Anime

An anime adaptation for television was announced in September 2018. The anime is directed by Tensho, director of Grisaia and Rewrite's anime adaptations, with writer Jin Haganeya, and Yasunori Nishiki composing the series' music. Tensho's Bibury Animation Studio is animating the show.[46] Yostar head, Li Hengda, revealed that the animation project began in late 2017, when the game experienced its breakout in popularity. The choice of Haganeya to be the writer was due to the Demonbane franchise being one of Hengda's personal favorites.[27] The series premiered on October 3, 2019 on Tokyo MX, SUN, KBS, BS11, and AT-X.[55] May'n performed the series' opening theme song "graphite/diamond", while Kano performed the series' ending theme song "Hikari no Michishirube".[56] Funimation has licensed the series for a simuldub. [57][58]

No. Title[59][f] Original air date
1"Mobilization: The Girls of the Sea"
Transcription: "【Kidō】 Umi o kakeru shōjotachi" (Japanese: 【起動】海を駆ける少女たち)
October 3, 2019 (2019-10-03)
When the Earth's oceans are attacked by a mysterious alien force called the Sirens, four major nations, Eagle Union, the Royal Navy, the Sakura Empire and the Iron Blood form the "Azur Lane" military alliance to combat the Sirens using shipgirls, girls fused with naval warships. Eventually, the Sirens are defeated, but a rift forms between the factions, with the Eagle Union and Royal Navy coming in opposition against the Sakura Empire and Iron Blood. Reinforcements are sent to an Azur Lane base near the Sakura Empire, where Cleveland and Prince of Wales greet the arrival of Illustrious and Unicorn. Ayanami infiltrates the base to spy on its defenses, but inadvertently befriends Javelin, Laffey, and Unicorn. The Sakura Empire then launches a surprise attack on the base led by Kaga and Akagi. Javelin and Ayanami reluctantly battle each other while the rest of the defenders attempt to fight off the attack. When it looks like the defenders are about to be overrun, Enterprise arrives and singlehandedly turns the tide of the battle, heavily damaging Kaga and forcing the Sakura Empire forces to retreat. As they withdraw, Kaga and Akagi announce that the Sakura Empire and Iron Blood have formed their own alliance, the Red Axis, and formally declare war on Azur Lane.
2"Melee: Pulsing Waves, Steel Wings"
Transcription: "【Gekisen】 Kodō no Nami, Kōtetsu no Tsubasa" (Japanese: 【激戦】鼓動の波、鋼鉄の翼)
October 10, 2019 (2019-10-10)
As Azur Lane works to repair the damage to their base and treating the injured personnel which including Enterprise and San Diego, it is revealed that the cause of conflict between them and Red Axis is the Red Axis' willingness to use dangerous Siren technology for their own ends. Enterprise remains on watch, despite her repairs only being partially complete. Akagi and Kaga are also recovering from the battle when they are met by Prinz Eugen. Akagi sends Zuikaku and Shoukaku to ambush an Azur Lane fleet and asks Prinz Eugen to assist them. Prinz Eugen agrees, bringing Z23 and Ayanami with her. The Azur Lane fleet, consisting of Eagle Union shipgirls of Hammann, Arizona, Northampton, Helena, Long Island and Enterprise's sister, Hornet is attacked by the Red Axis. Enterprise mobilizes to help them despite her damage, with Cleveland, Javelin, and Laffey following her. While Enterprise battles Zuikaku and Shoukaku and Cleveland assists damaged shipgirls, Javelin and Laffey remain reluctant to fight Z23 and Ayanami. As the Azur Lane and Red Axis forces battle each other, the main Royal Navy fleet led by Queen Elizabeth arrives. Enterprise manages to gain the upper hand on Zuikaku but her unrepaired damage causes her equipment to fail at a critical moment. However, Enterprise is saved by the timely arrival of a shipgirl dressed as a maid.
3"Elegance: Perchance, Like A Human"
Transcription: "【Yūga】 Aruiha hito no Yōni" (Japanese: 【優雅】或いはヒトのように)
October 17, 2019 (2019-10-17)
The maid, revealed to be Belfast, delays the Red Axis forces long enough that the main Royal Navy forces which consisting of Queen Elizabeth, Warspite, Hood, Edinburgh and Sheffield arrives, forcing the Red Axis to withdraw. Concerned about Enterprise's disregard for her own safety, Prince of Wales and Illustrious consult with Queen Elizabeth for a solution. Meanwhile, Vestal arrives on the base and is immediately upset at the poor state Enterprise's rig is in. Enterprise is met by Belfast and Unicorn, who convince her to attend a beach party the other shipgirls are holding. Unicorn thanks Enterprise for saving her, and Enterprise reveals she feels shipgirls are only meant to be weapons, and the ocean is only a source of conflict. As Unicorn leaves to play with Javelin and Laffey, Belfast confronts Enterprise directly, warning her that if she continues to fight like she did in the previous battle, she'll eventually forget her reason for fighting in the first place. The base then receives a distress call, with Enterprise, Cleveland, Hammann, and Belfast leaving to investigate. They find Ning Hai and Ping Hai of the Dragon Empery. They explain they were ambushed by Siren ships when a damaged Siren ship attacks. Enterprise uses herself as a distraction to draw the Siren's attention, but ends up being saved by Belfast when her rig malfunctions again. Seeing how Enterprise is actually compassionate towards others, Belfast decides to accompany Enterprise and teach her how be a proper "gentlewoman".

Audio CDs

A CD featuring character songs sung by their respective voice actors was released in September 2018.[60] A drama CD written by the author of Starting My Life as a Commander with Laffey will be released on November 28, 2018.[61]

Reception

Cosplay of Atago, an Azur Lane character based on ship of the same name

Azur Lane was very popular in its home country, contributing to most of Bilibili's 2018 Q1 revenue along with the Chinese release of Fate/Grand Order.[62][63] In Japan, the game enjoyed an overwhelming surge in popularity after its release,[6] despite initial accusations by fans of Kantai Collection that it was a clone.[13][64] After only four months, there were more than five million Japanese players. The first doujin convention dedicated exclusively to the game was held in November 2017.[65][66] From May 2017 to August 2018, the game has earned US$170 million globally on the iOS AppStore. Chinese players spent $28 million, while Japanese players spent $139 million, accounting for approximately 82% of the game's sales.[67]

The game scored within Japan's top five best games of 2017 in a Google Play user vote,[68] as well as a first place in the app section of the Dengeki Online Awards 2017.[69] In September 2018, the game was awarded third place in Game of the Year in the 15th China Animation & Comic Competition Golden Dragon Award|lt=|zh|金龙奖}}.[70]

Azur Lane's popularity was attributed to its gameplay and game system design which were widely praised. RPG Site wrote the game "acts as an important lesson on how a Chinese-made title can gain popularity in Japan by offering originality in its gameplay".[6] Famitsu liked how the game depended very little on luck, let players develop their own play style, and was easy to pick up and play due to few microtransaction elements.[71][72] Japanese writer, actor and radio personality Mafia Kajita was impressed by the tight shooter controls. He felt the game systems were streamlined and avoided any nuisances, and believes the all-Japanese voice cast is likely a reason for its popularity.[73]

Critics have also compared the game to Kantai Collection. Hong Kong media outlet HK01 found Kantai Collection's complete lack of post-release improvements and overdependence on luck responsible for upsetting its own players, who switched contributing to Azur Lane's popularity.[65] Mafia Kajita noted the two game's had different focuses: Kantai Collection is centered on resource management while Azur Lane is a simulation game about dodging danmaku bullets while shooting the enemy.[73] However, Shigetaka Kurita, director of Kadokawa Dwango corporation, criticized Azur Lane for lacking the sense of "tragedy and heroism" in Kantai Collection. Kurita described the game as "merely an idol action game with a fleet motif". He found the greatest appeal of Kantai Collection to be the "sorrow of the Imperial Japanese Navy" saying that one might cry while playing Kantai Collection but not Azur Lane.[74]

Notes

  1. ^ a b 鱼丸; Yúwán, also known as N.ec 鱼丸
  2. ^ There are six sceduled Blu-ray volumes, with each volume containing two episodes.[4]
  3. ^ アズールレーン びそくぜんしんっ!, Azur Lane Bisoku Zenshin!
  4. ^ ラフィーと始める指揮官生活, Laffey to Hajimeru Shikikan Seikatsu
  5. ^ アズールレーン ~綾波、ケッコンするです~, Azur Lane: Ayanami, Kekkon-suru desu
  6. ^ All English titles are taken from Funimation.

References

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External links