Azur Lane

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Azur Lane
Azur Lane English Release Logo.png
English release logo
Game
DeveloperShanghai Manjuu, Xiamen Yongshi
Publisher
Produced byYuwan[a]
Music byShade (musician) [ja][1]
Deadball P [ja][2]
GenreShoot 'em upSimulation, RPG
EngineUnity
PlatformiOS/Android
Released
  • CHN: May 25, 2017
  • JP: September 13, 2017
  • KOR: March 27, 2018
  • EN: TBA, 2018;
    (Public beta) August 16, 2018
Game
Azur Lane Crosswave
DeveloperFelistella
Publisher
GenreShooter, Simulation
EngineUnreal Engine 4
PlatformPlayStation 4
Released
  • JP: TBA, 2019
Anime television series
Directed byTensho (Motoki Tanaka) [ja]
Written byJin Haganeya [ja]
StudioBibury Animation Studio
Audio drama
Written byTsukasa (writer) [ja]
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 iOS and Android. 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 major participants of the war. Other gameplay elements, such as customizing a home and marrying in-game characters, are also present.

First launched in China in May and subsequently in Japan in September 2017, Azur Lane has received an overwhelming popularity, especially in Japan. The Japanese player count reached 5 million within four months after release, and players have voted the game among the top 5 of Google Play's Best Game of 2017 in the region. Critics have attributed the game's popularity to its original and well-designed gameplay system. An English-language version is currently in open beta, slated for a 2018 release.

The game has received adaptations into several manga and novelizations. Azur Lane Crosswave, a 3D adaptation for PlayStation 4, will be published by Compile Heart in 2019. A TV anime adaptation is currently in production.

Gameplay[edit]

Main interface, with the character Vampire. 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 of United Kingdom, Imperial Japanese Navy and German Kriegsmarine. Players organize them into fleets of six and confront AI-controlled enemies or the fleets of other players.[3]

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 and are referred to as protagonists in-game.[4] As of October 2018, more than 280 characters have been introduced to the game, representing ships from nine countries which participated in the war.[5]

Battle[edit]

When preparing for the game's main mode, players can organize two fleets, each fleet 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.[3]

Upon entering a map, player's fleet is placed on a grid-like map similar to that of Battleship. The map also hosts enemy fleets, some immobile and others that pursue the player, as well as bonus nodes that provide supplies such as health and ammunition. Players must navigate optimally, and assemble their fleets tactically, to clear obstructing enemies and reach the map's boss using minimal movements. When the player moves their fleet across the map, they may be ambushed in random encounters, from which they may take damage or may 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 deducted at each battle. Fleets that run out of ammo can still fight, but may only deal half damage. [3]

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. The back row, while stationary, can send shell barrages and airstrikes called in manually by the player. Airstrikes will activate a bullet-clearing effect, removing all projectiles and torpedoes on screen. Players have an auto mode option to give this control up to the computer AI. Characters' health is fully replenished when completing or exiting a map. Morale points are deducted for each character of a fleet upon battle. Should a character fall in a battle, they cannot join further action in the map, and a larger amount of morale point will be deducted at the end of the battle. Sustained low morale for a character will decrease their stats and affection points. Low affection points will lead the character to greet the player with voice lines reflecting their disappointment.[3]

The game features a player versus player mode. The player may prepare a defense fleet, and organize an offense fleet to challenge defense fleets of other players. In this mode, battles are controlled entirely by AI, and 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.[6]

Additional mechanics have been introduced after 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.[7] A ship's cat system was introduced in September 2018. Various breeds of cats can be obtained via a cattery, where they can be trained to provide buffs when brought along with fleets to battle.[8]

Dormitory[edit]

Aside from battle, the game also sports a "Dormitory" feature. Characters in their chibi forms may be put in the Dormitory, where they can walk around and interact with furniture (e.g. sit, sleep, bathe).[3] Characters may passively gain experience points and recover morale when food is given by players. Food can be purchased by players using fuel or in-game currency. Players may 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 and 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. Additionally, monuments can be awarded by clearing event stages. Players may inspect Dormitories of other players.[9]

Marriage[edit]

When a character's affection point is raised to 100 via battle, secretary, or Dormitory, players may choose to give a "wedding ring" item to said character. A "wedding ring" can be obtained through quests, and additional rings can be purchased via in-game currency, essentially allowing polygamy.[10] Players may also give customized names to married characters, but may only do so every 30 days.[11] Furthermore, a few of the most popular characters will also gain unique wedding dress costumes for the wedding.[10]

Synopsis[edit]

The start of this game features an anthropomorphic recreation of Battle of the Denmark Strait, where the personification of famed British battlecruiser HMS Hood is sunk by characters representing German forces. The game features an eponymous military alliance, "Azur Lane", formed by the United States, the United Kingdom, Empire of Japan and Nazi Germany.[3] Split off in two due to alien intervention, Germany and Japan 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 the United States naval engagements in the Pacific War, with chapters representing several decisive battles of the war, including the Battle of Midway, Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, and Mariana and Palau Islands campaign.

Development[edit]

Azur Lane's producer, Yuwan,[a] a well-known uploader on the Chinese video sharing website Bilibili, started development with five of his college friends, with the initial notion of "creating a doujin game, if a commercial one is not possible".[12] Seeing a large number of 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 making the game a turn-based strategy, a game mechanic 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.[12]

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. Some gameplay design influence was drawn from World of Warships, a World War II naval warfare simulation game popular in China.[12]

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.[13] A series of characters based on proposed or unfinished warships of World War II, including Neptune, Saint-Louis and Ibuki, were also introduced as part of a collaboration with Wargaming, publisher of World of Warships.[14]

Many young voice actors, and critically acclaimed ones lent their talents to the game. The decision to employ an all-Japanese voice cast with a focus on younger actors resulted from the lack of professional voice actors in China, as well as the team's intention to give younger Japanese actors opportunities to perform.[12] Notable voice actors of the game includes: Yui Ishikawa,[15] Rie Takahashi[16] and Risa Taneda.[17]

Audiovisual design and writing of Azur Lane is provided by Shanghai Manjuu Ltd.(Chinese: 上海蛮啾网络科技有限公司), while Xiamen Yongshi Ltd.(Chinese: 厦门勇仕网络技术有限公司) is responsible for programming, game data design and content. The two companies hold joint authorship of the game's copyright, with a 65%/35% share on its revenue.[18]

Release[edit]

The game first launched in China in May 2017, published by Bilibili. The Japanese version was published by Shanghai Yostar in September that year.[3] The South Korean version was published by XD Global in March 2018.[19] The English language version was announced as in development in June 2018. An open beta commenced on August 16 with a full release expected later in the year.[20][21]

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 4 full-time employee and 2 interns before the game's release, as they had to work from morning until midnight behind the game's climbing popularity 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.[22]

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 subsequently removed.[23]

Promotion[edit]

A special program featuring voice actress Yui Ishikawa visiting one of the developers, Manjuu Ltd.'s office in Shanghai was aired on a streaming television platform in May 2018.[24] 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.[25] More than a thousand submissions were received.[26] In September 2018, Yostar announced the new term would be "kansen" (Japanese: 艦船).[27]

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 loading screens in the game.[28] Winning designs from a wedding dress illustration contest in July 2018 were also planned to be implemented into the game.[29]

Yostar also licensed the Japanese company GRSPER to create virtual reality wedding ceremonies with the game's characters in August 2018.[30] The crowdfunding project was cancelled in October 2018 due to GRSPER not meeting its funding goal and having communication difficulties with voice actors and their agencies.[31]

Collaborations[edit]

A December 2017 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.[32]

In April 2018, Yostar and Wargaming Japan announced a collaboration for 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.[33]

A collaboration with Sunrise Inc. in May 2018 featured a crossover plotline with the anime Armored Trooper VOTOMS, and the Marshydog mecha from the show was added to Azur Lane as a furniture item.[34] A collaboration event with Aquaplus in November 2018 made characters from the visual novel Utawarerumono available to obtain in Azur Lane.[35]

Other media[edit]

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

Print media[edit]

Azur Lane was adapted into several manga and novels. An official yonkoma comic, titled Azur Lane: Very Slow Advance!,[b] is being published in Ichijinsha's magazine Manga 4-koma Palette [ja]. It features the character based on HMS Javelin and three of the game's other protagonists.[36] Chapters of Very Slow Advance! are regularly posted on the game's Japanese Twitter account as a means of promotion.[37] Azur Lane Comic Anthology, a comic anthology series currently up to four volumes, is being published by Ichijinsha and sold on Amazon Japan.[38] 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.[39] Azur Lane Comic à la Carte, another comic anthology, was published in October 2018.[40]

A spin-off light novel featuring the character Laffey as protagonist, titled Starting My Life as a Commander with Laffey,[c] was published by Kodansha in June 2018.[41] Another novelization, Episode of Belfast, featuring the character based on HMS Belfast, was published by Shueisha in June 2018.[42]

Console adaptation[edit]

Azur Lane Crosswave, a 3D shooter game for PlayStation 4 was announced in September 2018. Crosswave will feature 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 is being developed by Felistella using Unreal Engine 4 and will be published by Compile Heart in 2019. An English language release has not been confirmed.[43][44]

Anime[edit]

An anime adaptation for television was announced in September 2018. The anime will be directed by Tensho (aka Motoki Tanaka [ja]), director of Grisaia and Rewrite's anime adaptations, with writer Jin Haganeya [ja]. Tensho's Bibury Animation Studio will animate the show.[39] 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.[22]

Audio CDs[edit]

A CD featuring character songs sung by their respective voice actors was released in September 2018.[45] A drama CD written by the author of Starting My Life as a Commander with Laffey will be released on November 28, 2018.[46]

Reception[edit]

Azur Lane gained popularity in its home country, contributing to a majority of Bilibili's 2018 Q1 revenue along with the Chinese release of Fate/Grand Order.[47][48] In Japan, the game received an overwhelming surge in popularity after release,[3] despite initial accusations from fans of Kantai Collection for being a clone.[49][10] After only four months, there were already over five million Japanese players. A quarterly doujin convention exclusively dedicated to the game was first held in November 2017.[50][51] From May 2017 to August 2018, the game has earned a revenue of US$170 million globally on iOS AppStore, among which $28 million is contributed by Chinese players, while $139 million, or approximately 82%, is contributed by Japanese players.[52]

The game scored within Japan's top five best games of 2017 in a Google Play user vote,[53] as well as a first place in the app section of the Dengeki Online Awards 2017.[54] In September 2018, the game was awarded third place in Game of the Year of the 15th China Animation & Comic Competition Golden Dragon Award [zh].[55]

Azur Lane's gameplay and game system design were widely praised and attributed for its popularity. 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".[3] Famitsu liked how the game depended little on luck, let players develop their own play style, and was easy to pick up and play due to few microtransaction elements.[56][57] Japanese writer, actor and radio personality Mafia Kajita [ja] was impressed by the tight shooter controls. He felt the game systems were streamlined and avoided any nuisances, and believed the all-Japanese voice cast is likely a reason for its popularity.[58]

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 to be responsible for upsetting its own players, who switched and contributed to Azur Lane's popularity.[50] 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.[58] 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", as he found the greatest appeal of Kantai Collection to be the "sorrow of the Imperial Japanese Navy" and that one might cry while playing Kantai Collection but not Azur Lane.[59]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b 鱼丸; Yúwán, also known as N.ec 鱼丸
  2. ^ アズールレーン びそくぜんしんっ!, Azur Lane Bisoku Zenshin!
  3. ^ ラフィーと始める指揮官生活, Laffey to Hajimeru Shikikan Seikatsu

References[edit]

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External links[edit]