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Echo Fox Earns Their Place Atop the NALCS in Week Two

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The North American League of Legends Championship Series got off to an exciting start this season, with some of the most historically successful teams stumbling early. This continued to an extent in week two, but real story rests with the teams that have risen to fill the gap. In week one, Team Liquid claimed the spotlight for upsetting Team Solo Mid, but a different team demanded attention this week on their way to the top of the standings.

  1. Echo Fox

After a fairly easy pair of matches in week one, their matches against Cloud9 and TSM proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Echo Fox is one of the most talented rosters in the NALCS. We caught an inkling of this in week one, as they demonstrated their ability to win while ahead against Clutch Gaming and FlyQuest — but the best teams must be capable of staging comebacks.

Well, despite some exploitable troubles in the early game, Fox was able to do just that. They started both matches on the back-foot against both C9 and TSM. Against C9, Seung-Hoon “Huni” Heo lost the top lane in both cases, though Eric “Licorice” Ritchie had help from Dennis “Svenskaren” Johnsen. And against TSM, Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell’s Vladimir has a good match-up into Gangplank in the early game. In their match against C9, things turned around in the mid-game once Fox was able to start instigating team-fights. They mistakenly let Sven steal a Baron, but they won the next fight despite lacking the buff. Their coordination paid off big time and helped them swing control of the game in their favor long enough for the win.

Things were a bit trickier against TSM. From the fourth minute to the fiftieth, Fox was down. And unlike their game against C9, they couldn’t seem to win a team fight during the majority of that period. This was especially a problem after TSM’s first Baron-kill, where Fox tried to stop the siege by finding a pick somewhere. But eventually, Fox picked off Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg while the teams were posturing for Baron-control. Without him around to help Hauntzer and Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen survive the next fight, Fox picked up a Baron and then an Elder Dragon. And after that, Fox didn’t lose another team fight, finally looking like the team we’d seen all season up until this game. Pulling off such a comeback against a TSM that is stronger than their record reflects is an excellent sign going forward.

  1. Cloud9

Despite losing to Fox in their first game of the week, the team displayed many encouraging signs. Licorice was able to keep pace with Huni, and working with Svenskaren let the LCS newcomer kill one of the best top-laners in the whole league. In fact, he ended the game with the most kills on his team. Their ultimate problem was in losing close team fights — but Echo Fox has proven especially talented in this part of the game.

Things went much better in that regard against 100 Thieves, but their excellent draft might have had something to do with that. The whole team got involved in terms of kills, too, and it let them exert so much pressure across the whole map that their control was never really challenged. Nicolaj Jensen was the biggest contributor throughout this whole game, dealing the most damage on his team with Taliyah and using her ultimate to great effect.

  1. 100 Thieves

While their loss to Team Liquid gave the appearance that 100 Thieves might be able to challenge Echo Fox for the top spot in the league, their loss against C9 highlighted some holes in their armor. William “Meteos” Hartman was caught out repeatedly, and it seemed as if Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black was the only one who was trying to facilitate a comeback. There was also a lot of talk about how much better C9 drafted, so perhaps future opponents will really try to exploit that in the future.

Despite the weakness they showed against C9, 100 Thieves demonstrated strength against Liquid. Their willingness to let Sangwook “Ryu” Yoo push into the enemy base while the rest of the team scrapped was an example of excellent coordination and confidence. It might have cost them a Baron, but they were able to survive long enough to re-take control of the lanes and push them into a cracked base. This forced Liquid to play close to home, which hampered their ability to fight for control of the map once their buff wore off.

  1. Team Liquid

When Team Liquid beat TSM in week one, they did it by exploiting the team’s passivity. But then, against 100T, they demonstrated the same inability to pressure their opponents. Other than a couple of turrets and a single drake, they didn’t do much during their early advantage in the game. Instead, they gave up four kills and let 100T keep things close. No one on Liquid even got a kill until Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng popped Chanho “Ssumday” Kim at 26 minutes. They did win the game’s only real team fight, but they had the numbers advantage while Ryu cracked into their base. It net them the Baron, but they didn’t do enough with it to seize control of the game. Going forward, they’ll have to be much more active if they want to win against other playoff contenders.

  1. Team Solo Mid

If TSM could somehow win games by just scaling up forever, they would probably try. It almost cost them against OpTic, which put up enough of a fight to make FlyQuest’s win seem like less of a fluke. Alfonso “Mithy” Rodriguez had a hard time nailing his Ornn ultimates and Mike Yeung still wasn’t playing on the same level he demonstrated as a member of Phoenix1. To make matters worse, they decided it was better to trade Elder Dragon for Baron instead of outplaying an inferior OpTic squad and win both. Then again, since that happened after the 40-minute mark, perhaps they were the best they could hope for. And honestly, despite maintaining the gold lead for the entire match, TSM might have lost if not for a big ace in the mid-lane. Since that happened after an hour of play, the death-timers were so long that they could just walk into OpTic’s base and smash their Nexus, uncontested.

Their game against Echo Fox, meanwhile, should have given them the 2-0. But instead, they did the TSM thing and could not close out the game. It was especially sad since Yeung finally seemed to figure out how to be a presence in the early game and Hauntzer did half the team’s work himself, but they just could not translate team fight wins into a game win. Perhaps they just need to be more aggressive earlier in the game, when game timers aren’t so long that losing a single fight can give their opponents enough time to wrestle control of the game from them.

  1. Clutch Gaming

Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten is amazing, and his absolute destruction of CLG is something the whole team should be proud of. Taeyou “LirA” Nam did an excellent job of catching players out, as well, and Apollo Price had a quiet but very clean game. Their draft was cohesive and scaled up well, letting them mercilessly punish Counter Logic for all of their mistakes. In the end, though, their first win of the week was less a statement about their skill and more of a statement about what a mess their opponents were. Still, considering the space Clutch is expected to occupy in the standings, wins like this are important for confidence and growth.

As for the thrashing Team Liquid gave them, well, I imagine they don’t want to think about it too much. However, if they want to push for playoff contention, they’ll need to learn not to roll over when things go badly.

  1. Counter Logic Gaming

It kills me to see a team do so poorly that, on paper, has so much potential. And if it weren’t for that raw talent, CLG would be much lower than they are in these rankings — especially since their only win is against the worst team in the league. Even still, all the talent in the world isn’t worth anything when no one is channeling it in the proper direction. Without Aphromoo to call the shots, everyone seems a lot more prone to mistakes. Jae Hyun “Huhi” Choi and Yeujin “Reignover” Kim roamed to help get an early kill onto Colin “Solo” Earnest, but then the two make a terrible over-commitment on a mid-lane gank and are punished for it. And once the laning phase is over, they seem to have no idea where to strike.

They seemed a bit more focused on the Golden Guardians, but that didn’t stop their opponents from taking the first turret and the gold lead. It wasn’t until a team fight 20-plus minutes into the game that gave them the Baron and the opportunity to swing the lead in their favor. And if it wasn’t for Juan “Contractz” Garcia making a foolish dive, they might have stayed behind. Even then, the Guardians hung in there until a failed attempt to flank CLG gave them the ace needed to close out the game.

Yet, while it wasn’t the most competent win, it still gives the team something to hold onto. And if, somehow, they can use their momentum to steal a win from Echo Fox in week three, there’s a chance to stop their skid.

  1. OpTic gaming

OpTic could have easily beaten TSM this week, had a single team fight gone their way. For the majority of the game, they were able to hang with one of the better teams in the league and punish them when they made mistakes. They also showed a good sense of priorities, too, by taking a free Baron when TSM decided to sneak the Elder Dragon. The loss may have stung because it was a winnable game, but hopefully, the squad took the close nature as a way to build more confidence.

Against FlyQuest, which did beat TSM, they seemed quite even. Both sides took turns winning fights, but OpTic was dictating the pace. They would get the first kill and force Fly to equalize. They got the first Baron and forced Fly to defend. But ultimately, the combination of Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage, Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham and Dong Hyeon “Arrow” Noh put out too much damage by working well together. And when Fly decided to try their hand at picking a fight, Akaadian significantly contributed to turning the battle into a 3-0 plus Baron. From there, despite playing it a little safer than they needed, OpTic was able to claim their first win.   

  1. FlyQuest

Both games were a bit rough for FlyQuest this week, though for different reasons. OpTic simply outgunned them, but technical issues made their match against the Golden Guardians into a real slog. Though, to be honest, the painfully long pauses may have helped them staunch the bleeding enough to turn the game around. After all, they were losing for most of the game. At least Andy “AnDa” Hoang and Hojong “Flame” Lee came up big in terms of disrupting GG in the end, which allowed Jason “WildTurtle” Tran to rack up kills throughout the match.

  1. Golden Guardians

Another heartbreaking week for the only winless team in the league — especially when they could have won both of their matches. Their early and mid-game was quite strong in both cases, especially against FlyQuest. Contractz’ Rengar made the right plays, and Matt Elento’s Thresh play enabled Matthew “Deftly” Chen’s Kalista pick to pick up the majority of the team’s kills. However, the team seems to fall apart once games drag on a bit. A team fight or Baron won’t go their way, and they aren’t able to bounce back. The worst part of it all is they have an incredibly difficult two weeks coming up against some of the top teams in the league. It’s very unlikely they’ll see their first win for some time.

Freelance writer (journalism/fiction) , esports oriented. Big on Pokemon VGC, League of Legends, Overwatch. Sports Journalism MA at Cronkite School of Journalism, class of 2019.

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‘Coffee Talk’ Review: The Best Brew in Town

Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen.

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It’s 9:00pm. The rain just started coming down softly a few minutes ago, and the street outside is reflecting the lights above it. Neon signs shine brightly in the distance, although it’s hard to make out the words. You unlock the doors to the coffee shop and wipe down the counters in order to get them clean for the customers. The rain makes a soft sound as it hits the glass and passerby speed up their walking pace to avoid it. The bells chime as a tall, green orc walks in and sits down at your table in silence. You wonder what their story is…

I wanted to set the tone for this review because of how important atmosphere and audio/visual design is in the world of Coffee Talk. While it’s easy to boil the game down as a visual novel-type experience, it’s honestly so much more than that. A unique cast of characters, incredible user interface, and a mysterious protagonist combine to form the most enjoyable experience I’ve had this year on Switch.

Coffee Talk
Some of the subject matter can be pretty serious in nature…

Coffee Talk is beautiful because of how simple it is. The entire game takes place within a single coffee shop. As the barista, you’re tasked with making drinks for the patrons of the shop as well as making conversations with them. The twist is that earth is populated with creatures like orcs, werewolves, and succubi. The relationship between the various races is handled very well throughout the story, and some interesting parallels are made to the real world.

Making drinks is as simple as putting together a combination of three ingredients and hitting the ‘Serve’ button. If a unique drink is made, it will be added to a recipe list that can be referenced on the barista’s cell phone. This is where the awesome user interface comes in, as the phone has a series of apps that can be accessed at any moment in the game. One app houses your recipe list, another acts as a facebook for the characters in the game, one allows you to switch between songs, and the other houses a series of short stories that one of the characters in the game writes as it progresses. It’s one of the coolest parts of the whole experience and helps it stand out from other games in the genre.

Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen.

Coffee Talk cycles between talking with customers and making drinks for them. In the beginning, they will ask for basic beverages that can be brewed on the fly. Later on however, they may ask for a specific type of drink that has a unique title. These drinks often have certain descriptive features that hint at other possibilities in terms of unique dialogue. If the wrong drink is made, you’ll have five chances to trash it and make a new one. If the wrong drink is made, don’t expect the customer to be pleased about it.

The gameplay really is not the focus here though; it’s the characters and their stories that take center stage. An elf with relationship issues, a writer that can’t seem to pin down her next story, and an alien whose sole goal is to mate with an earthling are just a few of the examples of the characters you’ll meet during the story. There are tons of memorable moments throughout Coffee Talk, with every character bringing something unique to the table. The barista develops an interesting relationship with many of these characters as well.

Coffee Talk
Appearances can often be deceiving in this game.

Even though serving the wrong drinks can change some of the dialogue, don’t expect any sort of options or branching paths in terms of the story. It’s not that kind of experience; the story should simply be enjoyed for what it is. I found myself glued to the screen at the end of each of the in-game days, waiting to see what would happen in the morning. The first playthrough also doesn’t answer all of the game’s questions, as the second one is filled with all kinds of surprises that I won’t spoil here.


Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen. It’s an easy recommendation for anyone who loves video games, not just visual novel fans. There are characters in the game that I’ll certainly be thinking about for a long time, especially when the setting brings out the best in them. Don’t pass this one up.

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The Magic of Nintendo: How Mario and Zelda Connect us to Our Inner Child

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Magic of Nintendo

Nintendo is special. Many excellent developers depend upon story or progression systems to entice engagement, but not Nintendo. Nintendo games captivate because of their immediate charm. There is no need for a payoff. The games, themselves, are enough: they elicit feelings, hard to find in adulthood. Through intrepid discovery, playful presentation, and unfiltered whimsy, the best of Nintendo connects gamers to their childlike selves.

The heart of any great Nintendo game is discovery and no encounter encapsulates this better than Breath of the Wild’s Eventide Island. First, finding the island requires genuine gumption. Found far from Hyrule’s shore, the island is only clearly visible from other islands, and even then, it’s only a speck in the distance. Reaching the island requires players to brave the open ocean and head towards something … that could be nothing. Then, upon arriving on the beach, a spirit takes all the player’s gear, including clothes and food. Link, literally, is left in his underwear. From there, players must make clever use of Link’s base skills in order to steal enemy weapons and make traps. The scenario creates a marvelous sense of self-sufficiency brought on by one’s own desire to discover. The player comes to the island purely of their own choosing, tackles the sea, and then overcomes obstacles without the aid of their strongest tools. The game turns players into plucky children who are discovering they can take care of themselves.

The intrepidity of Breath of the Wild and other Nintendo greats mirrors the feelings Shigeru Miyamoto, the father of many Nintendo franchises, experienced as a child. “I can still recall the kind of sensation I had when I was in a small river, and I was searching with my hands beneath a rock, and something hit my finger, and I noticed it was a fish,” Miyamoto told the New Yorker. “That’s something that I just can’t express in words. It’s such an unusual situation.” In sequences like Eventide Island, players don’t just understand what Miyamoto describes, they feel it: Apprehension gives way to exhilaration as the unknown becomes a place of play.

 Nintendo’s intrepid gameplay is often amplified by playful presentation with Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island being the quintessential example. The game’s visuals, defined by pastel colors and simple hand-drawings, appear crayoned by a child while the celestial chimes that punctuate the jubilant soundtrack evoke shooting stars. The overall effect cannot be understated. It takes the surreal and turns it real, allowing players to interact, tangibly, with imagination.

Super Mario Odyssey Wooden Kingdom

Even if one removes the presentation and gameplay from Nintendo’s masterpieces, an unabashed creativity remains that bucks norm and convention. The arbiter is fun; reason and logic have no say. For instance, Super Mario Odyssey’s Wooded Kingdom, takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting akin to Nier Automata. Players explore the metal remnants of a civilization that has become a lush home to robotic beings. However, unlike Nier, the dark undertones of the past have no bearing on the game or those who inhabit its universe. The post-apocalyptic setting is just a fun backdrop. It’s as though a bunch of children got together, began playing with toys, and one of the kids brought along his sibling’s adult action figures. There is no attention paid to the context, only unfiltered imagination.

When they’re at their best the creators at Nintendo invite gamers to come and play, like a parent arranging a play date. Pulled along by joyful gameplay that expands in unforeseen ways, players desire to play for the sake of play. It’s a halcyon state of being: No messy thoughts or contradiction, just joy.

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‘Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind’: An Utterly Shameless Cash Grab

Coming in at a $40 price point (!!!) Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind offers an 80% recycled campaign, a boss rush mode, and some other trash.

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Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

In the 15 year long history of DLC, we have seen some really shameless displays. The notorious horse armor incident of 2006 and a notable day one DLC for the ending game of a trilogy notwithstanding, few companies have had the utter audacity to offer so little content for such a high price point. Enter Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind.

Coming in at a $40 price point (!!!) Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind offers an 80% recycled campaign, a boss rush mode, and some social media nonsense for people who really hate themselves. That’s really it, that’s what you get. Honestly, Square-Enix should be utterly embarrassed by this DLC.

It’s been one year: 365 days, 8760 hours, 525600 minutes, or 31556952 seconds, since the release of Kingdom Hearts III. Let that sink in as you begin the meat of Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind. Think of it as the extended version of a movie you really like… you know, the kind where they add 4 minutes to the 120 minute runtime.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Yes, Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind, really is that cynical. I’m not kidding when I tell you that the game literally starts with an exact cut scene from the base game, and a cut scene that happens to be available from the theater mode of the main game that you’ve already bought if you’re playing this DLC. Yes, the introduction to this new content is… content you’ve already seen.

In fact, that’s kind of the sticking point here: most of what you get for your hard-earned cash is footage you’ve already seen, and battles you’ve already fought, and story you’ve already experienced, just with slight alterations for context. Remember back in the 2000s, when we were super obsessed with prequels? This is like that, except even more egregious.

Generally I’m not so unforgiving as to call a company out for a forthright cash grab, but that’s absolutely what Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind is. There’s just no other way to put it. You might find someone in the marketing department for Square-Enix who would disagree, but being a company that has faced just these sort of allegations for their last two major releases, Square-Enix either doesn’t read the news, or doesn’t care what people think of their products.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Square-Enix was roundly accused of shipping unfinished products in the case of both Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III — their two most high profile releases of the last decade. I personally gave mostly positive reviews of both games for this very website but if you want ammo to suggest that this company is deliberately trading on the nostalgia and passion of its fan base in order to make financial headway, there are few examples you could draw from that are as obvious as this DLC.

Look, maybe you’re a really big Kingdom Hearts fan. Maybe you just really wanted to know what the context was for that cliffhanger ending in Kingdom Hearts III. Maybe you just don’t do much research before you buy something. Or maybe… you just really trust this company for some reason.

Hey, I’m not judging… hell, I bought this DLC for $40 same as anyone else. I oughta be honest that I’m not reviewing Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind as some holier than thou critic, talking down to you from my position of privilege. No, I’m an angry consumer in this particular case. I’m a person who spent enough to replace a flat tire on my car, or buy my family dinner, on a game that is clearly playing off of my love for a franchise, and using it to bilk me out of money in a method that is so clear, and so concise, that those involved in the entire endeavor should be totally embarrassed for their part in the creation, marketing, pricing, and distribution of this expansion.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Yes, fans had their complaints about Kingdom Hearts III. “Where are the hardcore boss battles? Where are the Final Fantasy characters? Where are the secret areas? Where are the hidden plot developments?” Still, to address these particular complaints by hammering a few minutes or seconds here and there into already existing content is truly like spitting in the faces of the people who have built the house you’re living in.

I haven’t sat in the board rooms at Square-Enix and I haven’t been in email chains about the planning of projects at their company but what I can say is that there is something rotten in Denmark if this is what passes for a satisfying piece of content for the wildly devoted fans of a hugely popular franchise in 2020. Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind is literally, truthfully, and succinctly, the worst piece of DLC I’ve ever purchased.

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