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Parity Finds the Overwatch League in Week Three

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As many teams prove they’re starting to hit their stride, the third week of the Overwatch League provided the most convincing evidence to date for its own legitimacy. While the first two weeks of play may have felt less competitive due to hallmark games, many matches delivered this week. In breaking those details down, here’s a look at where each team stands now that the dust is starting to settle.

No 1. Seoul Dynasty

If you thought that the top spot may belong to the New York Excelsior simply because they toppled Seoul, you should probably take a closer look at their match. While the XL came into the match swinging, displaying great confidence in their team compositions and their shot-calling, the Dynasty’s mechanics looked as crisp as ever. To top it off, while the team occasionally looked a little slow to adapt, the brightest sign of their future success was their ability to capitalize on New York’s mistakes.

Better preparation will come with time as the other teams in the league continue revealing information about their playstyles and preferences. Once that aspect of their game is locked in, their sharp skills and ability to capitalize on any sign of weakness will help them stay atop the standings. An actual concern for the team, however, is their struggle on control maps. They lost Oasis and Lijiang Tower to the XL, and they even gave up a point on the former against the worst team in the league. If they focus on improving one aspect of their play, it will likely be shoring up that hole.

No 2. New York Excelsior

How could the team that beat the best team in the league not be in first itself, especially with an equivalent record? Well, that’s because the Dynasty lost to the number two team while New York lost one in the middle of the pack. The Fusion’s stock is certainly rising, though losing to them takes away a bit of the XL’s shine. Their triple DPS composition on Numbani worked out despite feeling a bit cocky at times, but it was their inability to gain traction cost them. They found plenty of kills on Temple of Anubis, but they couldn’t translate that into points. And on Dorado, they lacked the offensive pressure to push past the first point. The decision not to sub Pine into map five may haunt them in the future as well, as they failed to take a single point.

That being said, New York’s performance against Seoul was extremely encouraging. Hae-Seong “Libero” Kim and Jong-Ryeol “Saebyeolbe” Park easily kept pace with Byung-Sun “Fleta” Kim and Sang-Beom “Munchkin” Byun, and Seong-Hyun “Jjonak” Bang was a monster on Zenyatta. Their positioning was generally strong, plus the team committed to and won fights that many others would have abandoned. To top it off, their quad-tank composition on Horizon was a thing of beauty, blowing through the Dynasty like wet paper. However, there were signs of trouble in their win. New York repeatedly failed to stay on the objective, giving up points on Horizon that could have turned the 3-2 win into a total stomp. It was also infuriating to watch them attempt the same strategy three times and not expect their opponents to adapt. Fortunately, those errors should be easy to fix, meaning that they could end up as number one in time.

No. 3 Houston Outlaws

Records don’t mean everything, because sometimes momentum can go a long way. Yes, Houston has yet to beat a top-tier team, but they sure blew out the bottom of the barrel. The Outlaws were also the only team this week to win any set 4-0, and those two wins must look nice next to their other two 4-0s from week two. At this point, the only teams to beat them were an equally aggressive New York and a Philadelphia Fusion that is the only team of the three to have two wins against the others.

So, with that justified, the team’s DPS players remain their strongest asset. Jiri “LiNkzr” Masalin was an absolute monster, tearing up Florida’s backline with Tracer and picking off anyone out of position with Widowmaker.  Even his Genji came in clutch on Ilios, where his switch to that hero helped refocus the team enough that they ran back control of the first point from a 99 percent deficit. Florida, on paper, never presented the Outlaws much of a challenge to begin with — but the Gladiators could have conceivably put up a fight. But despite that potential, and a fairly strong first map out of Los Angeles’ lesser team, Houston made quick work of them. In fact, on the last three maps of the set, the Outlaws didn’t give up a single point.

Ouch.

No 4. London Spitfire

The Spitfire were always going to roll over San Francisco, with the whole team outclassing their opponents. Seung-Tae “Bdosin” Choi shinned on Zenyatta through the match. They proved impenetrable on both the hybrid and assault maps, able to seize victory with only a single tick on the first point. But when it came to control, London struggled. This is something that most of the all-Korean lineups have demonstrated, and the Spitefire’s stumbled proved to be prophetic, in the end.

While they bounced back to defeat the Shock, the Boston Uprising exploited their Achilles heel for the victory. And while everyone knew one of the undefeated teams had to fall this week, no one expects it would be London. The real shame was that Birdring and Profit looked good — but Boston rose to the occasion. With Seoul on the horizon, they’ll have to fight hard to keep from losing pace with the top of the pack.

No. 5 Philadelphia Fusion

This team, which has had the least time together due to “logistical issues,” has finally started to click. Jae-Hyeok “Carpe” Lee and Georgii “ShaDowBurn” Gushcha continued to make a case for their status as the best DPS duo in the league, and their back-and-forth set with the XL gave viewers plenty of evidence. They got a little stuffed once the payload got involved on Numbani, but they almost stopped the triple DPS comp from New York, in turn. Temple of Anubis is where they really come to life, where they translated momentum from the good team fighting on the first point in taking the second. On defense, they held out for long enough on the first point that they were able to zone New York off of the second until time expired.

The team slipped on control, and they aren’t able to get more than two points on Dorado. But with superior use of ultimates and some timely dives into the back-line, the Fusion stopped their opponents from passing their point of progress. The XL decide not to bring Do-Hyeon “Pine” Kim back in for the second set of control maps, and that could have potentially been the difference-maker allowing Philly to snatch victory away from the then-undefeated Excelsior.

Cutting it so close against Shanghai was worrisome, but it’s likely the Fusion spent most of their time focusing on New York. The lack of preparedness and the Dragon’s steady — but minimal — growth made for some close calls. The worst part is that Philadelphia almost had the set closed out, but they couldn’t take the game-winning point on Oasis. Fortunately, they learned enough from their mistakes to take Lijiang Tower without dropping a point.

 

  1. Los Angeles Valiant

The relative weakness of the Valiant’s opponents this week is what puts them below the Fusion, and their play wasn’t exactly inspiring. They were beaten back hard in the first two maps against the Gladiators, and they barely eked out victories on the next two. If it weren’t for the fact that their in-state rivals completely fumbled their defense on Junkertown, they never would have made it to Lijiang Tower. There, however, they showed enough resilience to overcome the poke-heavy, triple DPS composition that the Gladiators ran. The same strategy ends up failing them the second time around, but the Valiant catch Shaz out enough on the third point that they can dive into their opponent’s backline and steal the win.

Their match against Florida isn’t super notable, other than the fact that the Valiant give up Dorado after they’d already sealed up the win. It may seem like a minor error, but that kind of sloppiness can be telling — especially considering they won the previous matches with ease. It seems entirely possible that they could drop both of their games next week.

  1. Boston Uprising

This team had a slow start to the first stage of the Overwatch League, but a clutch win against London served as a testament to their potential. Jonathan “Dreamkazper” Sanchez, in particular, had a huge impact on the set, and the team’s collective efforts on the Temple of Anubis is a perfect example of Boston at its best. They blow through on offense with six minutes remaining and shut out London in the map’s time bank phase. Control goes their way too, thanks to their ability to capture the point early. That way, even though possession of the point flips back and forth, Boston comes out victorious. Junkertown almost went their way, too, but Ji-Hyeok “Birdring” Kim and Jun-Young “Profit” Park caught Kristian “Kellex” Keller out enough to break their defense.

Winning against such a strong opponent was incredible, but what really cements confidence in their roster was their ability to overcome Dallas. While the Fuel had a terrible start to the season, there is enough raw talent on the team that defeating Boston wasn’t out of the question. All the same, they survived the even exchange of blows and proved for the second time this week that they have a strong command of Lijiang Tower. Their comfort with that map will surely aid them going forward.

  1. Los Angeles Gladiators

It all looked so promising for the Gladiators, until they found themselves on the wrong side of a reverse sweep against the Valiant. They played so close against their rivals that there were multiple moments where it seemed as if they would triumph. Jun-Sung “Asher” Choi, Lane “Surefor” Roberts and Benjamin Ville Aapeli “BigGoose” Isohanni all had excellent showings, and Aaron “Bischu” Kim looked much better than he had in previous weeks. But unfortunately for the Gladiators, Horizon was the last map they won all week. It made perfect sense that Houston smoked them, as their shields were smashed to pieces against the superior team. At least Florida should give them an easy win next week, which will provide a warm-up for another test against Boston. If they want to actually contend for the playoffs, they’ll need every win they can get from here on out.

  1. Dallas Fuel

After plenty of problems in and out of games, it seems Dallas finally came to play with something in their tank. Brandon “Seagull” Larned played Junkrat well enough to rival that of Houston’s Jake Lyon, and Pongphop “Mickie” Rattanasangchod played out of his mind on Roadhog. At the same time, the Shock have been uninspiring. If it weren’t for Dallas’ painfully slow start, this result wouldn’t have surprised anyone. Their match against Boston, a team that is also trending upward, was much more telling. There are still problems to work out (and signing Dylan “aKm” Bignet may help with those problems), and things don’t get any easier next week. If they manage to win even one of their games, though, it will be a sign of continued progress.

  1. San Francisco Shock

Not getting 4-0’d against London is probably the best result the Shock could have asked for, but they still failed to gain any traction unless they were escorting a payload. The first point on Horizon eluded them once again, though they finally broke through against a struggling Dallas. Engaging in team fights seems to be a continual problem for them, and their passive play has now cost them four games. The worst part of the week came against Dallas, where they failed to take the first point of Eichenwalde with four minutes left in the time bank. They stayed competitive for the most part, but the whole week was a mediocre effort that doesn’t inspire much confidence going forward. To climb this list (and keep winning), San Francisco will have to make some changes.

  1. Florida Mayhem

There were some good looks from Mayhem on offense, especially from Kevin “Tviq” Lindström’s McCree. Unfortunately, they still lack the staying power to win team fights and take objectives. A good sign of improvement is their willingness to experiment, which Andreas “Logix” Berghmans demonstrated on Numbani by sneaking around the back of the first point as Pharah to take out LiNkzr’s Widowmaker. The downside is he whiffed the execution, which made the whole attempt moot. The likelihood that they’ll notch another win this stage is evaporating, though. San Francisco, who they face second next week, might be their last chance to inject some energy into the rest of their season.

  1. Shanghai Dragons

The only upside of being in last place is that the crowd seems to genuinely want the Dragons to win. In fact, anyone watching probably wants that at this point, as it looks bad to have a team perform so poorly. That being said, it’s unlikely that anyone wants that first loss to Shanghai on their resume. To make matters worse, they face New York and London next week — two teams that seem untouchable by comparison, despite their weaknesses. Until they get a better handle on coordinating their ultimates, they’ll keep struggling to win the fights needed to for an overall victory. It doesn’t help that, at this point, their best map is escort — which they only get to play so often.

Who knows, though? Maybe Dallas, which hasn’t been anywhere close to meeting expectations, will trip up against them. I doubt they’d land a second win this stage, but the boost in confidence is sorely needed at this point.

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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