How I first-picked Genji to recreate the authentic Overwatch experience in Heroes of the Storm’s Hanamura

Genji and Hanamura come to Heroes of the Storm. (Blizzard)
Genji and Hanamura come to Heroes of the Storm. (Blizzard)

Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm continues to surf on the popularity of Overwatch, and the game’s next update capitalizes on that. If you hadn’t had enough of Genji players in Overwatch, then you’ll love to hear that the cyborg ninja will be the newest hero to hit the HOTS battlefield.

Genji’s debut comes with a new battleground, Overwatch’s Hanamura, which means that all of us otaku are positively squealing with joy right now. At a recent media event, I got hands-on with the hero and new battleground alongside many other outlets who are definitely going to write about this experience. But I’m going to give you an unique angle.

How? I am esports.

It was with that self-assured attitude that I first-picked Genji and locked in the hero in our opening match. Surely, the video game writers at this event were about to fall to my superior reflexes and skills, because everybody knows that games journalists are bad at competitive games*, and I am Yahoo Esports.

*Disclaimer: I used to work at GameSpot. Also, this is a common misconception.

Little did I realize that Blizzard had invited more than just media; they had invited Influencers (my favorite word of the 2010s) with a capital “I”, and not only were these Influencers experienced streamers who play the game a lot more than I do, but they definitely have more Twitter followers than I could ever dream of. They then proceeded to make me feel even lamer by destroying my team.

It wasn’t for lack of trying. As a first-pick Genji player I was pretty okay at being mobile. Like in Overwatch, Genji has a few unique movement skills that make him annoying to pin down. His E is Swift Strike, which lets him dashe in a straight line through enemies to deal damage. If an enemy dies within two seconds after he hits, its cooldown resets. The dash goes pretty far, so I had to be careful using it in case my teammates couldn’t back me up (not because I was aggressive and out of position, I swear).

Genji’s Cyborg Agility trait means he can jump over walls. It has a ten second cooldown by default, so I couldn’t use it a lot during fights. The jump is more vertical than horizontal, so it’s not really great to use as a means to put distance between you and enemies, as I found out when my teammates didn’t back me up while I ran away.

I could further play out my cyborg ninja fantasies by hitting Q to throw Shuriken at enemies. When tapped once, Genji throws out multiple Shuriken in a cone area, which can hit multiple targets. Its effects are similar to that of a shotgun in that if used on a single enemy up close, they’ll eat all of the Shuriken and take more damage. I could spam Shuriken three times in quick succession, with a cooldown that recharges all of them at once. It was very fun to keep using Shuriken to chip away at enemies, especially when my teammates weren’t doing any harass.

Then there’s his W, which activates Deflect. No Bastion in Heroes (yet), but there is Tracer to use this skill against, which seems very satisfying. Unlike the version of his skill in Overwatch, it doesn’t deflect all damage, instead throwing a kunai at the attacking enemy for a set amount of damage. Very good for protecting yourself from harass when your teammates fail to.

But really, when I wanted to go full anime I’d activate his ultimate, the second of which is way more anime than any of his Overwatch-inspired skills.

The first option is his Dragonblade, a.k.a. Ryujin no ken wo-GET OUT OF THE WAY. As in Overwatch, this ultimate is a signal for enemies to start running away, because Genji turns into a mean damage-dealing machine, swinging his katana in front of himself with each key press to dish out serious amounts of hurt. Each kill achieved in this mode resets the cooldown of his dash.

His second ultimate option X-Strike draws a cross-shaped slash on the field, which deals heavy damage to enemies in the area of effect. It’s super anime, and super cool, but also super tricky to time. I eat natto for breakfast by the way, so I definitely know what I’m talking about.

And what better backdrop for a futuristic ninja than the cherry-blossom laden Hanamura? Blizzard evidently couldn’t squeeze enough Overwatch into this patch, because this version of Hanamura includes payloads. Ready your lungs.

Push the payload (alone) in Hanamura on HOTS. (Blizzard)
Push the payload (alone) in Hanamura on HOTS. (Blizzard)

These payloads are cleverly placed so that the two teams cannot avoid each other forever, leading to lots of teamfights. Which we lost because of unbalanced teams, definitely not because I’m an aggressive player who dives the payload a lot.

While I screamed at my teammates to get on the payload, it felt nostalgic and familiar, like a comforting dirty blanket which hadn’t been washed in forever (even though Overwatch was only released a year ago.) Anyway, when the right number of payloads is delivered a missile is fired at the enemy base, doing hefty damage. I could only watch helplessly as the opposing team achieved objective after objective, firing multiple missiles and destroying our base (classic pub games lol).

Even as I mashed “asdsqadafasdsaf” into chat and quit the game, I felt as though the experience did a great job translating the Overwatch themes into Heroes of the Storm. I look forward to seeing what real Genji players will do when the cyborg ninja makes his debut on the Nexus. Blizzard has not yet announced a launch date for Genji, but we’ll be reporting it on our Heroes of the Storm hub as soon as they do.