ZETA DIVISION came into Masters Berlin with big intentions. The Japanese squad is widely regarded as the best team in the region, but much like Vision Strikers, failed on making their international debut in Iceland.
It forced the team — then named Absolute Jupiter — to completely re-evaluate their strategy to try and prove themselves against the world’s best.
That became especially clear after Crazy Raccoon fell out of Masters Iceland without winning a single map.
While their Masters Berlin campaign didn’t get off to the best of starts, ZETA DIVISION are still confident. Despite losing 1-2 to KRU Esports in Group B, they managed to make some history by winning Japan’s first map at an international Valorant event in a dominant Split performance.
However, to say the rest of the series was scrappy would be an understatement.
Ryumon ‘Reita’ Oshiro, on his Jett, was pushing for any advantage, with the Japanese side playing ultra aggressively on Bind in Map 3. It played perfectly into KRU’s hands though as they rounded out the series 13-8, 5-13, 13-7.
“It’s kind of disappointing because we were nervous for our first game. I couldn’t perform at my best, but I still think we can win the tournament,” Reita told Dexerto after the game.
It’s quite a lofty ambition — and one that many international rivals will scoff at. But for a squad like ZETA, who has been through thick and thin for years across CS:GO and now Valorant, they want to finally put Japan on the map in esports.
Valorant’s incredible Japanese success story
Japan isn’t necessarily well known for their plaudits in esports, especially FPS games. Sure, the Apex Legends community is huge, and select teams like CYCLOPS athlete gaming have stunned the world in Siege, but international success has been hard to come by.
There’s a different air around Valorant though in the country. One only has to look at the viewership numbers of last night’s game, where Japanese co-streamers were at the top of Twitch watching ZETA DIVISION fight their hearts out.
The game’s popularity has given the squad more opportunities to shine. In CS:GO, they struggled for years, living off prize money in a mostly-volunteer driven esport. Their fortunes have changed in Valorant.
“CS:GO in Japan is not really famous. However Valorant is incredibly popular there. There’s many more opportunities for us in Valorant,” Reita explained.
“As Valorant gets bigger and I get stronger, the whole Valorant community in Japan grows. Having that much support back home gives me this extra power.”
Having made the jump with his long-time CS:GO teammates was also a huge bonus. While some teams made the jump early, few have lasted more than a few months (even Vision Strikers, made of the remnants of MVP PK, have changed things up).
The experience of learning a new game with his CS:GO teammates helped ZETA DIVISION bond even closer, and gave them a synergy that kickstarted their Valorant success story.
“Having that long-standing relationship with my teammates means we can talk without any barriers, and we understand each other really well,” he said.
The team only made their first roster change since October 2018 — when Reita joined the then-SCARZ CS:GO squad — after Stage 2, bringing in rising star Akatsuki ‘Makiba’ Miyamoto.
“In Valorant, there’s plenty of Agents, so we thought we should stick to several Agents and concentrate on that, it’d be nicer. Having Makiba is good for the team because of his flexibility,” Reita said.
He came in for Ryo ‘barce’ Takebayashi, forming a six-man roster. Barce’s Brimstone was a key factor in ZETA DIVISION’s map win against KRU on Split, and gives them an edge when the team opts for a more aggressive playstyle.
“Since we played for a very long time and we trust him, when we have him in our lineup we can play more aggressively [with his Brimstone and Omen],” Reita explained.
It also helps, somewhat, that Reita IGL’s while playing Jett. It’s an uncommon strategy, only really employed by Sentinels’ Shahzeb ‘ShahZaM’ Khan, but one that has worked for ZETA for now.
Reita can make the calls on the front line, dashing into the thick of combat and getting the best view possible.
However, there’s concerns the strategy might not work out in the long run — and changes might be made depending on ZETA’s Berlin finish.
“Personally I think it’s very difficult to play Jett and IGL at the same time. I don’t really want to boast, but as a team, it really fits our playstyle. In the future though, I’d like to choose either playing Jett or IGLing, but not both,” Reita admitted.
“I’d swap onto a smoke Agent or someone with more supportive utility — it’d fit my role.
— ZETA DIVISION (@zetadivision) September 4, 2021
Turning international perceptions around
Japan’s reputation in international Valorant isn’t the best after Iceland. Crazy Raccoon’s swift elimination raised questions about whether they could be competitive.
ZETA DIVISION’s map win shows there’s signs of life, but there’s a hill to climb. They are fighting for not just Japan, but the entirety of Asia. Vision Strikers, F4Q, Paper Rex — not only are they scrim partners, but they want to finally prove Asia can compete in an FPS.
“I don’t really think they’re our rivals. In Asia, all the top teams have a lot of players from Counter-Strike, so I feel like we have this common bond,” Reita said.
Although they’re facing elimination against Vivo Keyd, there’s still a lick of confidence in the Japanese camp.
It was the first thing Reita said in the interview, and the same statement he closed off with. Despite all the doubt, ZETA are purely focused on their goal of finally breaking out internationally after years of trying.
“I think we can win Masters Berlin, despite our start.”