Sunday, 30 September 2012

Final Fantasy: Rise, Fall & Rebirth (Part 1: Learn from History)

This is going to be the start of a multiple post blog on the Final Fantasy series, where it has been and where it's headed now.

I am what some might call a very big fan of Final Fantasy. If you don't know this about me, you don't know much about me. I've been playing the games since the release of the ground breaking and incredible PlayStation masterpiece; Final Fantasy VII. I am an admitted Final Fantasy fanboy, but I believe I am with good reason. Since it's inception Final Fantasy has always strived to give us the best in graphics, gameplay, story, the works. They've put themselves to the the limits trying to see what kind of awesomeness they can bring us with each release. That's just as much true as it was back in 1987, twenty-five years ago when the Fighter, Black Mage, White Mage and Thief (don't lie that was your team too first time around) first set out for Corneria to find the four elemental crystals and save the world from the time-warping demon known as Chaos. Even with the very divisive or sometimes even maligned Final Fantasy XIII it was clear that what they were trying to do was grand and epic and that their hearts were in the right place, no-one can deny that. The series reached the point where many people were calling, and still do to this day (except those who try to be fashionable by hating the game, strangely often fans of it's immediate predecessor), the seventh instalment in the landmark series the greatest game of all time; something that I'd probably have a hard time denying with few games reaching the same kind of acclaim. Nowdays however it seems to have fallen from grace... big time!

So what has Final Fantasy really done wrong in it's last ten years of so that's made it fall so far from grace? In part one today let me sum up the seriesto tell the un-inducted what exactly happened in this illustrious serious. I'll try to keep it short... and fail.

FINAL FANTASY was released in 1987 on the NES and grew from there to have multiple entries in the franchise. The game was lauded for it's interesting combat mechanics and battle animations that allowed for a party of four heroes chosen by the player at the start of the game from various "jobs" like Fighter, Black Mage, White Mage, Thief, Red Mage and Black Belt. You progressed around an open "world map" from town to town, dungeon to dungeon exploring a world of wonder. It's following two sequels wouldn't be released in Europe or North America until much, much later but equally followed a similar pattern with Final Fantasy II having a stronger focus on story and Final Fantasy III having a stronger focus on gameplay and customisation of character. The real next step in the series evolution came with...

FINAL FANTASY IV for the SNES in 1990. It was a landmark game with a very compelling story about redemption, betrayal, love and people from the moon who secretly want to eradicate us using our own ancestral magic... okay... The Fourth entry was an excellent game, it really brought to the table new things, not least of which was the Active Time Battle system, a system that would go on to appear for the next five games in the series and even make a modified appearance in later games such as XII and XIII. If the original set up the basics of gameplay and storytelling for what a Final Fantasy game would be; this game enhanced them all and really set the stage for what Final Fantasy as series would be. In many ways Final Fantasy IV is the first "true" Final Fantasy game. The following game in the series Final Fantasy V would take a step back in the storytelling department and use an upgraded version of Final Fantasy III's job system. It wasn't that successful really in the eyes of many fans and didn't see release in North America once again until over ten years later. However the next game we got would really push the series to new heights...

FINAL FANTASY VI for the SNES was released in 1994 and is to this day one of the best RPG's of all time, perhaps even one of the best games of all time. It's gameplay is to this day brilliant, it's musical score is excellent, it's the perfect blend of linear and non-linear storytelling in every way and it's characters are incredibly memorable. It's philosophical at times asking questions about the nature of human existence and overall the game is frankly a masterpiece of gaming. The villain Kefka is brilliant; imagine Heath Legder's Joker only turned into an even more batshit insane version with superpowers... he's pure evil and he loves it. If Final Fantasy IV established what a Final Fantasy game should be, VI really took the RPG formula and the Final Fantasy formula and gave it a much needed elevation to new heights of storytelling and gameplay, especially the story, I mean the game has like a 30 minute ending... on the SNES, think about that. It really pushed the Super Nintendo to it's limits and told a game worthy of being called one of the greatest and really laid the groundwork for it's immediate successor.  It's just a shame a portition of the fanbase of this game are such whiney cry babies and hate it's successor just because well, it got more mainstream critical acclaim. Which leads us to...

FINAL FANTASY VII for the Sony PlayStation. Released in 1997, Final Fantasy VII took what made Final Fantasy VI great and perfected it. There's an expression in screenwriting; "Kill your darlings". One of the interpretations of this is to kill off the characters you love, because odds are the audience will too and it will evoke an emotional response from them. Those who have played the game know what I'm talking about, those who haven't probably still do. Throw into that a really well crafted protagonist who suffers with a bizzare identity crisis, a beautiful love triangle, interesting side-characters, hours and hours of sidequests and a villain who despite looking like he came straight out of an 80s rock band, is excellent. Sephiroth, the hero turned villain, Final Fantasy's first true tragic villain a man driven by madness and hatred and some serious mother issues. Final Fantasy VII really brought audiences to a group of psychologically complex characters and a fascinating world, replacing castles with skyscrapers to create a modern society as opposed to the fantasy one we'd seen before. It was a gamble but it paid off. In addition the Materia system was brilliant for it's day giving real complexity to the character customisation and a reason to grind beyond "levelling". Final Fantasy VII was the peak of the series and is to this day the best selling game in the series, in fact excluding the ludicrously successful Pok√©mon series, it's the best selling video game RPG of all time. 

It's successor, Final Fantasy VIII would not be so great, but would not be terrible either. VIII was sort of the beginning of where a few things went wrong here and there but despite the best of intentions and some really decent and interesting story moments it failed to hit home the same way VII had. It's general plot was pretty convoluted, albeit contains some fairly interesting characters, and the game's system's were sadly very unbalanced and made it either too easy to too hard at times. The following game Final Fantasy IX was the swansong of the series creator and as such was a fitting tribute with probably the most developed cast in the series and a really interesting story and a cool throwback.

FINAL FANTASY X was the first entry on the PS2 in 2001. Let me first list the good, the battle system was excellent, the visuals breathtaking, the music amazing. Now whilst Final Fantasy VIII was the first time the cracks had really started to show, primarily due to the fact that Hironobu Sakaguchi, the series creator, only served as Executive Producer whilst focusing his attention on Final Fantasy IX which began development over a year before VIII was even released and Yoshinori Kitase the great director of VII, VIII and the legendary Chrono Trigger was left kind of free-reign as director on VIII. At least in my opinion, Kitase was a great director which is why VIII still holds together better than this game did. With Final Fantasy X, Sakaguchi was Executive Producer in name only, from what I understand he had nothing to do with the game really and Kitase was producing it. Some really moronic characters, bad voice acting, and possibly the worst designs on characters I've ever seen... I mean look at this picture here... Seymour's hair... what the fuck!? The game still had the essence of Final Fantasy though, but it's actual sequel Final Fantasy X-2 just went balls to the wall insane, the less said the better. Final Fantasy XI was an MMORPG and a fairly good one if not really a very "Final Fantasy"-ish game.

FINAL FANTASY XII was released after a long wait between main games in 2006 for the PS2. Now whilst I'll be honest, I'm not a fan of the game really; it did try something new. It took the battle-screen and tossed it away in favour of a semi-real-time battle system by using automated combat manoeuvres called "Gambits" to program your party. Problem with this is the game practically played itself by that. It was a very open if slightly empty game and clearly was geared more towards a western audience. It's story, very much inspired by Star Wars, also fell a little flat. XII was a good game overall but it really felt like something was lacking from it at times. It got a lot of critical praise for it's day but in retrospect people are realising it's not the best entry in the series, not by a long shot. Which brings us to...

FINAL FANTASY XIII for the PS3 and XBox 360, released in 2009 the game was well... "Final Fantasy Streamlined". Gone was the towns, the NPCs, this living breathing world to explore, gone were the optional side-quests (for the most part) and gone were all the familiar musical motifs. Even the stats were streamlined down to Strength, Magic and HP only. In Square Enix's desperate attempts to make Final Fantasy relevant and sell the kind of units they did with VII they tried to modernise it. Twice they tried, with XII they tried the gambits with XIII they switched to a faster paced version of the Active Time Battle system whereby they called it an "evolution of the system". Which to a certain extent it was, the idea of segmenting the bars to be able to pull off certain attacks was fascinating and interesting. However you could only control one character. The game's story was confusing at best and really at times a totally convoluted mess. The idea of people being cursed to destroy the world or become zombies was pretty awesome in theory but the execution was a failure with only Sahz standing out as the great character, maybe even one of the series finest. The speedy battle system seemed welcome at first but then it was kind of realised to be dumbed down and mostly button mashing. But I'll save all my complaints about XIII for another day. The game was for all intents and purposes a financial success becoming the 4th best selling in the series but by Final Fantasy standards it was a critical flop.

Now, why is it that the Final Fantasy series has fallen from grace. In one of my previous articles, I stated just what my problem with Twilight Princess was. It was that ironically in a game that was fanboy inspired, they weren't catering to their fanbase enough. The same could be said really for what Final Fantasy has become. In many ways they're simply not catering to their fans enough. In many ways it reminds me of the whole DC Comics reboot and their quest to find those elusive "new readers" in doing so they're forgetting about their current fan base. Final Fantasy XIII tried to be different from Final Fantasy, it tried to be modern and new, perhaps even taking some indicators from First Person Shooters in a way, anyone else think the dungeon designs of a long tunnel were similar to Call of Duty level designs? It was trying to be fast-paced and action packed and visually impressed. Well it got all that, but in doing so forgot what Final Fantasy truly was.

I said earlier that Final Fantasy IV established what a Final Fantasy game really is. It is a think-on your feet, turn-based party combat game involving an interesting story with engaging pre-made characters. It has certain musical queues and certain themes. All of these were present from I-X really. Now despite what I say about VIII and X not being up to scratch they're both excellent games. With Final Fantasy X especially being a very good game in terms of gameplay and really breathing new life into Final Fantasy taking a very tactical approach to the combat. Final Fantasy XIII was fast-paced and the tactics were controlled from a distance whilst you controlled only one character; who if they died it was game-over. They were trying to make Final Fantasy into an Action RPG, something they've even rumoured to be doing in Final Fantasy XV. Now whilst I'm all for change and development, Final Fantasy took it way too far.

Let's look at the battle system in XII and XIII a little deeper. XII was real time so controlling your whole party would be very awkward. It was an interesting and innovative idea, for it's day but it was trying to be an Action RPG and felt slower than one, rather like Dragon Age: Origins did in comparison with it's successor's battle system. Until now they've kept actual "Action Battle Systems" in the spin-off games like Crystal Chronicles, Kingdom Hearts and the upcoming Versus XIII (a game that really shouldn't have the XIII moniker). However the battle systems seem to be trying to mimic those, in a turn based party system. That is not smart. The whole point of a turn based system is to use multiple characters at once in a party. That is what Final Fantasy IS. It's battle system shouldn't be action oriented but tactically oriented. Take Final Fantasy IV once more, fast-paced tactical system. Final Fantasy X took the tactics to a whole new level and IV really set the standard for thinking on your feet whilst keeping it tactical. What's happened since then is more and more attempts to conform to the demands of consumers relying on the Final Fantasy name.

Overall, the Final Fantasy series has a lot of deal with in it's upcoming years and realistically it's not in the best hands if you ask me. They're trying to take the series in a direction that isn't what Final Fantasy should be, it isn't what the fan-base wants and it certainly isn't want new audiences want. Perhaps most importantly Square Enix really should take a look at the series' past, not just at it's peak with VII but look at what Final Fantasy was, specifically from IV-X. New stories are one thing, that can be arranged and they're working their way to new ideas. But you can never forget where you came from, if you're going to take the Final Fantasy series in such a direction, it shouldn't be called Final Fantasy, you're relying on brand-recognition to spur sales and that's not right or fair on the fans. I'm not saying XIII or it's sequel are the downfall of Final Fantasy but they're trying too hard to not be Final Fantasy that they're really forgetting what made the series so great in the first place.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Mobile Gaming: A Threat to Consoles?

Okay, I'm going to start this by saying that really, anyone with a brain can answer this but apparently it needs to be addressed. Mobile Gaming has become a huge part of the industry it cannot be denied. Now whilst many people out there think that mobile gaming is a big threat to the industry. That by having easy access via downloads from an App Store or Google Play or whatever Nokia is doing nowadays, the smartphone and tablet gaming companies have captured many gamers and it will drastically damage the industry forever. I'm here to say; no in fact it is the opposite, it's made it bigger and better than ever. 

Let's start by realising that the audience hasn't transferred, this current generation of Wii, PS3 and 360 has sold more console units than any of the previous generations including the previous where the PS2 became the best selling home console of all time. Now before anyone points out that smartphones have only been around this generation and just started gaining steam, I should point out that the first iPhone, the smartphone that kick-started this so-called "competition", was released less than a year after the Wii, the best selling home console of this generation. In addition as I write this the pre-orders for the Wii U are sold out practically everywhere and I can't find a damn single one to buy, which is really pissing me of and getting me so god-damn annoyed that I can't contain it anymore I'm gonna scr-- Sorry where was I? Ah yes; iPhones... 

The audience hasn't shifted, it's just grown. People are still looking at the gaming audience like it's 1985 and the NES has just been released, they fail to realise that gamers aren't just people who play these things for a giggle and a bit of fun to pass time. They play it for hours and hours, they try to be the best, they actually compete online like sports, sometimes even for money.  Now were this 1985 I'd say yeah, these smartphones are a competition because gamers back then were pretty casual. There weren't many games that took longer than five hours to complete tops if you were good at it and even those that did like Final Fantasy don't take anywhere near the kind of hours invested that their modern counterparts have... even if those games aren't quite my "personal favourites" shall we say? It's much the same as movies, people don't watch movies to pass time, they watch them to be truly entertained and for the art of it too; otherwise films like The Godfather wouldn't be so popular.

Let's compare the NES games of the 80s with the Smartphone games of today. Super Mario Bros. is not a game for the hardcore, it's something fun to play to pass a bit of time, you go from level to level in a linear fashion, take a few shortcuts here and there, find secrets and just enjoy a fun little game you can beat with easy in an hour or two even if you've never played it before. What is Angry Birds? A game where you go from level to level in a linear fashion, shooting birds at wooden beams and pigs, each level gets more difficult and you can easily pick up and play this game. Sure there were some more "hardcore" games out there, like The Legend of Zelda, Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy. Well, the same Final Fantasy, with improved visuals from the original PSP port, is now out on iOS too but Final Fantasy XIII sure isn't. 

See back in the 80s, for the most part games had a pretty  much 90% casual audience. Just look at the controller at how simple it was. A directional pad that is easy to read, Up, Down, Left, Right, two buttons, A and B. And a Start and Select, which at the time, were literally used for just that, Starting the game and Selecting the mode you wanted to play. It was simple, it was easy to look at and hey, it was something to pass the time or have a little fun with; only a few games were there to be taken seriously and even those were very basic at the time. Final Fantasy wasn't the epic kind of storytelling that exists today and nor was Zelda the kind of complex game it is today really, it was a "kill bad guys, solve puzzles, save the princess" kind of game. Anyone could understand it, your Grandpa could play these games. The controls and the game itself were so damn simple...

Try giving this monstrocity to your G-Pa today! What is this, stick, there's like four buttons and.. a... an... another stick? Buttons on the back and what's this glowing X in the center... is it... is it radioactive? Why is it vibrating, Oh my god, oh Jesus, lordy help me!! What the fuuuuuu--?!!

No-one would know what the hell to make of this if it had been thrown into the market in 1985. People would lose patience and get angry with all the buttons and all the complexities. Nintendo kept it simple with their controller and then, did the same with the GameBoy when they went handheld to play on the go. It was simple, it was easy to use... not unlike a touch screen of a smart phone no?

Finally here come the 90s and everyone's used to these two buttons so... BAM! Two new buttons! Two shoulder buttons that, well weren't used much in those days but still... SUPER NINTENDO IS HERE MOTHERF***A!! This control was built in mind for people who had played the NES, they knew the basics of playing and game and now they were ready for those training wheels to be taken off and go wild with four face buttons, the games have now taken a leap up. Now admittedly as I write this I'm constantly hearing egoraptor's voice in my head a little from his Megaman X Sequelitis Episode. And he had point, everyone had played MegaMan, they were used to it, so it evolved into Megaman X, a true sequel, the training wheels are off bitch! Now you're playing with power... because it's so baaaad... and Super Nintendoes What Genesis Do--? I'm getting carried away here.

Point is, upgrades. The third Nintendo console ramped it up. Added an analog stick and... for some reason three handles... I dunno maybe Nintendo figured, eh, but the late 90s Nuclear War will have turned everyone into a mutant with three arms. Then when World War III didn't break out they just rolled with it anyway. Sony brought the rain with two analog sticks, the third of which, sorta wouldn't be used until like 2003 really, but it set a new Standard that Nintendo launched out with the C-Stick on the GameCube and Microsoft rolled out on their... well I certainly ain't gonna call that controller because it's nothing but a monstrosity designed for bigfoot to play video games.

See that's how video games have evolved. The market has shifted because well, the gaming companies had their peeps. They had gamers now, people who bought consoles for games to get invested in these two-sticked, four face buttoned, four shoulder buttoned, controller rumbling games. They had grown up with them and become gamers, it's own new culture. But that was kind of a problem in a way, no new people were getting brought into this industry unless it was to grab a cheap DVD player from a PS2. Gamers were the only people buying these consoles. And these consoles were only getting more and more expensive causing adults to go crazy and scream "shut up and stop taking my damn money!"... that's the meme right?

So in 2006 comes a whole new console for the home market... The Nintendo Wii. To this day, it's still the dumbest name I can think of. No wait, scratch that, Wii U is the dumbest name I think of. This console got hardcore gamers panties all in a bunch. "What is this game, there's no blood and violence in it?" and "This is for babies, I'm gonna go play my console with an X on it because it's X-Treme!!!" (which sorta plays into how I feel Microsoft are sort of the new Sega but more on that later). But Nintendo realising the state of the industry and their own dwindling sales as a gaming company realised what went wrong. People were looking at the controls, seeing them as too complex and thinking "SCREW THAT!" and moving on. I must admit, even as a long-time gamer, I was getting a bit exhausted too just like all the non-gamers out there. But not with the Wii they wouldn't be. The Wii was simple, it was easy to grasp and perhaps most importantly, it was cheap. Did this damage Nintendo's reputation, actually not as much as people think. Nintendo fanboys like myself stuck around and enjoyed the new control. And really by the time of the GameCube those gamers who wanted to stay with Nintendo were sorta stuck with them for life as fanboys, so their reputation wasn't as badly damaged as people seem to think, the people who would have left Nintendo's fanbase had... kinda already left with Sony and Microsoft taking what was once Sega's fans.

The Wii Remote was simple: you literally do what you're doing on the screen. You've seen tennis right? Swing the remote like a tennis racket. You've played golf right? Swing it like a golf club. You've shot alien monsters before right? Point at the screen and pull the trigger. It was genius, and it brought a whole new set of gamers to the industry along with the Nintendo DS, propelling Nintendo to new sales heights. But in addition to that, it was a simple button set up too, one big ass button on where the thumb is that basically means "YES" and turned on the side, you've got that classic NES controller once again. Suddenly people who'd never played games in the past were buying up Wii's like they were going to run out of stock, and well, they did for a time. It took me literally a year after launch before I finally managed to get one and even then I had to bribe a few people sell my soul go to extreme lengths to get one.

Casual gamers were back in the fold once again, they didn't have to deal with complex bullcrap and didn't have to read a frickin' tech manual to use it. This control was like their TV remote at home, hell I'm actually really surprised it never became one. Casual gamers had a place they could play games to pass some time, maybe they'd try out the nunchuck attachment, seemed easy enough; Play some Zelda or some thing with a bit more meat. Perhaps they'd even invest a little money into a Classic Controller and try out something bigger like Xenoblade Chronicles or Monster Hunter 3... maybe their foray by becoming gamers afterall.

Okay, time out from the gamer-tech-talk. What is a Smartphone exactly? It's a thin phone with a screen that is literally impossible to not know how to use. You touch the screen, any moron could learn how to use it. It's perhaps even simpler than the NES controller. The screen can create touch-pad controls for you to use with icons that indicate what they do rather than letters to make it even simpler. So of course, casual gamers flock to these devices. They pass the time on the go. But the days of the NES and Gameboy are long since gone. Companies have moved on and a subset of people known as gamers have been created. Casual gamers are being brought into the fold by smartphones just as they were by the Wii. They give people who have never even tried a video game before their first taste of the gaming world. Perhaps they'll buy a Wii U because they like the idea of the tablet, it's simple and easy to understand and has an even greater evolutionary bracket to turn them into hardcore gamers with the buttons that smartphones don't have. And see that's the problem with Smartphones, they don't have buttons and even if someone invented buttons, you can't replace a big 50" screen with a tiny 4" iPhone 5 screen. Nor can you just suddenly get gamers to give up what they've become accustomed to with those multiple-button controls by saying "hey look $0.99 games!" You just can't. Especially not with Nintendo's eShop, the PlayStation Store and XBox Live Arcade giving cheap games too in the near future. Can you integrate new functions like a touch screen, sure, the DS and soon to be Wii U are evidence of this. That adds something new to the formula whilst changing nothing from the old, it evolves it further. 

Smartphones have helped crack open much of the casual audience. But no self-respecting gamer is going to stop playing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, throw away their controller and go say "Hell yeah, I want me some Plants Vs. Zombies, I'm gonna throw my time into this badboy!". In fact companies have even realised this. The upcoming launch of the Ouya, a console built on made-famous-by-smartphones Android OS, will be launched soon taking easy to program and cheap approach to the home market for a cost effective $99. The Wii U, a console with Nintendo's market in mind and the Smartphone audience evolving at the right time could make a killing and based on my frustrations of not being able to find one, it already is.

The point of all this is this: The Smartphone is not a threat to consoles, if anything it's helping to broaden their appeal. Smartphones are growing sure, and the fact that a new model is released each year with greater processing power is fantastic but without a big screen, without buttons, this doesn't even begin to hamper the market of the handheld console, let alone the home console. Handhelds like the 3DS (not really the Vita) are selling like hotcakes because they are essentially offering something Smartphones simply can't and never will without losing their sleak, held in the hand, easy to carry appeal and then would lose their primary reason people buy them. TO BE PHONES! Don't believe me? Google: Nokia N-Gage. In addition they'd lose their secondary reason people buy them, to be use-all devices for everything. If Smartphones became gaming devices then they'd be just that; gaming devices. They wouldn't be smartphones anymore. Home consoles have nothing to fear and everything to gain from the increase of casual players on the phones. Of course many gamers are complete morons and don't realise this yet and will continue to bash "casual games" and "casual gamers" because they just don't get the concept of a constantly evolving market but the figures don't lie... the world of gaming isn't going anywhere and it isn't headed for another crash.

If anything, we gamers are in for a golden age soon the likes of which hasn't been seen since we saw a little brown and red plumber jumping on fanged-walking-mushrooms and eating glowing flowers to shoot fireballs (yeah I realise it as I write it) run across our screens twenty-seven years ago, bringing us back from what could have been the end of video games as we know it.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Nostalgic about The Critic

It's only been a few days now since the last episode of "To Boldy Flee" the fourth year anniversary special and just as a warning there are going to be a few spoilers for that here. Anyway, as most of you know by now, at the end of this mini-series Doug Walker, creator of and actor who plays The Nostalgia Critic, decided to kill off his creation. It was a sad ending to what was easily their best anniversary special. Now I've talked in length about my history with online video, so I won't go into that again but suffice to say there's a lot I had to say on the subject. Doug Walker's Nostalgia Critic has been a big part of my life the last three or so years, after learning about him through the Angry Video Game Nerd, I grew fond of him. I laughed, I cried, I pressed a few seconds back on the video just to watch favorite moments like the famous 'bat credit card' moment over and over and over and over again. But sadly as phrase that named the Star Trek finale that he based his final episode on; all good things must come to an end.

With the end of the Nostalgia Critic, but not the end of TGWTG or anyone on that site by any means, and Doug Walker moving onto bigger and hopefully better things on the site with a new show and a new studio to create them in; I've decided to pay a little tribute to a Doug's character and what he represented for me as I get nostalgic about the nostalgia critic.

Unlike a lot of people, though I believe a few people saw it coming, I already knew how To Boldy Flee was going to end, I knew Doug was going to "kill off" the Nostalgia Critic and end the series. I was informed by a mutual friend we have and felt a little saddened but also like it was time. I used to be back every Wednesday and watch the latest episode. But around about a year ago just after Suburban Knights I felt things were starting to get a little stale. I'd questioned how long Walker could keep up doing this show if let's face it, there's only a certain amount of shitty movies from the 80s and 90s. When he did Digimon, I knew the end was coming and our mutual friend confirmed it to me a few days later.

I've really enjoyed watching the show for the past four years and I think it's safe to say that without The Nostalgia Critic I probably wouldn't be well on my way to producing my own webseries. In fact the original concept for this series was about an internet critic whose life turns into a video game he has to review. Doug, along with James Rolfe, the Angry Video Game Nerd, pretty much created the concept of a comedic online video critic. So much so in fact that the two started a "rivalry" and "feud" when fans saw that both parties were similar but no-one else was doing much of that. Eventually it grew; Linkara doing comic books, The Angry Joe Show and The Spoony Experiment doing video game reviews, The Nostalgia Chick, originally just a female counterpart to Doug's Critic, since has grown into becoming her own thing with her own style separate from Doug's initial one. I've met people from his website, even knew someone, whom I went to film school with for a year, who joined their website. My current development of my webseries that I've been hinting at an alluding to on twitter over the last few weeks, was inspired by my love of web videos that really started with the Nostalgia Critic and culminated in my experiences at Vid Con 2012

Overall I just want to say thanks to Doug Walker, I can't wait to see what he does in the future and I hope that he creates something bigger and better than The Nostalgia Critic, something that he can say goes beyond what he's done before. So if you read this Doug Walker; thank you - you've changed and influenced my life. Good luck with everything in the future.