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Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

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Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc
Danganronpaboxart.jpg
Cover art featuring Monokuma and Hope's Peak Academy
Developer(s)Spike[a]
Publisher(s)
Director(s)Tatsuya Marutani
Producer(s)
  • Yuichiro Saito
  • Yoshinori Terasawa
Designer(s)
  • Takayuki Sugawara
  • Dai Nakajima
Programmer(s)Kengo Ito
Artist(s)Rui Komatsuzaki
Writer(s)Kazutaka Kodaka
Composer(s)Masafumi Takada
SeriesDanganronpa
Platform(s)PlayStation Portable, Android, iOS, PlayStation Vita, Windows, OS X, Linux, PlayStation 4
Release
November 25, 2010
  • PlayStation Portable
    • JP: November 25, 2010
    Android, iOS
    • JP: August 20, 2012
    Anniversary Edition
    • WW: May 21, 2020
    PlayStation Vita
    • JP: October 10, 2013
    • NA: February 11, 2014
    • PAL: February 14, 2014
    Windows, OS X, Linux
    • WW: February 18, 2016
    PlayStation 4
  • Reload
    • NA: March 14, 2017
    • EU: March 17, 2017
    • JP: May 18, 2017
    Trilogy
    • NA: March 26, 2019
    • EU: March 29, 2019
Genre(s)Adventure, visual novel
Mode(s)Single-player

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc[b] is a visual novel adventure game developed and published by Spike as the first game in the Danganronpa series. The game was originally released in Japan for the PlayStation Portable in November 2010 and was later ported to Android and iOS in August 2012. Danganronpa was localized and published in English regions by NIS America for multiple consoles including the PC, Mac, Linux among others.

The player controls a high school student named Makoto Naegi who finds himself involved in a battle royale in Hope's Peak Academy, where the robot bear Monokuma gives the 16 students the chance to escape from the establishment if they murder another student and not be voted as the killer in a trial. Combining elements from dating simulations and third-person shooters, Makoto interacts with other students to solve "class trials" by shooting at arguments displayed on screen.

The game originated from writer Kazutaka Kodaka's idea to generate a new type of game as he believed the original adventure games were no longer popular. As a result, he created a dark scenario that generated controversy within Spike due to the amount of violence displayed among students. Nevertheless, the company decided to develop it alongside the unique gameplay system which they thought was less derivative from other games. The cast was designed by Rui Komatsuzaki.

Danganronpa was a commercial success and earned positive reviews for the handling of the cast and story. It won awards, though critics were divided on the lack of challenging difficulty on solving class trials and its mini games. A sequel, Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, was released in 2012. A compilation of both games, titled Danganronpa 1・2 Reload, was released for PlayStation Vita in Japan in October 2013, and worldwide in March 2017. The game produced several adaptions and spin-offs: an anime television series, a stage show, two mangas and two novels.

Gameplay[edit]

An example of gameplay in Danganronpa gameplay. The player is in a Class Trial finding an issue in a character's comment and having to shoot a "Bullet" towards such sentence.

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is a murder mystery game that casts players in the role of Makoto Naegi, a student of Hope's Peak Academy, who finds himself trapped in a game of mutual killing among his peers. The gameplay is stylistically similar to Capcom's Ace Attorney series by being centered around investigation and finding contradictions, albeit with an emphasis on faster gameplay.[1][2][3] Each chapter of the game features two styles of gameplay: School Life, in which the player explores the academy and progresses through the story, and the Class Trials, where the player must determine the culprit of a crime.[4]

During School Life, the player can explore the school grounds in first-person perspective, with more areas of the academy becoming available as the game progresses. Whilst in one of the various rooms, players move a crosshair cursor which is used to initiate conversations with characters or examine parts of the environment. Examining certain objects yields Monokuma Coins, which can be used at a capsule machine in the school shop to unlock presents. School Life is divided into two sections: "Daily Life" and "Deadly Life". In the Daily Life sections, players converse with various characters and move the plot along based on dating sim elements. New information can be revealed by "reacting to" certain comments. In designated "Free Time" segments, players can choose to hang out with specific characters and give them presents, which in turn reveals more information about them and unlocks various Skills that can be used in the Class Trials.[5] When a crime scene is discovered, the game shifts to the Deadly Life section, where the player must search for clues throughout the academy. Evidence and testimonies gathered are stored in the player's e-Handbook, where players can also save their game. When all possible evidence is located, the game moves on to the Class Trial. Prior to a Class Trial, players can purchase skills, which can assist them during gameplay.[6]

The Class Trials occur following the discovery of a dead body. Within it, the students discuss amongst themselves who the culprit is. With the exception of occasions where the player must answer a multiple choice question or present a piece of evidence, Class Trials consist of four main styles of gameplay: Nonstop Debate, Hangman's Gambit, Bullet Time Battle, and Closing Argument. The Nonstop Debate, where characters will automatically discuss their thoughts on the case, with potential "weak points" highlighted in yellow. During these sections, the player is armed with "Truth Bullets" based on third-person shooter gaming; metaphorical bullets containing evidence relevant to the discussion. In order to break the debate, the player must find a lie or contradiction amongst the weak points and shoot it with a bullet containing the evidence that contradicts it. Players can also silence disruptive purple chatter to earn extra time and utilize a Concentration meter to slow down the conversation and make shots more easily. These sections become more difficult as the game progresses and more possible weak points are added, with later trials occasionally requiring the player to use one remark as ammunition against another. Hangman's Gambit is a shooting puzzle section in which the player must shoot down specific letters that spell out a clue. Bullet Time Battle is a one-on-one debate against another student featuring rhythm style gameplay. As the opponent makes remarks, the player must press buttons in time to the beat to lock onto the remarks and shoot them down. Finally, Closing Argument is a puzzle in which players piece together a comic strip depicting how a crime went down. The players Influence amongst the other students is represented by hearts, which is reduced whenever the player makes errors in shooting contradictions or presenting evidence, and is slightly replenished when correct evidence is presented. The game ends if the player loses all of their Influence, or if they run out of time during a segment. At the end of a trial, players are ranked on their performance, with additional Monokuma Medals awarded for high ranks.[7]

The PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 4, and Microsoft Windows versions feature an exclusive School Life mode, based on the Island Mode introduced in Danganronpa 2, which is unlocked after clearing the game once. In this alternative mode, Monokuma tasks the students with building several backup units of himself over several days. Each day, the player assigns students to scavenge rooms for necessary materials needed to build each concept, keep the school clean, or rest up to recover energy. During Free Time, players can either hang out with the other students to unlock skills just like in the main game, or use Trip Tickets earned from completed concepts to take them on trips.[8]

Plot[edit]

Danganronpa takes place at an elite high school named Hope's Peak Academy (希望ヶ峰学園, Kibōgamine Gakuen), which accepts talented "Ultimate" students (超高校級, chō-kōkō-kyū, lit. Super High School Level) of the highest caliber in various fields each year.[1] Makoto Naegi, a fairly optimistic but otherwise average student, is selected in a raffle and chosen to enroll into the academy as the "Ultimate Lucky Student".[1] He meets fourteen other newly picked Ultimate students who are in the same situation as him. A sadistic, remote-controlled bear named Monokuma appears before them, telling them they will be imprisoned in the academy for the rest of their lives, and that they will be put to death if they violate any of the school's rules, demonstrated by killing fashionista Junko Enoshima when she attacks him. He states that there is only one way that a student can leave the academy: murder another student and avoid being identified as the culprit. If they are found out, the murderer will be violently executed; if the class identifies the wrong student as the murderer, they will all be killed and the real murderer will be allowed to "graduate".

After a murder occurs and the remaining students are given some time to investigate it, a "class trial" (学級裁判, gakyū saiban) is held, in which the remaining students must determine amongst themselves who the killer is. Makoto frequently takes the role of arbiter of the trial, providing most of the logical insights. Makoto receives assistance from Kyoko Kirigiri, a distant girl possessing keen observational and deductive skills. Makoto's former classmate and pop star Sayaka Maizono is murdered by baseball star Leon after her plans to murder her would-be killer and frame Makoto for it failed. Makoto and Kyoko become allies to solve the trials. In the penultimate chapter, the person controlling Monokuma commits the final murder. The only possible culprits from the surviving students are Makoto and Kyoko. A bad ending occurs if Makoto presents evidence that could potentially implicate Kyoko as the killer; she is executed while Makoto live trapped in the Academy forever. In the true ending, Makoto is nearly executed but he is saved by a remnant of Alter Ego, an artificial intelligence left behind by a late class mate. Makoto then exposes Monokuma as the true mastermind behind the death game is a still-living Junko. She had employed her twin sister, mercenary Mukuro Ikusaba, to impersonate her, only to kill her on a whim early on to demonstrate Monokuma's danger. She later used Mukuro's corpse as the fifth "murder victim" to implicate either Makoto or Kyoko.

Junko reveals that all of the students had already been in the academy for two years and all knew each other. However, when an apocalyptic event instigated by Junko and her sister occurred, global societal collapse and anarchy followed; the headmaster of Hope's Peak Academy, viewing the high amount of talent in the students as a sign of hope, decided with the students' permission to barricade him and themselves inside the academy to wait out the crisis. She executed the headmaster, took control of the academy, and erased all of the students' memories that took place after they first arrived at the academy two years ago. With Makoto's help, the students all overcome the doubt brought about by Junko's bombshells and decide to leave the academy. Junko willingly executes herself due to her enjoying the feeling of despair that came with her losing the final trial. Afterward, Makoto, Kyoko, and the other four surviving students exit the academy, uncertain of the current state of the world. In a post-credits scene, Monokuma re-activates and swears that it will continue its quest to spread despair.

Development[edit]

Megumi Ogata (pictured) voices the lead character Makoto Naegi in Japanese with her performance making writer Kazutaka Kodaka to make him gradually stronger than intended

Danganronpa originated from writer Kazutaka Kodaka's desire to create an original video game, who felt his previous ideas were derivative to the action-adventure genre. He felt it was not popular among gamers, so he instead conceptualized a darker-like narrative focused on the idea "killing game". By this point, the project did not have the "high speed" elements that would be added to the title. As the staff found the premise interesting, they decided to change the style in order to create a project that would sell more than the original. Spike did not like the game with the developers thinking about outsourcing it as they wanted Danganronpa to be their own original product. Spike Chunsoft thought Danganronpa was a risky game due to Kodaka's ideas involving high school students killing each other despite the company having produced similar games before, as the first execution scene is linked to bullying, grotesque, and they were also worried about the reaction of gamers' parents. However, there was a shock value that the team was excited for. The gameplay was titled "Stylish High Speed Reasoning Action" while the cast was designed under the idea of "psycho pop", and influenced by X Japan's former guitarist Hide by coloring the blood pink as both a form of censorship and stylishness. The word Danganronpa originated from character designer Rui Komatsuzaki, and was written in kanji before being changed to katakana in the logo.[9] Kodaka had originally proposed a darker narrative under the game's working title Distrust, but Spike rejected it due to its dark nature.[10] Producer Yoshinori Terasawa cites Saw (2004) and Cube (1997) as movies that inspired the team.[11]

It uses a special graphics technique, termed "2.5D Motion Graphics", used to blend 2D character and item art within a 3D explorable environment.[1] The game uses pop art and a bright and colorful style, such as using bright pink-colored blood to contrast the dark subject matter of murder.[12] The game's scenario was written by Kodaka, with character designs by Rui Komatsuzaki. Kodaka stated he wanted to "...shake user's heart [sic] by showing a devastating accident in not devastating ways. But, by some measure, it might be more shocking than showing a devastating scene."[12]

Kodaka wanted to surprise gamers with the death of Sayaka Maizono, who was promoted as the game's heroine. After her death, it is revealed that she wanted to frame Makoto for a murder she would commit; it was written to generate a major impact in both the character and the player, which would have resulted in Makoto suffering bad feelings for how he would be treated.[13] Due to budget constraints, some lines were not voice acted, which made Makoto's actress Megumi Ogata want to speak some important lines in retrospect. She felt similarly with the anime adaptation, as she thought it was too trimmed. Kodaka claimed some lines did not fit Makoto, such as when the player is exploring an area; he thought Spike could have added more appropriate lines if they had a larger budget.[14] Terasawa aimed to balance the cast's qualities by having the player act as Makoto, as he does not share the unique attributes the other students have.[15] Although Makoto and Kyoko interact in the game multiple times, Kodaka claimed he never wrote the latter to be the former's love interest; instead, the interactions between Makoto and his supporting characters were created due to Kirigiri's skills as a detective which would help the player in solving cases.[16] Initially, Makoto was written as an unreliable teenager but Kodaka changed his mind upon seeing the performance of Ogata. Kodaka was surprised by Ogata's work so he decided to make Makoto stronger most notably in the game's finale.[17]

According to Kodaka the first two games focus prominently on the theme of hope and despair. The characters from the first game suffer despair when they are forced to kill each other in Monokuma's battle royale. Kodaka said that he wanted the players to experience the contrast between the despair of murders and the hope from solving cases. Although the game shares traits from the novel Koushun Takami's 1999 novel Battle Royale, Kodaka tried to provide different ideas when writing the script. The idea was originally conceptualized with adult protagonists, but he found high school characters to be better due to their immaturity, easier character development, and how they would react to a killing game.[18] Ogata said Danganronpa often touches on both elements of despair and hope. The characters experience despair while they are trapped in the school and Makoto provides more emotional support to the cast across the story, giving the actress a far more optimistic message that the students are going to survive.[19]

For the English dub of the game, Spike Chunsoft specifically requested NIS America to keep Monokuma's name intact. The team described the character as their favorite to localize, working together to keep the character looking funny and at the same time threatening like in the Japanese version, which led to difficulties in finding a suitable voice actor to embody their "hyperactive psychopath[ic] nature" due to the "beloved[ness]" of the original voice actress, characterizing him as "bossy, condescending, smarmy, goofy, quick to anger, quick to forgive, quick to anger again, devious, and totally lovable".[20] The game's original soundtrack, composed by Masafumi Takada, was released by Sound Prestige Records on February 14, 2011.[21]

Release[edit]

Photographs of Amanda C. Miller and Erin Fitzgerald
Toko's dualpersonality proved to be difficult to find appropiate English actress: Amanda C. Miller (left) and Erin Fitzgerald (right) voiced them.

Prior to release, a free demo version containing the first chapter of the game (with a different victim from the final game) was made available. A bonus Monokuma key chain was given to people who pre-ordered the original PlayStation Portable version,[22] which was released on November 25, 2010.[23] The final version was relaesed on November 25, 2010.[24] The game was ported to iOS and Android in August 2012, with new features such as retina display support, touch screen controls, and a new image gallery.[25][26] The game could be purchased either separately by chapter, or as a whole like the PlayStation Portable release.[27][28]

Spike wanted Danganronpa to remain true to its Japanese release, with Spike Chunsoft CEO Mitsutoshi Sakurai saying that Western fans seemed to embrace Japanese games like the Final Fantasy series.[29][30] Due to delays with an English localization being made, fan translations of the first game became available online before NIS America handled the project. Minor changes were made to the characters' names but the team thought that the project was as faithful and accessible to the Western gamers. Spike's single request to NIS America was keeping Monokuma's name intact. While the English cast did not cause difficulties, Toko Fukawa's English voice actress was the most challenging to find as the character has an alter-ego with a psychopath personality, Genocide Jack. Monokuma was kept intact in order to make him look funny and at the same time threatening, something the team enjoyed.[31]

Two smartphone games, Danganronpa: Monokuma no Gyakushū (ダンガンロンパ モノクマの逆襲, lit. Danganronpa: Monokuma Strikes Back) and Alter Ego (アルターエゴ, Arutāego), were released for Android devices on April 27, 2012 and iOS devices on May 23, 2012.[32] Following the Japanese release of Danganronpa 1-2 Reload, a PlayStation Vita port of the game and its sequel, Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, NIS America released the Vita version of Trigger Happy Havoc in North America and Europe in February 2014.[29][33] In European regions, the game was released on February 14, 2014.[34] Spike Chunsoft later released the game on Steam in February 2016.[35] NIS America also released Danganronpa 1-2 Reload for PlayStation 4 in North America and Europe in March 2017,[36] and Japan on May 18, 2017.[37] A virtual reality demo based on the game, titled Cyber Danganronpa VR: The Class Trial, was released for PlayStation VR on October 13, 2016.[38]

Reception[edit]

Sales[edit]

During its first week on sale in Japan, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc sold a total of 25,564 copies and was the eighth best-selling game of the week.[39] After three months of sales, the game had sold over 85,000 copies, a number Sakurai labelled a success.[40] In Japan, the game has sold a total of 258,250 copies on the PSP and is the best-selling Danganronpa game.[41] Danganronpa 1・2 Reload for the PlayStation Vita sold a total of 76,172 copies during its first week on sale in Japan and was the fifth best-selling game of the week.[42] The PS4 version sold a total of 3,880 copies during its first week on sale in Japan and was the eighth best-selling game of the week. Danganronpa 1・2 Reload has sold a total of 187,202 copies in Japan (PS Vita: 177,149 copies/PS4: 10,053 copies).[43]

In the West, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc and Danganronpa 2 sold over 200,000 copies combined in the United States and Europe by 29 April 2015, which NIS America CEO Takuro Yamashita said was impressive since they were PS Vita exclusives.[44] The Steam release of the game had an estimated total of 234,000 players by July 2018.[45]

Reviews[edit]

Upon release, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc received "generally favorable" reviews from video game publications based on the review aggregate website Metacritic aimed towards the PC and Vita ports.[47][46] In a Japanese poll, Spike asked fans what was that appealed Japanese players in regards to the game. Most answers of the players involved how innovative was Trigger Happy Havoc.[67]

Much of the focus within reviews involved positive feedback in regards to the narrative.[68][69][50] GamesRadar writer Brittany Vincent gave praise to the narrative, calling it "devilishly addictive".[68] Colin Moriarty from IGN similarly praised its writing and soundtrack and calling it "a must-own game for hardcore Vita owners".[69] Hale Bradly fromHardcore Gamer also praised the game's story as it would attract the gamers the more they play it acclaiming the amount of character development the cast goes through.[70] Matthew Pollesel from Gaming Age gave Danganronpa an almost perfect score and called it "incredibly complex", despite finding it derivative from other visual novels like the Corpse Party series or Virtue's Last Reward and warned players of its dark narrative based on the gore shown through each murder scene.[58] Laura Kate from MyM claimed it stands out from most visual novel games is how well it weaves other genres into its narrative.[71]

Multiple writers commetned on the gameplay mechanics, praising the character interactions and Class Trials.[55][49] Play considered the Class Trials to be one of the most unique aspects from the game, as it demands more actions than other visual novel games. Like Ace Attorney as in Danganronpa the player must interact with an specific comment mentioned by a character through shooting a "bullet" towards a speech, giving it a stylish feel.[55] GamesRadar also enjoyed the Class Trials for the multiple fast paced elements provided by the developers,[68] IGN felt that the Class Trials are not only interesting for the gameplay mechanics but also because of the multiple interactions within the characters who suspect of each other. Nevertheless, IGN criticized the linear nature of the trials.[69] A critic from Electronic Gaming Monthly, Mollie L. Patterson Mollie, claimed the execution of all these elements surprised the publication for how unique it turned out to be.[49] Hardcore Gamer also noticed the amount of items provided during investigations and interactions which are needed to solve the cases and find the culprits.[70]

Multiple writers focused on the art style and character designs, which they felt helped to easily tell apart characters and enjoy their interactions with Makoto.[52][59][50] Ramón Varela from the Vandal, on the other hand, felt that the designs made the main characters come across as stereotypes.[61] Besides the serious class trials he solves, Makoto received attention from PlayStation LifeStyle's Russell Ritchey and Polygon's Megan Farokhmanesh for his interactions with the main cast that developed the relationships between them.[72][56] However, Vincent felt the dating sim elements were lacking.[52]

Negative response often focused on the low difficulty. Bradly Halestrom criticized how in certain cases, learning the murderer's identity as a player was too easy, and took less time than the characters.[70] Both GiantBomb's Patrick Klepek and RPGFan's John McCarroll agreed, who found the difficulty to be lacking during the trials, and the mini-games being too unsuitable for the general game.[60][5] Ramón Varela from Vandal felt that the investigations for trials had to be taken seriously since Makoto has to peak an specific argument to deal with an error rather than just shooting a bullet.[61] On the other hand, Moriarty found the class trials to be complex and noted it would generally entertain players.[69] Besides focusing on the amount of mini-games the trials offer, Vincent found the English audio appealing enough to match the original Japanese version.[68] The discovery of the "true" gender of a character received mixed reception from Klepek who called the discovery "a cheap plot device that's not handled with very much sensitivity".[5]

Awards[edit]

GameFan awarded the game as "Game of the Year", "Best Sony Portable Exclusive Game", and "Best Adventure Game".[62] Game Informer deemed it "Best Vita Exclusive",[73] while RPGFan awarded it "Best Story"[74] and "Best Graphic Adventure".[75] In 2017, Famitsu readers voted Danganronpa as the fourth best adventure game of all time, behind Steins;Gate, 428: Shibuya Scramble, and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney.[76] Dontnod Entertainment creative director Jean-Maxime Moris also chose Danganronpa as his personal game of the year, praising its writing and gameplay mechanics. He also cited it as an influence on Dontnod's own adventure game, Life Is Strange.[77]

Legacy[edit]

Among multiple sequels, Danganronpa has been adapted into manga.

There were no plans for a sequel after the first Danganronpa game was produced; the development team disbanded to make other projects. Kodaka wrote the light novel series Danganronpa Zero, which was published as two volumes on September 15, 2011, and October 13, 2011.[78][79] Another novel series written by Takekuni Kitayama and illustrated by Komatsuzaki, titled Danganronpa Kirigiri (ダンガンロンパ霧切), began release from September 13, 2013.[80] Terasawa approached Kodaka with the idea of sequel in few months in regards to writing a sequel to Danganronpa. Kodaka wrote both Zero and Goodbye Despair at the same time. In hindsight, Kodaka thought the novels needed more structuring work when he compared it with the game. He wrote elements in the light novel that foreshadowed elements of the game's sequel, Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair; as a result, Kodaka recommended gamers to read Zero before playing it.[81] The third main game in the series, Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, was released in 2017.[82]

Danganronpa has received two manga adaptations. The first adaptation, illustrated by Saku Toutani, was published in Enterbrain's Famitsu Comic Clear web magazine between June 24, 2011, and October 18, 2013, and is told from the perspective of the other students.[83] The second, illustrated by Samurai Takashi and based on Danganornpa: The Animation, began serialization in Kadokawa Shoten's Shōnen Ace magazine from July 2013. An official fanbook and comic anthologies based on both the game and the anime have also been published.[84]

A mini light novel written by Ryohgo Narita, titled Danganronpa IF: The Button of Hope and the Tragic Warriors of Despair (ダンガンロンパIF 希望の脱出装置と絶望の残念無双, Danganronpa IF: Kibō no Dasshutsusōchi to Zetsubō no Zan'nen Musō), is unlockable in Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair after clearing the game once. The story takes place in an alternate universe where Makoto manages to find an alleged escape switch.[85] Danganornpa: The Animation's original soundtrack was released by Geneon Universal Entertainment on August 28, 2013. An official stage production named Danganronpa The Stage (ダンガンロンパ THE STAGE~希望の学園と絶望の高校生~) ran from October to November 2014 in Tokyo's Nippon Seinenkan, and was presented by Cornflakes. Its cast includes Kanata Hongō, Rei Okamoto, AKB48's Haruka Ishida, and NMB48's Reina Fujie.[86]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Additional work for Windows, OS X, and Linux by Abstraction Games
  2. ^ Known in Japan as Danganronpa: Kibō no Gakuen to Zetsubō no Kōkōsei (Japanese: ダンガンロンパ 希望の学園と絶望の高校生, lit. Danganronpa: The Academy of Hope and the High School Students of Despair)[1]

References[edit]

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  3. ^ Spencer . August 5, 2010 . 1:28pm (5 August 2010). "Danganronpa Teaser Video Breaks Out". Siliconera. Archived from the original on 5 July 2013. Retrieved 15 December 2012.
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