|Series||Sonic the Hedgehog|
Sonic Adventure[a] is a 1998 platform game for Sega's Dreamcast video game console, and the first main Sonic the Hedgehog game to feature 3D gameplay. The story follows Sonic the Hedgehog, Miles "Tails" Prower, Knuckles the Echidna, Amy Rose, Big the Cat, and E-102 Gamma in their quests to collect the seven Chaos Emeralds and stop Doctor Robotnik from unleashing Chaos, an ancient evil. Controlling one of the six characters—each with their own special abilities—players explore a series of themed levels, and interact with Chao, a virtual pet.
Following the cancellation of the Sega Saturn game Sonic X-treme, Sonic Team began work on Sonic Adventure in 1997. A 60-member development team created the game in ten months, drawing inspiration from locations in Peru and Guatemala. Yuji Uekawa redesigned the characters for their transition to 3D, and features were added to take advantage of the Dreamcast hardware. Sega announced the game in August 1998; it was released in Japan that December and worldwide in September 1999.
The game received critical acclaim and, with 2.5 million copies sold by August 2006, became the Dreamcast's bestseller. Reviewers lauded the game's visuals and gameplay, calling it a major technological advancement; some speculated that it could re-establish Sega as the dominant console manufacturer after the relatively unsuccessful Saturn. Others were frustrated by the camera controls and glitches, and reactions to its audio were mixed. Despite this, journalists have ranked Sonic Adventure among the best Sonic games. A sequel, Sonic Adventure 2, was released in 2001.
Sonic Adventure received several rereleases. First, it was ported to the GameCube and Windows in 2003 and retitled Sonic Adventure DX: Director's Cut. A high-definition version was released digitally for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2010, and for Windows in 2011. Reviews for these versions were less positive; critics felt the game had not aged well and ran at an inconsistent frame rate. Writers have called Big the Cat one of the worst characters to feature in a video game.
Sonic Adventure is a 3D platform game with role-playing elements. Players control one of six anthropomorphic protagonists as they venture to defeat Doctor Robotnik and his robot army, who seek the seven magical Chaos Emeralds and the evil entity Chaos. Six player characters are unlocked as the game progresses, each with their own story and attributes. Sonic the Hedgehog performs a spin dash, homing attack, and light-speed dash; Miles "Tails" Prower flies, swims, and attacks robots using his tails; Knuckles the Echidna glides, climbs walls, and punches; Amy Rose can defeat enemies using her hammer; Big the Cat is slow and carries a fishing rod he can cast; and E-102 Gamma can shoot laser beams.
At the start of the game, the player is placed in one of several Adventure Fields, open-ended hub worlds inhabited by advice-giving non-player characters. The player character is guided and instructed by the voice of Tikal the Echidna. Through exploration, the player discovers entrances to levels called Action Stages, some of which must be opened using keys hidden in the Adventure Field.:141—142 Once the player accesses an Action Stage, they are tasked with a specific objective, which is different for each character. Sonic and Amy must reach the level's end; Tails must reach the end before Sonic; Knuckles must find three hidden shards of the Master Emerald; Big must fish for his pet frog; and Gamma must fight his way through stages using projectiles as a defense.:140
Some levels include minigames separate from the main story. These feature different styles of gameplay, among them rail shooting, racing, and sandboarding. Some minigames can only be accessed with particular characters. Fulfilling certain objectives allows the player to obtain bonus items. Unlocked minigames and stages the player has completed can be accessed from a Trial Mode on the title screen.
Like previous Sonic the Hedgehog games, players collect golden rings as a form of health: if the player character is in possession of rings when they are hit by an enemy or other hazard, they will survive, but their rings will scatter and blink before disappearing. Canisters containing power-ups such as speed shoes, additional rings, invincibility, and elemental shields are also hidden in levels. In several stages, the player engages Robotnik or Chaos in a boss fight and must deplete the boss's health meter to proceed. Each character starts with a limited number of lives, and the player loses a life if the character drowns, gets crushed, or is hit without any rings in their possession. Losing all lives ends the game. Lives can be replenished by collecting 100 rings or a 1-up.
Players may also discover Chao Gardens, hidden, protective environments inhabited by Chao, a virtual pet. Players can hatch, name, and interact with a Chao, and raise the status of their Chao by giving it small animals found by defeating robots. The Dreamcast's handheld Visual Memory Unit (VMU) allows the player to download the minigame Chao Adventure, in which their Chao walks through a course to evolve and improve its skills. Evolving one's Chao improves its performance in competitions called Chao Races. Eggs that can produce special types of Chao are hidden throughout the Adventure Fields. Players can earn emblems by playing through Action Stages, searching through the Adventure Fields, or winning Chao Races. Each Action Stage has three emblems that can be earned by replaying the stages and fulfilling objectives, such as beating the level within a time limit.
Doctor Robotnik seeks a new way to defeat his longtime nemesis Sonic and conquer the world. During his research, he learns about an entity called Chaos—a creature that, thousands of years ago, helped to protect the Chao and the all-powerful Master Emerald, which balances the power of the seven Chaos Emeralds. When a tribe of echidnas sought to steal the power of the Emeralds, breaking the harmony they had with the Chao, Chaos retaliated by using the Emeralds' power to transform into a monstrous beast, Perfect Chaos, and wipe them out. Before it could destroy the world, Tikal, a young echidna who befriended Chaos, imprisoned it in the Master Emerald along with herself.
Seeking to use Chaos, Robotnik releases it from the Master Emerald, and tests the creature's natural form on the city of Station Square. When Sonic sees local police fail to defeat it, he and Tails work to stop Robotnik from empowering it with the Chaos Emeralds. At the same time, Knuckles, the only remaining echidna, sets out to find the shards of the Master Emerald and repair it. Activating a new series of robots, including one named Gamma, Robotnik orders them to find Froggy, an amphibian who had eaten a Chaos Emerald after mutating from contact with a piece of Chaos the night he was released. His owner Big seeks to find him as well. In Station Square, Sonic's friend Amy finds a Flicky being pursued for a Chaos Emerald in its possession, and decides to protect it. When both are captured, Amy convinces Gamma not to work for Robotnik, who helps her to escape, before seeking out the other robots in his series.
Despite Sonic managing to disrupt Robotnik's plans, Chaos manages to absorb all the Chaos Emeralds. Transforming into Perfect Chaos, it rebels against Robotnik and attacks Station Square, devastating the city. Having experienced flashbacks from Tikal, who was released herself, Sonic realizes that Chaos has been in constant torment and sorrow, and that imprisoning it again will not stop it. Using the Emeralds brought to him by the others to transform into his super form, Sonic fights Perfect Chaos and defeats it. Returned to normal, Chaos calms down when he sees the Chao living peacefully in Station Square. Realizing its pain is gone, Tikal decides to take it somewhere safe to live in peace. With Sonic having won, he decides to leave to pursue a fleeing Robotnik.
Sonic Adventure was developed by Sonic Team for the Dreamcast, with Takashi Iizuka directing and Sonic co-creator Yuji Naka producing. Although at the time one of the largest video games created, the game was completed in a relatively brief 10 months. Sonic Team undertook development in conjunction with the Dreamcast, aiming to release the game in December 1998, even if it meant making improvements after release.:69 Developing Sonic Adventure at the same time as the system, which was not completed until two months before the game's release, gave Iizuka influence over the console's development; for example, he was able to request more RAM for the console specifically for Sonic Adventure.
Background and concept
After the completion of the Sega Genesis game Sonic & Knuckles in 1994, Naka moved back from Sega Technical Institute (STI) in America to Japan to work with Sonic Team. STI began developing Sonic X-treme for Sega Saturn, which would have been the first Sonic the Hedgehog game to feature full 3D gameplay. X-treme suffered a series of setbacks and was canceled in 1997. The cancellation is an important factor in the Saturn's commercial failure; without it, the system had no original Sonic platformer. Meanwhile, Naka and Sonic Team developed original Saturn projects, such as Nights into Dreams.:67 Naka still wanted to make a 3D Sonic game, and felt that only Sonic Team should do it; for this reason, he refused to allow STI to use the Nights game engine, a factor in X-treme's cancellation. In August 1996, Nights into Dreams designer Iizuka proposed a role-playing-style Sonic game with a greater emphasis on storytelling. This proposal formed the basis of Sonic Adventure.
Development of Sonic Adventure began in April 1997 on the Saturn with a 20-strong team.:139 Sonic Team created the first prototype using the Nights engine, but the Saturn's limited capabilities made development difficult.:65 Naka was informed by Sega president Hayao Nakayama of the Saturn's successor, the Dreamcast, and he believed the new console would allow Sonic Team to create the ultimate Sonic game.:67 When the team learned the Dreamcast was nearing completion, they moved development to take advantage of its greater quantity of RAM, stronger CPU, and the VMU. Not wanting to waste their completed work, they placed it as a bonus in the compilation game Sonic Jam, the final Sonic game for the Saturn.:65 In July 1997, Sonic Team began redeveloping Sonic Adventure for the Dreamcast, and the team expanded to 60.
According to Iizuka, Sonic Team felt challenged by the new hardware to recreate Sonic and his world in a new way. They began development using the character designs from the Genesis games, but quickly discovered the characters' bodies were too short and their heads too big, making them difficult to see. Yuji Uekawa redesigned each character to suit the transition to 3D and to give them "new, edgy, more Western" design. Looking to the animation of Walt Disney and Looney Tunes for inspiration, he made Sonic more mature, taller, slimmer and gave him longer quills. He darkened his blue color and gave him green irises in reference to Green Hill Zone. Uekawa tried to make Sonic look like a comic book character and compared the style to graffiti. After redesigning Sonic, he made the other characters fit this new art style.
To achieve a more realistic feel for the environments, the core members of Sonic Team visited temples, jungles, and ancient ruins in Mesoamerican landscapes, including Cancun, Guatemala, and Peru. They used photographs taken during their visits as textures. The greatest influences were the Tikal ruin in Guatemala and Machu Picchu in Peru. The character Tikal was inspired by Peru and took her name from the Guatemalan ruins. The team also wanted to add elements unexpected in a platform game; the level in which Tails sandboards was inspired by a group of sandboarders in Ica, Peru.:68 Stages featured gameplay similar to the original Genesis games and were designed to take at least five minutes to complete. One of the biggest challenges the designers faced was transitioning the series' 2D style to 3D. Some levels, such as the Lost World, were rebuilt dozens of times; others referenced past Sega games, such as Ice Cap (Sonic the Hedgehog 3) and the Tornado levels (Panzer Dragoon).:142 One particular difficulty was defeating enemies; in the 2D games, enemies were beaten simply by jumping on them, but this was harder to achieve in a 3D game. Therefore, Sonic was given the ability to target enemies in mid-air. Iizuka said the cinematic sequences were conceived to take advantage of the environments, "giving the player an element of discovery in addition to the platforming". The 3D visuals were created using a Voodoo2 graphics chip.
When seeing the completed level designs, Naka wondered, "Well, why don't we utilize this map for other characters?" Sonic Team had already implemented an in-game fishing rod with no context or use, leading to the creation of Big. The portly Big and his slow gameplay were designed as a contrast to the other characters, who were faster and more action-oriented. Gamma and his playstyle were created in response to fans who wanted elements of a shoot 'em up game in Sonic. Neither Big nor Gamma were intended to play a large role, thus both of their campaigns were short. Iizuka wanted to create a villain who would have been impossible to make on older hardware. He settled on something liquid and transparent and created Chaos. Iizuka presented the concept to Naka, who was impressed. Chaos was originally intended to have realistic blue scales in his final form, but this was abandoned because of the technological constraints of the Dreamcast. According to Iizuka, the team tried to include as much content as possible. Another addition was the Chao-raising system, which Iizuka conceived to take advantage of the VMU.:70 Sonic Team had used a similar virtual pet system, the "A-Life", in Nights into Dreams; Iizuka used the A-Life as a base, while improving it with the VMU and the option to improve its skills.:71 Iizuka hoped it would be made into a character players could touch and raise. It was also designed to appeal to casual gamers not familiar with games like Sonic, and to add replay value. The design took considerable time to finalize and had to be made as simple as possible because the virtual pet's look changes form as it evolves.
While some Sonic games, such as 1993's Sonic CD, contained limited voice work, Sonic Adventure was the first Sonic game to feature extensive voice acting. The decision was made early in development as the game was more story-focused than previous Sonic games. Sonic Team's staff had differing opinions about how Sonic should sound. Iizuka recalled that the only element they agreed on was to avoid using an anime voice actor, favoring a film actor with an "over-the-top" voice. The English-language voice cast consists of Ryan Drummond as Sonic, Corey Bringas as Tails, Michael McGaharn as Knuckles, Jennifer Douillard as Amy, Jon St. John as Big, and Deem Bristow as Robotnik.
Sonic Adventure's musical score was primarily composed by Jun Senoue, with additional music by Fumie Kumatani, Kenichi Tokoi, and Masaru Setsumaru. The group created the main theme, "Open Your Heart"; other vocal themes were performed by Marion Saunders, Dredd Fox, Ted Poley, Nikki Gregoroff, Tony Harnell, and Johnny Gioeli.:143 The team preferred "hot, funky, and rock 'n' roll" music over the electropop of earlier Sonic games. Iizuka stated the style was adopted because the Dreamcast's sound was a significant advance from that of the Genesis. Some tracks were rearranged from Sonic 3D Blast.
A two-disc soundtrack, Sonic Adventure "Digi-LOG Conversation" Original Sound Track, was released in Japan in January 1999. In May 2011, a 20th anniversary edition of the soundtrack was released. Digital versions were also released on iTunes and Spotify in September 2014 and January 2017, respectively. A vinyl LP version of the soundtrack was announced in 2017 and will include interviews with Senoue and Iizuka.
Sonic Adventure was kept a secret during production, though screenshots were leaked in mid-1998 and plans for a 3D Sonic game had long been rumored. It was unveiled by Naka and the rest of Sonic Team on August 22, 1998, at the Tokyo International Forum. The team showed off several dynamic elements, such as a chase sequence from the first level and Tails' sandboarding sequence. Naka described the debut as intense, having "[given his] all" to make it fit for release.:69
On December 21, 1998, Sonic Adventure was released in Japan. The Japanese version shipped with many glitches and camera problems; several members of Sonic Team flew to Sega of America to patch the game, delaying its western release for several months.:69 The localized version was released in North America on September 9, 1999, and in Europe on September 23, 1999. It includes Japanese and English-language audio tracks, as well as Japanese, English, Spanish, French and German subtitles. Online features—including Chao daycare and downloadable content (DLC) such as minigames and new level assets—were also added. The localized version was later released in Japan as Sonic Adventure International.:69
Prior to the launch of the Dreamcast in the United States, Sega made an exclusive deal with Hollywood Video to allow customers to rent the Dreamcast console along with a non-retail version of the game, Sonic Adventure: Limited Edition. The promotion began on July 15, 1999 and took place at 1,055 Hollywood Video stores across the country.
In 2001, Sega announced it would transition from a first-party to a third-party software publisher. Wanting to reach new players by creating an enhanced version of one of their older games, in June 2003 Sega released Sonic Adventure DX: Director's Cut, a port of Sonic Adventure for the GameCube and Windows.:141 While mostly identical to the original release, Sonic Adventure DX features updated graphics, including higher-resolution textures and more detailed character models, has a locked frame rate of 60 frames per second, and sports a redesigned Chao-raising system that uses connectivity with the Game Boy Advance. It includes sixty new missions and the option to unlock all 12 Sonic games released for the Game Gear. Metal Sonic can be unlocked as a playable character if all 130 emblems are collected. These features were added to appeal to players of the original game.:141
In September 2010, Sega rereleased Sonic Adventure as a downloadable game on Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3, followed by a Windows release in March 2011 via Steam. This version is based on Sonic Adventure DX and supports high-definition visuals, but the new missions, Metal Sonic, and the Game Gear games were removed; the missions and Metal Sonic can be reimplemented by purchasing them as DLC. The game was also included in the Dreamcast Collection compilation in 2011, and is backwards-compatible with the Xbox One.
As the first fully 3D Sonic platform game, Sonic Adventure was highly anticipated. It received critical acclaim,:143 and some critics called it one of the greatest video games of all time. It is the bestselling Dreamcast game; by August 4, 2006, it had sold 2.5 million copies, including 440,000 in Japan and 1.27 million in the United States.:143
The visuals and presentation attracted wide acclaim. Arcade magazine described it as a "quantum leap forward" in aesthetics and visual detail in video games, and Hyper estimated they even exceeded what was possible on high-end personal computers. Brandon Justice (IGN) called it the most graphically impressive platform game released up to that date, praising its cinematic sequences and describing it as "engrossing, demanding, and utterly awe-inspiring". Peter Bartholow of GameSpot agreed and said only Soulcalibur's graphical quality surpassed that of Sonic Adventure. Edge felt the graphical features showed off the Dreamcast's potential to the fullest and that the game was "perfect" as a showcase for the system.
The audio received mixed responses. Bartholow and Colin Ferris (Game Revolution) called the full-motion video (FMV) cutscenes and voice acting well-produced and fitting, though the former noted poor lip-synching. Justice thought the cutscenes were repetitive and voiced strong disapproval of the voice acting, declaring it "a complete joke" and "downright awful". Justice had a particular distaste for Tails' voice, and fellow IGN writer Adam Sutton later called it among the most annoying to feature in a video game. Scott Marriott of AllGame was conflicted; he appreciated Tails' portrayal but found Sonic's and Knuckles' voices unfitting. Bartholow and Marriott praised the rock-style music and called it top-notch, but Ferris described the score as "absolutely horrible".
The gameplay was generally praised. Bartholow admired the straightforward, linear approach to the 3D platform genre and particularly praised it for keeping the basic gameplay of the original Genesis games. Justice said the game would keep players busy even after completion, noting its internet connectivity and other extras. On the other hand, Ferris said apart from being quicker, it did not advance the platform genre's design. Retrospectively, 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die called its environments vast and twisted, stating it "brilliantly" captured traditional Sonic elements.
The Chao minigame was noted as a major departure from the gameplay of the series. Bartholow wrote that "while really just a diversion", the Chao were an interesting, fun addition, singling out their internet functions as a highlight. Marriott said the Chao helped increase the replay value, although it was "strange", required patience, and did not provide bonuses in the main game. Ferris called the Chao "a neat addition" and praised its use of the VMU.
Some critics compared Sonic Adventure to Super Mario 64—Nintendo's "groundbreaking" 1996 game that propelled the Nintendo 64 and the 3D platform genre. Edge said Sonic Adventure was a worthy rival to Super Mario 64, but AllGame's Marriott wrote that Sonic Adventure was not as ambitious and that those looking for exploration would be disappointed with its linear gameplay. He compared it to the similarly linear Crash Bandicoot but felt Sonic Adventure was more confined. Still, Marriott praised the gameplay as varied and said its replay value was strong. Game journalists Rusel DeMaria and Johnny L. Wilson retrospectively wrote Sonic Adventure was not as strong as Super Mario 64 and "failed to catch on with players in nearly the way that [Mario] had done", though it had fascinating features, such as "the use of the Tamagotchi-like memory card to incubate eggs for little pet creatures" and "some good action segments".
The camera system and glitches were criticized by many reviewers. Justice called the camera "incredibly" frustrating and inconsistent, and Bartholow noted it caused problems with collision detection. Edge complained the camera sometimes goes behind walls. Authors from GamesRadar retrospectively wrote that Sonic Adventure was "horrendously buggy", singling out falling through floors and getting stuck, but also said the abundance of content made up for this.
Bartholow thought Sonic Adventure redefined the possibilities of the platform genre, and according to Computer and Video Games (CVG), "many things you thought were impossible to see and experience in computer games are now here". Marriott wrote that the game was an impressive showing of the Dreamcast's potential and that it was among the best of the series. Edge said its criticisms such as scenery pop-up and instances of poor collision detection are "minor flaws in an otherwise very fine piece of work". Arcade and CVG speculated the game could save the Dreamcast, which had not sold well by the end of 1998. CVG also thought it could re-establish Sega as the dominant console manufacturer after the relatively unsuccessful Saturn.
Sonic Adventure DX: Director's Cut was received less positively than the original. Giancarlo Varanini of GameSpot was disappointed the rerelease did not address the problems of the original version and irritated the graphics were only marginally different, and made note of its shoddy collision detection. Varanini offered some praise for the extra features, such as the missions, but concluded players were better off playing the Dreamcast version. IGN's Matt Casamassina agreed, calling it "a sloppy port of a game that has long been undeserving of its high praise", noted its frequent frame rate drops, and called its camera one of the worst he had ever seen. He said the connectivity to the Game Boy Advance Sonic games added depth but concluded that this did not compensate for the problems in the port. Michael Coles (Nintendo World Report) praised the Game Gear games for retaining their multiplayer support and found Sonic and Tails’ gameplay enjoyable.
Reviews of the 2010 rerelease were generally unfavorable; most of the criticism was directed at the perceived lack of effort put into the port. IGN's Arthur Gies called it "so fundamentally flawed that it borders on unplayable", observing that the sections that worked best required the least input from the player. He also noted the lack of widescreen support, though offering minor praise for its steady frame rate. Ray Barnholt of 1UP.com lambasted the port for what he called its slapdash quality, criticizing its display, controls, and dated design, and saying it "feels like it wasn't even tuned for the Xbox 360 controller and its analog sticks". Destructoid's Destin Legarie was less harsh, writing that fans of the franchise would be able to enjoy the game but warned casual players that "all you'll find is a relic that was once considered greatness", and that it pained him to say that.
Prior to the release of Sonic Adventure, most 3D platform games focused on exploration and collecting items; Sonic Adventure changed this with its linear gameplay. According to writers at GamesRadar, it was one of the first sixth-generation console games and changed the "gaming world", despite its glitches. Joystiq wrote that both Adventure and the original Sonic the Hedgehog had innovated through effective linear level design and by feeling "good to play". In 2009, McKinley Noble of GamePro listed Sonic Adventure as the seventh-best platform game of all time, saying it had not aged well in certain aspects but its core gameplay remained among the best of the Sonic series. Several journalists ranked the game among the series' best, but Zolani Stewart (Kotaku) argued that the addition of voice acting and greater focus on plot changed Sonic into "a flat, lifeless husk of a character, who spits out slogans and generally has only one personality mode, the radical attitude dude, the sad recycled image of vague '90s cultural concept".
Many of Sonic Adventure's designs and concepts were reused in later Sonic games. The direction, basic gameplay, and Uekawa's modernized character designs became series staples. One level in the 2006 Sonic the Hedgehog reboot heavily references Sonic Adventure's Emerald Coast stage. To celebrate the Sonic series' 20th anniversary in 2011, Sega released Sonic Generations, which reused aspects from past games in the franchise. The Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Windows versions contain reimagined versions of the Speed Highway level and the Perfect Chaos boss fight, and the Nintendo 3DS version contains a remake of Emerald Coast.
Several characters that first appeared in Sonic Adventure appeared in later games. As well as appearing in Sonic Generations, Chaos is an antagonist in the 2017 entry Sonic Forces; it and Gamma are playable characters in the 2004 fighting game Sonic Battle; and a recreation of its boss fight appears in Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games. The Chao creatures also feature predominantly in later games. One of the characters introduced in Adventure, Big the Cat, became infamous for his negative reception. Game Informer's Brian Shea considered his gameplay painful and boring, while Legarie decried his portrayal as a "mentally handicapped imbecile" and his voice actor's incoherent performance. Big is widely considered by video game journalists the worst character in the Sonic franchise, and was named one of the worst game characters in a poll conducted by 1UP.com.
On October 4, 1999, Sega announced that a sequel to Sonic Adventure was in development. Sonic Adventure 2 made its debut at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in June 2000, and was released in June 2001. The sequel was designed to be more action-oriented than the slower-paced, story-centric Adventure and to give all the characters equal playtime. Like its predecessor, Sonic Adventure 2 received positive reviews. A concept for Sonic Adventure 3 was reworked into the 2008 game Sonic Unleashed. In 2017, Iizuka stated there were no plans for a third Sonic Adventure game, saying it would not advance the series' design. He did not rule out the idea, saying "If we can get the gameplay to evolve and get to a place where Adventure 3 makes sense, then you might see an Adventure 3 come out".
The plot of Sonic Adventure was adapted in the second season of the 2003 Sonic the Hedgehog anime series Sonic X. American licensing corporation 4Kids Entertainment hired a new voice cast for the English-language dub but the Japanese cast from the games reprised their roles in the original version of the show. Archie Comics also adapted the game in its Sonic the Hedgehog comic book series. The comic offered an explanation for the altered character designs and established that Station Square was hidden beneath Sonic's planet, Mobius.
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