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David Low
30 Aug, 2007

Virtual Console review round-up: Turbografx

Wii Feature | NEC's lost console finally makes its way to Australia.
For our final round-up of Virtual Console software, we're taking a look at the Turbografx games available on the service. Originally not available in Australia, they were added to the Australian Virtual Console in July, and after some major updates Australia is now fully caught up with Europe.

About the Turbografx

The PC Engine (as it was known in Japan) was a joint venture between game maker Hudson Soft and electronics giant NEC, and was actually very successful in its homeland. It outsold every system Sega ever released there, and is still the fifth highest selling system of all time in Japan. At the time of its release, the Famicom (NES) was already four years old, and many Japanese gamers were ready for something new. It was significantly more powerful than the Famicom, featuring a faster (though still 8-bit) processor and a 16-bit graphics chip. In fact, in most ways it was technically superior to Sega's Mega Drive which was released a year later, especially in the number of colours displayed and in terms of sound. The PC Engine received widespread publisher support, and was the first console to have a CD add-on - which unlike pretty much every other add-on in console history was also very successful. CD eventually overtook the original game cards as the format of choice for the system.

When it came to western releases, timing just wasn't on the system's side. Introduced as the TurboGrafx-16 (as in 16-bit) to America in 1989, Nintendo were still at the height of their power, and Sega, whose original NES competitor the Master System had been handily defeated in the US, actually beat NEC to the country with their 16-bit system. With poor marketing and an initial lack of compelling software, the TurboGrafx-16 never took off, and even with the later release of the all-in-one CD system the TurboDuo, the console was basically left to die in the west. It also received an extremely limited 1990 release in Europe as the Turbografx (without the '16' or upper case 'g'), apparently by a third party. The units were simply re-badged US models with a colour converter so they could run on PAL televisions.

About Turbografx games on the Virtual Console

The emulation of Turbografx games is unfortunately not up to the same standard of the other consoles on the VC. While the picture is still solid, with none of the screen tearing seen in most retro compilation discs, there is a filter over the graphics, giving the games a 'smoothed over', slightly blurry look. It's a shame, as the system's games had great colour depth originally, and in this state they don't look quite as sharp as they did originally. They're certainly playable, and still better than 90% of other emulation out there, but next to the razor sharp SNES emulation on the VC it's disappointing. We can at least be happy that the games are cheaper than the other 16-bit games on the service, which is especially cool since the original versions (and hardware) can cost a fortune on eBay these days. All games can be played with the Wii remote alone, so they're great choices for pick-up and play games.

PAL conversion issues

Since there was never a true PAL release of the system, there is actually no such thing as a PAL PC Engine/Turbografx game. And so on the VC, all the games for the system are their original NTSC versions, and run full screen and at full speed. We doubt that all these games were originally released in Europe, and at least one game was never previously released outside Japan (Battle Lode Runner), so we can only hope this is a sign that other games not previously released in PAL regions will make the jump onto the PAL Virtual Console in the future.

Our Virtual Console ratings system

We've given every game a 'buy' rating of 'Yes', 'Maybe', or 'No'

Yes means this is a very high quality game, and we have no problem recommending it to anyone as long as they like the genre.

Maybe means we think the game is good, but not necessarily for everyone. If you know the game or like the sound of the description, go for it

No means we think that unless you have some nostalgia for this title, it probably isn't worth your time or money today.

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Games listed in order of their European release on the download service

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Bomberman '93
Price: 600 Points
Developer: Hudson Soft
Originally released: 1993
PAL conversion issues: None

  

There have been many Bomberman games over the years, but this one is one of the best, right up there with the first couple of SNES releases and Saturn Bomberman. It's a fairly basic version of the game, but it looks nice, plays well, and features five player support (although you'll need at least one GameCube controller for that, as with all five player games), all for 600 points. If you want some old-school multiplayer mayhem, you can't go wrong here.

Worth buying? Yes

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Bonk's Adventure
Price: 600 Points
Developer: Red Entertainment/Hudson Soft
Originally released: 1990
PAL conversion issues: None

  

A pretty good NES-level platformer (literally – it was later ported to the NES more or less intact). While it's one of the older games on the system, it's still worth it for the price, but you may want to check out the much better sequel first.

Worth buying? Maybe

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Dungeon Explorer
Price: 600 Points
Developer: Atlus/Hudson Soft
Originally released: 1989
PAL conversion issues: None

  

A half decent Guantlet clone with a five player mode. It has relatively dull graphics, and is borderline worthless as a single player game, but it has a few neat features that set it apart from other hack 'n slash games out there.

Worth buying? Maybe

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Super Star Soldier
Price: 600 Points
Developer: Hudson Soft
Originally released: 1990
PAL conversion issues: None

  

The Turbografx was an awesome platform for slowdown-free shooters, and Super Star Soldier is one of the best. In some ways it's a bit old fashioned, but the weapons and enemies are fun, graphics still look nice (if simple), the music is great, and the blasting gameplay is quite a satisfying throwback. The sequel is better though.

Worth buying? Yes

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Victory Run
Price: 600 Points
Developer: Hudson Soft
Originally released: 1987
PAL conversion issues: None

  

A boring Outrun clone. These old style, pre-mode 7 'behind the vehicle' driving games have aged pretty badly, so it's not really worth your time or points today.

Worth buying? No

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Alien Crush
Price: 600 Points
Developer: Compile
Originally released: 1988
PAL conversion issues: None

  

A fantastic video pinball game with an alien theme. Two tables (plus mini-games), great graphics and music, and solid ball motion make this easy to recommend – but check out its superior sequel first.

Worth buying? Yes

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Military Madness
Price: 600 Points
Developer: Hudson Soft
Originally released: 1989
PAL conversion issues: None

  

You may notice a theme as these reviews go on – Hudson were pretty shameless in their plundering of Nintendo and other companies' game ideas (although Sega were not exactly angels in this regard either). If the NES had something the PC Engine lacked, Hudson would simply create their 'version' of the game, usually upgraded in some way so their customers would have something to brag about. What helped them get away with it was that often their version was just as good, or in some ways better, than its inspiration.

Military Madness is Hudson's version of the brilliant Advance Wars games (which have been going since the NES in Japan as the Famicom Wars series). It's a top clone of a great formula, and strategy fans should definitely check it out .

Worth buying? Yes

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R-Type
Price: 800 Points
Developer: Irem
Originally released: 1989
PAL conversion issues: None

  

One of the best horizontal shooters ever made, the almost arcade perfect version of R-Type was reason enough for many shooter fans to get their hands on a PC Engine/Turbografx back in the day. Stylish and impressive graphics, interesting and fun weapons, and tough but compelling gameplay, R-Type truly lives up to the legend.

The game's original Japanese release was broken up into two parts for cartridge price reasons, and both are available individually on the Japanese VC for 600 points each. For the western release, the two pieces were put back together on an extra large game card and sold at a slight premium, and this has been maintained on the VC, as it's the only Turbografx game to cost 800 points. But given Turbografx games are already bargains (especially compared to some of the much more primitive Mega Drive games that cost 800 points), it's still totally worth it for shooter fans.

Worth buying? Yes

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Motoroader
Price: 600 Points
Developer: NCS/Hudson Soft
Originally released: 1989
PAL conversion issues: None

  

A pretty lame overhead racer in the vein of the Micro Machines games. It isn't the worst game ever, but so very dated that only the most desperate fan of old racing games need apply – all zero of you.

Worth buying? No

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Soldier Blade
Price: 600 Points
Developer: Hudson Soft
Originally released: 1992
PAL conversion issues: None

  

The last in the Star Soldier series, Soldier Blade doesn't disappoint. Take everything great about Super Star Soldier and multiply it by two, and you have the best vertical shooter on the VC, and one of the best old-school shooters ever. Great graphics, fantastic catchy tunes, meaty weapons, and a good challenge. At the price, this should be first VC stop for shooter fans.

Worth buying? Yes

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Vigilante
Price: 600 Points
Developer: Irem
Originally released: 1988
PAL conversion issues: None

  

A cheesy but pretty fun 'single plane' beat 'em up, Vigilante may be worth it for anyone after a decent Double Dragon style game. It's satisfying to lay waste to hundreds of bad guys a level, often with a single hit, and the kitschy 80's American Kung-fu stylings will bring back memories for anyone who yearns for the era of the 'American Ninja' films (anyone?). It definitely has limited appeal though, and without much long term value it only just gets a 'maybe' from us.

Worth buying? Maybe

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New Adventure Island
Price: 600 Points
Developer: Hudson Soft
Originally released: 1992
PAL conversion issues: None

  

Hudson's version of Wonderboy (although for once it's legal, not a rip-off), it lacks some of the charm of the original Sega version, but is a pretty good copy of it gameplay wise. But given the original Wonderboy never stacked up to the likes of Mario anyway, being a decent copy of that doesn't get Adventure Island too far, although some of its own sequels were much better. It still looks and plays ok, but it's a very limited platformer compared to the best on the VC.

Worth buying? Maybe

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Chew Man Fu
Price: 600 Points
Developer: Hudson Soft
Originally released: 1990
PAL conversion issues: None

  

A pretty cool little action puzzle game, where you push coloured spheres around a maze while avoiding enemies. It's a bit basic, but it looks great and controls really well, so give it a go if you're after an old school puzzler.

Worth buying? Maybe

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Double Dungeons
Price: 600 Points
Developer: NCS
Originally released: 1989
PAL conversion issues: None

  

A first-person turn-based dungeon-crawling RPG, much like many classic western RPGs on various home computers, Double Dungeons' claim to fame is that it features a split screen two player mode. Unfortunately, the game is so primitive that even die-hard fans of the genre have probably moved on from this type of thing.

Worth buying? No

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Splatterhouse
Price: 600 Points
Developer: Namco
Originally released: 1988
PAL conversion issues: None

  

Basically an unlicensed 'Friday the 13th' game from Namco, in Splatterhouse you play as the Jason-inspired 'Rick' in another single-plane beat 'em up. It's pretty clunky and boring looking, but just scrapes a 'maybe' for the cheesy horror movie schtick, as well as decent soundtrack and boss fights.

Worth buying? Maybe

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Dragon's Curse
Price: 600 Points
Developer: WestOne/Hudson Soft
Originally released: 1989
PAL conversion issues: None

  

In a strange turn of events, this game is actually an official version of the Master System game Wonderboy III: The Dragon's Trap with the Wonderboy name removed. Developer WestOne maintained the rights to their Wonderboy games, but publisher Sega owned the name, so when it came to other console versions they had to be re-branded (this situation also led to the birth of the Adventure Island series).

What you do need to know is that this is an upgraded version of the Master System classic. A great non-linear platforming adventure, it's still a great game to play through today.

Worth buying? Yes

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Bonk's Revenge
Price: 600 Points
Developer: Red Entertainment/Hudson Soft
Originally released: 1991
PAL conversion issues: None

  

A great sequel to the original Bonk, Bonk's Revenge ups the ante in almost every way. Great, colourful graphics, excellent level design, improved controls and some much needed variety round out the package nicely. Outside of a few obvious SNES and NES classics, this is the best platformer on the VC.

Worth buying? Yes

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Battle Lode Runner
Price: 600 Points
Developer: Hudson Soft
Originally released: 1993
PAL conversion issues: None

  

The Lode Runner series has a strange history. It was born in the west on a few home computer formats, but Japanese developers took the license on board and ended up releasing more games than their western originators did. Battle Lode Runner is probably the best version of the game ever released, with all the pit-digging, gold-collecting puzzle platform action of the others, but with an excellent level editor and even a Bomberman inspired five player mode.

Worth buying? Yes

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Shockman
Price: 600 Points
Developer: Masaya
Originally released: 1993
PAL conversion issues: None

  

Another Turbografx 'version' of an NES game, this time the inspiration is Rockman/Megaman and the developer is praised action game house Masaya. It's a decent SNES-level shooting platformer, and even has some side scrolling shooter sections and a two player mode. It's not as good as its inspiration, but if you're after some Megaman X-like gameplay while you wait for Capcom to start porting the real thing to VC, you could do worse.

Worth buying? Maybe

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Ninja Spirit
Price: 600 Points
Developer: Irem
Originally released: 1990
PAL conversion issues: None

  

R-type creators Irem developed this fantastic game, and you can clearly see the shooter inspiration. The hero of the game is loaded with weapons, and you can power both them and yourself up to ridiculous levels, making you feel ultra powerful, just like a ninja should. And Irem appear to have been going for the record of 'highest number of ninjas in a game', as the levels are packed with hundreds of ninja enemies, and even though most are quick and/or tough, you're such an agile and powerful character that you can pick them off pretty easily with well timed ninja stars or sword swipes.

What you are left with is a relatively easy game (unless you try the punishing 'arcade' mode), but a great looking and very satisfying hack and slash platformer

Worth buying? Yes

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Blazing Lazers
Price: 600 Points
Developer: Compile/Hudson Soft
Originally released: 1989
PAL conversion issues: None

  

Known as Gunhed in Japan, Blazing Lazers is yet another high quality Turbografx shooter in the same vein as Super Star Soldier. Probably worth getting one of the others first, but Blazing Lazers is still a great game worthy of a 'yes' rating from us.

Worth buying? Yes

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World Sports Competition
Price: 600 Points
Developer: Hudson Soft
Originally released: 1992
PAL conversion issues: None

  

The clones keep coming thick and fast, next up for ripping-off is Konami's classic Track & Field. But once again it's a good rip-off, so if you're after some classic button-mashing Olympic gameplay, you could do a lot worse than World Sports Competition. Ten events, five player mode, and built in turbo buttons (A and B on the Wii remote) make this one easy to play for fans of the genre.

Worth buying? Maybe

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Dead Moon
Price: 600 Points
Developer: Natsume
Originally released: 1991
PAL conversion issues: None

  

A decent horizontal shoot 'em up, but not worth bothering with given the embarrassment of riches available for fans of the genre. Only grab this one if you've played all the 'yes' ranked shooters first – so probably sometime in 2010.

Worth buying? Maybe

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J.J. & Jeff
Price: 600 Points
Developer: Hudson Soft
Originally released: 1990
PAL conversion issues: None

  

An early attempt as a comedy game, the Japanese version was apparently based on a television show about fart jokes. It's not outright horrible, and the graphics are big and colourful, but the poor controls and unbalanced enemy design mean it's probably best left in 1990.

Worth buying? No

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China Warrior
Price: 600 Points
Developer: Hudson Soft
Originally released: 1989
PAL conversion issues: None

  

A beat 'em up with giant sprites, China Warrior put all its effort into (at the time) impressive graphics, leaving it with pretty primitive gameplay. It's well animated, but choppy, unresponsive, and it doesn't really make much sense. But it's also addictive. We downloaded it and consider it a guilty pleasure, as it can be some shallow fun to kick some punks with a giant Bruce Lee type. Just scrapes a 'maybe', but only if you like your games unintentionally cheesy.

Worth buying? Maybe

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Bloody Wolf
Price: 600 Points
Developer: Data East
Originally released: 1990
PAL conversion issues: None

  

Similar to the overhead stages in Konami's Contra/Probotector, with the look of the original Metal Gear, Bloody Wolf is better than that sounds. You take your Rambo-dude, and shoot your way through the enemy's strongholds, rescuing hostages on the way. It looks great, has many cool little touches, and can be quite a challenge. Great destructive fun.

Worth buying? Yes

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Dragon Spirit
Price: 600 Points
Developer: Namco
Originally released: 1989
PAL conversion issues: None

  

Yet another shooter, at least this one has a different theme, and you play as a fire breathing dragon. Despite the different setting bringing some variety, this one is a pretty basic and plain looking game compared to the genre kings also available here. It's still a decent shooter, but only worth it if you must shoot things, but for some reason they can't be spaceships or aliens.

Worth buying? Maybe

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Air Zonk
Price: 600 Points
Developer: Hudson Soft
Originally released: 1992
PAL conversion issues: None

  

Bonk's futuristic cousin Zonk stars in a cartoon styled horizontal shooter. It's a great looking game, and plays pretty well, although it suffers from slightly boring regular enemy patterns, much like many other 'cute 'em ups'. It's still a high quality game with some great bosses, and definitely worth a look for shooter fans after something different.

Worth buying? Yes

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Silent Debuggers
Price: 600 Points
Developer: Data East
Originally released: 1991
PAL conversion issues: None

  

A console first person shooter from 1991?. You roam around an 'Alien' inspired space station looking for treasure and defeating monsters. While the combat mechanics are incredibly simple (aiming is pretty rudimentary), it's certainly an achievement for the Turbografx. Most people won't find this too compelling these days, but those with the imagination to pretend it's 1991 may find some atmosphere and decent exploring gameplay today. A 'maybe' from us, but only just.

Worth buying? Maybe.

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Devil's Crush
Price: 600 Points
Developer: Naxat/ Red Entertainment
Originally released: 1990
PAL conversion issues: None

  

Take the already great Alien Crush, improve on absolutely everything, and then change the theme from Geiger aliens to 80's hair metal inspired demons and skeletons. While there's only the one main table, it's filled with details and mini-games. The best pinball game available on the VC, and still one of the greatest ever released on a console (although there are some other contenders on handhelds).

Worth buying? Yes

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Drop Off
Price: 600 Points
Developer: Data East
Originally released: 1990
PAL conversion issues: None

  

A poor Breakout clone with some weird Tetris elements added in. It looks boring and plays badly. Don't bother.

Worth buying? No

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Galaga '90
Price: 600 Points
Developer: Namco
Originally released: 1990
PAL conversion issues: None

  

A late sequel to one of Namco's takes on the Space Invaders type gameplay, Galaga '90 actually lives up to its heritage. Essentially an evolved version of an ancient gameplay type, it's just so well balanced that it becomes quite addictive, and its score based nature makes it a perfect Virtual Console game. For such a simple game, it's not too hard on the eyes either.

Worth buying? Yes

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Cratermaze
Price: 600 Points
Developer: Hudson Soft
Originally released: 1987
PAL conversion issues: None

  

A half decent overhead puzzle game that borrows elements of both Bomberman and Lode Runner, but isn't quite as good as either. You dig holes Lode Runner style, but from an overhead perspective, and with Bomberman like power-ups. If you like those games and have already beaten them, give this a go.

Worth buying? Maybe

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Neutopia
Price: 600 Points
Developer: Hudson Soft
Originally released: 1989
PAL conversion issues: None

  

And we finish with yet another game 'inspired' by another company's property. Neutopia is one of the most obvious Zelda rip-offs ever made (along with Sega's Golden Axe Warrior). Even many of the enemies are directly ripped-off from Miyamoto's masterpiece. But if you're going to steal an idea, there are far worse places to pillage, and Neutopia rises above its clone status to become a pretty damn good action adventure game.

While it plays and is structured almost exactly like the original Zelda, the graphics and sound are much closer to Link to the Past, as is the more developed storyline. If you're a Zelda junkie who's played the lot and wants more while you wait for Phantom Hourglass, this will fit the bill better than almost any other game out there. For everyone else, you should definitely play the real things first, but this is still a high quality game worth the points.

Worth buying? Yes

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Well that does it for our major Virtual Console round-ups, we hope you enjoyed them. From now on we'll keep up with all the releases on the service with periodic articles, beginning with a 'catch up' episode covering everything that's been released since this series began. So stick with PALGN for all your Virtual Console review needs!

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9 Comments
6 years ago
Neutopia eh? Sounds good! I've been waiting for this round up, seeing as I know bugger all about the games.

The few I've downloaded though, I agree with the evaluations 100%.

Thanks for the the good work! I think my next batch of Wii points will be going to a fancy looking Zelda clone icon_wink.gif
6 years ago
Awesome article David I really enjoyed that.

Someone loves there shooters I see icon_wink.gif
6 years ago
I'm not sure about Dragon's Curse being an upgrade, its all the same except for game sprites that dont quite have the charm of Westone's originals (I love long time). I'm totally biased though.

Ive been playing Bonk's Revenge. Is Bonk supposed to get into a gravity defying somersalt if you hold B trigger or is it a bug?
6 years ago
I really can't see myself ever buying a Turbografx game. Almost all of them have no appeal to me. I didn't even know the Turbografx exisited when I was growing up!

Now, where are my Neo Geo games?
6 years ago
Nice article, I wasnt sure which TurboGrafx games were worth getting, so this is a fine guide in deciding which ones are worth looking at icon_smile.gif
6 years ago
döppelganger wrote
I'm not sure about Dragon's Curse being an upgrade, its all the same except for game sprites that dont quite have the charm of Westone's originals (I love long time). I'm totally biased though.
You and me both.

Still, I think you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who prefers Lizard-Man's "brown with big alligator nose" makeover. icon_smile.gif
6 years ago
I too did not know of Turbografx until recently (when it was originally announced for VC). Despite the blatant rip-offs of other successful games, I am impressed with the quality. The graphics are exceptional for the time. Don't know why i hadn't heard of this sooner. There is much to learn.

Pity that more you know, the more you know there is to know. I know it all to well...

Games will fill the sadness. Hehe.

EDIT: Oh, dear goodness, i just saw the packaging.
6 years ago
Now that the Turbografx is on Virtual Console Australia, do I have any reason to keep my Wii set to United Kingdom (in other words, is anything missing from Australia compared to UK)?
6 years ago
Also, for posterity/hilarity's sake:


Altered Beast - Mega Drive



Altered Beast - Turbographx
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