Big budget, Japanese role-playing games are a rarity these days. Outside of obvious mainstays like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, it's a genre that often has to make do with more cost-efficient production. You either get your breakout hit — like Atlus did with Persona 5 — or you go underappreciated for what feels like an eternity, as has been the case with Falcom's The Legend of Heroes franchise.
Bandai Namco's Tales series falls somewhere in between. The property's mainstream popularity peaked with Tales of Symphonia and Tales of Vesperia years ago, and it's been a bit up and down ever since, both in terms of game quality and commercial success. As such, Tales has never quite managed to embed itself as an elite JRPG series — but Tales of Arise is clearly gunning for the top, or thereabouts.
In a lot of ways, Tales of Arise is just what the franchise needed. Without a doubt, this is a bigger budget release. It shows in the gorgeous new graphics engine, and the game's sheer amount of content, both story-driven and optional. A lot of time and effort has been poured into this thing, and as a result, it's the highest quality Tales experience in a long, long while.
You play as Alphen, a mysterious man trapped in an iron mask, who happens to be suffering from a severe bout of amnesia. If your tired anime trope detector is about to explode, that's perfectly understandable — but Alphen, like the rest of the main cast, deserves a chance. Over the course of what quickly becomes a rather epic adventure, Alphen and his fellow party members go through a lot of character development. They're an endearing bunch, and watching them grow bit by bit across this lengthy journey forms the story's backbone.
A slave to start with, Alphen seeks to break free of his shackles and overthrow his oppressors — a race known as the Renans. It's a surprisingly sci-fi premise, as the Renans actually hail from a different planet. They conquered Alphen's homeworld, Dahna, 300 years ago, and now, their technologically advanced empire siphons elemental energy from both Dahna and its inhabitants. A chance encounter with an equally mysterious young woman called Shionne gives Alphen the opportunity that he's been waiting for, and it's not long until the two of them are fighting back against the baddies.
Dahna's liberation is the driving force behind much of the plot, with Alphen, Shionne, and their ragtag allies travelling from one oppressed region to the next. Each area has its own story arc — usually involving a soon-to-be party member — and while a few of them are somewhat predictable, the almost episodic structure makes it all quite memorable. Tales of Arise soon nails that feeling of being on a grand adventure, taking in wonderous sights and embracing the unknown.
It's no picnic, though. At times, the story takes some pretty dark turns, and some of the revelations that Alphen and co. have to deal with add a surprising amount of weight to their quest. Don't get us wrong, it's all anime at the end of the day, but much like Dragon Quest XI, there's a noticeable push to make things just a bit more mature, and it really works.
The plot pacing can be a little wonky, however. Tales of Arise can't escape the modern JRPG trap of having characters explain the current situation over and over again, just in case you weren't listening to the last six conversations. Thankfully, the overarching story has more than enough twists and turns to hold your attention, and, as mentioned, it's hard not to cheer for the characters themselves — especially as the pressure mounts later on.
Overall, the story does a great job of stringing you along — but it's the strong sense of progression that makes Tales of Arise shine. Levelling up your party, learning new abilities, finding new equipment, and finally besting enemies that once seemed insurmountable — all of the stuff that makes playing a classic JRPG feel so rewarding. It's all here, and it's all executed extremely well.
Which brings us neatly to combat. Tales' prime differentiator has always been its battle systems, which embrace combo-based action instead of command or turn based combat. Tales of Arise is no different, but compared to previous Tales titles, it feels much more... modern. Completely free movement and the addition of a responsive dodge roll are immediate game-changers. Meanwhile, special attacks use up AG — a resource that refills in just a couple of seconds, allowing for relentless combos as long as you properly pace yourself.
On a surface level, it could be argued that Tales of Arise has sacrificed technical depth for accessibility — but other adjustments ensure that this combat system blossoms as the game progresses. For starters, enemies around your level or above have large health pools. Just hitting them with normal attacks won't be enough, and so forming flashy combo strings is the way to go. Keep up the combos, and your opponents will eventually stagger, leaving themselves wide open to a 'boost strike' — a glorious instant kill that combines the powers of two party members.
There comes a point where combat just clicks, and it's fantastic. Creating a satisfying rhythm is hugely important for fast-paced action games, and Tales of Arise gets it bang on. Dodging an incoming blow at the last second, filling flashy combos, and calling on your allies to create openings with their own unique boost attacks — it's brilliant fun. And, on PlayStation 5, DualSense support means that different actions use different controller rumblings. It's far from the most impressive implementation of haptic feedback on Sony's system, but it definitely still adds to the experience.
You don't have to play as our sword-wielding protagonist, either. There are six playable party members — interchangeable at any time — and each of them brings their own unique fighting style to the table. Shionne is a long-range sniper, blasting flying enemies out of the sky with her rifle, while Rinwell takes time to cast devastating magic spells that can wreak havoc on whole groups of foes. You don't have to switch characters if you don't want to, but should you decide to freshen things up, there's immense enjoyment to be had in mastering everyone's abilities.
It is a shame, though, that there aren't many types of enemies to contend with. Wolf-like monsters, for example, exist throughout the entire game — they just get more and more evil looking at higher levels. Sure, tougher foes get a couple of new moves that you'll have to watch out for, but visual variety is still an issue. It makes sense in terms of lore — monsters are actually just animals that the Renans weaponised — but it's a bit disappointing to enter a whole new area, only to find that the same kinds of wolves, lobster-things, and overgrown bugs populate the countryside.
Another gripe we have is with party member intelligence. You're joined by three computer-controlled allies at all times in battle, and while you can tweak their behaviour — for the love of god, tell them to run away when their HP is low — they're still frustratingly thick at times. Now, obviously, you don't want your companions to be unstoppable since that would make the game far too easy — but it feels like there's room for improvement.
The problem is that healing spells use a separate resource, called Cure Points. Cure Points are shared across the party and don't regenerate in combat without the use of specific items. And so, while you might be untouchable in a fight, if your allies take a beating, your Cure Points are still going down the drain. In that sense, particularly during difficult boss battles, it can feel like you're being punished for the reckless actions of characters that you have very little control over.
Fortunately, things do tend to even out as you acquire new skills and find better ways to manage your Cure Points — but it's still an annoying aspect of an otherwise thoroughly enjoyable and very well crafted combat system.
Said system is put to good use, by the way. One of our favourite things about Tales of Arise is the amount of late game content, in the form of long, interconnected side quests and challenging optional bosses. Without spoiling anything, these excursions are hugely rewarding, offering up top tier equipment and other powerful boons. Mopping all of this stuff up is an absolute blast, and adds an extra 20 or 30 hours of adventuring to an already meaty, 60-hour RPG.
Moving on, the visuals in Tales of Arise are worth another mention. It's an incredibly pretty game, both in its main character models and its often amazing environmental design. Seriously, some of these locations are stunning in their artistry, presenting the kind of situation where you start panning the camera around in an attempt to breathe it all in. Simply put, this game's begging for a photo mode.
Although once you notice it, there is a weird amount of pop-in going on. Most of the time it's just shadows coating distant environmental details — no big deal — but when non-playable characters start popping into existence 20 feet away, it's a bit jarring.
Elsewhere, performance is hard to fault. A dedicated frame-rate mode ensures 60 frames-per-second in even the most chaotic of boss battles, at what appears to be a fairly high resolution. You can also opt to maximise resolution by cutting the frame-rate to 30, but in our experience, the trade-off really isn't worth it.
Tales of Arise went above and beyond our expectations. With its picturesque landscapes instilling a real sense of adventure, it's easily one of the strongest, most cohesive Tales games to date. Dramatic cutscenes and memorable character moments help sell an intriguing story, while a satisfying combat system becomes more and more engaging as your party powers up. A fantastic, modernised journey with all the rewarding qualities of a classic JRPG.
If anyone's got any questions about Tales of Arise, let me know and I'll try to answer them.
I spent roughly 95 hours playing this game, which includes completing every side quest, and beating every optional boss. Absolutely loved it.
Thanks for reading!
Argh, can't wait. My copy was posted at midday today so if I'm lucky I might get it tomorrow.
>"It's a surprisingly sci-fi premise, as the Renans actually hail from a different planet"
Well, that's actually a standard Tales thing. Not sure if it's in every single game but the standard narrative since the first game is that there are two planets and one of them is in some way harming the other one.
For some reason I just don’t get on with JRPGs, and it’s certainly not through the lack of trying. The constant random battles, pages of text boxes to read, and they all seem to have similar battle systems. The only 2 I got into - but still never finished - were Dragon Quest XI and Ni No kuni 2 Revenant Kingdom. Tales of Arise does look very nice graphically though.
Thanks for the review,so excited to see it receive a 9!
Absolutely loved the demo..and after only 10 minutes on it I just decided id buy Day One.
After being disappointed on the last two I played im so relieved to see the Franchise get back on track.
Just one question...do the town's all look different and have their own personality or do they feel copy and pasted like the last couple..(I think it was Zestiria?)
@Gamer_Girl_ Almost no story-based backtracking in this. The only time you revisit previous locations is to complete side quests and things like that, but there's a fast travel system that makes getting around a breeze.
@Wazeddie22 The towns are all very different from one another. There aren't that many, but each of them look completely distinct. The big cities are gorgeous as well!
I never played a Tales of game and I still need to try out the demo, but I'm definitely interested.
Is the grade shop still in ng+ and if so has it been expanded in any way?
@1_W1NG3D_4NG3L The Trophy list is actually quite straightforward — it's just that a lot of them are based on endgame content. It's one of those lists that's like "do everything". Again, straightforward, but definitely time consuming.
That said, there are no massively grindy Trophies. I got just about all of them in my playthrough without having to do any hard grinding.
Putting this on my list. I already have Scarlet Nexus in my backlog though so it will probably be a while until I get to it
I downloaded the demo as I was curious about this, having never played a Tales game. After 10 minutes, I pre ordered the game. I have never felt such a connection with a JRPG game since picking up Dragon Quest or Persona. Super excited to play. 😁
@ShogunRok Excellent,thanks for the quick response.Nothing I hate more in an rpg going to a new town or village to find it's identical to the one just visited.
@Shadcai I don't think there's a grade shop but you find 'Artifacts' throughout the game that can be carried over into New Game+. So things like increased exp, character levels, equipment, skills — all of the usual stuff.
@Wazeddie22 iIt was Xillia that had the same exact port town copy-pasted numerous times throughout the game. Zestiria didn't have copied towns as far as I remember. Xillia also did this thing I hate where the whole world feels fake because it's basically just different coloured rooms linked by corridors. You know, like a few "desert rooms" the a few "mountain rooms". Every area has walls on each side. Zestiria really moved away from that, thankfully.
Roll on Friday. Can't wait, HUGE Tales fan here. Played every one of 'em
I generally have trouble completing Tales games. I usually hit the 15-20 hour mark and stop caring. I'll watch for a price drop on this one. I'm currently wrapping up Ys IX, which - like Lacrimosa of Dana before it - is fantastic.
Does it give you that sense of a grand adventurous journey like FFXII did?
N.i.c.e i knew this game was gonna get a 9 on pushsquare.the demo was probably the best demo i ever play word up son
@ShogunRok Nice review as always. Watched my kid play the demo on hard - kept making fun of me that I couldn't handle all of the micromanaging controls - and it looked really good, even on PS4. Barely beat the final demo boss, 1 survivor, every item used. Long and thrilling. As for the repeating monsters, after 60 or so hours of Immortals - boar, bear, harpy, minotaur red blue purple - I'm not sure I'd notice. 😝
So my question is, for the 90m of us PS4 owners who still don't have a PS5, is the game that much better that it's worth a wait? My "wait for PS5" list is getting really long, could use something now. My kid started Ghost of Tsushima b/c of the wait, I may start after baseball season ends. #LFGM
Besides the wordy and over explained plot points are there many / any eye rolling cringe and inconsistent writing moments akin to Scarlet Nexus? Honestly, that game has got my back up about starting another JRPG for those reasons but this one has definitely piqued my interest.
@ApostateMage Ooooh, I wouldn't want to compare it to FFXII (the sense of adventure in that one is off the charts), but it comes pretty close. Some glorious environments in this.
@rjejr Eh, probably not. From what I've read, it's pretty good on PS4 as well, although I don't think there's a 60fps mode on the base console (actually, I'm not even sure about the Pro).
If you enjoyed the demo on PS4, I think you'll be fine. If you can wait, then PS5 is obviously better, but there's no huge gap in terms of quality from what I've seen.
@Ward_ting The writing is generally a lot better in Tales of Arise, and that's mostly down to the characters being much more fleshed out. The dialogue and storytelling is way more consistent than it is in Scarlet Nexus.
Looks great, I really like the demo so I'll get this after I finish ratchet & clank ps5 😃
@ShogunRok How much of a hero do you play? After being interested in Tales of Bersaria having you play as a villain and finding the moral greyness in Tales of Vesparia something that made me curious, what should I expect form Arise? Something more heroic, or what?
I played about 5 minutes of the demo before realizing I was wasting time so I preordered the game right away. I knew instantly that the game was a banger!
Glad to be confirmed by one of my favourite reviewers!
I am kinda sad about the enemy repetition but I'm hoping the bosses and side bosses offer enough variation
Im glad they finally decided to use Unreal and change the style. The game is absoutely gorgeous. I think one of the problems with the tales series is that in the last 10 years, 4 of their games were basically indistinguishable from each other.
@ShogunRok Are all lines voiced, or is there a heavy emphasis on reading (as with Scarlet Nexus)?
Also, is any prior knowledge of the previous games required/essential/not required (*delete as appropriate)?
Thanks for the review...
@ShogunRok is it as good as Top Tier Tales of Graces f though?? I doubt it
@ShogunRok that’s great! Thanks for that.
@Jaz007 The party is definitely more heroic than in Berseria. The thrust of the main story is liberating your home planet from an evil empire — but it goes without saying that it's not as black and white as it first seems.
@Fiendish-Beaver I'd say 95% of story dialogue is voiced, and there's a lot of it. All of the optional character interactions — or 'skits' as the Tales games call them — are fully voiced as well.
The only time you get dialogue boxes is during most side quests and when you talk to NPCs who are standing around towns.
@SuperSilverback It's infinitely better than Graces f.
... But then as you know, I don't like Graces f!
@ShogunRok Just one more thing. You talk about an extensive New Game+, in what ways is it extensive? What is different than the main game?
@ShogunRok Thank you for the quick response. I did add a bit to my question, but you may not have seen it. Apologies for repeating it again if you did see it...
Also, is any prior knowledge of the previous games required/essential/not required (*delete as appropriate)?
Thanks for the review...
@AFCC Some bosses get reused as well, unfortunately...
But it's not as bad as it sounds. The main bosses are all completely unique. And to be fair, while I do think the enemy variety is lacking, the combat's fun enough to keep you playing anyway.
As for New Game+, you find 'artifacts' throughout the game that give you bonuses. Things like permanent experience point multipliers. You can carry all of these things to NG+, along with your character levels, equipment, skills, and a bunch of other extras. You can turn them all on/off as well, so you can customise your NG+ run however you like.
Sounds great, and it appears that the trophy challenges are more respectful of our time also. Still don’t like the art style for the characters compared to previous games, but this is a relatively small gripe.
@Fiendish-Beaver Sorry, yeah, Tales games are like Final Fantasy, where each new game is its own separate story, usually set in a completely different world with different characters. You don't need knowledge of any previous Tales games to understand Tales of Arise — it's its own thing.
There are a few nods to older games here and there in the form of Easter eggs and secrets, but that's all.
Amazing. Another brilliant game on the schedule. Can’t wait.
The demo was rock solid. It will keep me busy for a good amount of time.
now see I was going to pass on this Tales game because the press material leading up to its release painted it as purely high fantasy, to a much larger degree than previous entries, and I HATE fantasy...but now the reviews are coming in and there's definitely an element of scifi there, I might change my tune. For the record my favourite Tales game was Symphonia, that should give you some idea.
@ShogunRok that's high praise Ramsey, high praise indeed. Might have to check it out. Replaying Zestiria atm as I never finished the first time. Its a fecken chore
I gave the demo a shot but I just can't get into the combat. The weird thing is I can't put my finger on what it is that I don't like about it. Maybe it's just how chaotic it looks on screen? I did find it hard to follow what's going on when the battles got too busy.
Funnily enough the demo for Scarlet Nexus was made by some former devs of the Tales series clicked much more for me.
Sick, can’t wait to try this on Gamepass. It’s hard for me to get into JRPGs as I get older, but luckily I don’t have to feel bad about not seeing it through if it isn’t for me. The writing being the best in the series has me intrigued.
I don't like Tales combat so making it more accessible sounds delightful to me. This is the sort of JRPG where I don't really want a challenge - I just want to play on easy and enjoy the story. Might give this one a go.
@Korgon For what it's worth, I don't think the demo does a very good job of introducing the combat. It just kind of throws you into it.
In the full game, it's a lot more gradual. You start out with just two party members, and so the screen isn't caked in all kinds of crazy attacks. You steadily unlock new skills and techniques, and the sense of progression is really well done.
If the full game was as chaotic as the demo right off the bat, I agree, it would be a problem. But overall, I think the game does a great job of introducing things bit by bit.
(Although having said all that, late-game combat can be very chaotic!)
I currently have a huge backlog but will definitely buy this in the future! Thanks.
@ShogunRok Thank you so much for this brilliant review as well as taking the time to respond to so many of these questions! I have to ask, dungeon design was a bit of a sore spot for me with Tales of games, so much so that I dropped both Graces F and Berseria at the final dungeon because I didn't want to slog through awful dungeon design. Do you feel Arise avoids this? I don't want to get burnt again lol
@tabris95 The majority of dungeons in Arise are great — really nice looking environments just like the rest of the game.
That said, the final story dungeon is... Long. And has a lot of corridors. I didn't mind it because I really enjoyed the combat, but by the sounds of it, it won't change your opinion on final Tales dungeons!
But yeah, up until that point, dungeons are quite varied and fit into the world. No copy/paste design or annoying repetition.
@ShogunRok do you by any chance know if you can turn off the character voices in combat when you use spells, loved the demo but hearing them say the same things 10 times in a row or consistenly was just nerve grated
Fair enough. Maybe I'll give the full game a shot down the line. I remember playing the Mass Effect 2 demo back on PS3 and didn't care for that until I played the full game. Now it is easily among my favorite games of all time so maybe it's just because RPGs are hard to demo. But glad you liked it!
My advice is to ignore this hyping up.
The series has been mediocre since Vesperia and from the demo, nothing changed except the graphics.
@Uromastryx I actually looked into this while I was playing, and no, there's no way to disable voices in combat. There is an option to lower the voice volume — which I would recommend doing, just a bit — but that's all.
You could also try playing with Japanese voices, which might not grate as much since it's a different language (unless you happen to speak Japanese!).
@SuperSilverback I feel like I'm one of the only people who actually liked Zestiria! But yeah, even as a fan, parts of it are a slog — and that accessory system is bloody terrible. Nothing nearly as bad as that in Arise, thankfully.
@ShogunRok Perfect, thank you.
I'm sure the game is going to be amazing but I'd argue the series has been consistently good with only one game really getting flamed. And it was immediately fixed with Berseria which is a great game itself but sadly some turned away from the series because of that one bad game game so it received way less recognition
As for arise, I played the demo and it literally felt the same as all the other Tales I've played. Which is great cause this series has always been fun to play lol. Looking forward to this
OK, I belive ill lower the volume, I'm thinking long term like end game when optional bosses got stupid amount of hp, encounters might go on abit.
But thanks for the reply 👍
So many people on my friends list already has this game preorder. I already can tell this will be the highest selling Tales game yet.
@ShogunRok Does this game bring back the traditional equipment system or does it still use the same dreadful RNG tiered equipment system that Xillia introduced. I HATE that system as the RNG gods have forsaken me and I've actually been softlocked with no hope of progression due to horrible RNG draws. 😠
@Matroska Yes that's it exactly!It felt so cheap and dissapointing.It was like they couldn't be bothered with the designs on that one and maybe no-one would notice..gotta say I was sure it was Zestiria but I think it's mainly cuz I remember being disappointed in both.Strangely enough I quite enjoyed Xillia 2 though.
@TowaHerschel7 It's got a traditional equipment system, no RNG stuff for weapons and armour. You have to craft most weapons but it's just a case of getting materials from monsters. Easy stuff.
Accessories need to be crafted as well, but they require materials from ore spots. These materials are randomised to some degree, but never to a point where it feels like the game is screwing you with RNG. Besides, weapons and armour make the most difference — it's only endgame accessories that have worthwhile effects, and by then, you'll have loads of them.
I'm glad to hear of the sci-fi angle. Zestiria & Berseria were a bit less interesting than Abyss & Vesperia for me since they dropped the magitech elements the earlier games had (though admittedly Berseria's town, dungeon, & character designs weren't nearly as bland as Zestiria's), so I'm glad to hear this game brings that back.
I should probably try this series sometime. 🤔
Best in a long time...as in 5 years? Because Bersaria was excellent
Hi there fellow gamers.
Great review @ShogunRok. I just got more hyped for Arise.
Sucks that the party members are not so bright just like in the demo. Maybe we just need to get used to it.
One question though, in terms of crafting, is it just weapons or are there some armor as well? I noticed you could craft accessories in the demo, but I think that was it.
Thanks in advance.
Just two more days to get myself in anime mode 😉
Oh, and why don´t you like Graces f, if you don´t mind me asking? I´m just curious.
Cheers, stay safe everyone and happy gaming to us all
@ShogunRok Thanks, that's what I figured, but better safe than sorry. Thank you Cyberpunk. 😝
@ShogunRok How Is The Music?
@RaZieLDaNtE Yeah, there is armour as well, but you can't craft it. Crafting is only weapons and accessories. Armour is found in treasure chests and can be bought from merchants, that kind of thing.
I don't quite hate Graces f — I think the gameplay's actually pretty good — but I really disliked the characters back when I played it, so I found it difficult to enjoy the story.
@Areus The music is actually good, it's just that none of it really stood out to me to the point where I thought it was worth mentioning in the review. Soundtrack is solid and well made, but I wouldn't say it's memorable.
@ShogunRok So the Streak Continues.
Off topic but the suggestion that anime isn't or can't be mature feels wrong. I can see where the reviewer was coming from, but there's so much evidence to the contrary.
I have fond memories of playing a Tales game years ago on my PS2 (I totally forgot which one). It's awesome Bandai Namco has kept the series alive to this day. I'm definitely getting in...when I knock a game off of my backlog list.
@ShogunRok epic performance, all the way around. Its always fantastic to see someone enjoy their work and do it well. Thanks!
@ShogunRok Hey there friend and thanks for the reply.
So just weapons and accessories for Arise. Got it.
As for Graces f I see what you mean. The characters were not the best of a Tales of game I´ll give you that.
Both Hubert Oswell and Sophie would get on my nerves 😜
But the combat system was pretty good.
Except the difficulty spikes at the end.
Cheers, stay safe and all the best
@Salt_AU Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
@Alto200 You're right, anime can obviously be mature (I'm a massive Gundam fan, for a start!), but in this case describing something as "anime" is meant to be shorthand for the kind of cliches and tropes that people generally associate with popular anime properties.
I think Tales of Arise falls into the category of being a very "anime" game, if that makes sense.
@DrJames Thanks! I always feel lucky when I get to review something that I really enjoy.
Cheers for the review. Just started it and looks wonderful on PS5. Digging it so far!
@Alto200 This, Anime industry is no different from western cartoons industry in terms of how their most popular demographic is young people(18 and under), so of course mature content won't be that predominant, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist.
@CthulhuFhtagn That's why I absolutely loved White Knight Chronicles on PS3. The sense of adventure in that game was so bloody good.
Great review! I look forward to trying this out in a few years..want to play thru the older titles first.
Read that the PS4 save data can't transferred to the PS5?
Finally a great Tales after the Vesperia. Keep up the good work Bandai Namco to establish Tales a high-quality jrpg
Been looking forward to this ever since it was announced. Gamespot didn't like it which surprised me and as to be expected the comments were filled with angry fanboys foaming at the mouth almost, it was quite pathetic tbh seeing people get themselves so worked up over one guy's opinion.
Still though I'm glad Push Square Staff enjoyed it. I look forward to starting my playthrough tomorrow.
“Technical depth” is not a phrase I’d use to describe any Tales combat. I beat Berseria on normal difficulty and combat was overwhelmingly a mindless button mash. No different than your standard rpg where you hit attack a few times and move on though.
@ShogunRok last time I asked you named your best to worst TALES OF games, with Xillia as first and Graces F last. What is your ranking now that Arise is here?
@Oscarjpc Honestly, it's been so long since I played the other Tales games that I'm not even sure how I'd rank them (I'd love a Xillia remaster!). But I'm fairly confident that Arise would be at or near the top.
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