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Yu Suzuki

Yu Suzuki.

Yu Suzuki of Sega is one of the most influential Game designers, creating some of the world's most popular games such as Virtua Fighter, OutRun, Ferrari F355 Challenge, and the Shenmue series.


Yu Suzuki (鈴木 裕 Suzuki Yū?, born June 10, 1958) is a Japanese game designer and producer who has spent his entire career with Sega Enterprises, particularly the Sega AM2 division. Often referred to as Sega's answer to Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto, he has been responsible for the creation of many of Sega's most important games.

During the mid-to-late-1980s, he created Super Scaler arcade games that popularized pseudo-3D gaming with sprite-scaling graphics as well as motion-controlled arcade cabinets, including racing video games such as Hang-On, Out Run and Power Drift as well as third-person rail shooters such as Space Harrier and After Burner. During the early-mid-1990s, he created Sega Model arcade games that popularized and advanced polygonal 3D graphics and gameplay, including Virtua Racing, the Virtua Fighter series of fighting games, the texture-filtered racing game Daytona USA, and the Virtua Cop series of light gun shooters.

In the late 1990s, he created the racing simulation F355 Challenge, and the critically acclaimed[1][2] Shenmue series for the Dreamcast, which was a major step forward for 3D open world gameplay. During the early-mid-2000s, he create several more arcade hits such as Virtua Fighter 4 and OutRun 2 while working on experimental titles such as the cancelled touchscreen fighting game Psy-Phi, but has been mostly inactive since then.

In 2003, Suzuki became the sixth person to be inducted into the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences' Hall of Fame. IGN listed him at #9 in their Top 100 Game Creators of All Time list.[3]


Suzuki was born and raised in Iwate Prefecture, Japan, the older of two children to parents who were elementary school teachers. Suzuki's father was Yuzuru, and his mother, Taka, taught piano. Suzuki has one younger sister named Yuka, who became a dance teacher. Yu Suzuki's interests were wide-ranging as a child. At a young age, he was encouraged by his father to have an interest in music and the arts on which it would end up staying with him for the rest of his life. He also enjoyed building numerous model cars, wooden miniature houses, and robots made of plastic blocks, as well as a passion for drawing.

Before entering college, Suzuki flirted with the idea of going into education, having been influenced by his parents. After a while, he thought of becoming an illustrator and then a dentist; however, the latter dream was short-lived, as he didn't pass the required entry exam for dental school. Ever resourceful, Suzuki began to play the guitar, but he stated in an interview with G4TV that, "No matter how much I practiced, I never got that much better."

Seeing the similarities between the plastic blocks he played with as a child and the architecture of electronic design, Yu Suzuki decided to pursue computer programming at the Okayama University of Science. He graduated from there in the early 1980s. He was also interested in music. He played guitar at Music club called "Muscat" at Okayama Ridai.

Career at Sega (1983–2003)

Suzuki joined Sega Enterprises in 1983 as a programmer. In his first year, he created a 2D boxing arcade game called Champion Boxing,[4] which was later ported to Sega's first home game console, the SG-1000.[4] Under the mantle of Sega's development studio AM2, Suzuki began working on another arcade game which would prove to be the big stepping-off point of his career. "To develop this game," Suzuki told G4TV, "I rode on motorcycles a lot. When we came up with the prototype (for the arcades), I would ride on that prototype bike for hours and hours every day." His and AM2's efforts culminated into the game Hang-On, released in 1985. Hang-On was a success as it broke new ground in arcade technology. It did not feature any traditional controls, as the movement of the on-screen avatar was dictated by the movements the player made with their body on the motorcycle cabinet. This began the "Taikan" trend, the use of motion-controlled hydraulic arcade cabinets in many arcade games of the late 1980s, two decades before motion controls became popular on video game consoles.[5] Running on the Sega Space Harrier hardware, it was also the first of Sega's "Super Scaler" arcade system boards that allowed pseudo-3D sprite-scaling at high frame rates.[6] The pseudo-3D sprite/tile scaling was handled in a similar manner to textures in later texture-mapped polygonal 3D games of the 1990s.[7] Suzuki stated that his "designs were always 3D from the beginning. All the calculations in the system were 3D, even from Hang-On. I calculated the position, scale, and zoom rate in 3D and converted it backwards to 2D. So I was always thinking in 3D."[8]

Suzuki and AM2 soon followed with the 3D-esque third-person shooter game Space Harrier later that year. The game introduced a true analog flight stick for movement,[9] with the ability to register movement in any direction as well as measure the degree of push, which could move the player character at different speeds depending on how far the stick is pushed in a certain direction.[10] It also featured cockpit-shaped video game arcade cabinet that moved in the direction the player moved the joystick. Its success established Suzuki as the leading arcade game designer at the time.[9]

Showing his interest in Ferraris, Suzuki created the driving simulator Out Run, which was released in 1986. Although it didn't officially feature a Ferrari, the player controlled a car that looked almost exactly like one. Out Run offered players a wide variety of driving paths and routes to complete the game, adding elements of nonlinear gameplay and increasing replay value. It also featured a radio with three songs to choose from as players drove through the wide variety of landscapes. At the Golden Joystick Awards, Out Run was awarded the Game of the Year award.[11]

Suzuki's later hits included the jet fighting After Burner series in the late 1980s and the roller coaster kart racer Power Drift in 1988. Improving on the "Super Scaler" technology and road scrolling effects of Hang-On and Out Run, Power Drift created "all of its track layouts with flat bitmaps" to simulate a "wholly 3D space using strictly 2D technology.".[12] In 1990, Suzuki brought out a spiritual sequel to After Burner called G-LOC, which featured a gyroscope-like cabinet that rotated 360 degrees to give players the realistic illusion of flying a fighter jet.

Suzuki had been interested in 3D technology since his days in college. Although Space Harrier and Out Run had graphics similar to 3D, they did not fully utilize the capabilities. When Sega released the Model 1 development board, a piece of hardware capable of generating 3D polygonal graphics, Suzuki and AM2 began developing games for it. In 1992, they released the 3D Formula 1 racer Virtua Racing, which was considered one of, if not the most, realistic-looking arcade games on the market at that time. GameSpot listed it as one of the 15 most influential video games of all time, commenting that "It wasn't the first fully polygonal game on the market ... but along with Virtua Fighter, Sega's 1993 release on the same hardware, it introduced the concept of polygonal graphics to the masses."[13]

In 1993, Suzuki created Virtua Fighter, the first 3D fighting game, which became enormously popular and spawned a series of sequels and spinoffs.[4] It inspired many 3D fighting games such as the Tekken and Soul Calibur series.[14] Some of the Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) staff involved in the creation of the original PlayStation console credit Virtua Fighter as inspiration for the PlayStation's 3D graphics hardware. According to SCE's former producer Ryoji Akagawa and chairman Shigeo Maruyama, the PlayStation was originally being considered as a 2D focused hardware, and it wasn't until the success of Virtua Fighter in the arcades that they decided to design the PlayStation as a 3D focused hardware.[15] Next Generation, in 1995, stated Virtua Fighter "epitomizes Suzuki's skill of finding the perfect blend of state-of-the-art technology with solid gameplay".[16] The Virtua Fighter series was recognized by the Smithsonian Institution,[17] as an application which made great contributions to society in the field of art and entertainment. The same year, he debuted the Sega Model 2 with Daytona USA, which featured the use of texture mapping with texture filtering, producing graphics that were, according to IGN, "light-years ahead of anything anyone had seen."[18]

In 1994, he created Virtua Fighter 2, which featured filtered, texture-mapped characters. Suzuki noted that the game's texture-mapping technology was limited to the military and cost millions, which his AM2 team acquired and used to create a much cheaper affordable graphics chip for the Model 2 that could be mass-produced. Virtua Fighter 2 was also known for its character animations, which were produced using motion capture technology that had previously never been used by the game industry.[19] The same year, he created Virtua Cop, which broke new ground by popularizing the use of 3D graphics in shooter games.[20] It inspired 3D light gun shooters such as Time Crisis and The House of the Dead as well as 3D first-person shooters such as GoldenEye 007.[21] Suzuki also oversaw most of the home console conversions of AM2's arcade games.[22]

Suzuki's Shenmue, released for the Dreamcast in 1999, gave rise to a new style of adventure games, bending it away from the typical mold most games of its nature seem to fit into, with Suzuki's own concept denoted as "FREE" (Full Reactive Eyes Entertainment). Shenmue was the most expensive game to be developed until Grand Theft Auto IV in 2008, with the whole project costing 70 million USD,[23] equivalent to 93 million USD in 2011.[24] Shenmue was a major step forward for 3D open world, nonlinear gameplay, touted as offering an unparalleled level of player freedom, giving them full reign to explore an expansive sandbox city with its own day-night cycles, changing weather, and fully voiced non-player characters going about their daily routines. The game's large interactive environments, level of detail and the scope of its urban sandbox exploration has been compared to later sandbox games like Grand Theft Auto III and its sequels, Sega's own Yakuza series, Fallout 3, and Deadly Premonition.[3][25][26][27] The game also revived the quick time event mechanic and coined a name for it, "QTE". The mechanic has since appeared in many later titles, including popular action games such as Resident Evil 4, God of War, Tomb Raider: Legend, Heavenly Sword, and Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Conspiracy.[28]

Suzuki's arcade game Ferrari F355 Challenge was a racing simulator created upon a strong partnership with Ferrari. Rubens Barrichello of the F1 Team Ferrari was quoted by Suzuki to "have considered to purchase one for practicing." The game was considered the most accurate racing simulation of the Ferrari F355 possible up until that time.[14][29]

In 2003, Yu Suzuki, along with Hiroshi Kataoka, produced sequels for OutRun and Virtua Cop, entitled OutRun 2 and Virtua Cop 3, respectively. Suzuki left AM2 to form a new Studio eventually named DigitalRex.

Digitalrex (2004–2009)

At DigitalRex, Yu Suzuki worked on 4 games: Psy-Phi, Shenmue Online, Sega Race TV, and an unannounced fantasy sports game. Shenmue Online and the Sports game were cancelled during development. PsyPhi a game that was initially delayed due to development shifting from Sega Chihiro to Sega Lindbergh Arcade boards.[30] The game was successfully completed but was never shipped as it performed poorly at location testing.[31] One of the biggest problems with the game the developers couldn't get around was that players' fingers heated up too much from the friction of moving over the screen, and the game just became painful to play.[32]

The goal of his new studio was to make Shenmue Online to penetrate the rising Asian MMO RPG markets.[33] After numerous problems in development Shenmue Online was quietly cancelled[34] The development of Shenmue Online cost Sega and JCEntertainment almost $26 Million dollars [35][36]

After 4 years away from AM2 Yu Suzuki released his first game an Arcade racing game titled Sega Race TV released under the studio name AM plus. The game was given a limited release and did not do well commercially. After the release of the game Suzuki resumed non executive work as an adviser for AM2.

In the spring of 2009, rumors surfaced that Yu Suzuki would step down from Sega after 26 years of employment. However, an article written by Brendan Sinclair, a reporter for the American video game journalism website GameSpot, stated the rumors to be false and that an anonymous representative for Sega of America revealed that Suzuki was in fact not retiring but staying "in a much more diminished capacity" than in the past. He has become the manager of the R&D department for Sega's new development studio, AM Plus. AM Plus has solely focused its attention on the Japanese video arcade market with such titles as Psy-Phi (which was cancelled), a dodgeball-esque one-on-one fighting game using touchscreen controls whose development was headed by Suzuki, and the character-based racing game Sega Race TV (limited release).[37] According to a gamasutra interview, Yu Suzuki plans to officially leave Sega in September 2011 to concentrate on his own development studio YS NET. However, he will not completely cut ties with Sega as he will take an advisory role within the company.[38]

Mainstream return with YS.Net (2010–present)

In 2010 it was rumored that Yu Suzuki would be appearing at E3, and revealing a game for the PlayStation 3 incorporating the new PlayStation Move motion control technology. The game was rumored to be a reworked Psy-Phi.[39][40] Although this was proven as a hoax as Suzuki was not in attendance at E3 and no updates are available on the cancelled Psy-Phi.

Yu Suzuki's actual main stream return took place in fall of 2010, with a new game in the Shenmue Series, titled Shenmue City, was being developed by Sunsoft and YS Net (Yu Suzuki's new studio) for Yahoo Games.[41][42]

In December 2010, 1UP posted an interview with Yu Suzuki titled "The Disappearance of Yu Suzuki" it was his first English interview in several years. It was also a career retrospective conducted by former 1UP Editor in Chief James Mielke with Tak Hirai (both are employees at Tetsuya Mizuguchi's Q Entertainment).[43]

In March 2011, Yu Suzuki was at GDC to receive a pioneer award for his body of work.[32] Prior to the award ceremony, He also participated in an open panel career retrospective hosted by Mark Cerny. Also at GDC he participated with MEGA64 to record his voice for a parody video on "how shenmue was meant to end" In December 2011, Yu Suzuki flew to TGS (Toulouse Game Show) in France and participated in an open panel career retrospective. He also participated in an open with Tekken producer Katsuhiro Harada, they both talked about their games and fought each other in both of their respected fighting franchises.

In 2012, Suzuki designed a mobile game for the Virtua Fighter series, titled Cool Champ.[44]

In 2013, Suzuki designed a new shooting game, titled Shooting Wars with Premium Agency; this was YS.Net's first original game unrelated to any of Suzuki's previous Sega franchises.[45][46] In July 2013, Suzuki returned to France for Monaco Animé Game Show.

On March 19, 2014, Yu Suzuki held a Shenmue Postmortem at the Game Developers Conference 2014, with Suzuki discussing the development of Shenmue.[47]

On June 2014, Yu Suzuki received a "Legend Award" in Barcelona, Spain during Gamelab Barcelona 2014. [48]



Year Title Platform Genre Director Designer Producer Other role(s)
1984 Champion Boxing SG-1000 Sports (Boxing) Programmer
1985 Champion Pro Wrestling SG-1000 Sports (Wrestling)
Hang-On Sega Hang-On Racing (Motorbike)
Space Harrier Sega Space Harrier Rail Shooter
(Third-Person Shooter)
Special Thanks
Hang-On Sega Master System Racing (Motorbike)
1986 OutRun Sega OutRun Racing
(Street Racer)
Enduro Racer Sega Space Harrier Dirt Racing (Motorbike)
Space Harrier Sega Master System Rail Shooter
(Third-Person Shooter)
Special Thanks
(as Yu)
1987 Super Hang-On Sega OutRun Racing (Motorbike)
After Burner Sega X Board Flight Sim
(Third-Person Rail Shooter)
After Burner II Sega X Board Flight Sim
(Third-Person Rail Shooter)
1988 Power Drift Sega Y Board Racing (Kart Racer)
Dynamite Dux Sega System 16 Beat 'Em Up /
Run & Gun Shooter
1989 Turbo OutRun Sega OutRun Racing
(Street Racer)
Special Thanks
(as Yu)


Year Title Platform Genre Director Designer Producer Other role(s)
1990 G-LOC: Air Battle Sega Y Board Flight Sim
(Combat Flight Sim)
GP Rider Sega X Board Racing (Motorbike)
1991 Strike Fighter Sega Y Board Flight Sim
(Combat Flight Sim)
Rent-A-Hero Sega Mega Drive Role-Playing Game
(Action RPG)
F1 Exhaust Note Sega System 32 Racing
Soreike Kokology Sega System 32
Sword of Vermilion Sega Mega Drive Role-Playing Game Special Thanks
1992 Virtua Racing Sega Model 1 Racing Chief Programmer
1993 GP Rider Sega Game Gear Racing (Motorbike)
F1 Super Lap Sega System 32 Racing
Virtua Fighter Sega Model 1 Fighting (3D)
Virtua Formula Sega Model 1 Racing
Burning Rival Sega System 32 Fighting (2D)
Soreike Kokology 2 Sega System 32
Daytona USA Sega Model 2 Racing
1994 Space Harrier Sega 32X Rail Shooter
(Third-Person Shooter)
Virtua Fighter Sega Saturn Fighting (3D) Special Thanks
Virtua Fighter 2 Sega Model 2 Fighting (3D) Supervisor
Desert Tank Sega Model 2 Vehicle Combat Sim
(Third-Person Shooter)
Virtua Cop Sega Model 2 Light Gun Shooter
(First-Person Rail Shooter)
1995 After Burner Sega 32X Flight Sim
(Third-Person Rail Shooter)
Daytona USA Sega Saturn Racing Special Thanks
Virtua Fighter Sega 32X Fighting (3D) Special Thanks
Virtua Fighter Remix Sega ST-V
Sega Saturn
Fighting (3D)
Virtua Fighter 2 Sega Saturn Fighting (3D)
Virtua Striker Sega Model 2 Sports (Football)
Fighting Vipers Sega Model 2 Fighting (3D)
Virtua Cop Sega Saturn Light Gun Shooter
(First-Person Rail Shooter)
Virtua Cop 2 Sega Model 2 Light Gun Shooter
(First-Person Rail Shooter)
1996 Virtua Fighter 2 Sega Mega Drive Fighting (3D) Supervisor
Virtua Cop 2 Sega Saturn Light Gun Shooter
(First-Person Rail Shooter)
Fighting Vipers Sega Saturn Fighting (3D)
Sonic the Fighters Sega Model 2 Fighting (3D)
Virtua Fighter 3 Sega Model 3 Fighting (3D)
Virtua Fighter Kids Sega ST-V Fighting (3D)
Virtua Fighter Kids Sega Saturn Fighting (3D) Creator,
Special Thanks
Fighters Megamix Sega Saturn Fighting (3D)
Scud Race Sega Model 3 Racing Special Thanks
1997 Virtua Cop PC Light Gun Shooter
(First-Person Rail Shooter)
Virtua Fighter 2 PC Fighting (3D) Supervisor
Virtua Cop 2 PC Light Gun Shooter
(First-Person Rail Shooter)
Virtua Fighter 3: Team Battle Sega Model 3 Fighting (3D)
Virtua Striker 2 Sega Model 3 Sports (Football)
Digital Dance Mix Vol.1 Namie Amuro Sega Saturn Music Game
(Rhythm Game)
All Japan Pro-Wrestling Featuring Virtua Sega ST-V
Sega Saturn
Sports (Wrestling)
1998 Virtua Cop 1-2 Pack Sega Saturn Light Gun Shooter
(First-Person Rail Shooter)
Virtua Fighter 3: Team Battle Dreamcast Fighting (3D) Creator
Fighting Vipers 2 Sega Model 3 Fighting (3D)
Virtua Striker 2 '98 Sega Model 3 Sports (Football)
Daytona USA 2 Sega Model 3 Racing
Daytona USA 2: Power Edition Sega Model 3 Racing
1999 Ferrari F355 Challenge Sega NAOMI Multiboard Racing (Simulation)
D-2 Dreamcast Survival Horror
(First-Person Shooter)
Special Thanks
What's Shenmue Dreamcast Action-Adventure
(Open World)
Shenmue Dreamcast Action-Adventure
(Open World)
Outtrigger Sega NAOMI First-Person Shooter /
Third-Person Shooter
18 Wheeler: American Pro Trucker Sega NAOMI Racing


Year Title Platform Genre Director Designer Producer Other role(s)
2000 Virtua Cop 2 Dreamcast Light Gun Shooter
(First-Person Rail Shooter)
Ferrari F355 Challenge Dreamcast Racing
18 Wheeler: American Pro Trucker Dreamcast Racing Special Thanks
2001 Yu Suzuki Game Works Vol. 1 Dreamcast Compilation
Fighting Vipers 2 Dreamcast Fighting (3D)
F355 Challenge 2 Sega NAOMI Multiboard Racing (Simulation)
Shenmue II Dreamcast Action-Adventure
(Open World)
Virtua Fighter 4 Sega NAOMI 2 Fighting (3D) Executive Producer,
Executive Director
2002 Shenmue II Xbox Action-Adventure
(Open World)
Executive Producer
Virtua Fighter 4 PS2 Fighting (3D) Executive Director
Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution Sega NAOMI 2 Fighting (3D)
Virtua Cop: Elite Edition PS2 Light Gun Shooter
(First-Person Rail Shooter)
Creator, Supervisor
Ferrari F355 Challenge PS2 Racing (Simulation)
2003 Propeller Arena Dreamcast
(leaked online)
Flight Sim
(Third-Person Shooter)
Executive Director
Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution PS2 Fighting (3D) Executive Director
Devastation PC First-Person Shooter Special Thanks
Virtua Cop 3 Sega Chihiro Light Gun Shooter
(First-Person Rail Shooter)
Executive Director,
Executive Producer
OutRun 2 Sega Chihiro Racing
(Street Racer)
Executive Producer
Sega Ages 2500 Series Vol. 4: Space Harrier PS2 Rail Shooter
(Third-Person Shooter)
Executive Supervisor
2004 Sega Ages 2500 Series Vol. 8: Virtua Racing -FlatOut- PS2 Racing Executive Supervisor
Sega Ages 2500 Series Vol. 10: After Burner II PS2 Flight Sim
(Third-Person Shooter)
Sega Ages 2500 Series Vol. 13: OutRun PS2 Racing
(Street Racer)
Virtua Fighter 4: Final Tuned Sega NAOMI 2 Fighting (3D)
2005 Psy-Phi Sega Lindbergh Fighting
Pure Breed Cancelled RPG
2006 Shenmue Online PC (cancelled) RPG
2008 Sega Race TV Sega Lindbergh Racing
Executive Producer


Year Title Platform Genre Director Designer Producer Other role(s)
2010 Shenmue City Mobage RPG
Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing PS3
Xbox 360
Sega RingWide
(Kart Racer)
Creative Officer,
Special Thanks
2011 Virtua Fighter: Cool Champ iPhone Card Battle
2012 Shooting Wars iPhone
2013 Bullet Pirates Android
2014 Virtua Fighter Fever Combo iPhone
Card Battle
2017 Shenmue III PS4
(Open World)


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  2. Shenmue for Dreamcast Reviews. Metcritic. Retrieved on 2014-05-02.
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  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "". GameCenter CX. No. 13, season 2.
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  10. Space Harrier Retrospective (Page 2), IGN
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  18. IGN Presents the History of SEGA: Reap What You Sow, IGN
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  21. Hollis, Martin (September 2, 2004). The Making of GoldenEye 007. Zoonami. Archived from the original on 2011-07-18 Retrieved on 2011-12-22.
  22. "In Your Home by Christmas!". Sega Saturn Magazine (Emap International Limited) (5): p. 19. March 1996. 
  23. Kolan, Patrick (August 7, 2007). Shenmue: Through the Ages. IGN. Retrieved on 2014-05-02.
  24. CPI Inflation Calculator. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved on 2011-03-22.
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  27. Mielke, James (2010). The Disappearance of Yu Suzuki: Part 1. 1UP. Retrieved on 2014-05-02.
  28. LaMosca, Adam (July 24, 2007). On-Screen Help, In-Game Hindrance. The Escapist. Retrieved on 2014-05-02.
  29. IGN Staff (September 19, 2000). F355 Challenge: It's hard. It's hard. And it's hard. But god, is it worth it.. IGN. Retrieved on 2014-05-02.
  30. Gantayat, Anoop (September 1, 2005). JAMMA 2005: Hands On with Psy-Phi. IGN. Retrieved on 2014-05-02.
  31. Gantayat, Anoop (November 2, 2005). Psy-Phi Update. IGN. Retrieved on 2014-05-02.
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  36. Gantayat, Anoop (August 3, 2004). Shenmue Goes Online. IGN. Retrieved on 2014-05-02. “The title, which has been in development since February of last year, has a development and marketing budget of 30,000,000,000 won ($25,945,455 US). The marketing budget is said to include costs for both Korea and overseas.”
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  45. Global Vision. Premium Agency Inc.. Retrieved on 2014-05-02.
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