Tag Archives: Leon

Game Review: Resident Evil 2 (1998)

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Hey guys, it’s Kernook here, back with another review for one of my favorite franchises. As I said in my Resident Evil 1.5 review, the series had a rocky footing when it came to making the squeal for the smash hit that the first Resident Evil became.

After only a month of the first game’s release they knew they’d need to make another. Production began, but the prototype was scrapped, and this failed prototype is known by fans as Resident Evil 1.5 You can read my review of that prototype here…

In spite of the failure, the staff working on the team picked up the pieces and set to work again. This time, they ended up creating a game that they knew fans would absolutely love. So much attention to detail was poured into every aspect of this game, and Resident Evil 2 stands as a fan favorite for several very good reasons.

It was everything we could have asked for in a sequel to the franchise. Literally, it was by far everything we loved cranked up and polished to the max. It deified logic now that I think about it. This game was full to bursting with great content, almost like a gift to the fans. A labor of love that without a doubt many people recall fondly.

There were more weapons, new characters with compelling narratives, better graphics and core improvements to game design. Ultimately this made Resident Evil 2 a much beefier gameplay experience than its predecessor, and it blew fans right out of the water.

So, lets dive into this game and take a look. There is a lot to unpack here, and I really want to do this masterful game justice. First, we should begin with a bit of history…

Topping Charts

It might not look like much by today’s standard, but don’t let that fool you. It was truly a landmark title for it’s time. Making it’s way to the PlayStation here in america in 1998, later it hit the Nintendo 64. Over time, several other ports followed. A lot of people were able to get their hands on it, and this likely had a lot to do with its popularity.\.

For younger fans of the series who may not recall those days, you need to remember that survival horror was a fairly new genre to console gamers. Resident Evil had given us fans this rare taste of what a horror game could be, and it had become nearly iconic among us as a result.

So, when Resident Evil 2 entered the scene, we gobbled up copies like a zombie horde after fresh meat. We were clamoring for more, and it delivered in spades. It’s no surprise that the game topped the charts when it came to sales, because it was fresh, and new. There was so little competition when it came to strong horror titles, this gave the game a distinct edge in the market.

The game beat out Super Mario 64, and Final Fantasy 7 when it came to gross profit margins and sales. That’s how popular this game was. Then again, survival horror was a scarce thing. There were platformers and role-playing games aplenty.

At the time, there weren’t many games like the Resident Evil franchise. I attribute these sales to that fact alone. The fact that Resident Evil 2 was just a good game comes secondarily in my personal opinion. It’s certainly a key factor, but let’s face it. That wasn’t the only thing going for it.

It’s easy to beat out other games if you can do the following:

  • Have one good game in the franchise that’s well known already.
  • Appeal to a mass and under served audience.
  • Have absolutely little in the way of solid competition for the genre of game you’re selling.

Resident Evil 2 had all of these factors at play, and that can’t be overlooked. On to of that, the game just looked awesome, and for graphic fanatics you really couldn’t do better than this in the horror genre at the time.

This is a zombie from the opening scene is a great example. It freaked me out for sure.

When fan saw this thing come shuffling out of an alleyway, it was amazing. The upgrades to the zombies and new additional enemies proved to make the hype for the series reach a new all-time high.

To make a very bold statement, Resident Evil 2 was a nearly perfect game, and a therefore a solid addition to the franchise.

Nearly Perfect, Really? Yeah… It Really Was…

Resident Evil 2 improved on the standard formula of the first game, but it didn’t forget what made it so well loved in the first place. It changed nothing that would hinder the experience, only enhance it.

Director Hideki Kamiya and producer Shinji Mikami, hadn’t been able to see eye-to-eye on the original prototype, and this lead to a falling out of sorts. Hideki Kamiya took full creative control of the game after that, and this was ultimately the right choice if the popularity and sales are any metric to go by.

Plus, when it comes to Shinji Mikami, the man has interesting visions and all around bad execution when it comes to the Resident Evil series sometimes. It just isn’t his forte, but that’s a side rant. I’ll get to in other games, when that actually matters.

Anyway, with Hideki Kamiya at the helm the team got focused and things got done. A masterful story was crafted, and the world of Resident Evil stepped outside of the confines of a mansion, and out into the city.

The Plot Thickens. Coagulated Blood, Anyone?

Resident Evil 2 takes place about two months after the events at the mansion. The surviving S.T.A.R.S. members have done all they can, but the city can’t be saved. It’s come down with a bit of an infestation, and these buggers mean business. No exterminators are going to get rid of this viral mess.

Zombies have overtaken the city. Most of the residents are doomed to die in this hell, but if you’re lucky you’ll survive. You get to play as one of two characters.

The first is Leon Kennedy, a rookie police officer suffering his first day on the job. Today is just not a good day for him at all. The Second is Claire Redfield, a young woman in search of her older brother, Chris Redfield of the first game. To see the full game, you’ll have to play both of them.

These two characters have just arrived in the city, only to be greeted by carnage and zombie hordes. They meet entirely by chance, but they’re both happy to see a friendly face that isn’t trying to eat them. Choosing to stay together, they plan to head to the police station.

Leon gives Claire a gun to protect herself and things are going good. Well, everything except for the zombie in the back seat of a car, and a bitten truck driver losing control of his vehicle. This, of course, ends in the typical explosion you’d expect.

They still make it to the station, though how you get there depends on the character your playing. Once meting up again, they decide it’s best to just leave the city. Chris isn’t there anyway, and by the looks of it the little matter of the zombie horde isn’t going away any time soon.

The story is simple, but it doesn’t need to be complicated. The concept of escaping the city is enough on its own.

We’ve seen it in horror films time and time again, but getting to play through that concept in a game was an exciting addition to the format. It fits all of the typical troupes we’ve come to love.

Added to this are the characters themselves. Again, most of them have simple stories, nothing too complicated. The survivors are few and far between. Some are terrified, others are deranged, and a few have plans that go beyond the narrative scope of the game itself. Obviously, this leaves more questions than answers. However, a good horror title isn’t going to coddle you.

Resident Evil 2 certainly doesn’t hold your hand when it comes to these characters or their personal stories. There are some things you’ll just have to figure out on your own. Occasionally you will have control of two of the side characters, but those moments are carefully planned out.

Sherry Birkin and Ada Wong are wonderful additions to the game. They never seemed out of place, and their inclusions help to enrich the greater Resident Evil universe. Now, a nice thing about Ada Wong is that there are files in the first game to compliment her entry here.

It’s nice to have characters that are establish in the narrative, and Ada fills this role wonderfully.

Furthermore, the characters are edged up a notch by their voice actors. The acting is the game can still be hokey at times, but it’s a leap above what it used to be. It never takes itself too seriously, but it no longer feels like a campy horror movie made with bad actors and comedy that feels like it was written by a five year old.

Instead, this game finds levity in hopeful optimism, well placed snarky comments, and the occasional bad joke to lighten the mood.

When I think of great story telling and narrative clarity, I look no further than Resident Evil 2 as the benchmark for this series. It’s by far one of the best in this regard, it certainly feels satisfying even if it doesn’t entirely flesh out every conclusion, and there’s a lot to be said for that.

I never felt cheated out of an ending, or key character moments. I never felt as though the game refused to give me something meaningful just due to pure laziness. Every unanswered question felt like the correct choice. Either because we didn’t need to have it, or because the answer wouldn’t have been fulfilling anyway.

Some things are just better left unsaid. The game understood where the line was, never crossing it.

One last thing I want to mention, Leon and Clare have two scenarios each, and they take place basically right on top of each other.

Gameplay: A Mixed Bag

A great story isn’t the only thing that matters in a game. It needs to have good mechanics to back it up. There is a reason I say the game was almost perfect, or nearly perfect. Perfection is an impossible standard, and this game did have a few flaws.

Disregarding this would just be idiocy. The game is wonderful, and I’m a huge fan. However, setting down the fan goggles is absolutely required for a proper review. So, I’m about to do that. Don’t chase me with your pitchforks. I love the game too, but there are a few situational problems. No matter how slight they may be, it’s worth talking about them.

One of my small complaints is the lack of differences between the two main characters. They may have entirely different stories, but they feel the same to play. In the first game there were differences in gameplay based on Jill’s ability to pick locks, and Chris’s ability to carry a lighter and take more hits from enemies.

I feel none of that between Leon and Claire. The character specific weapons are nice, but this aspect is shallow when compared to it’s predecessor. It’s the story that makes up for this lack of gameplay.

While we’re still on the topic of characters, let’s discuss a new addition to the game.

Referencing back to the back to the scenarios I mentioned above, if you pick up certain items on an “A” scenario, you may not be able to get that item on a play through of the opposite character’s “B” scenario. You need to play both to get the real ending.

Depending on what scenario you play, and in what order, your starting location changes. Key items will be switched around. Enemy placement will dramatically be altered. There will be unique cut scenes to watch, and a new enemy to face. This adds replay value and a bit of added strategy.

Sadly, it’s not as much as you might think…

Fans praise this aspect of the game. I do as well, but I think we often over hype it. At the time it was genuinely a great addition, and a lot of fun. Still though, I think we place this aspect on a pustule far too often. It was good, but the popularity of this addition is almost legendary. That’s almost a bridge too far.

The new enemy added is okay, but he’s stupidly easy to outsmart. He’s all brawn, no brains. Intimidating when he first comes on screen, and then flat out annoying after you have an idea of how he works. He’s also the base idea for another enemy that shows up in the next Resident Evil title, and in my opinion the concept was done way better in that one. However, I’ll speak about that when I get to it.

All in all, the changes are solid here. They’re good choices, and you can tell they were made with care. They don’t hinder the standard Resident Evil format we all came to love from the first game. This was a boon for us. We could dive right into the game without any issue whatsoever.

All of the old mechanics we’ve come to know make a complete return. This includes fixed camera angles, tank controls, puzzle solving, exploration, healing and item management. This is the mixed bag part…

If you think tank controls absolutely suck, you’re in for a bit of bad news. They’re just as clunky as you recall them to be. Now, I’ve never had an issue with tank controls myself. For my personal situation, tank controls actually make the games easier to play, not harder.

There is a very direct reason for that. Given my Dyspraxia, which is a motor skill disorder, having limited movement allowed me to have better control over the character. I didn’t need to be careful of subtle movement, because the characters only move in very particular ways. When it comes to my thumb being clumsy, the game just didn’t pick that up. This meant I could pay closer attention to my environment, and not what my hands did of their own accord without my noticing. While I love tank controls, I do understand that most people hate them.

For me personally, it’s not a downside. Objectively speaking though, it very well could be. I won’t overlook that just because of my nostalgia or personal situation.

There is a ton of backtracking as well. If you hate that sorry, you’re stuck with it. Thankfully the game got really creative with backdrops and surprise zombies, so it’s not nearly as mindless as it was in the first game.

Puzzles are incredibly elaborate and diverse. Some are super easy, like this one. You just push statues. It’s almost a no brainier. Not all of them are this easy though.

In some places they’re insanely hard, and this is one of my favorite things. That said, they can be even more unforgiving than in the first game. I know many people who complained about some of the puzzles being too obtuse, and I can understand why some people would think that.

Although I loved the puzzles, some of them felt very out of place then, and still do to this day. That detail took me out of the atmosphere more than once, and ripped me out of horror I was trying to experience.

Item management is just as much a pain in the neck as always. This is to ramp up tension of course, and to make you think strategically. This was one of my greatest downfalls in the first game, and it was my downfall in this game too. As a new player deaths were attributed to my lack of item management in key places. Nowadays, I have it down to a science.

All-in-all, the gameplay was everything we needed it to be. It didn’t add an insane amount of new things, and that’s fine. Too much would have taken away from the simplicity of just enjoying a zombie title. Since there wasn’t a huge learning curve, we could enjoy the story which was spectacular.

Graphics and Sound

The graphics were a step above it’s predecessor, which is why it was impressive to look at for its time. The rendered backdrops were more detailed, even once compressed onto a disk. While the Nintendo 64 port couldn’t live up to its PlayStation counterpart in terms of visual aesthetic the pure novelty of playing the game on the system alone was enough to be noteworthy.

Nowadays unless you like retro graphics, it will likely look like crap. The only thing to do is blame the flow of time and pure advancement.

I’ve said this many times, but the sound design on any retro Resident Evil game is paramount to gameplay in a very important way that other games don’t suffer from. Due to the fixed camera angles and zombies loitering around just off screen, it is absolutely paramount that monsters give sound cues.

They enemies need to highlight where they might be. If you can’t see them, you’re as good as dead. This is the key to that new enemy I mentioned above, and this aspect is even more important for him.

He will chase you through certain places. Knowing where he is, and what he’s doing is fundamental. It’s going to be the difference between life and death during hard mode on your first play through. Even if you’ve played the remake, don’t underestimate him. With ammo conservation still playing a heavy role, new players are better left to just leave this thing alone.

Thankfully the sound engineers working on the game understood this, and the sound quality is top notch.

The Nintendo 64 port actually had a better sound quality, which is an odd little quirk. It’s a neat little claim to fame, though. At least that made up for the lacking visuals of the system’s hardware and the need for even more compression than was on the disk.

Final Thoughts

Resident Evil 2 is a very solid entry to the series, and arguably the best of the first three named titles out there. Now, as I mentioned in passing in recent years we received a remake of the game, complete with high definition graphics, great atmosphere, and all the gore you could hope for in a zombie game.

That being said, fans shouldn’t abandon the retro version of the title. The remake is wonderful, and it will receive its own review. However, it lacks one thing that I find fundamental to the franchise.

Charm… Yeah, you read that correctly. It lacks charm. All of the older games, and the remake of the first game all have something charming about them. There are these the little moments that make you smile, even if it’s for stupid reasons.

As games become more realistic we gain a lot in the horror factor, but we lose a bit of that charming, and sometimes silly, poetic atmosphere. That’s the trade off for horror of the current era, and it is to be expected.

The Resident Evil 2 remake is more gritty, not just in the realistic look of the zombies, but in every single way. That’s amazing if you just want horror, but if you want the far more optimistic story telling found in the retro titles you won’t find it in the remake. Instead, you’re going to get a lot of cursing, and darker dialogue.

To me, this is why the remake cannot fundamentally be held on the same sort of stage that it’s retro equivalent stands upon. They’re very different experiences, and they have to be treated that way.

I love the original Resident Evil 2 because of the characters, they have such optimism. With an almost foolish desire to save people and a near gentleness especially when it comes to Claire. To me, that’s what makes this game so beloved in the first place.

It’s not just the horror, it’s the heart. To me that defining factor makes this version of the game the definitive Resident Evil 2 experience.

If you call yourself a fan of this series at all, you should play this version at least once…

This has been Kernook of The Demented Ferrets.

“Where stupidity is at its finest and level grinds are par for the course…”

The Demented Ferrets…

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Game Review: Resident Evil 1.5

Note: This was an old post on the original “The Demented Ferrets” site, and prior to that it belonged to my personal blog. It is being placed here because this is now where it belongs.

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I want to take a brief interlude into the troubles of game design, and the subsequent cancellation of what would be Resident Evil 2‘s first iteration. Unfortunately, that particular version of Resident Evil 2 was canceled. It is now known by hardcore fans as Resident Evil 1.5. Frankly, this unreleased attempt of a game deserves a discussion or two, and that’s the reason for this post.

It’s a shame that director Hideki Kamiya, and producer Shinji Mikami, hadn’t been able to see eye-to-eye on the game. If they had, the Resident Evil 2 that we know and love might have been vastly different.

As a failed prototype, Resident Evil 1.5 is an interesting look into what Resident Evil 2 could have become. There is no official release of Resident Evil 1.5. Thankfully, the build of Resident Evil 1.5 was leaked on the internet back in 2013. Fans of the series have managed to cobble together some form of playable version.

If you look hard enough the content for 1.5 is out there. If you can’t find the game to play yourself, there is plenty of game footage among members of the survival horror community. It’s worth a look at the very least.

Failure to Launch

The original Resident Evil was a huge success. You can read my review of it here. Even if you don’t though, just know that the game was foundational to the survival horror genre. It proved that gamers had a true hunger for survival horror, and a ravenous craving for more.

Just a month after the original game released, development began for a sequel. The success of the first game was so large that it stood to reason that they’d make another. Hideki Kamiya was slated to direct the new game. Shinji Mikami was going to produce it. These two masterminds dove into their new concept, eager to make a much better survival horror experience.

They had big plans to surpass the fandom’s expectations when it came to the new game. Initially these two men had three core ideas on how to make the sequel even better than the original.

  • Firstly, they wanted to make playing the game feel more dynamic. They felt that the first game wasn’t as strong as it could have been in this area.
  • Secondly, they planned to vastly expand the scope of Raccoon City. They wanted to broaden the scope of Resident Evil‘s already compelling narrative.
  • Thirdly, they wanted to include a wider range of highly detailed and stunning pre-rendered backgrounds. This would lend the game even better imagery than what was provided in the original game.

Unfortunately, this new vision wouldn’t be the one to be published. Hideki Kamiya and Shinji Mikami had all of the building blocks for a great game in place. However, each of them had different artistic visions.

Originally, Shinji Mikami wanted to complete the entire Resident Evil story with the sequel before moving onto other projects. He didn’t want to linger on this franchise for too long.

Hideki Kamiya vastly disagreed. He wanted to make a longer, more complex story. He planned on using the sequel to expand on Resident Evil‘s core themes. to create a wider universe.

In the end, Shinji Mikami eventually took a few steps back from the creative development of the game. It was his belief that the game was lackluster. He felt that the narrative was lacking something important. In his opinion, the game mechanics and story just didn’t meld together seamlessly. He asked to be kept informed about the game’s development, but otherwise handed the reigns over to Hideki Kamiya completely.

During the development cycle, Resident Evil 1.5 was nearly eighty percent complete before it was scrapped entirely. A new scenario writer had joined the team and everyone agreed that it was just better to rebuild the game from scratch.

Key Differences

Firstly, I suppose, is the game itself. Resident Evil 2 as we know it today is vastly different from Resident Evil 1.5. Many of the assets from the project couldn’t be used in the release of Resident Evil 2, most of them had to be remade. That being said, some of the modded versions of Resident Evil 1.5 use assets from the Resident Evil 2 game. They do this to help fill in the gaps in the unfinished product.

The story has quite a few changes in it too. Now, to be clear, the story wasn’t completely fleshed out in Resident Evil 1.5, and that reflects in the media. That said, the story as we do know it is vastly different.

In Resident Evil 1.5, the S.T.A.R.S operatives manage to convince the authorities that Umbrella is up to no good. They report that Umbrella was directly involved with problems in Arklay Mountains and within Spencer Mansion. During the game, this is referred to as the “Umbrella Incident”.

The Raccoon City Police were shutting down Umbrella’s laboratories, but the city isn’t safe. A massive viral outbreak has overtaken the city, and it’s the T-Virus.

There is a lot of political intrigue in Resident Evil 1.5. Subtext and implication suggests that Umbrella only released the virus to quiet the naysayers and silence opposition. The story slowly unfolds as the player experiences two different scenarios, starring two different characters. There are some interesting additions to the supporting cast as well.

The first is Leon Kennedy, a familiar name to anyone who knows of the Resident Evil franchise.

Leon’s personality stays much the same, and his basic story plot does too. Very little changes with him, and its clear that he was fleshed out conceptually very well from the start. Leon is still the rookie police officer we all know and love, but thankfully this time around it isn’t his first day on the job.

The second character is Elza Walker. she is a student at Raccoon University. Let’s be honest, she’s no Claire Redfield, that’s for sure.

Elza is a motorcycle enthusiast who returns back from a long vacation only to find that the city is completely overrun with zombies. She ends up crashing her motorcycle into the main lobby of the police station and closes the shutters, locking her inside.

Classic Leon is awesome in both 1.5 and Resident Evil 2. Though, I must say, the same doesn’t hold true for Elza. I prefer Claire over Elza any day.

No matter what scenario is chosen, the goals are roughly the same. Players must find a safe way out of the police department, save any survivors, and get out of the city. As far as survivors go, there are several.

The Birkin family makes a full fledged return. Sherry is still a child that needs protection. Annette and William are her parents. Ada Wong, Marvin Branagh, and Brian Irons, have returned as well. In Resident Evil 1.5, their roles have changed drastically. This is probably one of the most important reasons to play Resident Evil 1.5, because it gives us a look at what these characters could have been.

I won’t spoil too much, but there are some interesting things to take note of. In this version, Marvin spends a great deal of time with Leon throughout the game. Ada is an employee of Umbrella, she was under arrest until the outbreak occurred. Brian is more level headed, and less murderous, but his role is very small.

Mechanics: The Good, The Bad, The Broken…

There are a few oddities to make note of. Computers in the game make a point to remind the player to save their progress, but, there are standard Resident Evil typewriters too. I’m not really sure why the save system might be implemented in this way, but it is an interesting little detail.

You’ll have to be careful when running around. The game was still in development when it was scrapped, so there are plenty of broken boundaries.

You clip through things that you shouldn’t be able to, and all enemies can be seen. Yes, that also means you can see them through walls.

If you notice, it looks like Leon is standing on the table in this photo, and there are plenty of moments like this. Trust me, that’s not a rug. I assure you that dark square thing is, in fact, a table.

Furthermore, there is a huge range of weaponry to choose from in Resident Evil 1.5, but some of the items don’t have assets. Using an item that doesn’t have assets will crash the game.

Puzzles look to be standard Resident Evil format, though most aren’t completely implemented. You can go through the entire game without collecting key items. This is likely a good thing.

Other than that, playing Resident Evil 1.5 isn’t too different from the classic Resident Evil 2. There are more zombies on screen at any given time, and even other enemies can come in small packs. Tank controls and fixed camera angles make a return, of course. Anyone who has played the classic titles in the series will be well acquainted with them by now.

There’s just one problem. The controller can be very wonky…

The game never had an official console release. That means you have to play the game using an emulator. If you’re like me, you use an Xbox 360 controller. The directional pad on Xbox 360 controllers are a piece of garbage, and it can make playing the game difficult. If you have a controller with a better directional pad, you should use it.

The rest of the mechanical changes are small, but I have to admit that I actually prefer most of them. Shotguns can still completely destroy a zombie. However, you can’t aim upwards to take off a zombie’s head. Shotguns will only rip the zombie in half. This can be used to incapacitate a zombie entirely. If you aim below the belt, you can even take their legs clean off. I have to admit, it’s a nice touch.

There is one awkward thing, though. When comes to health bars and status effects, your character will show signs of being injured by having ripped up clothing or seeping wounds. This was a nice idea in practice, but for me it kills immersion. Obviously when you heal back up, the wounds go away and the clothing goes back to normal.

This looks a little odd, and quite frankly, I prefer the limping and slower movement speed that’s found in most classic iterations of the franchise. It simply works better in my personal opinion.

Interesting Visuals and Soundtrack

The sound design is a masterful mix between the first and second Resident Evil titles. The music itself has that classic Resident Evil vibe to it, but there is no voice acting in the game. Due to the fixed camera angles, it’s important that each monster has an auditory cue so that players can hear when they’re just off screen. This ethos is the same in all of the classic titles, and it makes a return here as well.

Visually the game is impressive for its time. However, as a fan it’s hard not to notice something. There is a strange middle ground between Resident Evil graphics and Resident Evil 2 graphics. Resident Evil 1.5 fits perfectly in the center of all of it, showing off what would happen if you merged the two styles completely. Everything is slightly more improved visually from the first game, but, the Resident Evil 2 that was officially released is by far better looking.

My favorite place has to be inside the police station. There’s a cold, sterile feeling that comes along with it. The colors are often muted, meaning that even the brown cardboard boxes on shelves become eye-catching. Truthfully, it isn’t as interesting as the police station in Resident Evil 2, but, it has its own charm to it.

Final Thoughts

There are a lot of good things to come out of this failed prototype of a game. In truth, there are some less than stellar things about it too. It has flaws in spades, but, that’s the point of playing it.

Resident Evil 1.5 is a stepping stone for classic survival horror. It conceptualizes a game’s development cycle in a way few prototypes can. That shouldn’t be overlooked.

The hard work and love that staff put into their crafted worlds can’t be understated either. This prototype was a steppingstone that showcases just how much effort it takes to make a series like Resident Evil.

Fans of the franchise shouldn’t miss the opportunity to experience this prototype in one way or another. If you have the chance to play Resident Evil 1.5, you should. If you need to watch someone else play it, you should still do it. The experience is worth the time, and I can’t stress that enough.

This has been Kernook of The Demented Ferrets…

“Where stupidity is at its finest and level grinds are par for the course…”

The Demented Ferrets…

To Our Supporters: Thank You!

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Demented Minions: Francis Murphy, Josh Sayer, and Andrew Wheal.

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