Soundtrack Central The best classic game music and more

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Adam Corn Jan 1, 2017

There was no shortage of major VGM releases in 2016 so let's see if we can do some catching up. Post your favorite video game soundtracks from the year, including OST albums, unreleased soundtracks (marked as (game rip)), official arranged albums and fan arranged albums.

Feel free to also post in the comments your runner-ups or other soundtracks from the year which didn't make the cut, for comparison's sake. As always, picks can be added, removed, or re-ordered after originally posting, so don't hesitate to put your early picks up so others can potentially include them in their own.

Results will be tallied February 26, 2017.

Adam Corn Jan 1, 2017 (edited Mar 2, 2017)

1. Final Fantasy XV Original Soundtrack - Longtime Square contributor Yoko Shimomura finally gets her turn at a main-line Final Fantasy score, and though the album as a whole doesn't match Uematsu's greatest works (largely due to the parts not composed by Shimomura herself), it's still very much worthy of the series tradition. The battle themes are the most epic orchestral-choral works I've heard from Shimomura yet, easily joining the series' best, while some poignant somber moments and a few noteworthy additions to the series' repertoire of overworld and chocobo themes round out the package nicely. Like most multi-disc OSTs the quality among tracks varies greatly, particularly in the slow-starting first disc, but the best hour or so of the four-disc collection makes for the most dramatic game OST of the year.

2. The Greatest Video Game Music III - Choral Edition - Don't let the presumptuous title or mediocre initial album in the series dissuade you. Following an excellent second effort in the Greatest Video Game Music arranged album series, this third installment continues to impress. The arrangements and performances for such Western mainstay series as Warcraft, Dragon Age, Skyrim and Portal, as well as Final Fantasy X's "Hymn of the Fayth", are among the best choral VGM you'll hear, avoiding the bombast of most such works in favor of a more subdued yet still epic approach combining Gregorian-like male choral harmonies with beautiful lead vocals by Myrra Malmberg. The album is fairly short at forty minutes, but whether listening to my favorite tracks or the album as a whole, no game soundtrack from the year has moved me more than this one. Maybe that title isn't so presumptuous after all.

3. Unravel - The most unique and atmospheric game OST of the year belongs to a Swedish indie platformer about an anthropomorphic little creature made of yarn. For Unravel, composers Frida Johansson and Henrik Oja use an almost entirely acoustic small ensemble of strings and Nordic folk instrumentation to craft a moody and moving soundtrack aptly described as "beautiful melancholy". It's composed more in the manner of an arranged album than a typical OST, the memorable themes almost always accompanied by an equally impressive intro, interlude or finale, yet there's a very OST-like progression to the narrative of the album as a whole. The consistent overall sound and somber tone means the soundtrack can become a tad monotonous in its two hour entirety, but listening to the best hour or so it's a fantastic listen, and easily one of the most original game soundtracks in recent memory.

4. Winter's End (I Am Setsuna) Original Soundtrack - If Studio Ghibli were to release a new film, and that film were to have a piano collection album, that album might very well sound like I Am Setsuna. Tomoki Miyoshi's score for Square's SNES era'esque JRPG has exactly the mix of heartfelt innocence and lingering sadness so often found in Ghibli films and their soundtracks. The score is almost entirely performed by piano (at least in the slightly abridged US edition I've been listening to, titled "Winter's End"), and like many game and anime piano collections it eschews complex arrangements and virtuoso performances, instead letting a plethora of very pretty melodies take the forefront. It's not an album I'll listen to as frequently as many favorites, but as the soundtrack to a quiet evening I can't think of anything better.

5. 20th Anniversary Tales Of Orchestra Concert - I've never held much interest in the Tales Of series soundtracks, but I'll give any series anniversary orchestral album a shot. After hearing 20th Anniversary Tales of Orchestra Concert Album I'm glad I did. The lively arrangements, professional orchestrations, excellent live performance, and adventuresome quality in both the single-theme pieces and the smoothly flowing medleys reminds me of classic orchestral VGM like the Orchestral Game Music Concert albums. I honestly can't imagine any fan of orchestral game music not finding something - if not quite a lot - to like.

6. Final Fantasy Brave Exvius Original Soundtrack - While Final Fantasy XV may boast a more epic tone and greater scale, the Final Fantasy OST from 2016 that most captures the classic series sound is the smartphone title Final Fantasy Brave Exvius. The instantly endearing melodies, well-produced combination of live instruments with high-quality sampled orchestration, and overall album consistency remind me of another minor but memorable recent FF title, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers (along with occasional hints of Bravely Default). Composer Noriyasu Agematsu seems content to mostly follow genre tropes over attempting anything revolutionary, and a lack of standout pieces in the last quarter lessens the score's impact a bit, but fans looking for a JRPG fix should absolutely give it a listen.

7. Uncharted 4: A Thief's End Original Soundtrack - With film composer Henry Jackman at the helm, Uncharted 4 gets a more robust, Hollywood-like sound than its already cinematic predecessors. More importantly, it's a more varied and emotional score than you might expect considering the blockbuster Marvel movie soundtracks Jackman is known for. The orchestrations are noticeably improved over previous Uncharted soundtracks - a couple of the dramatic action themes in particular take the series to the next level - while the storytelling pieces have a poignancy proper to the series characters in their final outing.

8. Eagle Flight Original Soundtrack - Inon Zur's score for the VR title Eagle Flight combines traditional orchestration, rhythmic tribal percussion and soaring female vocals, both in driving action themes and uplifting New Age pieces. It's a combination that brings fond memories of Avatar and other James Horner classics, and occasionally even hints of Panzer Dragoon. More live instrumentation would have taken it to an even higher level, but as it is it's still one of the most exhilarating scores of the year, and the one I'd most like to hear in context of the game.

9. Valley Original Soundtrack - The year's great soundtrack surprise is Valley Original Soundtrack by Aakaash Rao. Steam tells me the game is a first-person adventure platformer, but the score says classic JPRG. Atmospheric environment themes, festive town themes, dark and mystical dungeon theme, rousing battle theme, and a beautiful ending vocal - virtually every staple JPRG music type gets a nice big check. In fact after hearing the soundtrack's varied soundscape and ethnic instrumental accents for the first time, the first thing to come to mind was Suikoden. It's a bit more subtle - and not quite as memorable - as that classic score, but the fact that a comparison is even valid means it's well worth listening.

10. Sid Meier's Civilization VI Original Game Soundtrack - Civilization VI Original Game Soundtrack is a great example of concept plus execution equaling a quality game soundtrack. Civilizations from throughout history and around the globe each get a theme inspired by their musical traditions, most also receiving a reprise to represent a later historical era, and all rendered with authentic live instruments. Imagine the characters from a classic period film traversing a bustling ancient town and this would be the soundtrack. The album release appears to be fairly incomplete - the most notable omission being the main theme "Sogno di Volare", which is on a separate single release - but with two and a half hours of music there's still plenty to enjoy.

Honorable Mention
- Battlefield 1 OST
- The Last Guardian OST
- Deus Ex: Mankind Divided OST
- Samorost 3 OST
- Furi OST
- The Witcher 3 OST
- PlayStation VR Worlds OST
- The Orchestral Saga
- Abzu OST
- Golden Axe Symphony
- Dedsec - Watch Dogs 2 OST

Also Listened
Assassin's Creed Syndicate, Banner Saga 2 OST, Final Fantasy XIV Heavensward OST, Hyper Light Drifter, Killer Instinct Season 3, Kingsglaive Final Fantasy XV, Gears of War 4 OST, Guilty Gear Xrd -Revelator- OST, The Legend of Heroes: Sora No Kiseki the 3rd Evolution OST, The Legend of Heroes: Sora No Kiseki SC Evolution OST, Motoi Sakuraba Band Arrangement Album - Star Ocean & Valkyrie Profile, Overwatch OST, Street Fighter V OST, Thumper OST, Tokyo Xanadu OST II =eX+, We Love Sora no Kiseki, Ys VIII OST

The majority of these albums (top 10 included) are available on Soundtrack Central's Game Music 2016 Spotify playlist (and probably Apple Music), so streaming music listeners be sure to give them a listen!

jb Jan 2, 2017

1. Kingsglaive Final Fantasy XV Original Soundtrack - At the very least tangentially related to "game" music but this score is brilliant beyond words and at parts sounds eerily similar to Howard Shore's Lord of the Rings work. Shoutouts to "The General and the King" , "Battle for the Crown City", and "Apocalypsis Noctis", which is itself an FFXV track

2. Final Fantasy XV Original Soundtrack - ... mostly the Shimomura parts, though. wink

3. The Orchestral SaGa -Legend of Music- - Not sure much needs to be said about this one. Phenomenal all around and some great orchestrations by Kousuke Yamashita, whose orchestrations for the Nobunaga series are equally phenomenal.

4. Overwatch Soundtrack - Never thought I'd see the day where the music used in an FPS game would be this good. Thematic, variable, dynamic, and above all fitting. Blizzard did a spectaular job tying the music to the characters and the maps. Of related interested was the great panel they did this year at BlizzCon on the Sound Design of Overwatch, which covered some of the music, too. Really insightful.

5. I am Setsuna Original Soundtrack - Great standalone soundtrack and at least a unique perspective on music-in-games. I didn't play the game but it seems like it might be weird in an actual game, but standalone it's decent. I think some of the songs tend to be a bit on the short side.

Jodo Kast Jan 4, 2017

I'm really in trouble, as I've only spent time with Etrian Odyssey V. There won't be much on my list.

Euge Jan 5, 2017

Yeah the Overwatch game had a pretty good soundtrack.

Pedrith Jan 5, 2017

1) I am Setsuna

2) The Orchestral SaGa

3) 20th Anniversary of Tales Orchestra Album

4) Legend of Mana Arrangement Album

5) Ys VIII

avatar! Jan 6, 2017

1)Witcher 3 Complete Edition (game music, not official soundtrack)

2)Ori and the Blind Forest ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK CD

3)Shantae and the Pirate's Curse Soundtrack CD

4)Thomas was Alone Soundtrack CD

5)Soldner-X 2: Final Prototype Soundtrack CD

jb Jan 14, 2017

If you're responding to the poll, you should use the "Answer Poll" button, not New Comment. Not only does it format the post for you automatically, I'm pretty sure it inserts it into a database/helps Adam tally it at the end. Don't just add a comment -_-

Adam Corn Jan 18, 2017

As jb mentioned, those of you interested in seeing your picks tallied in the results please use the Answer Poll button to enter them in.

Also I see several selections that aren't from 2016:
- Legend of Mana Arrangement Album
- Shantae and the Pirate's Curse Soundtrack CD
- Thomas was Alone Soundtrack CD
- Soldner-X 2: Final Prototype Soundtrack CD

I assume the last three are releases by "Limited Run Games", and though the CDs were released in 2016 they're identical to the for-sale digital releases from earlier years. I'm not sure they'd belong in 2016's results but this being a small poll let's just roll with it I guess smile

Lastly, I've added several new picks of my own:
- Valley Original Soundtrack
- Final Fantasy Brave Exvius Original Soundtrack
- Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Original Soundtrack
- Final Fantasy XV Original Soundtrack
- The Greatest Video Game Music III - Choral Edition
- The Last Guardian Original Soundtrack

FuryofFrog Jan 20, 2017


2. Killer Instinct Season 3 Original Soundtrack

3. ODIN SPHERE LEIFTHRASIR Original Soundtrack

4. Nintendo 3DS Pokémon Sun & Moon Super Music Complete


6. Golden Axe Symphony

7. Sekaiju no MeiQ V: Nagaki Shinwa no Hate Original Soundtrack

8. Shovel Knight The Definitive Soundtrack

9. AM2R -original soundtrack-

10. Chronology: A Jazz Tribute to Chrono Trigger

Adam Corn Jan 27, 2017

Another few days left before I tally these. If anyone else had some favorites from the year I hope you'll post them here.

As quite a lot of good game music from the year is available for streaming I've published a Game Music 2016 Spotify playlist that includes all the official releases I could find (plus a few fan arranges). For that matter the Soundtrack Central account itself is brand new so feel free to follow! That at least I plan to keep updated throughout the year.

GoldfishX Jan 27, 2017

1. World of Final Fantasy Original Soundtrack - Sadly, this is it for me for 2016 (although I see a few on here I outright missed). But wow, I'm surprised I'm the first one to mention this one. This is a fantastic example of how to bring the "classic" Final Fantasy sound into the modern era. Even if you stripped out the (generally excellent) remixes, the original stuff more than holds its own.

2. Shovel Knight The Definitive Soundtrack - Thanks for whoever nominated this. I now have a physical copy of this soundtrack on the way. This one is almost TOO easy for me to like, between the tasty retro sound palette and upbeat compositions. (feel free to remove if this would not be considered a 2016 release...the release, but the music definitely isn't)

Qui-Gon Joe Feb 1, 2017

1. Final Fantasy XV Original Soundtrack - The Shimomura parts, for sure.  There's a lot of filler, though.  Wish she'd done the whole thing - a full 4 discs of her would have made for one of the best vgm albums of all time.

2. Wagakki × Gamer × CAPCOM ~HIDE×HIDE × Game Music Vol.1~ - I DON'T KNOW WHY MORE PEOPLE DIDN'T NOTICE/CARE ABOUT THIS ONE.  It's traditional Japanese instruments playing a bunch of Capcom music.  One of the coolest arranged albums in recent memory, and it totally flew under the radar.  I think part of the problem may be that that it was exclusive to the Capcom web store in Japan?

3. Ori and the Blind Forest ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK CD - The beautiful soundtrack to pretty much the only game I bought an Xbox One for.  No regrets(?)

4. Heavensward: FINAL FANTASY XIV Original Soundtrack - FFXIV continues to have great music.  Getting to see Soken perform live at fan fest was awesome, too!

5. ABZÛ - Wonderful new soundtrack/album by Austin Wintory.  HAD to get this especially after seeing the Journey Live concert.

6. 20th Anniversary Tales of Orchestra Concert Album - Was kind of randomly on a bit of a Tales kick this past year.  Played Xillia, Xillia 2, and then Zestiria and while I still find them the generic fast food of RPGs, I was super surprised at just how much I loved this album.  Is it just me, or does it seem like Sakuraba is phoning it in a little less with recent entries? (despite the quality of the games themselves...)

7. Ys VIII -Lacrimosa of DANA- Original Soundtrack - I mean it's Ys.  Not much more needs to be said.  Haven't listened that much outside of an initial playthrough since I'm anxiously awaiting the game itself.

8. THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: Twilight Princess HD ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK - When I originally played TP, I found it one of the weaker Zelda OSTs.  That said, replaying it as the HD version I grew to appreciate it a bit more and the album released and I find myself quite a bit more fond of it than I was originally.  Also nice that Nintendo albums are actually existing, especially since Club Nintendo has gone away!

9. Ikenie to Yuki no Setsuna ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK - Flawed but very enjoyable game with a soundtrack that makes excellent background for work for me.  I know many complained about a lack of variety, but I really liked this one!

10. Hitokui no Oowashi Trico Original Soundtrack - The Last Guardian's soundtrack mainly makes it onto this list because listening to it makes me think of the game, which I adored.  The music itself is easily the most ambient/Hollywood-y of the three Fumito Ueda games (odd since I swear I watched a youtube video in which he himself said he asked for the music to be more "gamey" this time).  If I didn't have the connection to the game, I probably wouldn't find it nearly as memorable.

Jay Feb 2, 2017 (edited Feb 2, 2017)

1. ABZÛ - Must admit I played ridiculously few games in 2016 and listened to very few soundtracks. That coupled with a poor memory in general leads to me really struggling with this list. However, Joe's post reminded me of this one and it is truly beautiful. The soundtrack feels possibly bigger than I was expecting for the calm relaxed game it is but it is full of heart and gets quite rousing.

2. The Solus Project - This one was a bit of a surprise. Took a punt on Steam without knowing what it was and the soundtrack is pretty superb. There aren't a huge amount of tracks, I think - or at least I heard the same ones frequently - but what is there creates a haunting alien mood and I found myself itching for a soundtrack. There is now one available through Steam but not sure it's available elsewhere. And with that, I'm not sure any others jump to mind but I missed most of the big ones...

Jodo Kast Feb 2, 2017

1. Sekaiju no MeiQ V: Nagaki Shinwa no Hate Original Soundtrack

2. Motoi Sakuraba Band Arrangement Album Star Ocean and Valkyrie Profile

3. SaGa Scarlet Grace Original Soundtrack

4. The Sound of Kirby Cafe

I still have more to listen to,  but the above is the best I can do, based on what I've heard so far.

vert1 Feb 18, 2017

Can we do a "best game track of 2016" after the results have been posted in this thread?

Adam Corn Feb 24, 2017

vert1 wrote:

Can we do a "best game track of 2016" after the results have been posted in this thread?

Done smile

Sorry for the delay in posting the results for the album picks by the way. I've been working on a couple new features to roll out the same time, they'll be done soon!

Ramza Feb 24, 2017

Ahh, full album ranking. Now THIS I can do.

Now I should say, at some point soon RPGFan will run an article doing something very much like this thread, and I have a disclaimer in there that says FFXV and SaGa Scarlet Grace didn't make my list because I hadn't listened to them yet. I wrote that on like ... December 28? So it's not on that list. But both are definitely on this list. Here we go (10-1, 1 being most favorite)

10. Civilization VI OST and Theme Song -- The OST is my favorite since Civ II ... and I know how stupid that sounds. The theme song marks a return for Christopher Tin, who last did "Baba Yetu" for Civ IV and eventually won a Grammy for it (to date, the only game music Grammy win...). The new Civ VI theme isn't going to attract as much attention as a South African Gospel Choir singing an epic upbeat version of the Lord's Prayer. It's a little more ... grounded, and European. Even the song's title suggests as much. But it's still solid.
9. Hitokui no Oowashi Trico OST (aka "The Last Guardian") -- The soundtrack is worth it for tracks 15-19 alone. What a climactic, insane musical adventure that is. I'm nearly there in my own play through the game and I'm PSYCHED to see what this music is matched to!
8. Steins;Gate 0 OST -Full Version- -- If only because it has more meat to it than the first Steins;Gate OST, I prefer SG0. Also, this OST has two piano solo tracks that come with *high-res super-awesome PDF sheet music* on disc 1 that you can download and print and probably send to anyone you want. I've been working on "Messenger" -- it's hard, but not overly so, just the occasional big-time flourish you have to prep your hands for. Muscle memory and all that. Anyway, yeah, it's new Takeshi Abo so it's almost insta-win for me.
7. Adventures of Mana OST -- I wrote a review about this one on RPGFan. Anyone who knows me understands why this is on the list. Hint: Mana Shrine. And all the other songs. But mostly Mana Shrine.
6. Heavensward: Final Fantasy XIV OST -- It's been tough just trying to keep up with FFXIV's music-machine (in the form of Masayoshi Soken). This latest release is as strong as many other releases. Its battle themes are what really sold me.
5. SaGa Scarlet Grace OST -- SPEAKING OF battle themes ... one would think Kenji Ito would be worn out from all those Battle Arrange tracks, but it seems it only got him prepped for more. Because like ... 50% of this OST is battle themes. That may be an exaggeration, but when you listen to it, it REALLY feels that way. And all of those battle themes are rock-solid. So much love. The production value on this is stupidly-good. ...... now if only I could convince S-E, Ito, and Hamauzu to work on a SaGa game *together* -- collaborative soundscape from Ito and Hamauzu could clash, or it could flow with the help or an intermediary, such as Kamikura.
4. Prescription for Sleep: Undertale -- Who would've guessed the Hibino/Ayaki duo would do a 2disc arrange album for an insta-cult hit American indie game? Furthermore, who would've guessed it would be this freaking good? I think the fact that the material was new and fresh to the arrangers forced them to get more colorful here than they did with, say, the Secret of Mana project (which I love, but let's face it, I'm sure at least Ayaki knew that soundtrack pretty well, and probably Hibino too)
3. Final Fantasy XV OST -- I'm still trying to figure out where I rank this in the I~XV OST rankings. I know I like it, and I bet I'll like it a lot more after I play the whole game. I'm glad it wasn't as "Kingdom Hearts-ish" as I thought it would be. It felt very much like a return to a more serious form, which is what I'd wanted. When I first heard "Somnus" on -drammatica- in '08, back when it was still FFversusXIII, I had high hopes. My hopes were met on first listen, and on repeated listens they've not faded. So that's a good thing, I think.
2. Ys VIII -Lacrimosa of DANA- OST -- Favorite Ys OST since Napishtim, I think. A lot of the things I appreciate about Napishtim, I also appreciate about DANA. Which is why I want Falcom to do another vocal arrange album! smile
1. The Orchestral SaGa -Legend of Music- -- I debated with others in the community at length about the value of this album: what it represents, what it is and isn't, and why what it IS is still something to be cherished. I still listen to it most of all the albums on this list, and I stand by it being one of the coolest, and most surprising, albums Square Enix has ever funded.

I should also make note of the Steins;Gate "Complete Sounds of" box set and the LoZ 30th Anniversary 2 disc BGM set as notable collection/best-ofs that I really appreciated.

Of the 10 listed above, I think ... yeah, I actually own physicals of all of those. Which is kind of mind-boggling considering how grad-school-poor I am. Maybe I SHOULDN'T have bought all of those...

And yes, there are days that I would probably swap out any of 6-10 with other very noteworthy releases, including I Am Setsuna, that enormous FFVIII fan arranged project "Successor," and Etrian Odyssey 5.

AAAAAAND I haven't heard Valkyrie Anatomia yet. I intend to special-order it soon. I doubt it'll be anything too special, but I'm still interested. I like the strange little things (speaking of, anyone see that trailer for SINoALICE? That's got NieR side-project written all over it ... in the seraphic lettering of "The Scrawl," for that matter)

Adam Corn Feb 24, 2017

Ramza, any chance I can get you to click the "Answer Poll" button and copy-paste your answers into the fields there so they'll be included in the results?
I guess I really need to highlight that button or something.

And I thought I had my VGM listening for last year's releases mostly wrapped up but now you've added a few to the list smile

Ramza Feb 24, 2017

i'm-a answer that poll now. Not sure how I missed that.

STC Poll System Mar 4, 2017

Top poll results out of 46 unique answers submitted, as calculated by Soundtrack Central's poll system.  In parentheses are the percentage of respondents who selected that answer and the average ranking it was given.

1. Final Fantasy XV Original Soundtrack (50%, 2)
2. The Orchestral SaGa -Legend of Music- (20%, 2)
3. Ori and the Blind Forest Original Soundtrack CD (20%, 3)
4. Abzû (20%, 3)
5. SaGa Scarlet Grace Original Soundtrack (20%, 4)
5. Sekaiju no MeiQ V: Nagaki Shinwa no Hate Original Soundtrack (20%, 4)
7. Ys VIII -Lacrimosa of DANA- Original Soundtrack (20%, 5)
8. Heavensward: Final Fantasy XIV Original Soundtrack (20%, 5)
8. Shovel Knight The Definitive Soundtrack (20%, 5)
10. 20th Anniversary Tales Of Orchestra Concert (20%, 6)
11. I Am Setsuna Original Soundtrack (20%, 7)
12. The Last Guardian Original Soundtrack (20%, 10)
13. Sid Meier's Civilization VI Original Game Soundtrack (20%, 10)

Adam Corn Mar 4, 2017 (edited Mar 4, 2017)

And there are our results for 2016. Almost all of the poll winners as well as my own picks have listening links for much if not all of the album, which you can find on the poll results page, editor's picks, and respective album pages. (For many of the listening links I've ordered my recommended tracks first in the playlist so you can get a quick sense of the highlights.)

There's also the Game Music 2016 Spotify playlist, which has dozens of album releases from the year rounded up for easy access.

Lastly, here's a list of some favorite year-end VGM features from around the web, all of which I found well-written and informative and were a big help in catching up with the many great releases from the year:

- ZAM's Best Game Soundtracks of 2016
- Classic FM's 10 Best Game Soundtracks of 2016
- RPGFan's Music of the Year 2016
- Kotaku's Best Video Game Music Of 2016
- Game Informer's Musical Rewind 2016

The_Paladin Mar 5, 2017

As much as I love Shovel Knight, seeing as the album is a reprint from the 2014 album seems weird to be on there, whereas with the limited run albums which had digital releases before but not physical prints (but none of those made the top list anyway).  Also, since they weren't mentioned at all, there are a couple digital soundtracks from 2016 that I think need to be listened to. You, Me & Gravity (Planet Coaster) and VA-11 HALL-A.

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