Wednesday, February 3, 2021

BRIEF: Vision: The 5 Dimension Utopia (1992)

 
That looks like it would suck in a hurricane.
           
Vision: The 5 Dimension Utopia
Germany
Ad Games and Rainbow Arts (developers); Softgold Computerspiele (publisher)
Released 1992 for DOS and Amiga
    
I played Vision for a while and watched a bit of a LP on YouTube (in German, so I might have missed some things), and I feel pretty confident that it's not an RPG. I can see why someone thought it might have been, since you have dialogue options--more than any RPG of this era, anticipating the verbosity of the forthcoming Bioware titles--and you explore a dungeon-like tower in first-person view. You do have some "attributes" in the form of status, nutrition, and fitness.
      
As the game begins, you give some information to a doorman.
         
I don't believe there is any combat. The inventory seems to be puzzle-based. There is a lot of text--the entire game seems to consist of reading descriptions, reading documents, and engaging in dialogue with a variety of NPCs. I've learned a bit of German from past games, but not so much that I can easily interpret such dense paragraphs. This game would take me a long time to play.
      
The game begins in a garage. You'd think a "utopia" would have a proper lobby.
         
From online descriptions, I gather that Vision was commissioned by the German building society Landesbausparkasse (LBS). (We don't have "building societies" in the United States, but they're similar to credit unions or savings-and-loans.)  It was written partly by Ad Games, which specialized in such corporate promotions. In addition to this game and its sequel, they wrote two games for Volkswagen (in which you drive a Volkswagen) and one for the newspaper Die Welt, in which you play a paperboy. LBS apparently sold the game in its branches. I'm a bit confused as to how it actually promoted LBS.
      
No utopia would be utopia without Nick Nolte.
       
I'm also indebted to descriptions on other sites for the backstory, as the manual I downloaded doesn't seem to have one. The plot seems to be that you're a new resident in a floating, self-contained city (specifically, an arcology, if you're familiar with the concept). As the game begins, you have to answer some questions from a computer concierge to let you in. From there, you can explore a large tower full of different rooms and people. I gather that the beginning of the game has you take a variety of jobs just to earn room and board and slowly improve your quarters. Eventually, there's apparently some kind of mystery to solve.
        
Exploring the halls of the tower.
       
Many of the NPCs are digitized photos of famous actors and actresses. The manual is mostly just descriptions of these NPCs along with their code numbers so you can call them for help. These code numbers also serve as a copy protection exercise early in the game.
     
"Colt" is Billy Dee Williams, but I can't get the other three.
      
If any German readers can tell us more about the game, I'd love to hear it (particularly how it promoted the bank and what the other two dimensions are.) The nice graphics and point-and-click interface remind me of Herve Lange's two B.A.T. games in French. Three-dimensional tiled exploration in corridors merges with artfully designed static scenes when you actually enter the rooms. You can move the cursor to the borders and "pan" around some of these scenes. A question mark appears as you hover over most objects, giving you a description of what you're seeing.
 
Peeking in to a random room.
      
Despite its corporate roots, Vision has a lot of love online, and it looks like a pretty slick game. There was a sequel in 1994 called Vision2, which not even MobyGames offers as an RPG.
   
FYI, I should point out that Buck, JarlFrank, and an anonymous reader already told me this wasn't an RPG. I don't mean to dismiss any of you when you offer such opinions, but I do feel compelled to verify things for myself, even if you're applying my criteria.
 

58 comments:

  1. It's weird that a game made for advertsing purposes would have a copy protection.

    The game seems to have a lot of colloquial language, that would have made playing this even harder.

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    1. I'm not sure the "advertising purposes" is meant as literally as some of the sites have it. I didn't see any blatant advertising for LBS. I think perhaps it's more accurate to say that the bank used it as a "promotion" the way that some used to give out toasters or whatnot. But I'd still like to hear from someone with more experience as to whether there was obvious advertising in the game.

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    2. What I could find in the web, it was Sold for 20DM (approx $10) at the branch offices of the banl

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  2. Advergames are a weird subgenre that doesn't seem to exist anymore. I remember a lot of Flash games featuring cereal mascots. My favorite was a platformer for Honey Combs, which is funny because I hated that cereal.

    I wonder how many actual bank customers ended up with a copy of the game. I can only imagine some harried German parent trying to apply for a loan and buying the game so their kid will be quiet for a minute.

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    2. For me, my favorite advergame was harald hardtand a platformer made by colgate of all people. it's similarly funny because i hate brushing my teeth.

      it had a fantastic intro song which i still listen to on the treadmill...
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=USDHyior1Ss

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    3. Chex Quest was a solid, if rather short, advergame BUILD FPS series based on the breakfast cereal. By far the best toy at the bottom of the box in 1996.

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    4. I think I would have been annoyed to get a stripped-down, kiddified version of a popular violent game. I hated being talked down to when I was little, and that's how it always felt when seeing the sanitized "kiddy" version of something that teens and adults enjoyed, as opposed to media originally designed for kids.

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    5. Wasn't there a Skittles game that was really bad at actually advertising Skittles? Dark Skye or something? It was some kind of fantasy platformer. That has my money on the weirdest advertising game.
      There were also more than a few shooters for soft drinks, for some mysterious reason.

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    6. Darkened Skye is a trip. The developers supposedly tried to back out of the Skittles deal and make it a "real" game, but weren't allowed to. Mars (owner of Skittles) also specifically ordered that there be no snakes in the game whatsoever.

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    7. Sneak King, the game where you play the creepy Burger King and ambush people with hamburgers, is the main thing I think of when I think of advergames.

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    8. I was utterly fascinated by the idea of the burger king video games since, if memory serves, they actually came out on consoles (I want to say the PS2?), which wasn't common for advergames by that point.

      I also remember a captain crunch game that my brothers and I played to death. I think it was a platforming game where you somehow also raised a tomogachi style pet?

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    9. Captain Crunch: Crunchling Adventure was a minigame collection centered around training the titular creature in fighting against some kind of alien invader. The platforming mini-game was a climbing one, but there was also a racing one and a boulder throwing one. I remember the racing one well because you start out having to do the game perfectly to tie, but later on you can handily win that one.

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    10. I can't believe I forgot Yo! Noid!, a NES platformer starring the then-mascot of Dominos Pizza. I rented this one as a kid and regretted it. Leave the pizzas to Mario, Noid.

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    11. I've always loved this interview with one of the Skittles: Darkened Skye developers.

      http://web.archive.org/web/20040814224454/http://www.cgonline.com/previews/skittlesds-01-p1.html

      "Two years ago my boss comes into my office," explains Simon & Schuster Senior Producer Elizabeth Braswell. "He said, 'M&Ms did really well. We need you to do a game based on Skittles.' So I said 'well, you have two choices: you can fire me now, and make the next year and a half much easier on me, or you can, like, not make me do this.' That night, I went to a bar called Pravda and I got drunk, because I was like 'this is it, this is the end of my career.'"

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    12. Wasn't Chex Quest just a straight DOOM reskin w/ new sprites? Pretty sure that was a big reason why it was so fun.

      Also, as a kid growing up in the early 2000s, I used to love the Candystand website, which was basically just a bunch of Flash games with Nabisco-brand theming (Lifesavers mini golf, etc).

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    13. Yo Noid was a bit of a weird advergame, because it was originally a completely unrelated game that got a Domino's license when it came to America. I'm not sure if that was a common thing at the time though.

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    14. You are all wrong ;-) The best adverganme ever was "Push Over". You play as an ant which has to solve puzzles by rearranging dominoes blocks so that all fall over at a single push. Naturally it was sponsored by Quavers (UK potato chips) - no, I don't see the connection either ... It's 100 levels helped me through a lot of boring nights during my civil duty service at the gate of a home for the elderly. You can (and should) still get it on Steam.

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    15. Wow, that Skittles game looks almost like an RPG. I'm glad they didn't cram a few character development elements in there, or I'd have to play it.

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    16. @Cohnel

      There were 3 Burger King games: Sneak King, Big Bumpin', and Pocketbike Racers. They were for both the XBox/XBox 360 on the same disc in an early cross generation console release.

      I have all three, but have never played them, because I too was fascinated with the concept. Last I checked they can all be had on Ebay for a couple bucks each.

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  3. The Recent, Current, & Upcoming list is being sliced, diced, and julienned lately. Chet might actually be playing Magic Candle III.

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  4. I didn't realize it was that Vision. I've stumbled upon it in a few German magazines and it always seemed like a straight-forward adventure game to me. Quite a few German-exclusive adventure games around, actually, seems they never bothered translating any of them into other languages, unlike the French or even the Italians.

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  5. No problem if you assert for yourself, just trying to help before you start it up and maybe make the process faster for you.

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    1. Let me rephrase that, of course you want to assert for yourself, just trying to help before you start it up and maybe make the process faster for you.

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    2. I understand and I appreciate the advanced scouting. As long as a game is listed as an "RPG" on an authoritative source, however, I feel like I have to at least do a BRIEF since otherwise I get e-mails and comments saying, "What happened to Whatever?"

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    3. Maybe make a short post about rejekted games and why, so people could comment there, instead of at the end of a post.

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    4. That . . . that's what these BRIEFs are.

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    5. Ooh, yeah I meant about the flat out rejected ones that doesn't even deserve a brief. I like the briefs by the way.

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  6. The advergame scene was weirdly vibrant in Germany in the DOS era, before this type of thing was relegated mostly to flash/browser. There were a good number of games that were suprisingly professionally made and had decent production values for the time, with some developers specializing on these types of projects. There tends to be quite a bit of nostalgia around these games these days, probably because they were relatively widespread among computer users.

    They were mostly adventures, platformers and strategy/sim games. I don't remember any RPGs off the top of my head.

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    1. Recently, the I Love you Colonel Sanders (advergame for KFC) took Steam by storm. I really recommend it, it is an incredibly parody (and self parody) of dating games.

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    2. Yes, I remember these. I think I had the second BiFi game which was a rather funny adventure.

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  7. When I started reading you blog almost 10 years ago I would never have imagined you checking out a German advertising game some day.

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    1. Love the variety of the content and the longevity of this blog. I am curious about Chet though... Does his "About me" bio need updating? Or, is he still in his forties?

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    2. I started reading this blog in my 20s...

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    3. Still in my 40s, if only technically.

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  8. Nin Ten Zeng looks like Jet Li in a wig, and Loretta Buena Sara is either Kirstie Alley or Meg Foster, I think.

    Also, that vehicle in the garage looks like it came from long, long ago and far, far away...

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  9. We had a lot of advertisement games in Germany for some reason, I guess because PC gaming (specifically DOS PCs) was a decently popular middle class hobby in the early 90s. We've always been a very strong PC country, with PCs being more popular here even when consoles became big in the US. PC-centric genres like adventures, strategies and RPGs have always been very popular here. When Lucas Arts wrote a design document for another Indiana Jones adventure after Fate of Atlantis, the project was canceled because the story relied too much on the Third Reich as antagonists, and especially back in the 90s Germany was very strict with censorship regarding anything National Socialist. Lucas Arts decided that for this storyline, simply censoring the swastikas would not be enough for the German authorities, so they canned the entire game.

    Germany was such a significant market for the adventure genre, it had a major influence on the decisions of major American developers.

    I guess with that background, the prevalence of using adventure games for advertising makes a little more sense. PCs were the fancy new thing and Germans liked playing games on them.

    I tried out several advertising games and some are surprisingly good, while most are of course mediocre. Vision is among the better ones. It's a pure adventure game, there are no RPG elements. There aren't any advertisement RPGs as far as I'm aware.

    One of the most curious ad-ventures I'm aware of was made by the social democrat party during an election year. Imagine Trump and Biden both commissioning adventure games and putting them up for free download as election propaganda. Funny stuff.

    One of the biggest advertisement game hits was Moorhuhn around the turn of the millennium. It was a simple shooting gallery game where you had to shoot swamp chickens in the Scottish highlands. It was made to advertise Johnny Walker whisky, but it was so popular it became a cultural phenomenon and the developers turned it into a franchise. I recently browsed Steam for obscure RPGs and had a laugh when I discovered a Moorhuhn action RPG made in 2016.

    As for Vision, it's unusual for an advertising game as you had to pay for it. Usually these things were intended to be spread around, you were encouraged to copy that floppy for your friends. It's also very high quality for an ad-game. There's not much direct advertising for the company in the game's content, but I guess the concept of a high tech utopian arcology aligns well with the self-perception of a house building fund.

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    1. I played quite a bit of that Johnnie Walker Moorhuhn game. It was quite enjoyable for what it was. It provided a nice quick diversion when you wanted one. For those interested in seeing game play: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1cgGPw8CEM

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    2. There may be two reasons why Vision - unlike other ad-ventures - had to be purchased rather than being distributed for free. One was the pedigree behind it - Vision was created by Rainbow Arts, one of the few professional german game studios in the early 90s that was (at least to some degree) deserving of that label. The other was the sheer size and production quality of it - the Amiga version came on no less than 7 floppy disks if I remember correctly...

      That being said, yes, the actual links to the things being advertised in so-called ad-games could be quite tenuous. The aforementioned Moorhuhn-game for example was an adgame for the Whiskey brand Johnny Walker, a fact that most people probably never realized unless that paid attention for the brief instance the brand's label flashed up during the boot-up sequence. (Sometimes I wonder whether the whole ad game creatin scene in the 90s wasn't just a scam to get companies to subsidize the game creation efforts of programmers who weren't otherwise (cap)able to get their programming efforts into the commercial market...)

      In the case of "Vision - 5 Dimension Utopia", the links are probably completely indicipherable if you aren't german, and especially if you weren't around at the time the game was made.

      There are basically two very flimsy things that tie this game to the LBS Landesbaustarkasse (building society), that are easily missed about 30 years after the fact:

      1. The setting is "in the near future" (The years 2022 or something like that), where an artificial island is now being populated. So new buildings need to be erected there. In order to finance that, people have entered into "building savings and loans" contracts. So of course our benevolent building society is helping out here, and is particularly interested that things go smoothly. (The German mindset well into the early 2000s was that if you wanted to build your own house one day, you entered a savings contract with a building society, and after 20 years or so there would be enough money riding on that contract that you could finance one. These building societies like "Schwäbisch Hall" or "LBS" were usually considered as reliable and benevolnt institutions. The game references those by occasionally mentioning the "Servicezentrale" -"Central office of Services" might be a good translation - that would make sure everyything is proceeding well.)
      2. The soundtrack includes a jingle the LBS used in TV and radio advertisements in the early 90s. So if you lived in Germany during that time, chances are you were familiar with that and would've recognized the tune.

      That's it. Like I said, the links were flimsy...

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    4. Just wanted to add that before the PC hype here starting with the beginning of the 90s, Commodore's C64 and Amiga were also very popular. There is still a somewhat active german scene for these...or at least has been for quite a while. Amstrad CPC and Atari ST were also known although I think not nearly that common. Which also means, and I think this is true for all of europe, almost no one had the Apple 2 and Atari 800 line of computers which were a big thing in America from what I've read. I think the C64 got some conversion of APL2 or A800 games because of the European market only.

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    5. Yes, oftentimes the only relation to the company it's advertising is a company logo when the game starts up, and a theme that roughly fits to the advertised product in some way. Moorhuhn being set in the Scottish highlands is somewhat related to whisky because people associate whisky with Scottish highlands. You don't see any Johnny Walker bottles during the game, but the theme fits.

      The most obvious advertisements were in platformers like Tony and Friends in Kellogg's Land, where you play as the mascots of various Kellogg's cereals and the goodies that give you points are cereal pieces. I liked that game a lot as a kid and it did make me wanna eat Kellogg's, so it worked. There was also a similar platformer advertising Eismann, a frozen food delivery service, where you play as the Eismann mascot (a snowman) and the goodies are frozen food items.

      I'm aware of at least one adventure game featuring a mascot: Knorrli, the old mascot of Knorr, a producer of instant soups and various spice mixes. The adventure game has Knorrli search for Atlantis, which has nothing to do with food, so beyond the mascot there's no direct correlation to the advertised product.

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    6. LBS (and Sparkasse) appear in the game as banks, where you get your card with which you pay everything. I also saw it appear in at least one dialogue in the Lets Play (Do you know what LBS stands for?). But that seems to be it.

      There's also a software developer in the game who complains that these kind of games could be better if they had more time and money...

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    7. Comments like this are one of the joys of this blog.

      Perhaps the purpose of the advertisement was to brand the bank as being smart, clean, and forward-thinking. The world showcased in the game is a chrome, high-tech capitalist utopia that probably appealed to a newly unified Germany full of entrepreneurs riding the economic booms of the 90s?

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    8. Thank you, everyone, for helping to explain more about the history of this sub-genre and how Vision promoted LBS specifically. That's something else I've learned now because of this blog.

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  10. When I was younger and in junior high, my Catholic Church School classes changed from directly after school to late Monday evenings. After my brother and I got out we would go to my Aunt's house for a little while until my mother came to pick is up. We would play an advergame on the NES with my cousin, called McKids. I remember it being a pretty decent and pretty challenging Mario Brothers style platformer.

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    1. I played a lot of McKids, it was actually a pretty decent platformer, real fun for me and my cousins as kids.

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  11. I can't help but wonder if the sequel had 10 dimensions, or 25?

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    1. Blogspot needs a like button for comments.

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  12. This game reminds me of Skyworker, also from Germany. But Vision at least seems to have proper adventure elements, while Skyworker is explicitly a life simulator with a sci-fi theme, based around getting a job, earning money, improving skills, etc.

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  13. Ah, adgames, or "Werbespiele".
    As a JarlFrank pointed out, they were BIG in Germany and due to proximity (Hungarian here), I remember playing a lot of them.
    I don't really remember "Vision" though - if it was sold for money, then maybe that's why.
    These games were usually distributed for free, through the web, or on demo-discs (as they were mostly advertisements dressed up as games). And most of them were, indeed, point&click PC adventures. A Couple of them might have been in first person, but the only one I recall is "Die goldene Mähne des Samson" which had a Doom-like engine, but it's just an adventure game as well. Also, it was comissioned by a tobacco company.
    That's another interesting tidbit. The clients for these games varied wildly and sometimes it had some actual impact on the game.
    - In "Bifi" (Bifi was a Slimjim type german snack), you buy some of the titular sausages, but the plot is unrelated.
    - In "Das Telekommando" (comissioned by Telekom), you don't do anything Commando-related - insted you fix phone lines.
    - In "Dunkle Schatten" (comissioned by the Ministry of internal affairs), you need to investigate worrying signs of neo-nazi groups being present in your community.
    - Etc, etc.

    I don't recall ANY of these games being RPGs, so I doubt that we'll be seeing them on this blog (maybe on the Adventure gamer site). There are some puzzle games, some platformers and various action-types, a handful of managerial sims, but mainly adventure games.
    When it comes to German RPG games tracing famous people for their NPC portraits, be prepared for the remaining "Arkania" titles. Those can get REALLY carried away.

    In the end, if anyone's interested in these games, here's a good blog about them:

    https://werbespiel.blogspot.com

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    1. Dunkle Schatten sounds pretty cool, although you can imagine such a game being commissioned for nefarious purposes in some countries.

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    2. I remember playing DAS ERBE, where you have to refurbish a inherited house in a most eco-friendly way. The game was sponsored by the German Federal Environmental Agency. It was an adventure game that popular, it even had a second installment: DAS ERBE 2 - DAS SCHMUTZIGE ERBE...

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    3. I remember playing the first of the "Das Erbe" games - it was so ridiculous I kinda loved it. I think it's the only game I played where you can lose by blowing up a radiator.

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  14. This one reason, why I love your blog! Reading about this game made memories coming screaming back to me. I got that game as a teen from my father who worked for LBS. He was so proud about this modern way of advertising. In lack of a compatible computer at that time, I went to a friend to install it on his PC. We were so confused about that game making in our eyes no sence and making bad jokes that we quit after a short time.
    I totally forgot about that game, but it is great to see that you really try to find every game at least possibly related to RPG.

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  15. Loretta Buena Sera is obviously Sofia Loren

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