Saturday, May 26, 2012

Star Command: Won!

Wow. Every headline in the "traingle!"

Star Command was fun for a while, but I feel that it fell apart in its last act. It was already getting silly at the time of the last posting, when I needed to consult a mysterious "space hermit" to find out information about the insect alien threat. For some reason, he lived in a huge maze and needed me to find four gems, also hidden in the maze, before he could tell me anything useful. All he told me were the aliens had a master plan for their attack against humanity, but the plans had been stolen.

The Bar was an interesting combination of "outdoor" and "indoor" mapping.

Somehow, my superiors at Star Command divined that I might find them at The Bar, a wretched hive of scum and villainy. The Bar presented an interesting "dungeon," with a quasi-outdoor map of ships surrounding the bar itself and a storage building. There were some light puzzles here. I had to gamble with a lizard until he got drunk and passed out, then steal his keys, then board his ship and recover the plans. I don't really know where the lizards came from. They started popping up towards the end of the last mission, but I never got a sense whether they were allied with the insects (apparently not, since one of them stole their plans) or what.

We tore that ship apart until we found those plans.

With the recovered plans, I learned that the insects were building a "radiation bomb" on one of their planets, and I was assigned the task of destroying the central computer and, thus, the bombs. This was the most frustrating dungeon in the game because the puzzles didn't make any sense. I had to solve them through brute force--by trying every possible command--until, for some reason I don't understand, a tuning fork helped me get hold of some sheet metal that I used  to protect myself from falling acid and reach the central computer. The computer required a password that was spelled out in the dungeon's walls (honestly, who would build a dungeon like that?)--a fact that I only uncovered because I happened to use my esper's "view" ability just to test it out. Anyway, in due course I ordered the computer to self-destruct and fled.

Tips on securing passwords:make them a minimum of eight characters, include a mix of upper and lower case, and don't build them into the sodding floor plans of your secret base.
 
About this time, I started to find that I couldn't win a single ship combat. The difficulty of ship encounters appears to be based on your characters' levels and not the distance from starport, so even battles right out of dock were killing me. I started encountering a lot more robot ships, which were nearly impossible to hit. My ship was already way overloaded and I couldn't spare the weight for more, or better, guns. This was particularly compounded because so many missions were now occurring in deep space, and I needed to defeat enemy ships to get enough fuel to return home.

This was one of many combats that did not end well.
 
Thus, I engaged in some grinding until I had enough money for a ranger frigate, which took  more than twice the weight and fuel of my dagger-class escort. I christened her the ISS Kellandros after my own encyclopedia of all things Star Command.


Unfortunately, I hadn't done quite enough grinding. With the money I had left over from buying the ship, I was only able to purchase one gun position in addition to the defensive hardware I felt I needed. This was offset by the fact that I now had enough fuel to hyperspace out of most combats. Thus, ironically, even though I bought the Kellandros to improve my chances against enemy ships, I don't think I won another ship combat afterwards.

My commanding officer is prone to hyperbole.
 
The last couple of missions had me return to the space hermit to get more information about the insects. He said he needed the "Gem of Death" from a lizard base. The whole hermit/gem thing was horribly explained. I infiltrated the base, got the gem, fought about a billion melee combats against the lizards, and returned. The hermit said that the insects are ruled by a queen, and that if I destroyed her frigate (he helpfully gave me the coordinates), the threat would end.

Yeah, that's what they said about al-Qaeda.
 
This turned out to be my last mission, and it was actually one of the easier missions in the game. I simply flew to the coordinates and scanned around until I found the alien frigate.


I don't know if my one gun position would have been enough to defeat her in ship combat, but I didn't wait to find out. I boarded the frigate and killed the queen and her minions. I lost one of my characters in combat.


Returning to starport without incident, I was awarded all kinds of cash, and each of my characters received "medals of honor" in a little fireworks ceremony. After that, the game offered the ability to keep playing, but there were no more missions.


After winning it once, I did it a second time and recorded it. You can watch it below, but I'd recommend doing it with the sound off. It was the middle of the night, I was tired, and I sound like I must be drunk or something.


My biggest question after winning is: what the hell was with the robots?! At the beginning of the game, I was told that humanity faced three threats: pirates, insect aliens, and robots. I figured I'd be taking them on in turn, but the robots were just there; they didn't really have a story of their own. Who made them? Why were they helping the insects? Maybe I missed something in  one of the computer banks.

Just a few notes before I sign off:

  • I had promised a detailed analysis of melee combat in this posting, but now that I've won, I've kind of lost interest. You can see the basics in my two YouTube videos on Star Command.
  • The most frustrating part of the game, aside from the extremely-difficult-to-hit robot shops, was the continual destruction of my equipment in every melee combat. Repair kits took the edge of this annoyance, but it was rare that I exited a dungeon with every character holding a working gun.

Gelt and Exmin are fighting with their hands because they had their RPGs destroyed. Meanwhile, everyone else is running out of ammunition.

  • The end of the game was melee-heavy. I must have fought 30 battles in The Bar, against almost every enemy in the game, and another 30 in the lizard dungeon.  This required multiple trips back to starport to restock.

There were a host of events like this, against pirates, insects, and lizards, upon both entering and exiting The Bar.

  • The lizard dungeon had one of those annoying scripted events where you wander into a room, get gassed, and wake up in a prison cell without your equipment. The resolution (shock the jailer with some exposed wires) only took a few rounds and made the entire episode pointless. 

One of the most tiresome RPG tropes.

  • As Kellandros has pointed out a couple of times, the game tends to remember dungeon maps and special encounters even when you haven't saved. For instance, after successfully obtaining the Gem of Death from the lizard base the first time, I died in an attack from some robot ships on my way back. When I reloaded and returned to the dungeon, I found that all of the doors were open and all of the puzzles were solved, even though I had never saved my progress after the first visit.

In total, I felt the game was promising and had some good elements, but its difficulty was extremely variable and the story got absurd towards the end. Let's see how she fares in the GIMLET.

59 comments:

  1. I feel the term "space hermit" signals a certain...quality standard analogues to a ccc credit rating. On another note, that insect queen looks as if you had stumbled upon her while she was tripping out on something.

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    1. She does, doesn't she!

      On the other hand, that picture of the Insect Warrior is superb.

      So, the pirates, robots,and lizards were just teasers surrounding the real story of insectoid extra-terrestrials... setting off a dirty bomb somewhere?....................................

      WHAT DOES THE TITLE SCREEN WITH BATMAN'S OWN KILLER CROC BUMPING FISTS WITH A STORM TROOPER NEXT TO A HOT-WATER HEATER HAVE TO DO WITH ANYTHING THAT JUST HAPPENED?!!!?!

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    2. Probably not a dirty bomb: I'd guess a neutron bomb; Kills all life, leaves buildings unharmed and doesn't release any contaminants, so you can move in and live in the city really soon afterwards.

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    3. Giauz-

      The 'Killer Croc' looking guy was a Pirate Mutant- their melee only enforcers. They really only show up only occasionally in the pirate bases; not very important.

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    4. Oh, and if you sit long enough at that title screen it starts cycling through a simple animation sequence.

      (the 'storm trooper' by default is supposed to be one of the StarComm troopers I suppose)

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    5. Man, I was about to call you out for trolling me. It takes a LONG time.

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    6. Canageek: I hope that neutron bomb thing is theoretical because that does sound very scary (also, it sounds like an analog to a perfect bioweapon that never mutates and dies almost as fast as it's victims... "go away creepy thoughts!").

      I supposed that the weapon was a dirty bomb because they specifically called it a 'radiation bomb.' It seems wierd that they didn't just say 'atomic bomb' or something more recognizable, and dirty bombs are specifically meant to blow deadly radioactive material over large areas. Who knows, it could have been one texas-sized meteor of plutonium and enough explosive to make it dust over everything in 'The Triangle.' Also, insects (especially cockroach-like monsters) being immune to a radio-active holocaust is a long-running sci-fi trope.

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    7. Actually dirty bombs are not very lethal; They are mostly a weapon to make people panic then kill a bunch of them. You just can't make something radioactive enough to stay lethal enough once dispersed. Remember: radiation danger drops on the square of the distance, so if you are twice as far away you are getting 1/4 the does. 4x further, 1/16th the dose.

      Neutron bomb. Ahh, according to Wikipedia the US has built three types of them, and the USSR, China and France also known to posses them. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neutron_bomb
      Current designs DO have nuclear blasts in the kiloton range (Hiroshima and Nagasaki level atomic blasts). So noticeable blasts but not ones that render the site uninhabitable (Actually those two cities had lower cancer rates then control groups in the generation after WWII for unknown reasons).

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    8. Interesting, I had no idea radiation decreased that much from the time of dispersal. Still, wouldn't the initial destruction in the immediate area withing 'The Triangle,' combined with the mass-panic, an opening in Star Command's defense grid, and all the possible deaths from cancer over the next few years make such a powerful dirty bomb a frightening-enough secret weapon? And again, why 'radiation bomb,' if a neutron bomb would leave everything quite inhabitable (even for people without the cochroach radiation-immunity trope on their side)and (relatively?) radiation free?

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    9. Oh, yeah, forgot the obligatory...

      ... THE MORE YOU KNOOOOOOOOOOW!!!!!!!!!

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    10. People tend to react poorly to the concept of a neutron bomb, but it was actually developed as a sort of "humane" bomb. The idea was that if you're going to fight a war, that involves killing people by its very nature. But with conventional explosives you're also destroying infrastructure which can cause plenty of ongoing collateral death and suffering and may take months or years to restore at such time as it's even possible. Conventional nuclear weapons are even worse because they not only deliver an enormous amount of damage from their explosion, but they also contaminate the area with lingering radiation. A neutron bomb is designed to produce a single burst of highly lethal radiation that doesn't linger and doesn't damage infrastructure. So it should only kill people in the target area. It's still indiscriminate because area effect weapons simply are with our current tech, but at least it doesn't screw over anyone else afterwards.

      (I learned this from the Repo Man DVD special features, of all places.)

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    11. Giauz: Kills everyone in range. Then you move in and live in the city yourself.

      Dirty bombs are inherently small; Unless you blow up an entire planets worth of so very powerful radiation you aren't doing much actual damage. A traditional dirty bomb is a bunch of radioactive material around an explosive core. You'd need a lot of that to do much damage. The only place I've heard of radioactive material both long lived and powerful enough to do this was inside the Chernobyl sarcophagus, and a large part of that was that there was a *ton* of material there, in a very concentrated area. I suppose you could blow up a nuclear reactor to genearte a lot of short lived isotopes, but I still can't see it being worse then a more sophisticated device.

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    12. Actually, neutron bomb ain't that clean and simple in function it still being nuclear weapon with all the blast and heat involved.

      http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/intro/neutron-bomb.htm

      The 1kt nuclear device mentioned in above article would mean ~0,6 sqkm destroyed. Wikipedia mentions such neutron bomb's lethal damage by radiation dose exceeding ~1.4km but with very little citations to back it up.

      Doesn't seem that effective if your intention is to evict previous inhabitants and move in with working infrastructure.

      Not to mention that before moving in you'd need to deal with bodies and fix things up, but most of all I'd say it being hell of a creepy living in such area.

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    13. This is the day the CRPG Addict's blog is added to every US government watchdog group's list... ( those in DoD can now read this blog and call it work ;) )

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    14. 1.4 km seems low for neutrons: Those things take a LOT to stop, doubly so fast neutrons as the bombs give off. I'm not surprised that there are few citations; The specifications of nuclear weapons are generally not told to the public.

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    15. fas.org's page says 3kt ER weapon acts as 1kt fission regarding blast and thermal but 10kt for radiation.

      If wikipedia's nuclear weapon effect table is to be believed even 20kt's effective radiation range less than 2km range.

      AFAIK though they weren't developed (in US) to depopulate cities but to stop Red Army tank divisions.

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    16. True, I wonder how much you could optimize that though. They did stop development a lot of years ago.

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    17. Also Zenic: I think I'm already on a few watch lists. I get secondary screening EVERY TIME I fly. Nothing strenuous, just extra swabs, but still. I'm betting it is because I'm in chem, since everyone I know in chem has that. Could also be because of my past jobs though (One nuclear industry, though chemical side of it, the other in radiation monitoring)

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  2. God, that just sounds unplayably bad. Did you have any fun with it at all?

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    1. I did. I'm sorry if that didn't come through. There were moments of fun, although I wouldn't say it was *consistently* fun.

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    2. I got that you liked it, but the negative bits do stick out more, since the human mind remebers the bits that stick out.

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    3. As you'll recall a similar thing happened when you played Wasteland; Everyone was stunned when it did decently on your rating, when we all thought you hated it.

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    4. Oh I'm playing through Star Control 2 and it is SOOO much fun, in fact I'm 'enjoying the witty dialogue'. Star Control 2 is so much fun but, oh sigh, so far away. On the plus side maybe you'll discover some other gem, play on! Oh and you don't need DOS-box for Star Control 2 and there's voice acting, so much awesome, that game is so much fun. But Pool of Radiance was fun too.

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  3. I hadn't been paying attention to Chet's character names, and just picked up on the Battle Beyond the Stars reference lol

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  5. Star Control 2 is much better, it never gets simply too difficult, although the universe is big and there's a lot of stuff you have to find. Although there's much less upgrades and different weapons in Star Control 2, but there should be enough to make it an interesting game. Main difference I guess would be that battle in Star Control 2 isn't turn based. I'm looking forward to Star Control 2.

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    1. Before Star Control 2, there's also quite similar Megatraveller 2.

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    2. Oooh, I know nothing about that game, looking forward to it!

      --Eino

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  6. You don't sound drunk at all. Just saying.

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    1. Really? "When I laugh lest"?

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    2. least you mean? I didn't notice that, I was actually listening in one ear while doing other things. You didn't sound quite as good as last time, but not drunk. Take this from the student who has to listen to drunk people outside his apartment on an annoyingly regular basis.

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    3. Do you jest, Canageek, or are you confusing what he meant to be "When I last left...?"

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    4. One doesn't have to be (or sound) drunk to stumble over their words. Take it from me, I do that all the time in my Let's Play vids.

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    5. Drunk doesn't necessarily have to be bad, it could be quite comical. One of my favorite characters in Cannonball Run was the doctor, always stoned, oh and now googling it I learn there was a sequel, I'm not sure which one I've seen, have I seen the sequel? Or the cops in Super Bad, awesome role models for all cops, I mean it!

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    6. Cannonball Run? One of the oriental guys in the sportscar was Jackie Chan! My persona; faves are Dean Martin and Sammy David, Jr. as the two "priests."

      It's amazing how I come on The CRPG Addict to discuss old movies. XD

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  7. That little video was fun to watch, kind of like an Angry Dos Game Nerd. Most of the videos on your acct. dont seem to have voiceovers. I think you would get loads of viewers if you did voiceovers and edited the gameplay to show cool/lame aspects of the games.

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    1. It's embarrassing, but I only figured out how to do it recently. Apparently, I should have downloaded SnagIt about six years ago.

      I don't want to put too much emphasis on video, though. There are already a lot of people who record reviews and LPs. My project is much more of a written endeavor.

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    2. And it should stay so. The blow by blow narration of most let's play videos become monotonous for me quite fast. Your format of hitting on important parts (often with HI-Larious! anecdotes) in your text articles and screenshots with captions is extremely high-quality. I do miss your highlight notes after the videos, but I guess commenters cover that (in case there is anything I really want to see in real-time).

      One suggestion (I'm not sure how this works), you could have your videos organized in a YouTube 'channel' with your 'The CRPG Addict' header linking to your site-home above all of the videos you have on YouTube. This would probably make you more easilly noticed and easier to follow for more new readers. Hopefully, LET 'THE NEW CLASSIC-CRPG REVOLUTION' COMMENCE!

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    3. Well, I can offer the best of both worlds and do the in-video narration plus have some paragraphs after the video.

      I haven't quite figured out how to set up my YouTube channel yet, but part of me doesn't want to. I want people to watch the videos from here.

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    4. Yes, I think you're right. Having a channel would probably become more trouble than it's worth. And, really, you don't have to go back to after video text. No big deal.

      - Kindle Giauz (because I haven't figured out how to loving yet!)

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    5. Doh, log in!

      - Giauz

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  8. My understanding is the manual focuses on the threats from the Insects and Pirates(notice in their territory you are in 'yellow' alert). Past their area is unknown groups that are too far away to interact with humans, so don't really care about us one way or the other.

    The robots and the lizards are the species in control of the far corners of the galaxy; the robots had been doing some trading of weapons with the insects so you ran into them first. Beyond that the two are left as just mysteries. You will find planets everywhere with hi-tech machine or lizard civilizations. Which can be espionage missioned or traded with.

    ----------------
    I think the 'Space Hermit' was their attempt at a Star Trek style plot macguffin; at least it was phrased a little better than 'go ask the fortune teller in the deep, dark cave'; the effect really was the same either way.

    I find naming the ship 'ISS Kellandros' extra apropos, as pretty much all I do by that point in the game is run away from space combat. That pack of 5 Insect Patrol Ships in your 5th screenshot is pretty unwinnable, especially if you can't maneuver to have most out of range of attacking you. And that's only the 3rd best Insect ship class(Corvettes are even worse, but at least don't come in packs of 5; don't even try an Insect Frigate).

    The end section of the game does get annoying- the difficulty in combat just spikes the more missions you go through. But I think that sort of goes into the larger design of the game- combat is minimally rewarding, if you are explorers/soldiers your job is to complete the mission not leave a trail of death and destruction behind you.

    The downside of that is that the game ends up encouraging early grinding, then punishes you for trying to keep doing so.

    And they never did very much with cargo/trading; you had the option to try making money that way but it would have been absurdly slow- made worse by the frequency of random encounters trying to move between planets.

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  9. This game sounds terrible. Not as bad as Sentinel Worlds, but pretty bad anyway. No offense, but I'm glad you played it so I didn't have to.

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    1. You can't offend me; I didn't develop it. But there were enough moments of fun that it kept me playing until the end.

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  10. Good God Wizardry. You're not actually trying that again, are you?

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    1. Last time there was the idea on comments that your readers could help with grinding process. Have you considered that or just gritting teeth and playing all by yourself.

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    2. Gritting teeth, but I'm relaxing my rules a bit to allow re-loads if any of my characters get turned to ash.

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    3. I could set up a system where we could each check out your save game, level it up, then check it back in.

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    4. I appreciate it, man, but I've got this. Really. It's not THAT hard. The last time I was playing it, Skyrim was competing for my attention.

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  11. Ocassionally now posting with kindle fire for my upcoming birthday - yay!

    - Giauz

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  12. I looked up Battle Beyond the Stars in Wikipedia and realized, I've seen it (or parts of it) as a child and it's been haunting me ever since. I tried to find figure out earlier what film it was, and thought it was The Last Starfighter. But the plot summary, especially the end confirms it's BBtS. Nice to get that corrected! Nice touch also to use Nestor's name for the esper.

    --Eino

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    1. If you want to watch the trailer for the film, it's here:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksJTPdNNQB4

      This trailer is just awesome:

      "Does your species have kissing?"
      "Oh, yes! We have that."

      And watch the description of the hot dog.

      It's got John-Boy from the Waltons, Hannibal from the A-Team, and the shrink from the Terminator. This is, like, the perfect film.

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    2. It's a classic. I love Ice Pirates too. Many people have never heard of that one.

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    3. Wow, I haven't thought about that film in years. I saw it in the theater, so I must have been about 11. I still remember the twist ending, though.

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    4. Had never seen BBtS for sure until I watched it in parts on youtube last year to see what the James Horner soundtrack was like (his Star Trek II soundtrack is one of my favorites of all time).

      I think when I was a kid I may have seen at least parts of whatever the other film is that used that same breast-laden spaceship prop though.

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  13. Having watched the movie as a TV matiné, I was so impressed with his badassness that I taught myself how to play The Cowboys Lament on the harmonica. Couldn't figure out what film it was until decades later. Thanks for the trailer link.

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  14. In this thread: A Star Wars reference :D

    Man, it's sure taking me a long time to catch up from the beginning. Hopefully, I can get through them in the next couple of months.

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