March 29, 2013

[Game 034] Pool of Radiance (NES - 1990)


Well, here it is... the game that indirectly started it all.  See, just back before I became the manchine, I had completed a particularly daring cyber-heist and was taking a well-deserved extended vacation.  During this break, I had planned on tackling the entire Gold Box series for the PC, starting with Pool of Radiance.  I was at about 90% completion when I just had to search the Internets to find out what the hell the sheets of gold that I had been carrying forever were for (nothing).  This search brought me to the CRPG Addict's blog and I delayed finishing the game while I read through his archives.  It was during this time that the Cyber Police raided my secret underground lair and I was forced to become the manchine.  What started as a small, self-imposed quest through a fantastic series of games turned into a much vaster quest that incorporated all the crap games as well as the gems.  Oh well, I'm already almost 10% done and haven't hit any major stumbling points (yet).

So, knowing how fully awesome and full of win the PC version of PoR is, it was with some trepidation that I went into the NES port of it.  I had heard that this version was the weakest of all, but would it be enough to pull this mighty title down to the likes of Spooky Kitaro 2?  I am pleased to report that it's not even close.  The only thing that really suffers is having to use a D-pad instead of a num-pad (makes diagonal movement a real pain).  The gameplay is still all here and mostly intact from the original version.  A big draw for me in the PC series is that characters from PoR could be exported for use in the next game in the saga.  To keep the gameplay balanced from one game to the next, level caps were introduced to keep the characters from becoming overpowered.  In the NES version, the level caps are still here which should ensure that I can't just grind my way past any difficult encounters; proper tactics in combat are a must.  In order to tilt combat in my favour and also to make sure that gaining experience always remains useful, I am going with an entire party of multi-classers.  In the bizarro world of Forgotten Realms, only elves and half-elves can multiclass, so I'm going with two Fighter/Magic-users, two Fighter/Clerics, and a Fighter/Magic-user/Thief.  Of course, I also spent a stupid amount of time rolling stats for each character.

If only I could trade some
Cha for some more Dex.

The game starts off in a small section of the city of Phlan, the only civilized area in an otherwise monster-infested place.  Upon our arrival, we are greeted by a human named Rolf, who gives us a brief tour.

You're human?  Geez, I'd hate to see
what your undead look like.

Missions are available at the City Council branch and are mostly about destroying all the monsters in a selected area.  There's no princess to worry about, no mad wizard trying to take over the world, just good ol', skull-cracking, hack 'n slash.  Perfect for a fledgling group of first levellers.  With three of us being able to cast the panty-creaming Sleep spell, early fights end heavily in our favour.

I love it when things is dying.

Even though our initial hit point totals are low (ranging from 3 to 6), getting reduced to zero HP isn't as bad as that may seem.  As long as one of the clerics (Aeris or Zeelus) survive the battle, a fallen warrior can be given a shot of Cure Light Wounds and he'll be back on his feet and ready to escort everyone back to civilized Phlan.  Of course, if the clerics don't survive...

Well, let's just say that Shen is going to be
putting that 18/74 Strength to the test.

Clearing out each sector consists of finding and fighting all the static encounters but also enduring a set number of random encounters.  Once an area has been "cleansed" it can be searched for loot at the party's leisure.  The loot itself has been pared down from the PC version; there is no sifting through piles of long swords and leather armours after each battle.  Only items of note will ever be presented to the characters and this usually means it's magical (making the Detect Magic spell pretty useless).  Unfortunately, each character can only hold eight items and half of these slots are used for weapons and armour.  I've already had to sell off some healing potions just to make room for more loot.  Some items I know won't have much of a use until much later in the game and so I have devote a couple slots to them.  Items such as clerical scrolls of Restoration which gives a character back the experience points lost from a level-draining undead.  There's a whole sector dedicated just to undead and I recall that a good number of them were drainers.  We've already had our first encounter with a level drainer while searching Mendor's Library for tomes regarding Phlan's history.  As we attempted to leave with several of the volumes, a ghost materialized and tried to put a stop to our book learnin' but Davros wasn't having it.

Oh snap, ghost!  You just got Davroed!

Hilariously, Davros got hit and drained a level from each of his classes right off the bat.  The rest of us held our snickering in check as we gangbanged the ghost with our magical weapons.  Since Davros was drained to just below the experience needed for the level he was just at, he immediately had enough xp to train up again.  In effect, he had not so much lost a level as the thousands of xp he already gained on his way to the next level.  This xp I think could have been saved with a Restoration spell but we didn't have any such scrolls on us at the time.  Or, should I say, we didn't THINK we had any such scrolls on us.  Due to the low cost of identifying items, we had always waited until getting back to New Phlan before reading any scrolls (just in case of a cursed one).  Davros had already trained his level back up before we discovered that we had a scroll with three Restorations on it.  His xp was now officially gone.  To further add insult to injury, a little later we noticed that the local priests were also able to cast Restoration (for a hefty fee, of course).

Oh sure, buried way down here at the bottom!

Well, it's only a couple thousand xp, I'm sure Davros won't lag too far behind.  The rest of us thought we were now powerful enough to finish clearing the slums of Phlan.  Though this area was the first one we attempted to clean up, we were initially unable to because of one particular static encounter involving trolls.  Fighting trolls at level one guarantees a full party wipe but now most of our classes were at level three.  Those levels combined with some solid tactics and we were sure we'd get our revenge.  The battle commenced with the two trolls and their kobold underlings quite a distance off.  We waited at the entrance to the room as the kobolds made their way forward.  The lumbering trolls got a faceful of fire from Temujin's Necklace of Missiles (fireballs).  I quickly waved my hands and traced the well-practiced Sleep spell and brought the kobolds to a slumbering stop a mere metre away.  The trolls were much too polite to want to disturb their little kobold buddies and dutifully stood there as we needled their charred bodies with arrows.

Did I mention how much I ♥ the Sleep spell?

As much fun as the first level Sleep spell is, I was even more pumped for the second level Stinking Cloud incantation.  I recall using it to great effect in the glorious PC version; not only did it have a chance to incapacitate anyone within its noxious vapours, it also prevented any creature from entering it either.  It didn't, however, prevent arrows from passing through it.  Sadly, Stinking Cloud has been demoted to a mild stench here.  The barrier effect is gone and it just acts like a stronger Sleep spell, affecting monsters that are too powerful for regular Sleep (though in a 2x2 area as opposed to Sleep's 3x3).  It's still okay as a spell... I guess.  Oh well, I still have the level three spells to look forward to which contain my absolute favourite spell of all time — FIREBALL.  How much do I love fireball?  One of my first Magic: The Gathering decks I ever built was nothing but fireballs.  I went from hobby store to hobby store and purchased all the loose fireballs I could (a cheap common card).  I spent about a minute building my master deck with just mountains and dem f'balls.  Imagine my dismay during my first match when I was told that the whole deck was not only highly illegal, but also incredibly easy to beat.  That's why I now prefer RPGs like Pool of Radiance here; they give fireball the dignity and respect it deserves.  Aah, I can't wait to get all my fighter-mages at least one fireball memorized.  The amount of destruction that a triple fireball cannon will wreak has me popping at least five boners.  I had some other stuff to discuss but funk it, I need a fireball fix.  Instead, here's a picture of some dude who joined us after we freed him only to ditch us when we got back to civilized Phlan.  Luckily, we didn't bother to give him any weapons or armour.

Though maybe we should have given
him something to cover those moobs.

March 23, 2013

Sword of Hope - Ranking

Story & World

My lack of focus on the story should be evidence enough that there isn't anything too exciting about it.  It didn't help that the text is very poorly translated from the original Japanese.  There isn't a lot of Engrish or anything, just piles of awkward phrases.  For example, one of the minor storylines involves the boss monster, Swamp Master Mudman, falling in love with the female wizard, Camu.  Here is a selection from his heartfelt letter to her after he traps her in a pool:

"I'm not really so bad.  Due to my ugliness, I had no other choice.  I had to do it this way, to get my hands on you, as I am so ugly.  As you have the dabbler, only you can speak to me from now on.  Wait for me at the quiet spring reflecting your beautiful face!"

The majority of the text in the game is like this as well, and it really reduces the effectiveness of my James Earl Jones voice mod that I generally use for a game's narrative.  My Patrick Stewart and Ice-T mods were likewise ineffective.  The humour (and I use the term lightly) found in the game is actually increased slightly from the awkwardness.  The story itself is pretty flimsy and sections are only loosely related to each other.

Due to the Shadowgate-inspired adventure portion of the game, exploring is quite enjoyable.  Each "room" has a tailor-made graphical depiction of it and a noticeable effort was made to represent the possible path directions as well (even diagonals!).  Everything that can be interacted with mostly gives unique text, even if it is just a little bit of silliness.  9/20

Character Development

Nuthin' but the basics here, though oddly enough, the three main stats are agility, dexterity, and stamina (there's usually always a strength stat).  There are quite a few spells gained as Theo increased in levels, but most of them are upgrades from previous versions.  The stat-affecting spells, even when they were successful, didn't seem to alter the rest of the combat much and were rarely used.

The entire range of equipment includes four swords (including the Sword of Hope) and four sets of armour.  Such variety!  I actually missed getting the last set of armour, so that probably had a large impact in the difficulty of the final boss fights.  Consumables only include two health replenishers (wheat and barley) and the magic-restoring herbalz in yo' mouth.  3/20

Combat & Monsters

I'm torn on which direction I should give points regarding the combat system.  On one hand, the chaotic battles were initially quite fun and well represent how most real combats go down.  On the other hand, it's kinda stupid for a RPG to rely so heavily on luck to determine the outcome of the battles.  I found that either Theo would get his ass kicked or, if he was a few levels higher, he was the one doing the ass kicking.  I suppose it's a wash, then.  Hybrid RPGs aren't generally known to have as deep of a combat system as "purer" RPGs, but that still isn't enough to garner any extra pointage.

I didn't care for the majority of the monsters.  It was nice to see that most of them had spell-like abilities and not just a standard melee attack but the ones drawn from the classic bestiary did not meet the standards.  I mean, come on, goblins that throw fireballs?  Apes that can conjure up tornadoes?  Get the hell out of here.  5/20

Graphics & Sound

Though the graphical representations of each area are quite well done, they do only take up a small fraction of the entire display.  The quality of monster sprites vary quite a lot (The King looks pretty badass; the Shadow is laughably juvenile).  There are no real animations during the battles; monster sprites remain static and slide down (towards Theo) when attacking and slide up (away from Theo) when on the defensive.

The music taken from Shadowgate, of course, tickles my nostalgia something fierce but the rest of it is subpar.  The few sound effects get the job done but just barely.  6/20

Gameplay

An interesting, and welcome, aspect of the economy is that it caps at a mere 255 gold.  The most expensive armour that could be purchased weighed in at 250 gp and the price of consumables goes up as Theo gains levels.  A particularly difficult expedition could see Theo using up more herb than he could repurchase after his inevitable death.  I like how this money cap more accurately reflects the encumbrance that a metal coin-based economy would necessitate instead of ignoring it completely as most RPGs do.

While most of the RPG facets of the game are done quite poorly, the adventuring portion fares a little better (though still not on par with Shadowgate or Uninvited).  All the quests involve fetching an item of some kind and none of them are very hard to get.  The most difficult spots are when Theo doesn't have enough levels to take on a boss monster and has to spend some time grinding.  Sword of Hope is a good example of trying to blend two genres and ending up with a game in which both elements are debased.  8/20

Final Ranking:  31/100

March 20, 2013

Sword of Hope - End Game

The tumultuous nature of the battles continued as predicted by Past Shen but what he didn't know is that the magic system would stabilize somewhat with the introduction of higher level spells.  For each of the three main spell types (Fireball, Tornado, and Lightning), there are four levels of power.  Level 1 is where the target is completely random; Level 2 allows the caster to select a single target; Level 3 affects everyone in the battle; Level 4 hits everyone except the caster.  The level 1 and level 2 spells cost the same amount of magic points, making the level 1 immediately obsolete after attaining the level 2 version (pity, that).  Keep in mind that being able to select the target does not necessarily mean that the spell won't hit the caster, it just happens less often than the random version of the spell.  Magic is relied heavily upon as melee attacks have a wide range of damage, often dealing only a couple points of damage and effectively wasting a turn.  This turns out to not be such a big deal as there is an item available for purchase that refills magic to full, although it is quite expensive.

44 Golds?!  This had better
be some primo kush.

Even with the help of a balanced magic system, the majority of fights still swayed wildly in their difficulty.  Sometimes multiple enemies would unleash their most powerful attack spell and waste Theo right away, and sometimes they'd just wail on each other and Theo would then finish off the survivor.  Boss fights were particularly tough; victory depends entirely on what the boss decides to do during its turn.  If it ever decides to deal damage twice in a row then it's curtains for Theo.  Theo had to hope that the boss would take time out from pummeling his face to heal or buff or steal gold, etc.  And some of these bosses are the most horrendous creatures ever to be conceived of by mankind.

Pulled straight from the deepest recesses
of my chamber of nightmares.

Thankfully, whenever Theo dies, he respawns at the old man's hut with no XP or gold loss, just having a reduced HP and MP which can be promptly healed by teleporting to the shaman.  The shaman does cost a little gold, though, and is pretty much a mandatory stop after a death.  This starting area is situated nicely in the center of the game world and makes it easy to get back on track for most of the areas.  I say "most of the areas" because the final area isn't so easily accessible.  It's a much longer path that has many traps where if Theo enters a certain room, he's warped back to an earlier part of the area.  One could make a map of it but this proved unnecessary as Theo had to traverse the final area no less than fifteen times due to the final boss being so gosh darn difficult.

This is actually Theo's father in the game
but I haven't been focusing on the story
anyway so that doesn't really matter.

Of course, this being the final boss, almost no magic works against him and the only option is to attack with the Sword of Hope (oh yeah, I got that thing).  All three of the king's attacks do damage, so there is no chance for a break in taking damage and it comes down to hoping that the attack won't do as much damage as it potentially could.  After Theo's first five defeats (and I mean defeats — usually dead by round 3), he decided to grind a level before trying again.  If he failed again, he would grind another level before attempting the battle again.  Levels don't come quickly at this point and I spent around two hours, at maximum speed, grinding five bloody levels before finally being successful.  With a total time of 8.5 hours, this means I spent about a quarter of the entire game just grinding for the last boss.  Eventually though, Theo lucked out and managed to get a killing blow in.  Too bad the trope of having sequential final bosses raised its ugly head and Theo immediately had to fight the dragon that possessed the king in the first place.  With no opportunity to heal between fights, Theo was killed in the first round and the Rage Meter™ rose way, way into the red zone.

Ugh, can't a brother even get a
chance to blaze some herb?

The meter was pushed even further up when it was realized that the king had also regenerated and both king and dragon would need to be defeated in succession.  The dragon wasn't as difficult as the king due to it sometimes healing itself but not healing more damage than Theo could dish out.  Still, having to defeat both of them in a row took many tries.  I wish I knew how many attempts it took but I think it broke my floating-point unit processor chip.  Words can't do justice to express how I feel about this whole final boss fiasco so I think I'll find a suitable image instead.  Without my FPU, this may take awhile so just hold on...
.
..
.
query images.human.facial.expressions
.
..
.
indexing results (810,187,420 hits)
.
..
.
initiating algorithm(fitting.expression)
.
..
.
algorithm complete.  outputting result direct to monitor.
.
..
.


March 13, 2013

[Game 033] Sword of Hope (GB - 1989)


The only Game Boy RPGs I ever played as a flesh-child were the Final Fantasy Legend series and Final Fantasy Adventure.  This was probably due more to local availability than being a FF fan (though I am that as well).  Most of the GB titles that I'll have to do I had never even heard of before (other than Pokemon).  I was fully expecting for these nosebleed games to just be monochromatic Dragon Quest clones, but Sword of Hope surprised me.  It is essentially a RPG/adventure hybrid, utilizing the same interface used in games such as Shadowgate and Uninvited on the NES.  The same techniques used in those games are viable in SoH as well.

Including punching everything in sight.

The similarities don't end there, however; much of the music and sound effects are ripped from Shadowgate.  As all these games were published by KEMCO, I guess that's not too horrible.  The main difference in SoH is that there is no pixel hunting (can you imagine that on a Game Boy?) and the inventory items and actions available are far fewer in number.  This makes for an exceedingly easy exploration endeavour and I was expecting the RPG battle segments to be just as effortless.  At first, it was.

Then, it wasn't.

While the combat options are limited to the standard melee attack or spell casting, the combat system itself is a chaotic whirlwind of pure awesome.  Instead of the two sides (hero vs. enemies) just exchanging blows with one another, monsters of differing types will often attack each other.  As each round passes, there is a chance that a new monster will enter the fray (e.g. the above screenshot started with just the goblin).  This is rad enough in itself, but SoH increases the madness by making magic a lot more volatile than in most games.  When an attack spell is cast, there is a chance that it will hit the spellcaster as well (or in addition to, if it's a spread spell).  This includes monsters that cast spells as well.  Oh, and sometimes monsters will reflect spells back at the caster as well.  I've already had one instance where I cast a fireball spell only to have it critical fail and hit me for a bunch of damage and then the monster reflect his portion of it for even more damage (resulting in death).  Just stick with melee attacks then, you say?  No dice, some creatures are very resistant to melee damage and would take five times as long to beat.  Though I'm enjoying this insane, frantic battle system now, I'm sure Future Shen will be quite fed up with it but fuck that guy.

Uh... yeah, I meant to do that.

So as you may have noticed above, I didn't get to name the main character and am stuck with the heroic name of Theo.  Now, I may just be a product of the eighties, but for the life of me I cannot picture anyone else other than this guy:


I've tried hard to envision myself in the lead role, but whenever his name pops up on the screen I end up thinking about Huxtables so I've decided to just roll with it.  Anyway, Theo's main quest involves getting the titular sword so that he can destroy the dragon who has corrupted the king and turned most of the people into trees.  The sword is in the possession of one of three mages who have sealed themselves off into their own respective domains.  Theo must find the three keys in order to visit each mage.  I've only been playing a few hours and already have two of the keys so this may be a real short quest.  With the low number of actions, items, and screen interactables, it's pretty hard to miss anything and there is no reason not to exhaust all options on every screen.  The developers seemed to be aware of this; there are numerous tongue-in-cheek moments while exploring.

One of the many fakeouts.
An animal's what??  The
tension is unbearable!

Now, Theo better get a move on and explore the next area before his dad has a serious talk with him about all the D's he got on his report card.

March 09, 2013

Glory of Heracles II - Ranking

Story & World

Any entertainment medium that chooses to take place in an already established setting has a certain obligation to that source material.  In an age where producers of movies based on comics won't read past the damn cover page, it's nice to find a game that at least tries to fit into its chosen lore.  GoH2:TD gives a lot of attention to little details.  The monsters, gods, NPCs, architecture, and even the long boat are all modeled quite accurately after ancient Greece.  My only gripe is that the language used doesn't even try to mimic ancient Greek.  Perhaps there wasn't a lot of room in the translation to suffix -icus onto to every word, but it still sounds far too modern and breaks the immersion a tad.

The overarching 'Kill the Foozle' story is to be expected for a Dragon Quest clone but for a game that has Heracles in the title, we sure didn't get to see a lot of him.  I suppose that's just as well; I generally prefer to be able to name the protagonist so that I can ego-stroke appropriately.  12/20

Character Development

Nothing but standard level gains here.  Four base stats (Power, Agility, Vigour, and Luck) and two derived (Attack and Defense) that generally always increase with each level, and even then, always by just a point or two.  The lack of variance dampens any enthusiasm for level gains as there are never any surprises.  This is mitigated somewhat by the generous distribution of spells.  Each of the non-Heracles characters have a decent set of spells (with Shen getting the short end of the stick).  Spell names are nonsensical which means having to experiment which a new spell until its effects are emblazoned across your grey matter.  Some spells are tougher to decipher than others; their effects are only evident under certain conditions (e.g. curing status ailments).

Equipment also has some experimentation aspects to it but in a far less fun way.  Characters are limited in which weapons and armour they can use but there is no way to know what the restrictions are right away.  This means passing the equipment down the line until it sticks to someone.  To find out if the new piece is actually more powerful than the previous, one must go to the main menu, open the character's stat screen and memorize (sure, could write them down but... shnuh) all the values, back out to the main menu, equip the new piece of equipment (having to scroll through all six equipment slots in the process), back out to the main, and finally into the character screen again to see if there are any changes.  A lot of items gave a whopping one or two point increase over the previous, making me question whether it was worth the hour I spent navigating the menu.  6/20

Combat & Monsters

Combat is mostly just mashing the A button but there are two factors which give some strategic depth.  The first is the wasting of an attack if the creature targeted dies before the character acts (à la Final Fantasy).  The second is in the numerous spells and, more importantly, the cheap spell cost.  The low cost gives an incentive to play around with spells during normal random encounters.  Both Shen and Abrax are competent healers and by midgame, healing woes were a thing of the past.

About half of the monsters had something more in their arsenal than a plain, old melee attack.  A lot of status ailment-inducing creatures had the ability to spread their special attack over the entire group, which only Abrax could cure (though there are items that duplicate those cures in case Abe gets fucked up).  10/20

Graphics & Sound

The look and feel of ancient Greece is on display throughout the game, despite the limitation of 8-bit graphics.  The cities and dungeons are done quite well for the most part; there are just a few dungeons that are painful to look at.  Monster sprites are nicely done although palette swapping is used a little too liberally.  The music is mostly forgettable although I dug the overworld tune.  The sound effects were... wait, were there sound effects?... Yeah, I think there were.  9/20

Gameplay

The pacing of the entire game was done exceedingly well, which is easier to do with such a linear progression.  Grinding was kept to a minimum and even the grinding I did do wasn't exactly necessary; I just wanted new equipment right away.  The grindiest part was at the very beginning getting strong enough to take on Cerberus but anything after that was more optional.  The economy was strong until near the end when there was nothing new left to buy.  The equipment-destroying creatures found at various points throughout really helped clamp down on Shen and the gang from getting too rich.  As with most linear RPGs with a static roster of characters, there is little incentive to ever replay this otherwise enjoyable run-of-the-mill JRPG.  14/20

Final Ranking:  51/100

March 05, 2013

Glory of Heracles II - End Game

The path to the second zui (Hatred) led us to an interesting departure from the normal dungeon design.  Instead of having random encounters on all of the floors, a key-based puzzle was laid out.  The three different key types (wood, stone, and gold) open a corresponding door, allowing access to the delicious chests within.  Chests can hold tiny amounts of gold, other keys, or a one-way trip to the bottom level (the only place monsters exist).  Climbing up from the bottom level (which will happen frequently) means everything is reset and the whole process begins anew.  A map detailing which chests contained the necessary keys to progress and which ones contained pit traps would have been handy, but I opted instead to just blunder into previously sprung traps.

50% chance?  I like those odds!

After finding the Hatred zui, we exited the tower and was greeted by our old pal, Hesiodos.  He shows up Homer and helps us yet again by telling us the location of the last zui (Chaos) and that we'll need a ship to get it.  Warping back to my hometown of Nana, we talked to the queen and she generously gave us the use of the only ship in port.  I was wondering when this game was going to pony up some method of controllable transportation.  All members of the party were quite confident in their fighting skills and we were undaunted by the addition of seafood to our battlin' menu.

Abrax is full of... wan??

A short sea voyage saw us arriving in the town of Elm, which had many desirable and expensive equipments.  There was something about the king being sick and needing some life pip thingamabob but we needed golds for shiny things.  The area immediately around Elm held creatures that were heavily laden with the precious metal but it came at a price.  The monsters would occasionally be able to destroy a piece of equipment right off of a character.  There's no repairing the equipment, it's just gone.  Of course, in true Nung form, I was turboing so quickly through the fights that I failed to notice this effect until I was sans four pieces of equipment (worth a total of about 50,000 golds).  Thankfully, Talos's group attack spells were able to defeat the creatures in a single round and the ducats started rolling in after employing said spells.  We quickly purchased (and repurchased) all of our equipment and easily obtained the life pip for the sick king.

Yeah, we got it, just... just give
me a few minutes here, king.

The pip cures the king up instantaneously and he rewards us with a chunk of jade and tells us to get the Chaos zui (as if we weren't going to do that anyway).  That particular zui was held in a lost shrine somewhere in the vast desert nearby.  This dungeon was notable for yet another puzzle within it.  After entering a certain room, the wall closed behind the party and we were trapped; the eight faces on the floor seemed to mock our predicament.  A letter found in a chest informed us that four of the faces were real and four were not.  Stepping on a false face, of course, meant that a pit trap took us to the bottom floor and we would have to blitzkrieg our way back to the room.  Strangely enough, we actually got the correct sequence on our second try.

In yer face, you faces.

In order to obtain the final zui, we had yet another fight with a griffin.  After beating this one, however, we were surprised to find out that this griffin was actually Iris all along!  She gave us some B.S. story about coming to help find the Chaos zui but her ship crashed and then she was turned into a griffin after being attacked by one (as if griffins are lycanthropes).

GRIFFINS DO NOT WORK IN THAT WAY!

She dies or teleports or something and we're left trying to figure out how to assemble the zuis into the Chaos Axe and also how to get into heaven.  We revisited the priest who said he had the silk reins and, lo and behold, he had let them be stolen by none other than the villainous Daedalus!  When confronted, Daedalus gives them up easily enough as he is quite inconsolable over the passing on of his son, Icarus, who did not survive his wounds that were previously inflicted.  We tried using the silk reins immediately but was told that it was futile.  Figuring we had to find a special place to summon Pegasus, we set our in boat and found a small island near Nana that seemed to serve no other purpose.  We tried the reins and... success!

The cutest version of the airship so far.

It may be the cutest version but it definitely is not the most user-friendly.  When we land Peggie and enter a town or a dungeon, he buggers off and so we have to retrace our steps: warp to Nana, take boat to the east, debark at the island, and resummon our skittish transportation.  We ended up having to do this approximately twenty times by endgame.  It was only afterwards while FAQing the game up that I learned that I fucked it up as well.  Pegasus can be summoned only on grassland tiles; all my previous attempts happened to not be grasslands.  This somehow convinced me that it could only be done at a special location.  The only defense I can muster on my behalf is that I didn't expect a flying horse to handle like a frigging helicopter.  But I digress.  Heaven was finally accessible to us in all its cloudy glory.  The trip was short as heaven was smaller than most cities and only had a few gods hangin' around (we also talked to Icarus as well — he's fine!).  As promised, Heracles was in da house but fighting with Talos.  Not our Talos, mind you, THE Talos.  This initially caused a little confusion during our very long conversation with Heracles, all while he continued to fight Talos.

♫ Will the real brass Talos please stand
up, please stand up, please stand up? ♪

So we have to go back down to the terrestrial domain to find Hephaestus and have him forge the Chaos Axe for us.  Yay, more running around.  Heph was easy enough to find with Pegasus's help (no battles whilst in flight) and after giving Herc the Chaos Axe, he assured us that this would defeat Talos but he might still need a little help.  We all attacked in unison only to find that Heracles had stopped to tie his shoelaces or something.  The untouchable Talos then proceeded to lay a massive smackdown on the entire crew.

Hercules?  More like Jerkules.

After he stopped to smell the bloody roses or whatever, Herc takes out Talos and the rest of us get resurrected.  Herc joins us and we head off to break the seal of the Dark Lord.  Herc comes with some predictably high stats and some decent equipment.  I took his equipment and gave it to myself as punishment for the dick move he just pulled.  The seal was found and broken and a fight with the Dark Lord, Cronos, ensued.  It wasn't much of fight, however; Abrax started off with a successful casting of the Molsi spell which blocked any spell Cronos tried to cast.

No healing for you!

Of course, this was just the first form of Cronos but he didn't immediately transform into his final form.  Instead, he destroyed the temple we were in and then went off to wreck my hometown of Nana.  We warped there after him to find the queen murdered and replaced with an EvilKing (who was also very beatable).  His defeat revealed a hidden staircase which led to a long path through the Dark Lord's castle, eventually terminating in the classic empty (except for the boss) throne room.  This battle was a lot tougher but again, Abrax managed to seal Cronos's spells right off the bat so it was easier than it could have been.

Herc does his best Joey Lawrence impression.

The castle started to crumble after the death of Cronos and just when it seemed like we would perish there in the ruins, Pegasus swooped down and saved our hides.  Back at my home in Nana, I reunited with my grandmother and she assured me all was right in the world thanks to us.  Suddenly I was visited by Zeus who resurrected Iris — so that we could be together, I guess.  Look, Zeus, I have more attachments to Talos than I do to Iris.  Even more so since I found out, again thanks to the FAQ, that Talos was really a lady statue this whole time.  So, sorry, Iris, but I think my heart could only belong to someone who fought bravely beside me even when the chips were down.  Talos stuck by me through thick and thin; all you did was crash a ship and somehow get poisoned by a griffin.  Come on, Talos, let's go find out how anatomically correct you are.