Logo from the title screen of Crystal Aegis

Album-a-Day project

Quincunx - "Crystal Aegis Prototype"

Despite any flavortext to the contrary on this page, this is my second successful attempt at an Album-a-Day, completed in its entirety in just under 24 hours on 20 and 21 March 2004. The 23 tracks total 21 minutes, 48 seconds.

As the flavortext suggests, these songs actually are made from a bank of 16 8-bit samples, with a few small exceptions, and tracked using a maximum of eight channels.

About Crystal Aegis Prototype

Crystal Aegis is a role-playing game which was being created for the Tenkyo Felix game console in 1989, but was never released.

The Felix, despite being more powerful than other consoles of the late '80s, never achieved commercial success in either Japan or the United States, its two target markets. Curiously, Tenkyo had some degree of success selling the consoles in the former Yugoslavia, as well as in several South American countries. Less than 14,000 Felixes were reportedly manufactured by Tenkyo, and 2,400 of them were destroyed in 1991 as a tax write-off.

Only eight cartridges for the Felix were released to the commercial market; six of them had entered the manufacturing phase before the first Felix was sold. With a complete library, you could play golf, badminton, lacrosse, blackjack and the Japanese card game hanafuda; you could also engage in space combat, solve cryptic crosswords in Spanish and Portuguese, and write programs with an awkward assembly language (made all the more difficult with a three-button controller instead of a keyboard).

A number of games were in production but were shelved when the failure of the Felix became imminent. One of these games was Crystal Aegis, which was being programmed in-house by Tenkyo employees. Crystal Aegis was a role-playing game of grand scope. Had it actually been manufactured, the cartridge would have needed to be extended by at least 15 millimeters to make room for the extra chips needed for storing data... an amazing (at the time) 192 kilobytes!

As far as experts in the Felix community can tell, no complete cartridges of Crystal Aegis currently exist. A number of prototype cartridges were made — at least five, but perhaps as many as a dozen — but there have been no reports of a complete cartridge in the past 15 years. The most complete one is in the possession of Olli Nylander of Finland. It is missing two ROM ICs, one unique to the cartridge and one a variant of a somewhat common IC of the period.

Thanks to Mr. Nylander's generosity and a small cash bonus I received from my employer, I was able to travel to Finland and get good ROM dumps of what does exist on his cartridge. I also perused the schematics and documentation Mr. Nylander had; the text was in Japanese, but I was able to make photocopies and enlist the services of a translator. I returned home with the best existing ROM dump of Crystal Aegis known to exist.

With the aid of the Felix community, I was able to acquire a rough beta version of a Felix emulator that Harvey Mandrake has been coding. After weeks of collaboration, effort and insight, I still haven't managed to get the game running with any degree of regularity. The sprite emulation relies heavily on the missing chip, and an abundance of bad checksums is triggering the cartridge's hard-coded protection.

The screenshots are nothing exciting; the bad checksums often prevent the backgrounds from loading properly, and it's hit-or-miss when it comes to the proper sprites showing up in the right place. But delightfully, the sound is coming through beautifully. Using a hex editor on the save states, I've managed to get no fewer than 23 pieces of music from Crystal Aegis to play, and it's all crystal clear.

The Felix has eight audio channels, each capable of playing a separate 8-bit waveform. The waveforms are actually built into a chip in the cartridge. Crystal Aegis seems to have the basics — square wave, sine wave, triangular wave, each at two resolutions, plus white and brown noise — but just watching the waveform shapes in my audio player, I can tell there's a few other waveforms. One of them sounds like a violin; another is somewhere between a sawtooth wave and a sine wave.

I've ripped the audio for the music from Crystal Aegis into the MP3s listed at right. I hope you enjoy the music, and I hope upon hope that by spreading this information, more people will join the Felix community... and perhaps a complete cartridge of this game may yet be found!


  Track titles and descriptions

01>> title-screen (1'05")
This brief piece of music plays when you power up the Felix and keeps playing until you press a button on the controller. The theme heard here is repeated in several other songs as well.

02>> back-story (2'20")
This music plays when you start a new game. I believe there's supposed to be a slide show of images that appear, but most of this is garbled on my ROM dump. The screen does flash at several points, in time with the thunderclap sounds. Note the recurring theme appears at the end of this song.

03>> world-map-i (0'41")
This peaceful loop of music plays during the early portions of the game when your character is on the world map. I can't see what's actually on the world map, but navigation seems limited at first.

04>> audience-with-the-prince (0'46")
This strident piece of music plays during another garbled slide show. I wouldn't know that it involved having an audience with a prince without referring to the documentation.

05>> frozen-cavern (1'26")
This string of sound effects and music plays during one of the least garbled sections of the game. Your character enters a cave, and about two screen widths deep into this cave is a stone door. You can hear the character pounding ice off the door, then the door creaking open. The screen goes black at this point, so I'm not sure what the placid music represents.

06>> villain-first-appears (0'35")
Again, only by referring to the documentation can I tell there's a villain making his (her? its?) first appearance during this menacing bit of music. Judging from the screen, it looks more like a blue-green bush with black and white berries is chasing your character.

07>> shop-music-i (0'56")
This song plays in every shop in the first portion of the game. It gets a bit annoying after the tenth or twelfth time.

08>> hospital-music (0'12")
If you hear this music in the game, one of two things has happened: either you've walked into a hospital, or you've lost all your hit points in a civilized area and you've just woken up in a hospital.

09>> brothel-music (1'21")
I really wish I could see what's going on in this scene. The music alone has me convinced something prurient is on the screen. Too bad all I can see is staticky sprites. Mostly flesh-colored staticky sprites. (And doesn't that sound like the dog from Duck Hunt on the NES at the end?)

10>> jailbreak-sequence (1'03")
The screen scrolls to the left, and you must move your character quickly to avoid disappearing off the edge of the screen... in which case you have to start this sequence all over again. The chimes at the end coincide with the end of the sequence, but I don't know what they represent.

11>> secret-disco (0'54")
That's what the documentation calls it. I only hear this when I plug certain numbers into a save state with the hex editor; I've never found it by playing the game. Hmm. Catchy tune, too.

12>> world-map-ii (0'31")
This music corresponds with another section of the world map, mostly jungle and urban areas, with a military base and a volcano.

13>> monkeys (0'33")
The sprites start flying every which way when this song comes on, and most of the time, the game crashes. I assume there are monkeys involved. (In the game, that is; I'm not blaming actual monkeys for the crashes.)

14>> gizmo-henchman-ambush (0'27")
A long-nosed bloke with mechanical arms shows up quite clearly on the screen for all of 27 seconds. Apparently he says some text, but it's displayed on a blitter layer behind the picture, so I'm not sure if his name is Gizmo or if he just has a lot of gizmos. He puts up a tough fight, too.

15>> shop-music-ii (1'03")
This music plays in every shop in the second half of the game. Peaceful little tune, though... one of my favorites, even the twentieth time I hear it.

16>> hangin'-tough (1'27")
This song plays during an especially glitchy urban encounter... but if I'm not entirely mistaken, it looks like your character and a group of tough guys are re-enacting that old Michael Jackson video. Heh.

17>> hospital-injury-plot (0'30")
This sounds a bit like the music you hear when you're in the hospital, but it only occurs once. I'm guessing it's an unavoidable injury that's part of the plot. Regardless, you can access the third part of the world map afterwards.

18>> world-map-iii (0'42")
This music loops when you're on the final portion of the world map, which is a much shorter period than the previous two maps.

19>> mine-cart-sequence (1'21")
This is the most fun mini-game in the playable portion of Crystal Aegis. You're in a runaway mine cart rolling faster and faster down a track in a tunnel in a mountain, and you have to duck and lean strategically. The cart wheels even throw sparks!

20>> shrine-music (0'39")
The documentation calls this a shrine. It looks more like a garden to me... at least the portion I can see.

21>> mecha-combat (0'36")
Without spoiling the plot, I'll just say that this is one of the last battles in the game. And, yes, it involves giant robots.

22>> game-over (1'02")
If you hear this music, you'll be hitting the reset button. It's a "game over" of the dead-character variety. Hope you saved recently!

23>> closing-sequence (1'38")
This curiously ominous bit of music plays when you successfully complete the game. There's lots of dark-colored glitches on the screen during the first half, and lots of light-colored glitches during the second half.

2004 Quincunx - Permission granted to download these songs for personal, non-commercial use.
Disclaimer: None of the flavortext shown above is true. There is no Tenkyo Felix, and there is no Crystal Aegis prototype.