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!
04>> audience-with-the-prince (0'46")
06>> villain-first-appears (0'35")
10>> jailbreak-sequence (1'03")
14>> gizmo-henchman-ambush (0'27")
17>> hospital-injury-plot (0'30")
19>> mine-cart-sequence (1'21")
23>> closing-sequence (1'38")
© 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.