In a nutshell, you play an unlikely young carpenter who just so happens to be the only carpenter as such on his planet and uses this skill to wield a hammer to play an interplanetary tournament involving the whimsical sport of Frolf—alongside a sentient picnic basket—as his planet faces danger due to a falling power supply.
The brainchild of Tokyo-based character artist and illustrator Yosuke Kihara (born 1958), Ribbit King is an obscure 2003 sports video game developed by JamsWorks and published by Bandai. Initially released on 11 July 2003 in Japan for the Nintendo GameCube (titled Kero Kero King DX), a slightly expanded PlayStation 2 version followed a few months later on 18 December 2003 (titled Kero Kero King Super DX). In 2004, under the international title of Ribbit King, the game was released overseas, starting with North America on 8 and 15 June 2004 for the GameCube and PlayStation 2, respectively, before reaching the PAL region on 3 September 2004 for both platforms.
The game involves the sport of golf stripped to its bare minimum, but with a twist; the balls are now frogs sitting atop a catapult that are launched with the strike of a hammer—which replace golf clubs—in a sport now called Frolf (that capital F is mandatory), or Kerof in the Japanese version. While getting your frog in the water-hole in one turn garners you a 1,500-point 'Frog-in-One', there are other things to watch out for, and it's not just the hazards in traditional golf such as bunkers or wind speed/direction (which is optional); there are also other obstacles and hazards that are vital for a higher overall score, such as flies, point bubbles, whirlpools, swimming in water, items scattered across the course, etc., and those that aren't so vital, such as going off-course or hitting a solid object such as a tree. So don't be tempted for a second to think it is as simple as as 'get your frog into the hole first and Bob's your uncle'. The character designs, while rather simplistic, are distinct in a way that you can tell them apart from each other. Each character has their own frog modelled after themselves (with the exception of the protagonist, who has a generic green frog).
In the story mode, you are Scooter, a lowly young carpenter and resident of planet Hippitron. He is summoned by his king (who is not the titular Ribbit King, mind you) who wants to tell him that there is a problem. The king however, not being the most competent of his type around, can't seem to tell him without breaking down and bawling, so one of his servants calmly tell young Scooter the bad news; their supply of Super Ribbinite, the planet's life-blood, is "dropping faster than a lead balloon". In order to get it back up to condition, Scooter, along with his trusty sentient picnic wicker-basket companion, Picwick, travels the galaxy across five planets—Ribbetopia, Lavatron, Techtron, Frosticle and Hypnotron—on a mission to play the Frolf Tournament to become the Frolf Champion, or Ribbit King, win the Super Ribbinite and return back home. Along the way, he and Picwick meet Sluggy, the manager and 'referee', who mans the Frolf Utility Vehicle (or F.U.V. for short). After this storyline is completed, a second storyline with a different framing device and harder enemies becomes playable.
If you're not bothered about the story (which is single-player-only), you can play the Vs. mode which ranges from 1–4 players, though you have to play through the story mode in order to have a full set of characters.
One notable feature of the game is its inclusion of a free bonus disc: Ribbit King Plus! It contains 27 short computer-generated animations, running under a minute in length, of the characters from the game and a montage of the story mode cutscenes set to the title theme that are unlocked throughout the course of the game. These were originally broadcast on the TV Tokyo children's early-morning weekday variety show Oha Suta: The Super Kids' Station over a period of six weeks from 16 June – 25 July 2003 to promote the game in the lead-up and aftermath of the game's original Japanese GCN release and were included on a bonus DVD with the Japanese PS2 release.
While this rather odd send-up of pretty much any and/or every golf video game is a rather unique concept to everyone else in the world, to Japanese gamers this is nothing new; Ribbit King is the successor to—and not a port of, contrary to some sources—Kihara's earlier and even more obscure Japan-only PlayStation game Kero Kero King, published by Media Factory and released on 2 November 2000. This game, while very similar to the aforementioned game gameplay-wise, has a different story and characters from its successor (though some of them look quite similar to characters from the later game, presumably due to Kihara's artstyle). This game also supported the PocketStation, though what its purpose was is currently unknown in the Western world at this point due to the game's obscurity and aforementioned Japan-only release.
These games includes examples of:
- Gratuitous English: From the cover: ""Kerof" is the brand new exciting sports in the galaxy. The champion of the Kerof is called "KeroKeroKing". But Nosukin, a little boy, is about to challenge him !!"
- Minimalistic Cover Art: The original cover simply features a few characters from the game on a white background and orange borders at the top and bottom of the cover with the aforementioned Gratuitous English tagline.
- According to Yosuke Kihara on his Twitter account, the game's cover art is this (albeit loosely) to U2's The Joshua Tree. The soundtrack album's cover◊ (titled Kerolover) is an homage to The Beatles' Revolver.
- The introduction cutscene of one of the late-game opponents, a pair of Creepy Twin tomato juice cans, parodies the "bloody elevator" scene from The Shining with tomato juice in place of blood.
- Another late-game opponent is a dancing zombie who bursts out of a monolith.
- Sprite/Polygon Mix: During gameplay. While it's mostly in 3D, the characters themselves are in 2D.
- All There in the Manual: There's a fair amount of information on various characters that only shows up in the bottlecap descriptions, such as Princess Tippi's real name being Anastasia, Pan-Pan coming from a planet named "Pow-Pow," and the little ghost inside Sir Waddlelot being a mad scientist who created the dinosaur obstacles in the Ribbetopia courses.
- Animate Inanimate Object: Picwick is essentially a living picnic basket, though he also has a communication device inside of him that is used by Scooter to contact King Hippity-Hop. Gumbah-Goo, a living gumball/Gashapon machine, also counts.
- An Interior Designer Is You: The Japanese PlayStation 2 version of the game lets you decorate the interior of the F.U.V.
- Battle Intro: Parodied in Pan-Pan's first introductory cutscene.
- Big Bad: While the first storyline doesn't have one (unless you consider Gumbah-Goo villainous), Captain Oinka fills this role during the second playthrough.
- Bizarre and Improbable Golf Game: A shining example. Seriously, where else (apart from Kero Kero King) can you play a send-up of golf in which the clubs are replaced with hammers and the balls with frogs on catapults?
- Bland-Name Product: The PlayBox Advanced, a portable gaming console.
- Blush Sticker: Scooter has permanent solid pink blushes on his face, as does Princess Tippi on her alternate costume.
- Camp Straight: Sluggy talks in a ridiculously camp Paul Lynde-esque manner, with the appropriate campy effeminate mannerisms to boot, and yet in "Sluggy After Work" on Plus!, it is revealed he is married with a wife and three children.
- Picwick has "I've got you covered!"
- Sluggy, the referee, has "The end!"
- Chekhov's Gun:
- The Big 10 Bang received from Pappy, Pepe, and Papoo is later used to enlarge the tiny Super Ribbinite crystal that Scooter won.
- The 'Hints & Clues' that Sparky and Whoosh offer you for 100,000 credits when you beat them the second time replaces Super Ribbinite as the MacGuffin of the second story.
- Expressive Ears: Scooter, King Hippity-Hop, and presumably the rest of the Hippitron residents have these.
- Extended Gameplay: After beating the game once, you unlock a new storyline... which is nothing more than a new framing device and harder opponents.
- Fingerless Hands: Most of the characters have this. Subverted when Scooter turns off a radio during a band rehearsal in "Ribbit King Band" on Plus!, showing a visible index finger.
- Four Is Death: Sparky and Whoosh's frog egg costs 4,444 credits.
- Gag Lips: Sluggy has large blue lips. Pappy and his siblings' lips are also rather puffy.
- The Ghost: Dropsie is an interesting variation of this trope. He's mentioned in several bottlecap descriptions, has his picture on a mountain on Frosticle, and is clearly visible inside Sir Waddlelot's hat. Despite this, he is never acknowledged by any of the characters, and he barely even moves at all in the cutscenes. He also physically resembles a ghost, making him a literal version of this trope.
- Guide Dang It!: There are a few bits in the game that remain undiscovered due to there being very few to no complete guides of the game around.
- He Was Right There All Along: The final opponent of the first storyline, Gumbah-Goo, spends most of the game hiding in plain sight on the F.U.V. In fact, after his big reveal, he goes right back to hiding, and remains there even after you defeat him.
- Hub Level: The F.U.V. acts as this, essentially.
- Idle Animation: If you leave Scooter standing around in the F.U.V. for long enough, he will doze off.
- Improbable Age: Scooter appears to be under the age of 13, and yet it's stated in the game that he is a carpenter.
- Interface Spoiler
- It's fully possible to unlock a bottlecap depicting Captain Oinka's servants before you even learn of Captain Oinka's existence.
- A few of the Plus! shorts feature Gumbah-Goo, most of which can be unlocked before learning that he's actually a character.
- Keet: Picwick.
- Laughing Mad: Gumbah-Goo gets pretty excited when he gets a Frog-In.
- Lettered Sequel: The Japanese title for this game is Kero Kero King DX/Super DX, depending on the version.
- Limited Animation: Manages to pull this off in three dimensions in the story mode cutscenes, further driven home by the fact that most of the characters have 2D faces. The Plus! shorts, in comparison—while still not too brilliant—are much more fluent due to being animated by a different company.
- Long Song, Short Scene: The title theme plays for about 1:40 before looping again. You're unlikely to be spending more than ten seconds on the title screen, and even if you do leave it playing without pressing a button, unless you've pressed the START button beforehand, it will just cut to the Attract Mode after about 30 seconds.
- A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far, Far Away...: Set across five planets with no mention of Earth.
- Mad Scientist: Dropsie is described as this in his bottlecap description. He's also apparently the reason there are so many prehistoric creatures on Ribbetopia.
- Minimalistic Cover Art: The Japanese PlayStation 2 version has a different and more minimalistic cover than all other versions, simply depicting a green frog atop Scooter's head with the title on the left.
- Mini-Mecha: Sir Waddlelot is actually a penguin-shaped mech controlled by a tiny ghost-like figure named Dropsie, although none of the characters (Sir Waddlelot included) ever mention this.
- No Indoor Voice: Picwick's default volume is rather... loud.
- The Noseless: Pretty much every character is this, with a few exceptions (King Hippity-Hop and Pan-Pan being examples).
- Oh, Crap!: Scooter gives out an utterly horrified expression when he realizes he has broken off Sir Waddlelot's wind-up key.
- Punny Name: Picwick. Apart from a possible reference to The Pickwick Papers, he's a picnic basket made from wicker.
- The Quiet One: Sparky talks a grand total of one line in the actual game (right at the end, no less). He talks a bit more in the Plus! shorts, however.
- Quizzical Tilt: Scooter does this quite often.
- Recursive Canon: The Plus! short "Ribbit King Shopping Part 3" advertises this very game, which Scooter is later seen playing.
- Sir Verb-a-Lot: Sir Waddlelot.
- The Smurfette Principle: Princess Tippi is the sole female playable character in the game.
- Speech Impediment: Sluggy has a noticeable lisp in the English dub, probably to play up the camp stereotype with the character.
- Spell My Name With An S: Picwick's name is often erroneously spelt 'Pickwick'. Similarly, 'Ribbetopia' is mistakenly spelt 'Ribbitopia' by some.
- Suddenly Voiced: The frogs in the Plus! shorts.
- Super-Deformed: The art style is such that a few of the characters' heads are larger than their torsos.
- Those Two Guys: King Hippity-Hop's advisors.
- Title Drop:Gumbah-Goo: I happen to be the sponsor of this tournament, the honourable Gumbah-Goo, to prove to the world that I'm the true king of Frolf, the one and only Ribbit King.
- Title Scream: "RIBBIT KING PLUS! YEAH!"
- The Unintelligible: Kosmo speaks in strange chattering noises.
- Updated Re-release: Following the game's original Japanese GameCube release in July 2003 was a slightly modified PlayStation 2 version in December 2003. Their overseas counterparts, on the other hand, are mostly the same as each other.
- Vocal Dissonance: "Chomp's Big Date" on Plus! features two "Chomp" obstacles from the Lavatron courses going on a date. Despite both being giant eyeless orbs with More Teeth than the Osmond Family, one speaks in a suave Film Noir-esque voice and the other speaks in a feminine falsetto.
- The Voiceless: Dropsie, the ghostly figure that controls Sir Waddlelot, doesn't speak at all.
- Wanton Cruelty to the Common Comma:
- To unlock some of the Plus! shorts, you have to score ten Frog-in-One's.
- The final Plus! short, "Farewell, Frolf Tour", has its title displayed on-screen without proper spacing after the comma.
- You Can't Thwart Stage One: If by some stroke of luck you do have enough credits to afford the Hints and Clues that Sparky and Whoosh offer you during the first playthrough, Whoosh will back down at the last second.
- You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: Scooter says this once he sees how tiny the Super Ribbinite crystal actually is.
- Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: Gumbah-Goo's reveal after Scooter has beaten every other character:Scooter: Excuse me, I'd like my Super Ribbonite award now please- PLEASE!? C'MON C'MON!
Sluggy: Oh Bosssss...
Gumbah-Goo: Hey kid! Hold your horses!
- "The end!"