Rolypolys no Nanakorobiyaoki (commonly referred to as Roly-Polys) is an educational game developed by OutSide Directors Company (O.S.D.; Osamu Sato‘s studio) and published by Shinko Music on March 14 (Pi Day), 1997. It’s a Japan-only release because O.S.D. was unable to find a publisher for the U.S. and Europe versions (but it’s both Japanese and English, both in the same installation!). The game was considered lost media for several years, until July 21, 2019, when it was uploaded to the internet after a member of the Osamu Sato Discord group won a copy of the game in an online auction for $80.
That’s basically the whole summary of the game (from the Osamu Sato wiki), but what’s it about? How does it play? Who are the characters shown above? Let’s find out! 😉
The game is basically a way of teaching both the alphabet and moral lessons to kids in the same game! 😀 Two of the characters in the game are based off of the pangram, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” 😉
Basically, if you click on an alphabet letter (A, B, C, etc.) on the main screen, it’ll play a cartoon with a moral lesson based on a word starting with that letter. For example, if you click on the letter T, it plays a cartoon with the moral lesson “Time Flies” (which is the least kid-friendly cartoon in the game 😛 ), and if you click on the letter U, it plays a cartoon with the moral lesson “Spilt water never returns to the bowl“. After the cartoon is over, there’s a paragraph explaining the moral lesson in detail. There are also bios of the characters featured in the cartoons, and minigames as part of some of the cartoons. On the main screen, if you click on a character, their own special room shows up. You can click on their items and read their bio. The goal is to do everything possible in the game: watch all of the cartoons, play all of the minigames, visit everyone’s rooms, and click on everything (there are clickable items in some of the cartoons as well as in everyone’s rooms).
Ranked from most favorite to least. Some info gotten from the official website’s biographies.
- George: A ferret who loves eating, sleeping, and blobbing out. In fact, that’s all he does (which makes him a good screenmate 😛 [BTW, that link leads to some downloadable screenmates]). He can sleep anywhere, and absolutely nothing can wake him up. His favorite food is milk. He is best friends with Banaten, the monkey. They often happily sit side-by-side on the hill (seen in the ‘H’ cartoon*; H for Heart… 😉 ). He’s my favorite character because of his description. 😉
- Pon: The lazy dog in the pangram. He’ll do anything to get food (especially dog food, his favorite, of course). He spends most of his time lying around and doing and thinking nothing, and likes to take it easy. He doesn’t mind getting tormented by Cho, the quick, brown fox. He is my 2nd favorite because he is a yellow, cute, lazy dog. 😉
- Banaten: A monkey who is a computer genius. He loves fried bananas; so much so that he invented a machine to make ’em for him. I also love bananas, my favorite food. He’s also not good at physical activities, especially climbing trees, but he uses a computer-controlled ladder he himself made to climb trees. Basically my brother (which is why he’s my 3rd favorite). He is best friends with George, the ferret. They often happily sit side-by-side on the hill (seen in the ‘H’ cartoon*; H for Heart… 😉 ). He has no tail, like Curious George (both of them are monkeys without tails).
- Las Vegas Akiko: A peahen who wears peacock feathers in her dancing acts at night. At day, she puts the peacock feathers away so she can go to her typing job, where she wears glasses. Peafowl are my favorite birds.
- Mr. Okhotsk: A crab who is a great cook. He used to be a famous chef on the cooking show “The Master Cooking Crab”, but one time, in a segment on lobster cooking, just as he brought down his knife on his long-time rival, the lobster bolted off of the cutting board and the knife got stuck to the board. He never appeared on the show again. The letter C is the cartoon showing this event. Crabs are cute.
- Jumping Jack Bu: The world’s strongest pig (or piggy bank? 😛 ). He has a tattoo of a dragon on his back, named Tatsuro. He got it while training as a warrior. When he’s angry, Tatsuro breathes fire. He is good at martial arts, karate, singing, dancing and throwing punches. His favorite food is dango. He can also speak English, Chinese and Japanese skillfully, but never fails to have at least one splleing error or error grammatical here and there. 😉 He’s pretty cool.
- The Del Montas: Three basketworms who are very competitive and mysterious. Almost nothing is known about them. Some of the Montas’ items are scissors and a bandage. They’re low on the list because of their mysteriousness, but I do like them.
- Cho: The quick brown fox in the pangram. He plays tricks often. Pon is often the target of his tricks. He always jumps over Pon and torments him, but Pon doesn’t mind. He does this because he hates it when he sees anyone lazing around. He’s my least favorite because he torments Pon and George. 😉
*Lesson of the ‘H’ cartoon: That which comes from the heart will go to the heart.
Official Bios from the game (completely unedited, with more info).
- George: George is a ferret. He’s either sleeping, eating or blobbing out. In fact, his entire day consists of a repetition of these three activities. You could call it following his instincts or simply living according to his instincts. When he feels sleepy, it doesn’t matter whether he’s at the side of the road or wherever, he just lies down and falls sleep. Once he’s asleep, that’s it. It doesn’t matter whether Cho is hassling him or what, he just doesn’t wake up. I guess that’s the mark of greatness. George is great friends with Banaten. You often see them sitting happily side-by-side on the hill.
- Pon: Pon the dog likes nothing better than to take it easy, not thinking about anything. For that reason, he often finds himself the unfair target of Cho who can’t stand seeing anyone not doing anything and never fails to get angry when he does. But this doesn’t seem to worry Pon, who doesn’t care what Cho does to him. He spends most of his time lying around doing nothing but he’s extremely tenacious when it comes to food. He’ll do anything to get food. He also has a strange habit – raising both arms and sitting down with a big bump.
- Banaten: This is one single-minded, smart young monkey. He can use a computer and his greatest skill is being able to make anything he wants to. His absolute favorite food is fried bananas. He doesn’t feel right if he hasn’t got fried bananas on hand at all times. Because of that he invented a machine that can make fried bananas, so you can see he’s pretty banana crazy. He’s not very good at physical activity and his weak point is climbing trees. But he developed a computer-controlled hi-tech ladder so that he can say “Even I can climb a tree.” I guess that’s a monkey’s pride for you.
- Las Vegas Akiko: Las Vegas Akiko, with her brightly coloured feathers, is a very feminine girl. Hang on a minute! Surely bright feathers on a peacock are the sign of a male? This is absolutely true. In fact, Akiko’s feathers are a wig. During the day, Akiko puts her feathers away in the closet and works hard at her typing job. But at night, she puts on her make-up and gets dressed up in her beautiful feathers. Then she dances ’til she drops. And in the morning, it’s time for work again. To Akiko, this is a perfectly normal way to behave. She believes that separating work from play is the sign of a grown woman.
- Mr. Okhotsk: Mr. Okhotsk is a bit different from your regular crab. His eight arms hide an array of knives and kitchen scissors, and if you open his back you find pots and frying pans. Not to mention salt, pepper and tomato ketchup. He has everything he needs for cooking crab. Whoops! I mean, he has everything he needs as a cooking crab. He used to be a famous chef on a cooking show called “The Master Cooking Crab” but then one day something happened. Just as he brought down his knife on his long-time rival the lobster, in a segment on lobster cooking, the lobster bolted off the cutting board and the knife stuck fast in the board. It was a major failure and Mr. Okhotsk never appeared on the program again.
- Jumping Jack Bu: Jumping Jack Bu is the world’s strongest pig who has trained as a warrior all over the world and mastered the secrets of every kind of contest. He had the dragon on his back tattooed during his training days. He’s also a karate action star who can sing, dance and throw punches. His most famous line is “If you make me mad, this dragon will breathe fire! FIRE!” The name of his tattoo is Tatsuro. Jumping Jack Bu is not only known for his martial arts but is also expert in languages, including Japanese, English and Chinese. It’s true that he can skillfully use all these languages but he’s also careless and never fails to make a mistake with a word here and there or spell a word wrongly.
- Del Montas: Many people think the Del Montas are brothers but it’s not certain whether in fact they are or not. They are three mysterious basketworms whose names, origins and ages are all shrouded in a veil of secrecy. All we know about them is that they hang down from their tree and are colored yellow, green and orange, respectively. For some unknown reason there is an unbelievable rumor abounding that they are quiet (I have heard their voices which are at almost too high a frequency to hear). They rarely bring their heads out of their coats. But all three of them are very competitive to the extent that some people have even seen them push one of the others off the tree when they were trying to see who was the tallest of the three.
- Cho: The fox, with his slightly scary, sly gaze that always seems to hint at tricks to come. It’s just like the saying “The eyes have one language everywhere,” and it’s true that Cho is always up to some trick or another. I guess that’s the star he was born under so he can’t help it. The object of Cho’s tricks is usually Pon. Cho says that it’s because he gets so cross when he sees Pon just sitting around doing nothing. Cho is impatient by nature so he can’t stand seeing anyone moving around in slow motion. It’s wrong to try and force someone to do what you want them to, but it doesn’t seem to worry Pon so maybe they make a good combination after all.
A sequel was released in December 1997 in Japan only, called Rolypolys no Sekai Ryokou (Roly-Polys World Tour). It is lost (which means it’s seemingly not available anywhere to download or buy right now), but hopefully it’ll be found soon. The preview found in the first game, and the official site’s description of it (translated with Google Translate), show that:
- Its UI is similar to Eastern Mind: The Lost Souls of Tong-Nou and Chu-Teng (previous Osamu Sato games; Chu-Teng was also lost before being found in July 2013, [same month as Roly Polys! 😉 ] and how it was found is funny; an anonymous person found it in his attic 😛 ).
- It’s an adventure game.
- Plot: Everyone’s idol Otane-chan has been imprisoned by the evil Tengu! It’s up to the Roly Polys to save him by traveling on their spaceship, Banabana, and finding all 7 (or 6?) keys, which are scattered all over Earth!
- Find the legendary sword of Europe!
- Discover the secrets of African ruins!
- Discover the hidden treasure of a phantom nation in South America!
- Simulate the mystery of Asia!
- They go to famous places around Earth and learn about them (their history, geography, etc.), as well as a forest. They also end up in a cavern 😛 and dive under the ocean, and learn good moral qualities along the way (such as courage, loyalty, friendship, hoping, dreaming, etc.).
- Made for kids and adults.
- The promo, at least, is in both Japanese and English (except for the text dialogue). It’s unknown if the full game is available in both languages (I hope it is).
It looks cool. I’d love to see an adventure game with these awesome characters.
Roly-Polys World Tour, X, X MB (lost game for now, so no link yet)
Roly-Polys Online (mine; constructive criticism welcome)
Best Osamu Sato Wiki (there are multiple, but this one is the best)
Created page on Sat, Nov 30, 2019.
Updated on Fri, Dec 6, 2019 (added YouTube video link, mention of the ‘H’ cartoon and Chu-Teng having previously been lost, release date of the sequel, that the summary is from the Osamu Sato wiki, and misc. edits).
Updated again on Sat, Jan 25, 2020 (corrected, edited and clarified some info, as well as added a new link and mentioned that Roly-Polys World Tour (at least the promo) is Japanese and English).
Edited once more on Fri, Feb 7, 2020 (added specific release date and a couple of misc. edits).
Edited once again on Thu, Feb 13, 2020 (added link to best Sato wiki).
Updated once more on Sat, Feb 22, 2020 (added link to Roly-Polys Wiki and link to the character bios on the official website, and corrected some info. Something special related to Roly-Polys is coming soon, either this week or in March; watch this page for it!).
Updated on Fri, Mar 6, 2020 (added my fanfic, Roly-Polys Online 😀 ).