Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables has been adapted countless times. But did you know that in 1998, the classic novel also got a Street Fighter-style spin-off where Eponine’s plush bunny is a sentient being and a robotic version of Jean Valjean exists? Let us take you on a journey.
Arm Joe is an experimental and unlicensed game created by Takase according to The Independent Games Wiki. The Wiki classifies Arm Joe as a dōjin game, essentially meaning it’s a hobby project from an independent Japanese developer. While it didn’t get an official release, it’s widely available online.
The name appears to be a literal translation of the Japanese phrase ‘Ah, Mujou’, an expression lamenting the cruelty and impermanence of the world — although the exact origin is unconfirmed.
In Arm Joe, players can take on a bunch of combatants in 1v1 single player or multiplayer battles in Street Fighter style. Each character is adapted from the musical version of Les Misérables including protagonist Jean Valjean, sole survivor Marius and policeman Javert as well as Eponine, Cosette, Enjolras, Thenardier and a generic police officer. You can also face off against three wild guest characters.
The first is PonPon, who is actually an anthropomorphised stuffed rabbit. Why PonPon is there is a mystery, but it’s a tough fighter and even has its own baby doll companion and large car for hard-hitting attacks.
The second is Judgement, a large hulking man who keeps his hands in his pockets. His origins are undetermined, but he does resemble a character from anime Baki the Grappler.
The third and most surprising guest character is Robojean, who is a robotic version of Jean Valjean. This robot has a range of killer electricity-based attacks and leaks springs when hit. He hardly fits into the game’s 19th Century France setting, but who are we to split hairs?
Arm Joe is a surprisingly good-looking and ambitious game for what’s assumed to be a well-meaning parody. According to its Wiki page, it was created over a span of five years using the 2D Fighter Maker engine, and the long work put into it really shows.
Moves look flashy and over-the-top, character movement is sleek and the overall animation style is impressive. It’s rare to see a joke game so well put together, but Arm Joe really is a marvel. Every character has clearly been thoroughly researched here — with characters having moves and combos based directly on their role in the musical. Marius, for example, can summon his dead friends to battle for him.
Minor complaints about balance aside, Arm Joe is an awesome and very weird game more people should know about. The thought process behind turning Les Misérables into Street Fighter lite is an odd one, but I’m sure we can all appreciate just how great this game really is.
If you’re looking for your next strange gaming adventure, consider picking up Arm Joe and taking this surreal adaptation for a spin.