Fish and Cherries Productions

Creative content from a mad mind.


One Game More

I think everyone can agree that Les Miserables by Victor Hugo has become a smash hit. The story has gone through many adaptations, most notably the sensational Broadway musical and several films, the latest of which I still maintain was like having your teeth pulled with no Novocain. But did you know that it was also adapted into a fighting game a la Street Fighter? If you watch the Nostalgia Critic regularly, your response would be something akin to, “well, duh.” But if you are currently finding yourself with a slack-jawed and confused expression, sit yourself down and drink with me as I recount a very strange tale.

In January of 1998, a single Japanese developer named Takase coded from scratch a game based on the Bible-length novel. The game was ported into the United States under the name Arm Joe, which is a bastardized localization of the Japanese title for Les Mis, Aa Mujou, which literally translates to, “Ah, Cruelty.” Yes, as some of you may have noticed in the nineties, American localization was about as graceful as a runaway cart slamming you into a building. The really astounding thing is that he did all of this as a one-man team over the course of five years. When asked why he devoted this much time to the project, he simply answered, “I have no friends.” I am honestly not sure whether to give this man a hug or applaud awkwardly.

This is normally where a reviewer would talk about his experiences playing the game, but this is the thing: I haven’t. A ROM is downloadable from various sites, but it only runs on Windows 7 and the only working Windows 7 computer even remotely near me runs poorer than, well, les miserables that rose up and built the barricades. That said, I will do my best to describe what the game is like. There are about nine playable characters, most of them ripped straight from Hugo’s novel. There is the sinner-turned-saint Jean Valjean; his daughter Cosette with a heart full of love; her pretty-boy boyfriend Marius; the revolutionary Enjolras; Eponine who embodies the term “forever alone”; the ruthless Javert; the amoral (and surprisingly fat in this version) Thenardier; a random policeman, and (I swear by the stars this is real), Cosette’s doll Ponpon; RoboJean; and the spirit of Judgement (spelled exactly like that).

Again, I can only speculate on how the game handles, however, having seen some YouTube videos the gameplay is pretty standard fighting game fair. Each character deals out punches, kicks, combos, and even special moves. While there are no epic finishing moves, each character has a special move that they can use when their health is low, like Marius summoning a legion of dead revolutionaries, Enjolras dropping the barricade on his opponent, or Ponpon hitting them with a car. Seriously, I’m not joking. In theory, it works, but in practice, the game looks heavily unbalanced. From what I can tell, anyone who knows how to use Marius well will never lose, as a few of his attacks can reduce the opponent’s health bar by half and I have not seen any other character in the game come close to doing that. On top of that, Judgement as the final boss of the single player has been described as impossible by some and not that hard by others. That said, the game looks like it was not properly tested or balanced, so it is no surprise that this game was condemned to spend eternity in the first vault of the two hundred and forty-sixth sub-basement level of obscurity (take a minute to think about that one).

So why am I bringing up such an un-noteworthy game in the first place? Honestly, I think this game should be remade for the novelty alone. It is true that I do not hear the people singing for a Les Mis fighting game, but I truly believe that this has a niche cut out for it. If someone were to revamp the controls and play, this could have a lot of potential. In fact, why stop with the game play? Why not make new characters too, even unlockable ones? Add some of the other soldiers like Grantaire, Combeferre, or Courfeyrac or perhaps some of Thenardier’s gang of thieves. You could even add in Fantine and her super move would be giving her opponent tuberculosis! And if you really wanted to draw from the book, you could have Napoleon be an unlockable, given the punishingly long attention to detail paid to the Battle of Waterloo in the book’s unabridged version. Or if you really wanted to provide a huge gem for fans of the book, make a final unlockable in the form of Victor Hugo himself, whose special move involves setting an angry hunchback against his foes. There could even be a stylized story mode that changed with each character. Maybe the more sins the character has committed, the harder Judgement as a final boss is. I honestly think that if this were given the proper work over, it could be a great cult classic among gamers. Just keep Russell Crowe as far away from it as possible.

Posted under Musings

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