Super Mario RPG is coming to Nintendo Switch, and it’s facing a conundrum with its most infamous secret boss, which was a relic even for its time. The original Super Mario RPG: The Legend of the Seven Stars was developed by Square Enix (then called Squaresoft), and the hidden boss Culex was included as an homage to Square’s prolific Final Fantasy series.
The Final Fantasy series is known for its ultra-powerful hidden bosses, such as Shinryu from FF5 and Emerald Weapon from FF7. These bosses provide the ultimate challenge for the player’s skills, even stronger than their respective games’ end bosses. This led to Square including Culex in Super Mario RPG, also known as Crystaller in Japan.
Culex In Super Mario RPG Was A Relic Of Its Time (In Japan)
Culex is found hidden in Super Mario RPG’s cliffside Monstro Town. Notably, Culex’s design is closer to that of a Final Fantasy villain than a Mario one, with an appearance similar to Neo Exdeath in FF5 and Kefka’s ultimate form in FF6. He fights alongside four elemental crystals, another clear nod to the Final Fantasy games. The music playing during the Culex fight is also a remix of the boss theme from FF4, with the English localization referencing that game.
The presence of a strange monster like Culex in a Mario game is odd enough on its own, but it turns out that he had a secret that English-speaking fans didn’t know of for years, partly explaining his presence. In a Legends of Localization article, it was revealed that Culex’s dialogue in the original game was completely different from what he said in English.
In the Japanese version of Super Mario RPG, Culex talks about how he is created from evil and is nothing but a flat surface, while Mario and his friends are composed of thickness and solidity. This is in reference to the fact that the character sprites in Super Mario RPG were 3D images that were turned into 2D sprites, like the ones used in Donkey Kong Country. Once Culex is defeated, he talks about how powerful this new third dimension is and how he hopes to one day achieve it.
What’s interesting about Culex’s Japanese dialogue is that it is a message from the developers about the state of the industry at the time. The Super Nintendo was at the end of its lifespan, and 2D looked antiquated compared to the new 3D visuals of the upcoming hardware. Ultimately, this prophecy came true, as 3D games dominated the industry for years until more stylistic 2D games emerged and made them attractive again.
Culex Will Have To Be Changed In Super Mario RPG Remake
This brings us to the upcoming Super Mario RPG remake on Nintendo Switch, which is set to launch on November 17. From what we can tell based on the existing trailer, the game is a straight remake of the original Super Mario RPG with no additional content, and Square Enix is on board. This means that Culex will likely still be tucked away in Monstro Town.
The fact that Super Mario RPG is a full 3D remake, rather than using 3D rendering for 2D sprites, means that Culex’s role in the game will have to be very different. This raises a few possibilities for how the developers will handle his presence:
- Culex is still 2D – Culex may be the only 2D sprite in the game, allowing for the closest conversion of his original role in the plot. It may be odd that he’s unfamiliar with 3D stuff, but the developers could gloss over it and keep the battle as-is.
- Culex is now 3D – Culex might have achieved his goal from the original game – becoming a 3D entity and gaining power as a result. This is the most exciting idea, as it’s a perfect setup for a new, even harder boss fight with Culex.
- Culex is 3D, but Mario & his friends are 2D – One inversion of the idea is that Culex is now a 3D character, but the heroes are transformed into their sprites from the original game when they enter his dimension. This could lead to an inversion of his original dialogue, where he sees how awesome 2D gaming can be.
Culex feels so out of place in the Mario universe, and he never appeared in any other games, which is why he left such an impression on those who discovered him. The potential of his presence in the Super Mario RPG remake is one of the most exciting parts of the game, as it’s an idea that will have to be updated and expanded upon to make sense in the new 3D world.