The release of the Super Mario RPG remake has revitalized the hype and love that fans have for the 1996 SNES original. It has also refocused attention on the mystery surrounding the game’s legendary hidden boss Culex. Kazuyuki Kurashima, Monster designer for the 1996 original, posted the original concept art for Culex on Instagram in 2019. This post has recently resurfaced, further fueling speculation among fans on social media who believe the boss could have been designed by Final Fantasy artist Tetsuya Nomura.
To back up their argument, fans have sought to use this original concept art as proof, pointing out how the drawing closely resembles Nomura’s sketches from that time and is very different to Kurashima’s style. Adding support to their theory is the fact that Tetsuya Nomura was given an ‘Extra Special Thanks’ credit in the original SNES version of Super Mario RPG and ‘Character Supervisor’ credit on the recent Nintendo Switch Remake.
However, until this is officially confirmed, it is just as likely that Kazushima was doing a convincing impression of the Final Fantasy artist’s distinct style. The Culex character was a deliberate nod made by Square Enix (then Square) to their popular franchise. Even the boss’s music is a Mario-style remix of the Final Fantasy IV boss battle theme. Also, Culex’s name in the Japanese version is Crystaller – a strong reference to the importance of crystals in the plots of early Final Fantasy entries. In both the remake and the original, Culex appears in both 2D and 3D, as if he has travelled from the 2D world of Final Fantasy games of the time to the 3D world of Super Mario RPG.
Perhaps Culex was an unused Final Fantasy boss design that the developers decided to use in Super Mario RPG instead? Only official confirmation will put this rumor to rest once and for all.