Culex is Quite Different in Japanese Super Mario RPG

A long while back, Mew Seeker sent in a question about Super Mario RPG. I haven’t played it much in 20 years, but I still remember it fondly enough that this question really spoke to me:

Many things in Mario RPG were changed like Bowser “Haiku”, the B’Tub Ring being the “Love Love Ring”, some variations with the Axem Rangers, the things Mack’s minion say at Mario when they get mad at him and so on.

That being said, there is one specific spot in the game I would like to check and it’s the one where Culex (called “Crystaller” in the original) is. In the U.S. version he’s basically a lost hero from another world and he would like to challenge Mario.

In the original, he’s the one who oversee everthing that’s evil in is world or something? In any case I get “bad guy” vibes from him especially considering how he talk about how the power of love, friends and so on surpassed him. And something about 3d world and maybe 2d world is mentioned? XD I am an amateur in Japanese language but I can tell it’s not the same in the original so could you have a look at it.

It took some work, but I managed to get to this spot in both versions of the game. Let’s take a look at it!

First, here’s what’s said before you fight this secret super boss:

Back in the day, these graphics were really jaw-dropping and everyone was amazed at how '3D' everything was. But looking at it today, it just strikes me as normal old 2D graphics. Maybe because we've had like 20 years of actual 3D games since.Back in the day, these graphics were really jaw-dropping and everyone was amazed at how '3D' everything was. But looking at it today, it just strikes me as normal old 2D graphics. Maybe because we've had like 20 years of actual 3D games since.
Japanese Version (basic translation)English Version
O travelers who appear before me….Greetings.
I am Crystaller, ruler of all evil in this world.I am Culex, Dark Knight of Vanda.
On this spot, I feel and resonate with fluctuations emitted from a dimensional rift.I have crossed into this dimension to fight for the Dark Mage.
You living ones before me… Why do you possess thickness? Why do you have such solidity?But this world is uninhabitable for me and my kind. I must return to my world.
I am made of the power of evil. My form is depicted on naught but a flat surface.Before I go, though, I would like to challenge your strongest knight.
Yet you are formed from a power foreign to me. I wish to know the secret of the solid world!
I shall fight with the utmost of my power.Will you accept my challenge?
Now, demonstrate your might!You will enter combat against me?
After agreeing
What feeling waits at the end of this battle?
Have at you!!En garde!

Once the battle starts, the boss starts talking again:

I personally feel like the Japanese scene makes more sense in that he's curious about stuff and then you teach him a lesson about this dimension, in the English script he's just some dude's crony and then he's suddenly some matter/antimatter/time and can consume you, but he's also an honor-driven warrior outside of battle?I personally feel like the Japanese scene makes more sense in that he's curious about stuff and then you teach him a lesson about this dimension, in the English script he's just some dude's crony and then he's suddenly some matter/antimatter/time and can consume you, but he's also an honor-driven warrior outside of battle?
Japanese Version (basic translation)English Version
“Crystaller”
I am formed from the supreme power.
CULEX: I am matter…
None in this world surpass me.I am antimatter…
Across time, from this world’s beginning to its end, I am the inheritor of the ultimate of Two.I can see your past…
Now you will realize my strength!!I can see your future…
Come forth, o power that rules over all creation!!I consume time…
And I will consume you!

After the difficult battle, the boss shares some final words:

I wonder where the name Culex even came from, I know it's some sort of mosquito species, but is there anything beyond that? Also, has Culex made any cameos since this? I feel like he has somehowI wonder where the name Culex even came from, I know it's some sort of mosquito species, but is there anything beyond that? Also, has Culex made any cameos since this? I feel like he has somehow
Japanese Version (basic translation)English Version
GUOOOoooo!
This power….
….Yes…. Now I understand….
Ahhhh!
Your spirit….
….is strong!
The power of the third dimension is that power of legend. The power said to far surpass the fluctuations of evil.Thank you, brave knight.
Love, friendship, joy….
The power of hope for peace….
It appears this strength is too much for me.
I will treasure this memento of my journey here.
Kukuku…. Now I will vanish….
to that land….
Perhaps in another time, another game, we may have been mortal enemies…
until I someday gain the power of the third dimension and the fluctuations visit yet-unknown lands..Let us part as comrades in arms.
O travelers who appear before me….
I give you this.
Farewell, o mighty ones!
Take this.
Treasure it as a keepsake of our fight.
Received “Crystal Charm”Received a “Quartz Charm”!
G-o-o-d-b-y-e..Farewell, champion knight!

Given all this, it’s clear that the entire character and scene was rewritten in localization. The whole thing is meant to be a fun little tie-in with the Final Fantasy series – the battle music is a version of the boss battle music from Final Fantasy IV, in fact. The Japanese version even gives you a crystal charm, referencing the crystals that symbolized the series at the time. It’s important to note that this enemy wasn’t actually in any Final Fantasy games, he was just meant to be like a Final Fantasy boss.

Granted, it is technically 3D since you can walk across/back, left/right, and jump up/down, but for most of us, we still sorta kinda considered the 2D rendered graphics as 3DGranted, it is technically 3D since you can walk across/back, left/right, and jump up/down, but for most of us, we still sorta kinda considered the 2D rendered graphics as 3D

When Super Mario RPG first came out, the big deal was that the graphics were no longer hand-drawn. Instead, they were rendered in 3D on fancy computers and then converted into a usable form for the Super Famicom/Super NES. The Japanese version of this scene plays around with this fact – supposedly Crystaller is from the two-dimensional realm but has stumbled into the third dimension and is confused by it. He also speaks in a uniquely ancient, fierce warrior sort of way in Japanese. After the battle, he says the sort of stereotypical stuff about how love and friendship are super-powerful. As a side note, the “fluctuations” thing he keeps talking about could also be translated as “waves” or “undulations”.

The English scene rewrites almost everything, including the guy’s name, and goes for the Final Fantasy tie-in in a different way, by inventing new Final Fantasy-esque names and terms and even referencing the fact that they’re in a game. I guess it’s meant to feel like what a Final Fantasy boss might sound like in an actual SNES-era Final Fantasy game, with lofty threats and silly talk about being matter, antimatter, and time. In an odd move, the Crystal Charm was changed to Quartz Charm, which sort of loses the Final Fantasy connection a little bit, but I assume it was due to item name length limits.

Anyway, this is a look at how the boss we know as Culex was portrayed in the original Japanese version of Super Mario RPG. Given the drastic differences I’m sure a lot of thought was put into it the localization choices here – I’d be curious to find out what the specific decision making process was for this part. Also, until I read the Japanese text I had never considered that the reference to “dimension” in the English script might’ve meant the 2D realm rather than just “generic Final Fantasy dimension”. Neat!

You know, it’s been a long time since I played Super Mario RPG, but after doing the research for this I really want to go and play both versions of the game in detail. I bet there are lots more interesting localization differences just waiting to be found!

44 Comments
  1. I think Culex’s name might be a reference to Golbez, since both of their names are connected to mosquitos.

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    1. I’ve heard a lot of people say that, I wonder if that’s what Ted Woolsey was going for?

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    2. I always thought this to be the more likely possibility.

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    3. I think that could well be the thought process behind it, yeah, an allusion to Final Fantasy IV

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      1. To be honest, I do think Culex is a bit lame of a name when you think about it. Sure, Woolsey most likely wanted a FFIV reference but still…

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    4. It is my theory, while most might disagree, that Culex is suppose to be the dark knight power that you banish when Cecil becomes a paladin.

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  2. Wasn’t the translation done by Ted Woolsey? He probably has some reason about how Americans wouldn’t “get” it.

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    1. As far as I know, he did translate this game as we speak. Shame that it didn’t get a release in Europe back in the day… And as a result, the button prompts doesn’t feature the vibrant colors of the japanese release in the VC editions. And that’s terrible.

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    2. He would be right, since Crystaller seems to be a parody/pastiche of grandiose Japanese fantasy villains. Toning down his “Evil Gloating” for US audiences was a good choice and doesn’t really remove anything of importance. His translated character matches the US FF villains (to that point) much better.

      Also, “Culex” might be made up but it’s definitely leagues better than Crystaller for English-speaking audiences.

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      1. Yes but Woolsey was awful don’t you understand. All of his localization choices are awful and unjustifiable because he misspelled Cefca.

        Anti-Woolsey people are the worst.

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      2. Well, it doesn’t remove anything of importance… Apart from, well, the whole 2D/3D joke. Which is a fairly big deal. I don’t see why they could not of managed to keep that there and still make him sound like a FF parody (which he does in the Japanese one anyway, so not sure what your point is there).

        Also, Culex doesn’t really come across as overly villainous in the translation, merely a “dark knight”. It never made much sense how he was this otherworldly super boss yet was depicted as the knight of a foreign nation.

        On top of all that, SMRPG was pretty poorly translated in general. It’s not just Woolseyisms, there are just straight up mistakes all over the place, such as translating Exor’s Mouth as Neosquid for NO apparent reason whatsoever. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of imaginative localization, but aside from his battle dialogue (which is pretty cool sounding), the rest is largely inferior in my opinion.

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  3. Ever since I was a kid I always loved his line about matter and time in the US version. It just sounded so bad-ass.

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  4. Man I’d love it if you did a comparison of this game. I replayed it a year or two ago and realized just how “anime” this game is. Though I guess I mean that more in a 90’s sense, like the dialogue feels like a gag comedy at times, and there’s tropes like the haiku thing, also a lot of faceplants, not to mention a Super Sentai parody. When I look back on it, this game probably made shows like Samurai Pizza Cats and Pokémon feel more familiar than I realized.

    But yeah, this would be pretty interesting, ’cause while all the other localized RPG’s from this era were serious business with the occasional joke, this one was basically comedy, and probably would not have been released outside Japan if if didn’t have Mario as the main character if you look at it that way :/

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  5. Interesting, I think I had seen the different name listed somewhere at some point but I hadn’t known how different the dialogue was. It seems like in both languages they’re sort of going for meta allusions, just to somewhat different things. Incidentally, does a “dimension” in the sense of the concept a dimension/world/universe and “dimension” as in two- or three-dimensional wordplay work in Japanese?

    I wonder though, if the mention of a Dark Mage in the English dialogue is supposed to allude to anybody in particular or if we’re just intended to infer that to be who Culex worked for in the world he originally came from. Probably the latter, but I can imagine it leading some people to think that there might be a Dark Mage somewhere in Super Mario RPG, or perhaps that it referred to Smithy or something

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    1. I think Dark Mage is supposed to be reminiscent of the Black Mages found in Final Fantasy games.

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  6. You need to, like, hire some translator friends of yours to help you. xD How many games have you said you wanted to do full comparisons on now? With at least two (Mother 3 and FFIV) in the works and incomplete. And then you did Zelda, seemingly on a whim, for the first book. Don’t get me wrong, I REALLY love the content, but you’re getting really ambitious with it. Although unless you can continue pumping out books and they continue selling, I guess hiring new translators and making this into an actual sort of business is pretty far off.

    You’re still translating for FUNimation, are you not? Can’t imagine how you have enough free time for these hobbies among work and all the video games and YouTube I’m sure you guys play/watch. 😉 I know I play/watch too much… Bleh.

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    1. Indeed. Mato definitely should consider more people to run this site and stuff. Having it as a solo project just feels awkward.

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  7. EileenThePizzaQueen

    I’m pretty sure Culex hasn’t appeared in anything since SMRPG, actually. Due to the complicated nature of the ownership of the game’s original characters, being technically owned by Square-Enix but also Nintendo characters at the same time, the only one who’s made a cameo in anything since was Geno, who appeared to explain the rules of an arcade minigame in Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga. Somehow he didn’t even appear in the weird Mario sports games Square-Enix developed, which included actual Final Fantasy characters like Black Mages and whatnot.

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  8. Considering how strong a part of my childhood this game was (being one of my very first RPGs), I’d love to see you do an in-depth analysis on it some day, as I’d really love to know what is the same and what’s different between the two language versions, what had to be changed and what could have been left alone, and how you’d have done things differently were you translating it now, that sort of thing. One day, someday! …Mario’s Factory, I still believe you existed at one time, far-fetched and unlikely as that still may be, heh.

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    1. This! SMRPG definitely has lots of stuff to compare. Geno talking with those weird glyphs instead of musical notes is only a start.

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  9. It’s worth noting that “the dimensional rift” might be a reference to FF5. Exdeath is obsessed with the Void, FF5 features multiple dimensions, and the final dungeon is even called the Interdimensional Rift in FF5’s localization.

    Of course, FF5 wasn’t released overseas at the time and SMRPG’s translation still gets the point across, so no harm no foul.

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  10. Well, that’s certainly an interesting comparison you did there. Never really know how Culex would be any different between languages… Also, here’s something to consider: You know the place called Yo’ster Isle? Well, that’s how Yoshi’s Island is known in the Japanese games and somehow that name ended up intact for this game…

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    1. There’s a lot of directly-translated Japanese names in SMRPG, like how Mario gets the ‘Nok Nok Shell’ as a weapon, which is a reference to the Koopa Troopas being Nokonoko in Japan, and how the Toad merchant in the volcano is named Hinopio. Maybe Ted Woolsey wasn’t that familiar with the American localizations of the Mario universe? It seems like a stretch, but it could explain the weird inconsistencies in this game.

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      1. And yet Bowser is still Bowser and Peach was Princess Toadstool like usual. Clearly Woolsey did do some research. Well, to an extent anyways. Perhaps he really wanted something different for this game…

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        1. He probably had access to some kind of internal documents or a universe bible from Nintendo telling him the very basics of the Mario world like Koopa = Bowser, if he didn’t already know them.

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          1. Yeah, but that still doesn’t explain things like Nok Nok Shell and stuff…

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            1. To be fair to Woolsey, even NoA made mistakes with stuff like that, see the Jugem’s Cloud and Kuribo’s Shoe from SMB3 (Lakitu’s Cloud and Goomba’s Shoe).

              But many of the regular enemy names in SMRPG weren’t even consistent with the official names from other games in the series, such as Cheep Cheeps being called Goby, among others. Woolsey’s research did not go far and one of the reasons SMRPG feels like the black sheep of the RPG series is because of the weird Squaresoft translation.

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  11. I’ve known since I was a teenager that Culex’s Japanese name was different, but I never bothered to look up his Japanese dialogue, assuming the localization to be more-or-less faithful. Boy, I can see I was wrong!

    But yeah, my very first Japanese CD was the SMRPG soundtrack, and I saw in the tracklist, after painstakingly using a Katakana chart for the first time, that his name in Japanese was KURISUTARAA. It wasn’t until at least a year or so later, after learning more of how English words come out when transcribed in Katakana, that I figured out it was a variation on the English word “crystal”.

    In fact, it was this very 2-CD set that inspired me to learn Japanese in the first place. Ah, the memories.

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  12. One of the things I’ve heard about the Japanese script for Mario RPG – it might have been from this site – is that Bowser refers to himself as the super old-fashioned “wagahai”. I don’t think the English script of any game gives off that sort of vibe.

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  13. I always enjoy it when someone else points out that Woolsey basically took liberties on par with or beyond that of Working Designs in his localizations. After all the flak I took back in the day for having the “gall” to touch his “masterpiece” of FF6, it’s kind of cathartic to see people realizing that I had a point.

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    1. I don't like Sky Render

      Nobody said you had a point.
      There is a difference between the two extremes taken in localization we see here. On one hand, there are liberties that come through with Woolsey’s work that may be a bit excessive (Neosquid, for instance). On the other hand, the other extreme is the dry, stale, flat-out boring almost-machine-translated stuff you did, which does no justice to the FFVI story.
      You deserved all the “flak” you got.

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  14. That’s certainly intriguing. I figured Culex spoke in some grandiose way in Japanese, but I wasn’t quite expecting so much…blabbering, if I had to be honest. It sounds like the stuff he’s mucking on about is what you’d hear in those old school anime that preach love and friendship as ultimate power and such.

    Until he someday gains the power of the third dimension huh? Was he predicting FFVII? XD

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  15. If you added Super Mario RPG to your (likely giant) to-do pile, I’d be thrilled.

    To be honest, I never thought much about the explanation behind Culex, outside of probably being some kind of Final Fantasy nod. I just kind of accepted that he was a non-sequitur side boss. This is cool though!

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    1. Yeah, Mato absolutely MUST start a SMRPG Comparison series at some point. With you helping him of course if you want. xD

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  16. Wow, just wow. Woe betide the poor Japanese gamers having read through Culix’ Classical Japanese. Rife with ware (I), nanjira (ye) and what have you, this certainly makes him sound like a character straight out of a Shakespeare play or perhaps even the Canterbury Tales. Wonder if this effect is comparable in terms of having a character out of the blue spout Middle English in FF7.

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    1. I wonder if that theatre scene at the opening of FF9 is also old-fashioned like that…

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      1. Looking at what I could find on the web, the Japanese version of the scene hasn’t got AS archaic language as Culix speaks, but it’s still very formal and old fashioned.

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        1. I see… Should be an interesting scene to compare someday.

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    2. As a non-native speaker of Japanese, I didn’t find this too bad actually. You see it in RPGs all the time, like in Valkyrie Profile or any of the Persona games. Especially the former is full of this stuff.

      Hitting kids with this back in the mid-90s must have been a different beast though. I don’t remember this being common in any of the early RPGs up to that point (my examples are a lot younger), so yeah… “what are they making me read?!” was a likely reaction.

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  17. So, basically, the Japanese version is Flatland if A. Square picked a fight with A. Sphere.

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    1. So you’re saying Mario could have ended the fight by just lightly poking Culex’s internal organs (which would be fully exposed from a 3D perspective).

      Interestingly, the 3D vs 2D thing has finally been revisited in Mario & Luigi Paper Jam, a game where the “3D” world is still 2D drawings, but it’s on the 3DS so it still counts.

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  18. Okay, this translation difference is pretty extreme, and a big surprise to me. I had noticed before that Culex was a 2D drawing but only connected that as a clashing “style” with Mario’s world.

    For the most part, I think I prefer the original meaning, but I do personally prefer the name Culex to “Crystaller”. Even “Crystallizer” sounds better to my ears than that. A happy medium might be a name/title combo like “Culex the Crystallizer”. That fits NOA’s favorite habbit of alliteration-happy translations too.

    Perhaps the weirdest part of the US translation was the addition of the “Dark Mage” and his title as “Dark Knight of Vanda”. It gave me the distinct impression that Culex was more or less an underling of a greater power. It’s a bit more satisfying to know he was actually the dark lord of his world and not just some servant.

    Here’s my big thing. Knowing he wants to return when he finally gets some “depth”, well, I want to see him show up in Final Fantasy XIV now.

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    1. It’s a shame the SMRPG rights issue makes it impossible to bring back original characters from the game without getting Square’s acceptance, because Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam would of been perfect for Culex’s return.

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  19. So, speaking of Super Mario RPG bosses, a major required one, the big sword himself, Exor. Called Karibā in the original — which “may” be a play on “Exalibur” according to mariowiki.com — his name “Exor” amused me when watching the Let’s Play because, upon defeat, he became a gate to Smithy’s dimension. Is there a way to tell if the translator actually intended to make a logic gate joke?

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