How Persona 5 Royal stole the finale of Shrek 2

ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 30: A woman poses for a photograph as she hugs a waxwork figure of animated movie character Shrek on display at Turkey's first Madame Tussauds Wax Museum on November 30, 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey. Madame Tussauds, Istanbul opened to the public on November 28, 2016 and showcases 55 waxwork models including a number of Turkey's famous cultural figures, celebrities and sports stars. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 30: A woman poses for a photograph as she hugs a waxwork figure of animated movie character Shrek on display at Turkey's first Madame Tussauds Wax Museum on November 30, 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey. Madame Tussauds, Istanbul opened to the public on November 28, 2016 and showcases 55 waxwork models including a number of Turkey's famous cultural figures, celebrities and sports stars. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images) /

We take a look at how Persona 5 Royal blatantly copies Shrek 2’s finale, from the characters to the music, to even the giant gingerbread man.

Note: This article contains spoilers for Persona 5 Royal and is also meant ironically and as a joke.

I love Persona 5/Persona 5 Royal. Everything just works perfectly together: the story, the music, the characters, the gameplay. I finished Persona 5 Royal a completely different person than who I was when I started the title, and I would do anything to experience P5R for the first time all over again.

I am notoriously harsh during my written reviews on this site (rightfully so, ask more from the developers you praise and refuse to question) but even I would have given P5R the highest marks possible in the review system.

I am not alone in my praise either, with critics and players around the world praising both Persona 5 and it’s 2020 re-release, Persona 5 Royal. App Trigger’s own Eric Chrisman poured praise onto the title in his review. It currently holds a 95 score on Metacritic and has a user score that sits unusually high for Metacritic user scores at 8.1.

P5R is full of small references and nods to other bits of media, whether that media be in the Shin Megami Tensei universe or in reality. These references are fun and help flesh out the game’s world, making it feel like a complete society with realistic parallels to our own. Of course, the Featherman /Ultraman reference is one of the biggest memes in the Persona 5 community, but there exist other references throughout the game. Nods to titles like Fist of the North Star, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, Akira, Les Miserables, Super Smash Brothers, and many other Persona and Shin Megami Tensei games are all over Atlus’s interpretation of Tokyo.

But above all other references, there stands one nod that is so blatant and egregious that it borderlines on theft. One segment of the game leans so heavily into another iconic piece of media that only a shot for shot that is hard to find where the inspiration ends and the originality begins.

I am, of course, referring to how the climax Persona 5 Royal is a direct rip-off of the climax of Dreamworks Studios’ 2004 cinematic masterpiece, Shrek 2.

Firstly we must start by pointing out the obvious similarity that is the musical choice.

In the climax of Shrek 2, viewers are treated to a wonderful, heroic, exciting, and beautiful cover of Bonnie Tyler’s 1984 smash hit, “Holding out for a Hero.” The lyrics reflect Fiona’s internal feeling towards her current circumstance while also reflecting the dramatic irony of the situation she has found herself in. Prince Charming is pretending to be a human version of Shrek and giving her a chance to live her dreams of being a human princess with her true love. However, that is all a trap, and Fiona needs a hero to save her from that fake reality, and that hero is on his way.

The high tempo beat and energetic performance of Jennifer Saunders as the Fairy Godmother also serves to help the intense action that is happening simultaneously, with Shrek and his friends trying to break into the castle atop a giant gingerbread man. The orchestral segments serve to highlight the heroes’ advances in their siege, while the percussion and piano sections highlight the group’s losses, including the emotional and heart-breaking death of Mongo.

P5R‘s climax uses the song “I Believe” in a very similar way during its climax. The lyrics represent the Phantom Thieves’  internal fear and anxiety about fighting Maruki and changing the world’s cognition back to the painful and sad truth that is reality. Meanwhile, the song’s optimistic lines of breaking through reality and making it through together create dramatic irony for the player when it comes to Joker and Akechi, who are destined to find their way to prison or die once again upon their success.

Now by virtue of P5R being an RPG game and not an action game, the beats are not in sync with the on-screen happenings, but it is well suited for the staged events. The opening of the song does suit the feeling you get when standing at the base of the temple, finalizing your team’s equipment and making sure your lineup is optimal. When running up the massive staircase at the top of the palace’s paradise section, the tempo and cadence of the vocalist help to hype the player up in a way that is appropriate for this game.

The similarities continue on with the characters and stakes of the scene, and the way Persona 5 Royal steals some creative and daring choices is criminal at best.

In Shrek 2, the group of heroes rushing to siege the castle is made up of the confident and handsome lead with Shrek; the sentient animal character who serves the lead as a partner and friend with Donkey; the morally questionable villain turned hero with Puss in Boots; the character with a single parent and questionable knees in Gingy; and the late addition to the group who honestly does not have enough time to be developed as a character but somehow is still emotionally relatable and connectable with Mongo. On the inside of the castle, we have the princess who has lived a lie for essentially her whole life and despite working to become more comfortable with her life as an ogre, is currently actively denying reality in favor of her lie.

Compare that to P5R‘s cast, which despite being larger then the Shrek 2 cast, is very similar. Joker is handsome and confident; Morgana is the cat veteran of the metaverse; Akechi is a bad guy seeking redemption; Ryuji has a mother he cares for and a bad knee, and poor, lovable, and adorable Haru is so emotionally beautiful and deep despite coming into the game so late. You also have Kasumi/Sumire, the girl who has lived a cognitive lie the last few fears, and despite seemingly becoming more comfortable in her identity as Sumire, seems to favor the part of the cognition that saw her taking the identity of her sister.

Of course, the most egregious of these character similarities are with the villains of both media. The Fairy Godmother in Shrek 2 represents an evil who uses her reality changing and cognition altering abilities to create a reality to achieve her mission. Her mission is stated simply on her business card, to give everyone their happily ever after. Her reality-altering may result in more people living a happier life, but at what cost? It was Shrek’s choice to go to the Fairy Godmother in the first place that even gives her the opportunity to be the villain, meaning Shrek’s relationship with the Godmother is more personal than ever before.

If that does not immediately remind readers of Maruki, then you did not play P5R.

Maruki’s persona, Adam Kadmon, gives him the ability to alter peoples’ cognition of the world, creating a happier and painless reality. This reality denies people the opportunity to properly grow through pain and hardship, but is constant happiness worth it? Joker and the Phantom Thieves’ relied on Maruki during the school year for counseling and emotional guidance, giving him the understanding and knowledge of the metaverse and his persona, meaning this is a personal and emotionally invested feud for them to deal with.

The stakes created by these villains are also identical. The final moments of Shrek 2 represent the moments before a powerful spell permanently changes reality, with Shrek being the only possible person capable of breaking that spell. Meanwhile, in P5R, this is the last possible chance for anyone to break Maruki’s false cognition, with the Phantom Thieves being the only people capable of bringing him down.

These similarities are so jarring and egregious that is surprising that it took this long for someone to point it out. When this case inevitably goes to court, I do not see how Atlus can win with the evidence that stands against them. Between the musical similarities, the blatant character copying — most egregiously of Haru as the giant gingerbread man and Maruki as the Fairy Godmother — and my not being serious at all, I just do not see how I could ever unsee this, and I hope you can not either.