Assassin's Creed Shadows Might Be Late, But One Clever Twist Saves It

Yasuke and Naoe are the most interesting Assassin's Creed Characters since Bayek.

There are few things as consistent in gaming as the imminent release of a brand-new Assassin’s Creed game. And like clockwork, Ubisoft just announced the next entry in the long-running open-world stealth action series. This time, the developer is delivering on a long-awaited feature — we’re going to Japan.

Assassin’s Creed Shadows (formerly known as Assassin’s Creed Codename Red) is the 14th game in the franchise. It will take place in 16th-century Feudal-era Japan, marking the first time a mainline Assassin’s Creed game will be set in Asia. While Ubisoft revealed that the follow-up to last year’s Assassin’s Creed Mirage would be set in Japan ages ago, Wednesday’s trailer revealed a much-needed shake-up for a backdrop that’s become an all too familiar in gaming: its two lead characters.

There is no historical setting as widely requested for Assassin’s Creed as long as Feudal Japan. As far back as 2009’s Assassin’s Creed II, fans have been practically begging Ubisoft and their cabal of development teams to take on the expansive 700-year period that saw many seismic power shifts between the country’s ruling class. For a series known for twisting established history on its head and layering on the revisionist element of the “Assassins vs Templars” conflict, Feudal Japan seems like the perfect setup to tell a story full of captivating drama and political intrigue.

But despite more than a decade of demand, Ubisoft left the idea dormant. And in that time, other games have taken the concept and not only run with it but smashed it out of the park.

In 2020, Sucker Punch Productions dropped Ghost Of Tsushima, a universally beloved open-world game set in 1200s Japan, and it felt like exactly what the Assassin’s Creed fans had been asking for all along. This year, developer Team Ninja, a master of the character action genre, released Rise Of The Ronin. While it didn’t reach the highs of some of Team Ninja’s other titles, like the Ni-Oh series, it received plenty of props from critics for its interesting historical setting of 1800’s Japan.

When Ubisoft confirmed Assassin’s Creed was going to Japan back in 2022, I couldn’t help but feel like it might be too little too late. For the cynics, it felt like a course correction hot off the heels of the success of games like Ghost of Tsushima and the anticipation building around Rise Of the Ronin.

That was until we were introduced to the game’s dual protagonists, Yasuke and Naoe.

This won’t be Yasuke’s first video game appearance. He was a featured character in Koei Tecmo’s Samurai Warriors 5 and is the main character in the upcoming indie action game Yasuke: A Lost Descendant.

Yasuke is a real-life man of African origin who served as a Samurai during Japan’s Sengoku period. Little is known about Yasuke aside from tales passed down over the centuries, giving Ubisoft ample room to get creative. Naoe Fujibayashi, on the other hand, is an original character created by Ubisoft. She’s a shinobi assassin from Japan’s Iga province and is on a quest for revenge, according to the game’s website.

These are two very unique perspectives for a game set in an otherwise common video game setting. Neither Ghost of Tsushima nor Rise Of The Ronin took place during a time when Yasuke would have been serving. And while Rise Of The Ronin featured a fully customizable lead who could be whatever gender or race the player wanted, having a carefully crafted story centering two marginalized leads in this period of history makes it wholly unique.

It’s worth noting that this won’t be the first time Yasuke specifically has appeared in a video game. The historic figure appeared in Koei Tecmo’s Samurai Warriors 5 back in 2021. Yasuke is also the main character in the upcoming action game Yasuke: A Lost Descendant from Dallience Studios.

Naoe is a shinobi assassin who will likely be the game’s more stealth-focused of the two protagonists.


Shadows’ split narrative approach can be a great way to make the depiction of these historic archetypes distinct from other interpretations. By dividing the game between two characters, there’s so much potential not just in terms of gameplay, but in how these two characters' stories cross paths and reckon with its Feudal Japan setting.

By waiting so long to tackle such a sought-after historic setting, Assassin’s Creed Shadows risked being outshined by games that already did an open-world feudal Japan. But smartly centering two remarkable leads is the exact spin this cliche setting needed to pique the public’s interest. We’re still a few months away from its November release, so who knows how the game will actually play. But I really hope they can do right by such a fascinating premise.

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