Assassin’s Creed Shadows Release Date Confirmed: Why It Needs To Avoid One Stereotype About Japan The Entire Gaming Industry Has Been Abusing

It's time for a fresh take on samurai in video games.

assassin’s creed shadows

SUMMARY

  • Assassin's Creed Shadows has the chance to step away from stereotypical samurai and ninja portrayals by featuring morally ambiguous protagonists Naoe (a fictional kunoichi) and Yasuke (a real historical figure of African descent).
  • Naoe fights for the Assassins who blur the lines between good and evil, while Yasuke's loyalty to the ruthless warlord Nobunaga could create internal conflict.
  • Shadows could offer a fresh perspective on Japanese history and culture, avoiding the "code of honor" cliché and showcasing the complexities of samurai as humans.
Show More
Featured Video

For years, the samurai and ninja of Japanese video games have been portrayed in an almost-binary, black and white fashion – stoic warriors who follow an unwavering code of honor throughout their lives, making them poster representations of virtue that command respect.

Advertisement

While these portrayals can be riveting, they often lack nuance. Assassin’s Creed Shadows, the next mainline entry in Ubisoft’s blockbuster series, has a great opportunity to break this mold with a cast of characters never seen before in a samurai game.

Assassin’s Creed Shadows Features An Obscure Japanese Era

Assassin's Creed Shadows will feature protagonists Naoe and popular historical figure Yasuke | Ubisoft
Assassin’s Creed Shadows will feature protagonists Naoe and popular Japanese historical figure Yasuke | Ubisoft

Shadows takes place during the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568-1603), a time of great upheaval and conflict in feudal Japan. However, the more interesting facet about the game is its protagonists: Naoe and Yasuke, two individuals on opposite sides of a brewing war.

Advertisement

Naoe, a fictional but grounded character, is a kunoichi (female ninja) from the Iga province, known as the birthplace of Shinobi. She is the daughter of a legendary Iga ninja, Fujibayashi Nagato, and is inducted into the Assassin’s Order, which is the “creed” of Assassins the games deal with.

Yasuke, on the other hand, is a real historical figure. A man of African descent, Yasuke came to Japan in 1579 and served the famed daimyō Oda Nobunaga. Little is known about the real Yasuke, but the game’s developers have integrated known facts about his connections with the Jesuits, Portuguese, and Nobunaga within his role as one of Shadow‘s protagonists.

His inclusion is also very interesting, as this is the first samurai game that features Yasuke as a protagonist. Games like Nioh and Samurai Warrior 5 do feature him, but in relatively minor capacities. Many fans are undoubtedly excited to see how Ubisoft handles the character.

Advertisement

Why Naoe And Yasuka Should Have Conflicting Moralities

The protagonists' premises may hint at their struggles with moral ambiguity | Ubisoft
The protagonists’ premises may hint at their struggles with moral ambiguity | Ubisoft

However, what Ubisoft really should do is embrace the lack of clear-cut morality that protagonists in samurai games over the years have lacked. Naoe’s and Yasuke’s premises are intriguing, but they could be far more absorbing if they grappled with moral grayness.

Naoe is a backer of the Assassins, likely driven by a desire to protect her homeland and its traditions. However, the Assassins themselves have a complex moral code, often blurring the lines between good and evil in their pursuit of order.

These pursuits could very well hit close to home for Naoe over the course of the game’s narrative. Similarly, Yasuke’s loyalty to Nobunaga, a ruthless warlord, could create an internal conflict within him upon witnessing the consequences of the war and challenge his allegiance.

Advertisement

There’s a near-perfect setup here for moral ambiguity within these protagonists, giving Assassin’s Creed Shadows a chance to offer a fresh perspective on Japanese history and culture, that too in a previously unexplored era, rather than the same “code of honor” cliché which games like Ghost of Tsushima and Rise of the Ronin find themselves using.

Shadows must capitalize on the potential narrative goldmines within these characters | Ubisoft
Shadows must capitalize on the potential narrative goldmines within these characters | Ubisoft

Samurai were human, after all, and with that come certain complexities which shouldn’t be ignored. In addition to their unique premises, Naoe and Yasuke’s potential stories have a chance to make them some of the best Assassin’s Creed characters ever, as well as a fresh breath of air within the subset of samurai games.

Assassin’s Creed Shadows is slated to release on 15 November 2024 across PS5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.

Advertisement
Avatar

Written by Viraaj Bhatnagar

Articles Published: 213

A lifelong gamer, lover of cars, and Master's student of Automotive Journalism, Viraaj Bhatnagar is a gaming writer at FandomWire who aims to be one of the greats. When he's not hunched over on his laptop typing out copy, he can be found lapping circuits in Gran Turismo or slaying draugr in God of War.