Assassin’s Creed Shadows finally brings series to Japan – BBC News

Image caption, Naoe and Yasuke were introduced as dual protagonists in the game

  • Author, Andrew Rogers and Tom Richardson
  • Role, BBC Newsbeat

In the 17 years since its launch, the Assassin’s Creed series has taken fans around the world, from ancient Greece to Victorian London.

But despite many, many requests, it never tiptoed into Japan. Until now.

Assassin’s Creed: Shadows, previously codenamed Assassin’s Creed: Red, is a long-awaited twist for the franchise into the country’s feudal, 16th-century Sengoku period.

Game director Charles Benoit tells BBC Newsbeat that the team weighs possible settings for each new Assassin’s Creed game and gauges feedback from fans of the series.

“So there are a lot of people involved,” he says.

“We looked at certain past projects and future projects, and we felt this was the perfect time for Japan this time.”

Fans got their first glimpse of the game this week via a cinematic trailer that introduced dual protagonists Naoe – a female ninja – and Yasuke – who is based on a real-life figure often referred to as “the African Samurai.”

Image caption, A stealthy approach is encouraged by Naoe’s character

Charles says this allows the team to implement two gameplay styles. With Naoe, players are encouraged to take a more stealthy approach, similar to games like Assassin’s Creed: Mirage, while Yasuke’s more combat-oriented style is reminiscent of the Viking-inspired Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla.

The game’s trailer created a lot of excitement for Shadows – and developer Ubisoft is hoping for a hit after sales of its previous 2024 release Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown were reportedly muted.

The other major release, pirate-themed Skull & Bones – which started as an Assassin’s Creed spin-off – received generally low review scores.

Shadow’s trailer also sparked backlash from some gamers, who criticized the choice of Yasuke as the main character over a native Japanese protagonist.

Opponents have accused these critics of being racist, and have pointed out that Yasuke is based on a real person.

Speaking to Newsbeat ahead of the trailer’s release, Charles said the developers have “put a lot of emphasis on authenticity and making sure we represent Japan and its culture well.”

“So when we started the project, we had a historian with us from day one,” he says.

He says the team also consulted weapons experts and traveled to Japan to get a feel for the game’s landscape and locations.

Image caption, Yasuke’s combat-oriented style is reminiscent of Viking-inspired Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla

It’s an approach that the Assassin’s Creed series has increasingly leaned on in recent titles.

Last year’s entry Mirage, set in Golden Age Baghdad, included a faithful portrayal of the 9th century Iraqi capital.

It also included an Arabic language option that the developers said was based on the dialect spoken in the city at the time.

Mirage was a slight change of direction for the series – a more focused game than the sprawling, open-world Valhalla – that felt closer to previous Assassin’s Creed titles.

But it did not escape the criticism often leveled at the franchise that it became too one-sided and stuck to the same format.

Charles insists that Shadows will introduce new features to keep the game fresh, including an ability that allows the player to crawl towards objectives and ‘dynamic seasons’ with changing weather that will affect gameplay from moment to moment.

“Heavy rain has a big impact on the sound,” he says. “In a sense, covering your footsteps.”

“Perception is also influenced by light and shadows.

“You can disappear into the shadows, you can extinguish the light. So a lot of different things are affected by the dynamic world,” he says.

Although the game won’t be released for another six months, after fans waited 17 years for Assassin’s Creed to arrive in Japan, will the game stick around for a while?

“That’s a difficult question,” says Charles.

“There are so many periods in Japan that are super interesting. Right now we are in the late Sengoku era, but the Edo period is also super interesting.

“So I would like to continue this adventure and see other places in Japan.

“Personally, I would like to continue with this,” he says.

Listen to Newsbeat live at 12:45 and 17:45 on weekdays – or listen back here.

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