‘Assassin’s Creed Shadows’ Trailer Confirms Feudal Japan-Set Title To Feature Black Protagonist

Naoe (TBA) takes to the rooftops of Japan in Assassin's Creed Shadows (TBA), Ubisoft
Naoe (TBA) takes to the rooftops of Japan in Assassin's Creed Shadows (TBA), Ubisoft

[UPDATE May 15th, 2024: With the release of Assassin’s Creed Shadows‘ first trailer, Yasuke’s role as one of its two protagonist has officially been confirmed. However, contrary to original reports, his partner Naoe is not black, but Japanese. The original story, with edits made regarding Naoe’s ethnicity, follows below].

In making a distinctive break from the franchise’s usual direction, alleged leaks have revealed that rather than any heroes who hail from the nation in which it takes place, Ubisoft’s upcoming, Feudal Japan-set Assassin’s Creed Shadows will instead center its narrative on a foreign-born black protagonist.

Basim (Lee Majdoub) scales a tower in Assassin's Creed Mirage (2023), Ubisoft
Basim (Lee Majdoub) scales a tower in Assassin’s Creed Mirage (2023), Ubisoft

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This detail regarding the next entry in the long-running action-adventure series was first divulged to the public courtesy of a now-deleted-due-to-a-copyright-strike-from-Ubisoft video uploaded by noted Assassin’s Creed leaker and video game YouTuber j0nathan.

Therein, according to a recap of said video provided by /u/Cygus_Lorman with the help of machine translation to the /r/GamingLeaksandRumors Reddit community, j0nathan revealed the identities of Shadows‘ two leads as the male Samurai Yasuke and the female ninja Naoe.

Ratonhnhaké:ton (Noah Watts) stands his ground against British Loyalists in Assassin's Creed III (2012), Ubisoft
Ratonhnhaké:ton (Noah Watts) stands his ground against British Loyalists in Assassin’s Creed III (2012), Ubisoft

Based on the historical figure of the same name, Yasuke’s story will reportedly see him go from being the only remaining survivor of a slave ship following a pirate raid to eventually being taught the ways of the Samurai while serving under warlord Oda Nobunaga.

Meanwhile, Naoe is described as a fledgling operative of the Shinobi – the local and period name for the Assassins – who was brought into their ranks after her family was killed by a group known as ‘the Order’- the local and period name for the enemy Templars.

In addition to Yasuke and Naoe’s identities, j0nathan also alleged that the game would – unsurprisingly given that it’s being developed by Ubisoft – feature an abundance of DLC, including a $40 Season Pass, two expansion packs for $25 each, and various microtransaction currency packs ranging in price from $5 to $50.

Edward (Matt Ryan) is caught in Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag (2013), Ubisoft
Edward (Matt Ryan) is caught in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (2013), Ubisoft

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And in almost record time, just hours after his video was taken down by Ubisoft, j0nathan’s scoop regarding Yasuke and Naoe would be confirmed by a leak of Shadows‘ main key art.

First obtained by Reddit user /u/fraxR6 via a personal datamining of Ubisoft’s online store, the art in question shows both Yasuke and Naoe striking battle poses in front of a traditional Japanese torii gate, the background scenery drenched in a blood-red color palette.

Insider-Gaming Senior Editor Mike Straw shares the cover art for 'Assassin's Creed Shadows'
Mike Straw (@MikeStrawMedia) via Twitter

Notably – and as readers familiar with his character may already be aware of – despite being directly inspired by the historical Yasuke, his Shadows interpretation deviates in two very significant ways from his real-world counterpart.

First, Yasuke did not make landfall in Japan as the result of a raid on a slave ship (in fact, there exists no historical record that he was ever a victim of the African slave trade).

Rather, he was brought there by a Jesuit missionary by the name of Alessandro Valigano, whose service he had found himself under prior to his trip to the East Asian nation.

Bayek (Abubakar Salim) sets out across the Egyptian desert in Assassin’s Creed Origins (2017), Ubisoft

Second, and despite pop-culture’s obsession with pushing the idea, there exists no concrete evidence that Yasuke was ever considered an actual samurai, nor that he was chosen to serve under Nobunaga due to his supposed skills.

In reality, what is known is that Yasuke caught the attention of Nobunaga thanks to his skin color, which the Japanese warlord found mesmerizing due to his having never seen anyone so dark in his entire life.

Jacob Frye (Paul Amos) takes matters into his own hands in Assassin's Creed Syndicate (2015), Ubisoft
Jacob Frye (Paul Amos) takes matters into his own hands in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate (2015), Ubisoft

Finding himself amused with both the discrepancy in their skin tones and the man’s overall character, Nobunaga eventually requested that Valigano allow Yasuke to come under his service, to which the missionary obliged.

Given his Japanese name of Yasuke by his new master, the African man was then put under Nobunaga’s employ as a retainer – a noble and respected position with many privileges similar to samurai, but far, far different in actual regard and duty (imagine the difference between a ‘Doctor of literature’ and a ‘Doctor of medicine’, but with more swords) – before later being appointed as one of the warlord’s koshō, (essentially the Japanese version of page boy).

Basim (Lee Majdoub) draws his blades in Assassin's Creed Mirage (2023), Ubisoft
Basim (Lee Majdoub) draws his blades in Assassin’s Creed Mirage (2023), Ubisoft

However, despite the murky nature of his samurai labeling, Yasuke has been confirmed to have fought in service of Nobunaga in at least one battle.

Following the death of his master during the infamous rebellion by his vassal Akechi Mitsuhide known as the Honno-ji Incident, Yasuke is reported to have rushed to protect Nobunaga’s heir, at which time he encountered and proceed to clash with a group of Mitsuhide’s supporters.

Eivoir (Magnus Bruun Nielsen) returns for another fight in Assassin's Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarök (2022), Ubisoft
Eivoir (Magnus Bruun Nielsen) returns for another fight in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarök (2022), Ubisoft

Eventually bested by his enemies and captured, Yasuke would end up surviving the rebellion thanks to the direct intervention of Mitsuhide himself, who when asked what to do with a black man by one of his vassals, ordered, “A black slave is an animal and knows nothing, nor is he Japanese, so do not kill him, and place him in the custody at the cathedral of Padre in India.”

As for what happened to Yasuke after the battle, well, that’s currently unknown, as outside of the known fact that he authored at least one letter to a friend in which he gave thanks to God for his survival of the Honno-ji Incident, the historical record makes no further mention of the African retainer.

Edward (Matt Ryan) and Adéwalé (Tristan D. Lalla) come to an agreement in Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag (2013), Ubisoft
Edward (Matt Ryan) and Adéwalé (Tristan D. Lalla) come to an agreement in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (2013), Ubisoft

Following the leak of the game’s cover art, Ubisoft announced that they would be officially unveiling the trailer for Assassin’s Creed Shadows on May 15th.

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