Is 'Assassin's Creed' Headed to Japan in 2016?

Assassin's Creed Japan header

When Assassin's Creed Unity launched late last year, fans were shocked to discover that the game they'd been waiting for didn't appear to have completed development. A huge amount of bugs made Unity unplayable, from the frustrating (loot chests being inaccessible without a connection to Ubisoft's servers and Ubisoft's poor server connections) to the downright comical (character faces disappearing and NPCs randomly showing up in cutscenes). There were also framerate drops that went against Ubisoft's promises that the game would run at 900p and 30FPS on PS4 and Xbox One. It was rushed and it wasn't good.

As a result, a lot of those very same assassins to be were then appalled a few weeks later when Ubisoft confirmed that leaked info and images of a new Assassin's Creed game called Assassin's Creed Victory (which will be set in Victorian London) were legitimate. It wasn't so much that Ubisoft is already working on another Assassin's Creed game because everyone is aware that AC games are created alongside one another (see: Unity and Rogue), but it was frustrating to learn that another new game world was being developed as Unity's development suffered.

So the suggestion that yet another flagship Assassin's Creed is in development, or more specifically, the timing of such a suggestion may be cause for more community frustration. In this case it may also be cause for some excitement since fans have long clamored for Ubisoft to make an Assassin's Creed game that's set in Japan - and the publisher and developer may be working on that after all.

That's what an official Assassin's Creed Unity collectible leads us to believe, anyway. Writing on the Ubisoft forum, user Cornik22 explains that they bought the Assassin's Creed Unity: The Complete Official Guide back in November but a recent re-read of the book turned up some interesting information. It showed off a concept of the Abstergo foyer that has never made it into a final release of an AC game, but it's significant as it actually hints at future Assassin's Creed locations.

Assassin's Creed Abstergo display

Included in the image are photos of the Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence (Assassin's Creed 2), a tropical island (Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag), the Notre Dame (Assassin's Creed Unity), the Houses of Parliament (Assassin's Creed Victory) and another image which appears to be of the Sensoji Temple in Japan. It's also worth noting that Cornik22 also saw this mural in other AC collectibles, including the Abstergo Entertainment: Employee Handbook, The Art of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, so clearly this isn't a fluke.

Assassin's Creed Sensoji Temple

The similarities in the side-by-side comparison of the Abstergo display and the Sensoji Temple (above) are uncanny. Some have suggested that it may be a nod to the Forbidden City in China (Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China will be launching early 2015) but details such as the color and shape of the roofs and the unmistakable lines of the Sensoji Temple's balcony suggest that it really is a nod to Japan. When it comes to historical accuracy, Ubisoft always pays close attention to detail so it's unlikely that they would depict the Forbidden City so incorrectly.

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Why Assassin's Creed Should Go to Japan

With Assassin's Creed Victory scheduled for 2015, the next Assassin's Creed Japan is expected for fall 2016 but if Ubisoft is exploring Japan in a future adventure, it could be one of the series' most exciting and unique entries yet. That's because any Assassin's Creed game in Japan would most likely be set during the Edo period that spanned 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. It was a time of serious hardships for the Japanese people, including conflicts, famine and oppressive rule under Tokugawa shoguns (Japan's feudal military rulers) and freedom and liberation have been recurring themes in every Assassin's Creed game.

Assassin's Creed Japan would likely be set in either the 17th or the 18th centuries too. as these were the worst and the most eventful times during the Edo period prior to the final fall of the Tokugawa dynasty in 1868.

The 17th century contains several pro-freedom events for Ubisoft to cover. The entire Edo period saw strict laws enforced where Western principles and teachings were banned, most notably the ban of Christianity 1614, the ban of foreign travel and reading foreign books in 1633 and the ban of ship building in 1638. There was the Shimabara Rebellion that took place in 1638 as overtaxed peasants and 'chonin' (feudal Japan's working class) looked to break out against the persecution. The rebellion was ultimately crushed (the Tokugawa Shogunate sent over 125,000 soldiers to deal with them) but it certainly lays a convincing, oppressive stage for our AC Japan protagonist to perform on.

18th century Japan was more eventful still as that included the Horeki River Improvement Incident in 1754 (where the Tokugawas forced the Satsumas to carry out impossible work to stop the country's rivers from flooding); the rule of Tokugawa Ieshige who let corruption run rampant from 1745 to 1760; and the Great Tenmei famine of 1782-88. And, as Assassin's Creed is always big on including notable figures, the artist Hokusai (who was essentially the Japanese Da Vinci) who was born in 1760 would be a good choice.

Assassin's Creed Japan concept

Could Assassin's Creed Japan Really Happen?

Evidently, the problem with featuring Japan in an Assassin's Creed game is that unless Ubisoft goes down the legacy route like they did with Connor, Haytham and Edward Kenway (in AC3 and 4, respectively) it would be difficult to pack those two centuries into one game. In theory, they could just split Assassin's Creed Japan into two games but as people already feel that the Assassin's Creed games lack freshness, two games set in the same place but in slightly different years might be overkill.

There's also the fact that Assassin's Creed 3 director Alex Hutchinson once called Japan a "boring" setting for a game due to the way that so many other games have featured the country in "broad strokes." But Ubisoft has never made the Assassin's Creed games with 'broad strokes' and they always make them very specific, so that point may not be valid. Furthermore, when clarifying his comments in October, Hutchinson explained that a recent lack of games set in Japan had made him change his mind, also saying that "Feudal Japan would work as an Assassin's game, for sure." So, perhaps Assassin's Creed Japan is on the cards after all.

Would you like to see Assassin's Creed Japan? Where else would you like the series to take us?

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