Assassin’s Creed Shadows race row proves some people don’t know their history

Assassin’s Creed Shadows race row proves some people don’t know their history
Images via Ubisoft

Written by 

Tom Chapman


15th May 2024 14:57

To be honest, we're surprised it's taken this long to give us a Japan-set Assassin's Creed game. While you could argue Sucker Punch and Team Ninja already got the drop on the idea with Ghost of Tsushima and Rise of the Ronin, Assassin's Creed's legacy means there's more than enough hype to see where Ubisoft takes us next.

It's been a busy week for Assassin's Creed Codename Red, and after it was officially retitled Assassin's Creed Shadows, an early artwork leak has seemingly spoiled a major surprise ahead of time. Unfortunately, a small number of critics are unhappy with the game, claiming it's already gone 'woke' for including a black protagonist.

Assassin's Creed Shadows caught in a race row

Ahead of Ubisoft's big May 15 reveal, artwork started doing the rounds, showing off the rumoured dual protagonists of Naoe and Yakuse. Unlike Assassin's Creed Valhalla making you pick between either the male or female version of Eivor, Shadows looks like it's giving us two distinct characters. 

When the artwork leaked online, the comments quickly descended into the usual dumpster fire about representation and how white gamers feel underrepresented in 2024. One critic grumbled, "Wow, they put a black dude on the cover of a samurai game… wtf are they doing? I'm so tired of this," and it seems they aren't alone. 

Another complained, "Assassin’s Creed being based in Japan and then NOT using a Japanese male protagonist is stupid. We know exactly why they’re using Yasuke (THE MESSAGE) and it's annoying. It would be as dumb as having it based in Africa and deciding to use a white male protagonist."

Others have rallied behind Assassin's Creed Shadows and pointed out how Black Flag was set in the Caribbean and featured a white protagonist. Also, what about 2017's Nioh being set in Japan and featuring a white samurai? We're getting some serious Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai vibes. 

Someone of you should brush up on your history

Even as some cry, "Go woke, go broke," those who are up on their Japanese history will know Yasuke finds his place in fact instead of fiction. Yasuke was a real-life African samurai during the Sengoku period, serving as a bodyguard of warlord Nobunaga Oda.

It's unclear whether Yasuke arrived as a slave or traveller, although he's the first recorded black man in Japanese historical records. News of Yasuke being one of Shadows' protagonists lines up with earlier reports from Insider Gaming, which also gave us his possible origin story. 

We saw similar backlash to Hades 2 making Hestia black, but whether based on history or not, it seems all the usual critics will use this as an opportunity to call out a video game.

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Tom Chapman
About the author
Tom Chapman
Tom is Trending News Editor at GGRecon, with an NCTJ qualification in Broadcast Journalism and over seven years of experience writing about film, gaming, and television. With bylines at IGN, Digital Spy, Den of Geek, and more, Tom’s love of horror means he's well-versed in all things Resident Evil, with aspirations to be the next Chris Redfield.
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