Assassin's Creed Shadow Sparks Controversy Over Black Samurai

The latest Assassin’s Creed game in the beloved franchise based loosely on historical events, called Assassin’s Creed Shadows, has generated controversy among fans for one of its leading characters, a real-life figure named Yasuke who was a samurai believed to have been of African origin.

Ubisoft, the creator of Assassin’s Creed, released a trailer for the new game Wednesday. The game, which will be released on Nov. 15, is set in feudal Japan and features two lead characters: Yasuke and Naoe. While Naoe is a fictional character, her father is real-life historical figure and shinobi Fujibayashi Nagato. Yasuke is a historical figure believed to have been of African origin who was a samurai during the 16th century. He is widely considered to be the first-ever foreigner to be granted warrior status in Japan, and was the inspiration for the Netflix anime series Yasuke.

Read More: The True Story of Yasuke, the Legendary Black Samurai Behind Netflix’s New Anime Series

But some fans took to the internet after the trailer’s release to criticize Ubisoft for setting the game in Japan and not having its leading character be Japanese.

“Assassin’s Creed being based in Japan and then NOT using a Japanese male protagonist is stupid,” said one fan on X. “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.”

“Ubisoft has never made a game with a male East Asian protagonist,” one fan said on X, replying to a post from Assassin’s Creed about the new game. “Do they hate East Asian males?”

Some fans accused Yasuke of not being a “real” samurai, calling him just a “retainer.” But a retainer is still a samurai—the term refers to a vassal in feudal Japan, usually a samurai offering military services.

Others accused the fans who were criticizing the game of racism, pointing out that Yasuke is a historical figure.

“With the new Assassin’s Creed game main character being black, the racists are just out,” one fan said on X.

“Kinda crazy how nobody cared about Assassin’s Creed consistently exaggerating or fictionalising history until they decided to have a black samurai based on Yasuke…” another fan said on X.

Yasuke has also been included as a character in other video games, including Japanese-developed games Samurai Warriors 5 and Nioh.

TIME has reached out to Ubisoft and Ubisoft Quebec, the developer for the game, for comment on the controversy.

On its website, Ubisoft said that creators decided to include Yasuke in the game because they wanted a samurai character whose story was “open-ended enough to allow for creativity,” adding that “there are still plenty of questions and speculation surrounding” Yasuke.

“He also offers a unique perspective on the period: players can discover Japan alongside him,” Ubisoft said on its website.

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