In a 2003 interview with the game's chief designer Masahiro Kumono published in Shinobi THE WIDE Illustration Archives, he stated him and his team began development in April 2001, and they exhibited the game's first playable demo at E3 2002. At the time, because they were showing the Shinobi game at an overseas trade show, they wanted to focus on the Japanese elements of the visuals to help stand out in an obvious way. For the ninja for instance, they incorporated super-Japanese onigawara into the ninja's leg armor, held on with buckled kumihimo, and joked that it was made of lacquerware. In the initial settings for the game, they tried to incorporate Japanese touches like this everywhere, such as characters in furisode-esque outfits, and the backgrounds would show more element like torii in between city buildings, or traditional Japanese houses with expressways running behind them and so on. Kumono wanted to try and express those juxtaposed "modern/Japanese" elements from every potential angle.