I got the japanese version of this game from an eBay seller, this week (cheapest option). I can't say this game plays as solid as the original, but there are so many things making up for this, and even though the handling is a little jacked and physics different from the original, you can get used to all that and win races.
BTW, the japanese version has the analog sensitivity adjuster setting. On default it's set to use the whole analog stick movement as an indicator, to handle more precise, but I gotta say; I would've liked it to go above maximum usage. XD
The default analog calibration seems to be the best setting in there. If there's something I've missed, a way for me to turn even more precisely, like in the original, I would like to know. I can pull off wins in normal mode, haven't tried hard yet but I think that will be total rape on several courses.