Usually Japanese/Asian PlayStation game releases are pretty similar. They are often identical, minus a foldout sheet with English and Chinese instructions. However, in a strange decision only the Japanese version of Initial D Extreme Stage will have online races. Play-Asia notes the cheaper Asian version has an English manual and it “does not support online game modes.”
If this news is true, it’s a bummer because Initial D Extreme Stage is a single player game. Online play is the only way for a player to challenge another human being. Well, at least challenge their ghost data. Initial D Extreme Stage also has downloadable content like extra cars, music, and avatars. Since the PlayStation 3 is region free (and even if it wasn’t Asian games work on Japanese consoles) the problem is solved simply by picking the more expensive Japanese version.
But why did Sega intentionally cut a completed feature for a game getting released in another region? One thought is Initial D Extreme Stage has national (read: national as in the nation of Japan) time attack data, which means the game is not designed to save/transfer data for other regions. Also, licensing issues may have prevented Sega from distributing music tracks, cars, and avatars in regions out than Japan. I'm just guessing here, but Sega must have a good reason for cutting an extra revenue stream. Publishers like money!
Images courtesy of Sega.