Yeah, you probably hit the nail on the head there. To give some more perspective, usually what happened in the old days was that when a game was released over here, they would make it harder, but the oppposite has happened here. The Japanese must've hated this game as I've heard they don't like hard games, which is why the difficulty is usually easier.
As for that Youkai Club thing, I have no idea. When it comes to secrets and hidden stuff in my projects, I am unable to find them even when I know they exist somehow.