If you think Hard is hard, have fun with Neo mode.
But yeah, the challenge of the first game is why most people feel it's the better game. Stage II might have more variety, better cars/car designs and weapons, but it's just too -easy-. But then it took most of us years of playing to get as good as we all are (I've been playing since I was 11). Just keep playing and playing, and eventually it all starts to click.