This is what makes the subject so fascinating, I think. Japan actually sets out to fight three wars: the one that started in China in 1937, the campaign to secure the Southern Resource Area, and the attempt to set up a defensible perimeter against the inevitable Allied counteroffensive from the east and southeast.
The China war (in which I include for general discussion purposes the conflict with Commonwealth forces in South Asia and the Indian Ocean) is one that demands commitment of large numbers of ground troops with supporting air assets. It is a meatgrinder, but opportunities for greatness may present themselves for either side.
The SRA campaign has a definable end demarcated by the southern extremity of the Dutch pre-WWII possessions. Here, the job has to be done quickly by a reasoned mix of naval, air, and ground units. Once the objectives on the ground are taken, most of the Japanese military assets can be reassigned to other duty. East or west, that is the question, and in what proportion?
The war against America starts, of course, with the Philippines and ends as dictated by the measure of American and Australian/New Zealand success. This is the "mother lovin' gut-bustin' Navy war." Relatively small numbers of ground troops act to secure vital airbases with the support of naval and naval air forces.
Where do you go, and what do you try to accomplish there? The Japanese have that initiative at the beginning, but it all too soon slips away and the Allies start dictating the focus.
I think it boils down to this: the player who is best able to identify the critical opportunities (both offensive and defensive) will "win," either by crushing his opponent (not likely, but to some slight degree possible for the Japanese) or by satisfying the game's victory conditions. For the Japanese, if the Allies screw up early and allow you to seize major objectives beyond what was taken historically (Hawaii, greater Australia, India, and so on), you can build a defense that can stand up long enough to prevent Allied victory - but beware becoming overextended and committed to offensive operations when you really need to be fortifying yourself against the coming riposte. For the Allies, if the Japanese screw up early on and allow you to win significant victories (particularly at sea against the heart of the IJN), you can accelerate the pace of your counteroffensive and bring the war to an early (and decisively favorable) conclusion.
The most important moves, as the actor who played Lutjens in the old "Sink the Bismarck" movie said, are the opening. Preparation for the middle and end games is the key. This means that you need a thorough understanding of the strategic situation from the outset and must put a strategic plan into action that will maximize your early success (or, in the case of the Allies, minimize your early defeat), sustain you through the time of relative parity of force and allow you to win critical battles, and carry you to a successful conclusion in your prosecution of the war.
I'm just glad to be around at a time when a thoroughly serious computer simulation of this conflict is being created so that I can take a crack at it. PacWar was great, but this is where the rubber meets the road.
Put my faith in the people
And the people let me down.
So, I turned the other way,
And I carry on anyhow.