Oh no! Is DrATV going out of business?
Jerry, I was going to link to their Lifan engine page (here's a link anyway), but it's only showing four and they're all out of stock.
This page used to have a full line of Lifan four-stroke Honda clones, and it was huge because every engine they had came in three or four shift patterns.
So, they had rotary shift (N-1-2-3-n, and N-1-2-3-4-5!-N), "International Shift" (1-N-2-3-4-5), Auto Clutch 3-speed, and some other version of international shift.
My point is that I believe the best way to look at the different shift patterns Honda used is to just ask Lifan - they seem to have copied everything in great detail, and don't care what country they sell to.
That said, I think still think that Dennis (dez1)'s answer is right for the "automatic" Hondas that were imported into this country.
Chris, yes, the engine should be in neutral to start. I wish I could say for sure that you can't start the engine while in, say, second, but that might not be true. If you did, though, it would start, idle, and then die as soon as you gave it gas.
Start it in neutral, let out the choke (if it still works, or is still attached), let it run for a bit, and then try... I don't know... any one of the shifting suggestions above. If the engine dies while trying to shift then Motorbikenut and Deezy were probably right about the clutch not disengaging.