Almost four years have passed since the Trauma Center series made it to the Nintendo Wii, and it’s been nearly five years since the franchise appeared for the first time on the DS. After a few different installments, Atlus brings us Trauma Team as the answer to everyone’s prayers. Aspects of the game that players weren’t too crazy about have been tweaked, and new gameplay modes have been added in order to offer a more complete gameplay experience.
Everyone likes to play “doctor,” but previous installments suffered a bit from a tense, surgery-centric focus where the story wasn’t too important. This time around, however, Atlus has put together a richer, anime-inspired presentation that should please everyone. There’s more balance between story, surgical interventions, and other modes of play. This might not sound like the right thing for surgery sim aficionados, but it seems to make the entire game more engaging.
Trauma Team has six main characters, each with their own specialties. Players are offered freedom to complete the different sections at their own pace and in whichever order they decide. Part of the storyline is centered on an amnesiac prisoner, CR-S01, who gets another chance at freedom in exchange for his high surgical skills. As he completes his operations successfully, a few years are subtracted off his jail sentence, which makes both him and players motivated to succeed. The surgeries vary in difficulty and length, but overall they’re not too difficult to overcome, unlike some surgeries in previous Trauma Center games. This is not to say there aren’t some frustrating or repetitive moments, of course.
As in other Trauma Center titles, the modus operandi consists of selecting tools with the Nunchuk’s control stick and using them with the Wii Remote. Precision is a must in this game, though you can select different difficulty levels in order to up or down the challenge. Overall, the game’s forgiving enough that you’ll get through each section without much trouble, but that doesn’t mean you should overlook a tumor. You better keep your eyes open or the surgeries will drag on more than you’d want them to!
Other characters in the story, such as Hank Freebird, have other tasks at hand. He’s an orthopedic surgeon in charge of making his patients’ lives easier. His interventions consist of installing prosthesis, reconstructing broken bones, etc. The gameplay changes quite a bit when compared to the more in-depth and exhaustive surgeries performed by CR-S01, the prisoner. Here, the camera guides you through the different areas you have to operate on, and instruments are given to you in order to perform the different tasks, instead of making you think of what you have to do next and where. A “chain” point system rewards players for keeping up the good work and penalizes them for their mistakes. It’s always best to take it easy and make sure you’re doing things well, one at a time. As you delve deeper into the story, you’ll find out being a doctor is not Hank’s only mission in life.
The strong-minded Maria Torres is the Emergency Care doctor, and her duties in the medical field are a lot more frantic than for the rest of the team. She has to deal with several patients at once, and they’re all in critical condition, so a quick and to-the-point intervention is in order. Keeping patients stabilized while you work on them is not easy, but luckily the stabilizer injections do their job well most of the time. There’s a good amount of challenge when playing with her, but it’s also rewarding.
The ambitious Japanese surgeon, Tomoe Tachibana, specializes in endoscopic surgeries. Here, you’ll handle the Wii Remote as if it was the camera, using it to zoom in and out, and guiding it through the patient’s innards in order to operate. This kind of surgery is controlled with the Nunchuk, which you use in this case not only for selecting the tools, but also to put them to use. It’s definitely awkward to do it with the control stick after always employing the Wii Remote, but at the same time it’s a little added challenge.
Last but not least, you’ll handle diagnosis and forensics with the darker Dr. Gabriel Cunningham and Dr. Naomi Kimishima, respectively. These game modes are more similar to a Phoenix Wright or a CSI title than the classic Trauma Center gameplay, though they have a style of their own. By questioning patients, Gabriel uses his abilities to diagnose ailments and discover injuries that are affecting them. In order to diagnose a patient’s problems, a simulated computer system is used to find links between symptoms and diseases, and looking at CT scans and X-rays is also helpful to figure out the diagnosis.
Naomi, the forensics doctor and investigator helps to unravel mysteries. The FBI likes her approach and handiness, so she works with them side by side, exploring crime scenes and collecting evidence cards you have to analyze. This investigation-oriented gameplay style is very different from the rest of the game, but it is fun and clever, as long as you’re okay with mulling over information for a while and using your reasoning to solve the mysteries.
The presentation in Trauma Team is detailed and updated when compared to previous installments. The anime-inspired visuals are very attractive and help players get immersed into the story. The stories told in Trauma Team are not overly deep, but the animated graphics help to tie things together, making you sympathize with the characters. Also, the polished 3D visuals employed during surgery segments make the game much more realistic and appealing. As far as the Wii goes, it probably couldn’t get a whole lot better.
The sounds are good as well. Voice acting is professional, and also what you’d expect to hear in an anime-themed title. The music during surgeries is soothing, but it’ll keep you active. It’s probably what you’d hear in any hospital-themed TV series you can think of. Since I followed it for a while, I can’t help it but think of E.R. Even some of the character dramas in this game are reminiscent of that show!
All in all, Trauma Team has what most previous players were looking for, and it’s also unique enough that some new players might want to take a peek at it and see if it’s something they’d enjoy. With six different gameplay styles, unlockables, and co-op support for some of those gameplay modes, Trauma Team has a lot more to offer than any of the previous titles, so $40 is not a huge price to pay, as long as you’re into sim-style gameplay and winding storylines.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.4 Graphics
Manga/anime-inspired visuals are very detailed and help to immerse players into the story. Same with the surgery segments. 3.9 Control
Controls are basically the same as in previous installments, though they do feel a bit more accurate. Stylus-based controls on the DS are still my favorite, though. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Like the visual presentation and the gameplay, the sound presentation has received an upgrade. The voice acting sounds professional, and the background tunes work well with the medical / anime theme. 4.0
This game offers a more powerful presentation than previous installments, and it’s also more complete as far as gameplay modes are concerned. In addition, co-op gameplay lets you share the experience.
4.2 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.