Trauma Center: Second Opinion

All of the fun of practicing medicine with none of those bothersome malpractice suits!

The reason I’m a big fan of Atlus is that I’ve come to expect games from them that go out on a limb and provide original quirky gameplay, interesting characers and compelling story. When I read that Atlus was bringing a surgery game for the DS to the US, I knew I had to have it. Trauma Center: Under the Knife for the DS is kind of like Wario Ware, with a scalpel. The player guides Dr. Derek Stiles, fresh from his residency, through emergency operations ranging from extracting glass from the pericardial sac to removing polyps. Sounds fun? It is!

The difficulty level on several of the surgeries was brutal, and at times use of one stylus to do all things necessary to save the patient was crazymaking..(I’ve seen videos on YouTube of the game being played with a stylus in each hand-Awesome!-but that’s another story-) Why, you ask, has Sanosuke gone off on a tangent and is yammering about the DS game in the review of a Wii game? Senility?Not yet kiddies, Trauma Center: Second Opinion is exactly that-a redux (which Atlus has affectionately dubbed a Wii-make-) of the DS version, with added content, characters, tools, operations, Wii friendly controls and a complete Atlusification of the character design.

For those of you who haven’t had the treat of playing the DS version, the player takes the role of main character Dr. Derek Stiles, the newest surgeon of Hope Hospital. With the assistance of Nurse Angie (in most cases), he is charged with saving the lives of critically ill patients. At times, action switches and you play as Dr. Nozomi Weaver. In true Atlus/Japanese game fashion-Derek just isn’t your run-of-the-mill surgeon. He soon discovers he is a descendant of the Greek god of medicine, Asclepius, which gives him the ability to slow down time (just think of it as surgeon’s version of Bullet Time..)using Healing Touch. Doctor Weaver also has this ability. The story really kicks in when the doctors discover that the patients weird ailments are not due to organic disease, but are the result of, well let’s just say it’s foul play so as not to spoil the plot.

Visuals for Trauma Center are great. And coming from someone who would most likely vomit at the site of skin being pulled while being stitched, I’m happy to say that Trauma Center’s visuals are realistic enough without being too-.visceral. The incisions look real, the organs look real-but not overly “juicy”. I can easily suture a rather large incision without becoming nauseous. Thanks Atlus. Character design has also been upgraded for the Wii by Atlus, and they now have what, to me, is the look of characters from their Shin Megami Tensei series.

The story is presented by images of the various characters in varying emotional states, again Shin Megami Tensei style, and text dialogue. The story is progressed by Surgery – Story/Event – Surgery, etc. Voice overs have been added, however they are only used at certain points in the game, and only by certain characters. For example, Nurse Angie will say “Doctor!” to get your attention during surgery, or at the start of an operation, Dr. Stiles will interject words of wisdom, saying something like “He can’t die!” The voicing is well done, and I hope to hear more of it in the next iteration of Trauma Center. Music is appropriate, edge-of-your-seat tense during surgery, emotion wringing during emotional cutscenes, etc. Surgery sound effects are good as well, with the antiseptic gel application sound being particularly yummy, and having the sounds come from the wii mote is indeed cool.

For those of you questioning the viability of the Wii controls and it’s ability to allow that control scheme to carry an entire game, we can put that crying baby to bed. The most welcome upgrade for Trauma Center is the fantastic control scheme of the Wii. When surgery was at times unwieldy and difficult for the DS stylus, it is much more fluid using the nunchuk and wiimote. The nunchuk is used for selection of surgical instruments, the wiimote allows for rapid deployment of the tools of the trade, and also allows for more realistic usage of the tools. For example, pressing the A and B on the wiimote will simulate the squeezing of forceps.

The A and/or B buttons are also used to draw liquid into a syringe, use the scalpel, activate ultrasound, suture, etc. Oddly enough for me, the most difficult thing to do is opening up the patient, or drawing a straight line with the Wiimote..or maybe I drink too much caffeine. Trauma Center just doesn’t involve pointing and pressing, one operation required use of defib paddles to revive a patient in cardiac arrest, another required mending a compound fracture puzzle style. Needless to say, things in ER can get rather hairy rather quickly. Many times surgery is left to trial and error, as Nurse Angie won’t always hold your hand and tell you what to do.

You don’t have a great deal of time to make up your mind either, as time is ticking, the patient is dying. Also, many times just when you think you’re ready to close the patient up and call it a day, all hell breaks lose and you have to think fast on your feet. You can’t swing your scalpel wildly either, precision, by pointing the wiimote, is necessary. One wrong cut, you suffer the wrath of Nurse Angie and your patient’s clock ticks faster. The game does offer varying levels of difficulty as well, however I still found Easy to be a bit challenging at times. If Dr. Stiles buckles under the pressure, the patient doesn’t die, his superior flames him, takes over cutscene style..he won’t tell you what to do..and sends Dr. Stiles to an early retirement. Of course you can retry to your heart’s content, operations are replayable to improve score, and scene sequences can be reviewed as well.

Also, while not mentioned in an offical manner by Atlus, if you have a friend over who is itching to play surgical assistant..pass them the nunchuk so that they can choose the appropriate instrument and you can perform the surgery!

In closing, Trauma Center: Second Opinion was a fantastic choice for a Wii launch title, and a can’t lose title for a launch purchase. A fun, challenging game which shows off the elegant design and future potential of the Wii and it’s innovative controls. And it’s Atlus, enough said! What are you waiting for? Your surgical skills with the wiimote are needed in the ER! Stat!