Trauma Center: Second Opinion for the Wii was a sequel that felt more like a port of the successful Nintendo DS game. Trauma Center: New Blood allowed you to bring a friend into the operating theater and also supported widescreen and online leaderboards; a true Wii title. Atlus doesn't rest on their laurels with this new addition to the Trauma franchise, returning with more than just surgery up its sleeve.
The first thing you'll notice with Trauma Team is the ability to play as six different medical professionals. Surgery, endoscopy, diagnostics, forensics, orthopedics, and first response are all available from the very beginning. Surgery behaves much in the same way as previous games with tools selected with the nunchuk analog stick and used with the Wii remote. While nothing was added to the surgical section of Trauma Team, what catches the attention of Trauma Center veterans is what is missing. Gone are the time limits for surgeries and the supernatural time-slowing mechanic as well. This keeps the difficulty curve a bit less steep and - let's face it - drawing a star just right on the screen was a pain at the best of times in previous iterations. Prisoner CR-S01 is the surgeon, allowed a temporary reprieve of his 250-year sentence in a futuristic Hannibal Lector-style cell to save lives in the OR. His was by far the most intriguing story, full of genuine surprises.
Orthopedics most closely resembles surgery. It focuses on procedures involving bones and joints, including installing metal plates and screws. It differs from surgery, however, because rather than choosing your surgical tool with a wheel, you use the tools given to you in a specific order. Points are scored differently than in surgery, relying on creating chains of successful moves. Hank Freebird makes for a rather dull character while he's in the hospital, but he's apparently a ridiculous superhero by night, though that story isn't fully explained.
Endoscopy is a very different experience for the Trauma franchise. You control a scope, advancing with some rather tedious Wii remote pushing motions and steering with the analog stick. Tools are selected by pressing the C button and selecting from a wheel, and then implemented with the Z button. These controls take some adjustment since they're so different from surgical controls, but they soon become a great way to change up the action in the game. Endoscopy is handled by the ingénue Tomoe Tachibana, a wealthy Japanese clan-leader's daughter. She sees saving lives as a matter of personal honor and bears great affection for her patients, although there's little intrigue in her story.
First Response brings back the classic pressure of previous Trauma games. External treatments, chest compressions, defibrillation, and other triage procedures are utilized to treat patients in the field as an EMT. While there are still no time limits, patients need to be treated quickly to keep their vitals up and each mission often has multiple patients that you have to switch between to keep them all alive. This was by far the most challenging part of the game and really reminded me of the previous games in the franchise. The first mission of First Response is aptly named "Spitfire" because Maria Torres is an EMT who yells and takes hostile control of every situation she finds herself in, often angering the police and fire departments she works with.
Diagnostics feels a bit like a cheap knock-off of television's House, M.D. You play an obnoxious diagnostician, Gabriel Cunningham, complete with a female chief of medicine for him to haggle. Diagnostics involves questioning, physical examinations, an imaging lab, and matching symptoms with diagnoses. Questioning is over-simplistic, physical examinations turn into a game of where's Waldo (with Waldo being anything weird on the patients' bodies), and the imaging lab turns into "which of these is not like the other?" Thankfully Gabe is sarcastic and witty enough to keep this game mode somewhat entertaining.
Forensics feels similar in pace to Diagnostics, but changes up the methods and tools enough to keep it fresh. You examine corpses, crime scenes, and personal effects to find clues. You then combine clues and use them to solve the case. Occasionally you’ll solve the case before you get all the clues together, but you still have to gather and combine everything to complete those sections of the game. Naomi Kimishima, the forensic scientist does go a bit farther than any real forensic scientist would with her sleuthing, but it's all in good fun. Again, this part is paced rather slowly like Diagnostics, but I actually felt a bit challenged playing it.
The game looks and feels just like Trauma Center: New Blood. In-mission graphics are the same stylized, non-bloody surgical graphics as the last games, looking rather nice for a Wii game. The storytelling is still done with non-animated art moving in layers, basically creating the effect of great Atlus art tossed into a Flash video. The choice of storytelling here also slows the pacing to a crawl since it simulates a motion comic.
The story sections are translated a bit too verbatim from the original Japanese version, leading to poor American translations. It features full voiceovers, though they are generally not good. There are often silences between lines that a train could pass through while a word bubble slowly floats through the panel. The stories themselves range from rather absurd (Freebird as a superhero) to intriguing to completely supernatural. The Trauma franchise has never shied away from non-realistic story lines and Trauma Team takes that to the next level.
With six game modes, Trauma Team provides dozens of hours of gameplay and that's before you beat the main story. You then unlock an entire section of earning medals for specific achievements throughout the game and improving ranks in missions to keep you playing the game for many more hours. My own save game crept up near 40 hours before I started earning medals, playing missions with friends, and replaying missions for that elusive 'S' rank. The game is also a slightly discounted title at only $40, so it really is a lot of medical bang for the buck.
Overall, Trauma Team is far from perfect. It retains everything beloved about the rest of the franchise and boldly steps forward with new modes of play and new challenges for the post-game. While the storytelling can be plodding at times and I really wish they would fully animate the cut-scenes, the game really delivers challenging, varied gameplay with quirky characters at an affordable price.