The DS has played host to quite a variety of games, many of which let you play as characters from a variety of professions. The Phoenix Wright series lets you play as a lawyer. Cooking Mama makes housework fun. Nintendogs gives you insight into owning a pet. And the Trauma Center puts players in the shoes of medical professionals so talented they’re just about superhuman.
Though its based on the DS, Trauma Team is the series’ second foray on the Wii. You play as six different doctors, each of which handle various steps of the treatment process.
Looking at the box art, let’s start on the very left. We have Maria Torres, who is basically an EMT. She provides First Response, which means on-site treatment to stabilize patients so they don’t die before they make it to the hospital. She’s loud, rude, and impulsive, but she has the skills to back up her claims. However, even as talented as she is, Maria doesn’t believe in the power of teamwork, and is quick to shove away any help from others when treating patients.
Next is Gabe Cunningham, a diagnostician. He exams patients through various methods, including visual exams, questioning, and X-Ray to diagnose them with a disease, based on the symptoms they exhibit. Put simply, Gabe’s the one who finds out what’s wrong with the patient, so that the other doctors know how to treat him/her. Gabe is laid-back and crude, but is very good at what he does. He tends to put his job before his personal life, though.
Next is Naomi Kishimura, a medical examiner. Her role is close to that of a detective, with corpses being delivered to her office, and her job being to illustrate how that person died (and in many cases, why). She has the ability to hear the dead person’s last words through her cell phone, which has gained her the title “Corpse Whisperer” in the tabloids. Her skill in forensics and reasoning has led to the FBI often working closely with her to solve difficult cases. Naomi isn’t bothered in the slightest by death, and can be cold and distant with others, but even she has a soft side that shows every now and then.
Moving on, we have CR-S01. He’s been in maximum security prison, serving a 250-year sentence for a bioterrorism attack he was convicted for some time ago. As a side-effect of the gas, he gained amnesia, forgetting everything except for his amazing medical talent. Because he can’t remember his name, he’s referred to by his prison number, or “kiddo” by the other doctors. Given his personality and skill at helping people, nobody, including the very man who arrested him, seems to believe he carried out that attack. Brought in as a specialist, he is given a chance to reduce his sentence by performing difficult operations, and also in the hopes that letting him take up the scalpel once more will help him regain his memories. As someone still struggling to identify himself, CR-S01 is quiet, and distant with others. He is calm, collected and logical, and performs surgical operations at what is believed to be near-superhuman speed and precision. He is often criticized for lacking passion, though.
Second from the right is Tomoe Tachibana, the heir to the Tachibana group, a rich and powerful family in Japan. Bad relations with her father led her to leave Japan and pursue her own ambitions in America. Tomoe is an endoscopic surgeon, meaning she uses an endoscope to treat patients from the inside. This means you’ll control the endoscope directly, traveling through organs to repair any complications observed, such as tumors, excess blood, and hemorrhaging. Tomoe is determined, and dedicated to her profession, such to the point that she ordered own personal endoscope, built from the ground up to her specifications. Like CR-S01 though, she often wonders if she really belongs among the friends she’s made at Resurgam Hospital, and sometimes has trouble fitting in.
Finally, we have Hank Freebird. Hank is an orthopedic surgeon at Resurgam Hospital by day, and the superhero Captain Eagle by night. As Captain Eagle, Hank has superhuman strength and durability, and the ability to fly, though he deals with the typical growing pains all heroes deal with, such as public misunderstanding, and late appointments. As an orthopedic surgeon, Hank works primarily with bones. Got a dislocated bone? Fractured bone? Shattered bone? Dr. Freebird’s your guy. Hank maintains a positive outlook on life, and believes in humanity. Many would call him an idealist.
Trauma Team’s story is split between two parts. Initially, you’ll have access to each doctor’s story path, composed of several missions. You can progress through each path at your leisure, switching to another character after every mission if you’d like. In fact, many of the missions run parallel to each other, so mixing things up may be the best way to absorb the initial plot in a cohesive manner. However, these stories serve more as character development story arcs, with the grand plot only being hinted at.
Finishing each doctor’s story path will unlock access to the Finale. This is when the plot really starts to move, and all the pieces that you’ve uncovered through the initial paths fall into place. The Finale is composed of 12 missions, composed of gameplay from all of the doctors.
Cutscenes are presented in the style of a comic book, with character sprites, speech bubbles, and limited animation. However, the game puts what little movement shown to effective use, with sound effects and full voicing for all the characters, allowing me to easily imagine a more realistic scene in my head (wierd as that may sound..). Surgical operations use 3D graphics, but it’s not anything to write home about (it is on the Wii, after all).
My primary concern when I tried Trauma Team, however, was how well the controls would work. After all, in a surgical operation, precision is key! And I’m happy to say that, for the most part they don’t get in the way. The game makes fair use of all the Wii remote’s functions, incuding the mic and accelerometer. For general and orthopedic surgery, the IR sensor isn’t as steady as I would like, but the developers apparently realized this, because the game is pretty forgiving, without sacrificing difficulty. Most motion gestures are simple, but the controls for Tomoe’s endoscope, while hardly unusable, are probably the low point of the game in terms of controls.
Trauma Team didn’t seem to get much press or attention when it released, but I for one was pleasantly surprised by its quality. The plot takes some time get moving, but that shouldn’t be mistaken for poor pacing. The gameplay is fun, and I actually learned a few tidbits about the medical profession from playing (like for example how much of a team activity surgery is)! Simply put, you’ll probably have a good time playing Trauma Team. An 8.5/10