Trauma Center: Second Opinion
By Chris Derosa Sunday, 18 Feb 2007

With the Wii launch coming and going, there’s been time for us to take in everything that the system has had to offer so far. One of the numerous launch titles that may have been under looked was Trauma Center: Second Opinion, created by Atlus. Some of you may recognize the game for starting off on the DS as Trauma Center: Under the Knife (which Zach happens to review). This new version of the surgery drama game is actually a “retelling” of its portable relative, with a revamped control scheme in the form of the Wii remote and a good amount of bonus material added to the main storyline. But is this enhanced remake of a cult classic worth a full 50 dollars, especially to those who have played the game already?

Story wise, there’s not much I can say that differentiates from the main storyline of the DS Trauma Center. It tells the tale of how a young surgeon, Dr. Derek Stiles, strives to become one of the best around while using his wits and his natural talents. Each Chapter unfolds on the screen in a listed fashion, giving you options to replay or save when taking a break in between each one. Some Chapters are even just simple story segments, and the constant interruptions between each one makes the game come across as a little weak when trying to push the story forward. When a new Chapter starts, the story takes a step to the side (literally) and focuses on a different surgeon, Dr. Kimishima, for one quick operation before continuing any further in the main story. These are some interesting and welcome diversions that don’t feel needlessly tacked on just to give this version something different. Without spoiling much, there are also some end elements that are completely different from the first game’s. And while opinions may differ on the overall story, I enjoyed watching it unfold. There’s a good amount of development for most of the main characters (some of the patients even come across well), and a good amount of surprises in store for those that can make it through to see what happens next. Which brings me to the game play, Trauma Center’s real make or break factor.

When Trauma Center first came out, there were…issues, to say the least. Some players had problems with the way the controls were handled, and others just became extremely frustrated with constantly failing certain tasks that the game would throw at them. Overall, it was a very difficult game. Atlus looked at these complaints and decided to make some adjustments to what was, in my mind, an already solid formula. The first of these changes is obviously in the controls. The Wii remote makes scalpels, stitches, surgical lasers, and anything else you’ll need to use rather easy and with extreme precision. You can’t just make your hand fly around and expect it to get the job done. In this game, you have to be precise to avoid the least mistakes. The game also always requires the nunchuk attachment, and it’s used to help you pick amongst a circle of tools that you’ll need to use by just pointing the analog stick in that tool’s direction. It seems cumbersome and overwhelming at first, but when you get past the learning curve you’ll likely fly by a bit faster than you ever could in the DS version. It’s a big improvement, in my mind, and the game play benefits a lot from it.

Another subtle difference is in the operations. Some of the more difficult and tiresome missions have actually been altered slightly, or in some cases removed completely. People that have played Under the Knife will obviously recognize the differences, and they’ll likely be more thankful for getting a slightly easier chance this time around. Don’t get me wrong here. You will still lose a lot, even if you have past experience, and trial and error will be necessary. Especially in the bonus operations, which seem to have been made to cater to the players that have seen it all before. But it never feels too impossible, and with enough determination you’ll likely wonder how it felt so impossible in the first place.

While there are improvements, there are some down notes. One of the game’s features is the Healing Touch, a “special move” that slows down time for a short while and lets you catch up to make things easier. It requires designing a star on the screen, and unfortunately it’s very picky with how you can draw one when using the remote. There’s even a separate mission that helps you learn it, and while it slightly helps you may still have trouble mastering it. With some operations requiring you to use the Healing Touch to avoid defeat, this soon becomes very frustrating if you’re not able to pull one off in time. Another disappointment was in the lack of extras. Once you finish the game, you get nothing but an even harder difficulty in the form of extra operations. There’s nothing too special about these, and if you’ve played the extra operations in the DS version then you’ve played these. It’s fun for an extra challenge, but very few will probably want more difficulty as a reward with no payoff if you do happen to win.

For music and sound, it’s almost exactly like the soundtrack for Under the Knife. Very appropriate music for any hospital drama, really, and the cuts come across like you think they should. It is, however, kind of a let down that they couldn’t step up the production at these spots and make it sound any better than it sounds like coming out of a portable system. Graphically it looks rather decent. Like the DS version, the character portraits are displayed on the screen along with a 3d view of the body in which you are operating on. It’s a step up in a way, but it’s still in no way lifelike (there would probably be a LOT more blood if it was). Regardless, the visuals get the job done while taking a backseat for the intense game play and story to shine.

Playing through Trauma Center all over again was an interesting experience. In some ways it takes a while to get used to the new controls and the way the story happens to flow. Later on it feels absolutely natural once you get into the swing of things, and it makes the DS original seem like a primitive invention. It has small faults, and it’s not an easy play through, but Second Opinion certainly deserves another look for both new and old comers alike.