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Trauma Center: Second Opinion Review

Developer: Atlus Publisher: Atlus
Release Date: November 19, 2006 Also On: None

I was unfortunate never to get around to the cult Nintendo DS classic, Trauma Center: Under The Knife. The surgery simulation game received rave reviews and dried up from store shelves, eventually being re-released this summer due to consumer demand. Needless to say, the DS title was quite a hit with the well-informed and adventurous crowd. It was a surprise to see Atlus, a rare Nintendo supporter, remake the game for the new Wii console. Trauma Center: Second Opinion captures the intensity of the original but makes everything more intuitive and thus more fun to play.

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In Trauma Center: Second Opinion, you’re the newly-appointed Dr. Derek Stiles. Surrounded by his surgeon cohorts and assistants, Derek’s the man in charge of some serious surgeries and it’s up to you to save dozens of citizens from all sorts of medical issues, including death. Eventually the story gets a little deeper, as Derek discovers a special ability within himself and a “medical terrorism” plot is discovered. Though the story is a little on the hokey side, it’s always intense and throws in a bit of medical humor and terminology that med students, doctors, and generally intelligent players will find humorous and interesting. The story seems to be an embodiment of the reality of the game; what’s going on around you doesn’t matter as much as what’s going on in the OR on the operating table.

Trauma Center wastes little time before throwing you into your first surgery; a simple procedure on a man whose motorcycle accident resulted in glass shards sticking out of his arm. This surgery goes quickly, as you stitch up and disinfect cuts, use the trusty forceps to pull out shards of glass, and bandage incisions. Of course, “simple procedure” is a phrase that quickly gets thrown out the door–pretty soon you’re dealing with life and death situations that come out of nowhere. For example, tumors that freakishly spread across an organ, or thrombi on a patient’s trachea. These scenarios never, ever fail to be entertaining. Using the nunchuck to select tools is easy enough, as a radial display shows icons that indicate each tool. You select tools and follow guidelines on the screen to do almost everything. Using the Wii remote, you’ll cut incisions, apply antibacterial gel, scan internal organs with an ultrasound, and more. In theory, it’s simple. In execution, it’s pretty darn challenging, especially when the patient’s vitals are slipping and your assistant is barking in your ear.

It helps Second Opinion that the Wii remote allows pixel-perfect precision. I’d understand how fans of the DS original would be worried that Trauma Center would be less accurate with this new controller, but it isn’t. In fact, the nunchuck allows for lightning-quick exchanging of tools and with practice, surgeries can be completed in record time. It’s fun to go through each operation, striving to earn an S rank. Of course, some of the missions are so difficult that an A or B rank will make you happy.

Trauma Center looked great as a DS game but it was cleaned up and made into a clear, easy-to-see Wii title. Not only are the displays scattered around the screen in an intelligible way, but the different things you’ll interact with are easy to see and understand. When you see yellow connect-the-dots, for example, you know an incision is at hand. Trauma Center is a little bare-boned on the presentation scale, offering just a few different anime-inspired character sketches in its many cut-scenes, but it gets the job done. The menus have a cool shattered glass look to them, which is interesting. Similarly, the music is intense and keeps you on edge while the scarce voice acting is a little disappointing. I understand that this was originally a handheld title, where storage space was an issue, but that should have been addressed in the Wii version. Some of the sound effects are pretty gruesome, and the sound of skin opening up as I performed an incision got an uneasy reaction from me each time.

Really, the only problem with Trauma Center lies in its trial-and-error style. Eventually you’ll fail operations a dozen times before you figure out when to use Derek’s special ability or in what order to extract tumors to avoid life-threatening hemorrhages. Once you do figure out the perfect order to do everything, the missions are easy enough. It’s really a difficult thing to judge, honestly–this trial-and-error is unrealistic, but it wouldn’t be realistic to be lightly penalized for screwing up on a life-or-death operation. You’ll see the Game Over screen a lot, but you’ll hit “Retry” a lot more than you’ll hit “Quit.”

Trauma Center: Second Opinion gets the job done and leaves no mess to clean up. If the DS Trauma Center escaped your adventurous side, the Wii version shouldn’t. Even owners of the DS version should check it out, as it introduces a new chapter and a brutally-challenging Hard mode. Overall, it’s a great launch title that delivers the innovations of the Wii remote and nunchuck controller. It’s fresh, original, and downright entertaining.

Graphics: 7
Sound: 6.5
Gameplay: 8.5
Creativity: 9
Replay Value/Game Length: 8.5
Final: 8
Written by Cliff Review Guide