The DS’s popularity was driven by big name titles and established franchises, like Metroid and Mario Kart, but it was sustained by bizarre original games that the dedicated gamer wouldn’t normally play. Nintendogs and notably Trauma Center: Under the Knife expanded the demographics and gave the DS some of its success. Nintendo hopes to imitate that success o their new Wii console, with similarly oddball games. How well the Wii will fare is yet to be seen, but Nintendo is taking a pretty direct route in terms of uncommon content—namely, a reworked port of Trauma Center, cleverly subtitled Second Opinion.
The original became a cult hit on the DS, on par with Phoenix Wright, but some elements of the game felt rushed. The remake, Second Opinion, isn’t just a straight port but a graphical, storyline and most importantly, control overhaul on the Wii. Second Opinion has all of the charm of its predecessor and even more adrenaline laced difficulty, but there are a few issues which weigh it down just a bit.
Let me begin by saying even if you have the DS version, have beaten it and even mastered it inside and out, Second Opinion is still well worth your money. The step up in presentation and control is enthralling for any fan of the original, myself included. I expected the lack of tactile response, the kind you can only get from a stylus, to be a detriment to the Wii version. I’m pleased to say that I was wrong—if anything, the Wii remote feels more natural and intuitive than the stylus. The control scheme has actually been streamlined in a number of ways, mainly from the addition of the nunchuk.
On the DS, selecting tools was accomplished by tapping icons that bordered the touch screen. In Trauma Center bare seconds can make the difference between a saved patient and a dead one, and this selection method was cumbersome in such fast-paced gameplay. On Wii, each medical tool is assigned to a different direction on the nunchuk’s analog stick—readying a scalpel or gel is as easy as a half-second stick-tilt. After a few operations I had the direction of each tool memorized, and I was far more comfortable with the controls.
Most other tools are context sensitive or one-use affairs, like the penlight or bandage. The real show-stealer is the defibrillator; if you haven’t heard by now, it’s used by pushing the Wiimote and nunchuk forward like shock paddles. I was pleased to see that it appeared in multiple operations, as it contributed more to the hectic experience. Another bit of added realism was the forceps, which are used by squeezing the A button and B trigger simultaneously, like pinching a real pair of tweezers. Rumble feedback takes the place of the stylus’s tactile input, so when you’re cutting on someone, you can feel the pressure vibrating through the remote.
The controls and tools aren’t the only elements that have seen upgrading; the story has been reworked to include a brand new sixth chapter and a second playable surgeon. I would’ve liked more operations with the enigmatic Dr. Nozomi Weaver, because her missions are more exotic than the ones Dr. Stiles faces. By the end of her rather brief campaign, you’ll have transplanted a kidney and even operated in a pitch-black tunnel. I hope to see Weaver in later installments of Trauma Center, possibly in her very own game. As for the sixth chapter, it cleverly works the somewhat unimaginative ending of the DS game into Second Opinion’s extended storyline, instead of just pretending it never happened. If you’ve played Under the Knife, I’ll just say it’s like getting another chapter at the end of that game, almost like an expansion pack.
Trauma Center relies mostly on the strengths of its gameplay, because that is where most of its punch lies. I don’t mean to say that Second Opinion is an ugly or cheaply made game, it’s just behind the times. Compared to other next-gen games, even the graphically modest titles on the Wii, Second Opinion looks like a DS game with a serious facelift.
The presentation is by no means unattractive. The body interiors, tools and backdrops are done in a tasteful, stylistic fashion that will be playable by the most medically-sensitive of people (my dad was one exception, but he’d recently had invasive neck surgery, so I suspect other reasons for his aversion). Most aspects of the DS graphics have been replaced by prettier, more eye-catching effects, and most of the G.U.I.L.T. strains have new, ickier designs. I liked the ones that move around with a pair of nasty little claws. The art style of the entire game has been revamped to look edgier, more adult, and less generic anime. This might offend DS purists, but I prefer the leaner, more serious Derek Stiles, MD.
And yet, there are aspects of the graphics that I wish were more impressive. Characters are still represented by flat, sparsely animated cutouts, and the story is told in a traditional RPG “talking heads” fashion. The background pictures, while freshly re-rendered, are still static and tend to repeat too much. The operations are the real meat of the game, but livelier, more animated story scenes in between would help the plot flow easier.
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