Atlus is one of Nintendo’s best third party supporters and a lot of people probably don’t even realize it. From the DS onward, Atlus has been onboard with Nintendo’s “creativity first” approach, delivering strange but undeniably unique experiences on Nintendo consoles even when Nintendo and many others were phoning in their work. Atlus brought their successful Megami Tensei RPG to Nintendo hardware, handled the localization of Chunsoft’s Shiren the Wanderer to the Wii, and even started new IPs on the DS like Etrian Odyssey and of course, Trauma Center. Atlus’s quirky Trauma Center series has been quietly using the Wii and DS in creative, engaging ways for years.
That said, the series has gotten admittedly stale in the last couple of entries. I reviewed the past two Wii Trauma Centers and played the direct DS sequel extensively, and while each one was a marked improvement over the last—adding co-op, full voice acting, new controls and more creative operations—they all retread a lot of ground. Within the constraints of the Wii controls, there’s only so much you can do with emergency room surgery, at least until you’re playing Asteroids in a guy’s intestines again.
Per usual, Atlus has listened to their fans and understood what they want: a wider variety of more realistic operations, a less fantastical story, and fresh gameplay ideas. Atlus has hit on an effective solution to all these requests—if they’ve reached the limits of one field of medicine they’ll just explore new ones, five of them in fact. The aptly titled Trauma Team adds endoscopy, first response, diagnostics, orthopedics and forensics to trauma surgery for a total of six medical disciplines. In this way it expands the scope of the series far beyond what any of the previous games did. In the process of adding these new gameplay styles, Atlus has improved almost everything about the series.
Past games dabbled in fields like EMT response or orthopedics and mixed them in with a linear series of operations performed by only one or two doctors. However you never saw the level of focus or detail you get in Trauma Team. Each field works as a separate story arc, following a specialist in the field as they run through a series of six or seven operations. Resurgam Hospital has a lot going on, making Trauma Team the biggest and most varied Trauma game so far.
The standard surgery is back but the character is unique—a brilliant surgeon afflicted by partial amnesia, he’s been accused of a horrific bioterrorism attack on a college and incarcerated for a 250 year sentence. He’s known only by his prison number, CR-S01, remembers nothing but his medical training, and is working off his sentence one high-risk operation at a time. CR-S01 is a refreshingly solemn character and his track plays like a “greatest hits” selection from the entire Trauma Center series. You’ll still be excising tumors and suturing lacerations, but Trauma Team’s operations benefit from several games’ worth of tweaking and refinement. The surgery here is the most focused and enjoyable in the series by far.
Resurgam’s head EMT is the hot-headed Maria Torres, a woman with anger and self-confidence issues. Appropriately all of the first response operations are fast-paced and chaotic. You only have four basic tools—healing gel, stabilizer syringe, tape and forceps—but you must use them much more quickly than in surgery. First response is about juggling multiple patients and getting them stable for transport. You’ll patch up cuts and burns with gel, trauma pads and tape instead of sutures and soak up blood with gauze instead of the drain. There are also broken limbs to set and splint, blood transfusions to inject and good old fashioned CPR. Your job is to get the patients stable as quickly as possible, but don’t work too hastily—sometimes the guy you’re working on can tell you about other casualties you’d otherwise miss. First response is like surgery on steroids—if you thought working on one dying person was hard, imagine five, all with grievous injuries and two of them going into cardiac arrest.
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