Even with five new disciplines the controls still work almost seamlessly, aside from a few issues with endoscopy. Atlus was smart in designing Trauma Team—they added to the controls by building on the familiarity established in previous games. There are several new tools to use and new ways to use old ones, but with some helpful tutorials they become second nature in no time. Atlus said there was still a lot of potential in the Wii remote and that they wouldn’t be using WiiMotion Plus for this game; now I know what they meant. By working smart and adapting the existing control scheme to new operation types, they’ve kept the gesture controls simple and intuitive.
I could understand if one of Trauma Team medical fields was the odd one out but it really is six well-built games in one. It’s certainly the biggest game in the Trauma series—easily 25 hours long—and this broad scope applies to the story as well. The plot arcs are split up among the six characters and overlap quite often; sometimes a patient even moves from one doctor to the next. You’ll have to play through each track to get the full story and this has some curious side effects. In some cutscenes a character will talk to another and say some pretty vague stuff or just trail off, and you won’t understand it until you play the mission from their perspective and see what they were thinking. It can make some of the cutscenes seem a little flat or confusing—at first I thought I was getting some translation decay—but when you finish out the whole story it’s a lot more satisfying.
Trauma Team’s plot conforms to the more realistic direction Atlus took with the operations. The story still retains the series’ characteristic anime melodrama but despite happening further in the chronology than the previous games, it is far more grounded with less mysticism, miraculous scifi technology and philosophical musings. There are no bio-terrorists with obscure religious motivations and no magical healing touch. A pandemic threat is the common theme throughout the game and the big focus of the last act, but it is much more of a turbo-charged H1N1 than the creepy crawly GUILT parasites.
The game has a wider active cast but their respective problems are more down-to-earth, making them more relatable characters. Instead of wrestling with navel-gazing existential or moral questions, they deal with personal problems—family issues, lack of confidence, feelings of powerlessness. Instead of bombastic medical heroics and sinister plots worthy of Cobra Commander, the game touches on issues like depression, doubt, suicide, drug use, divorce and responsibility. The delivery is about as hammed-up as you’d expect from a typical anime or medical drama but the dialogue is more serious overall and touches on more human issues. Trauma Team walks a fine line between camp and adult drama. It has the same dramatic feel of previous games in the series but has a more serious, grounded edge. Naomi’s entire campaign is about getting there too late—realistic depictions of death and the search for hard answers in its wake.
The doctors all have their larger than life quirks, but more often than not they work through their own issues by coming face to face with their patients’ emotional struggles. Trauma Team never strays from the bounds of its Teen rating but it isn’t a whitewashed party game collection by a long shot, so longtime fans finally have a more poignant, evocative story to sink their teeth into. Conversely, if you’re a parent this could be a great game to play with your kids. The whole Trauma Center series earns marks for rewarding the player for saving people rather than killing them, but in particular Trauma Team’s insightful tackling of difficult subjects could be a great springboard for discussing these issues with an uncertain teenager.
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