Review: Trauma Team (Wii)

This entry into the “medical drama” genre improves the “Trauma” series in every way possible.

Rating: T
Players: 1, with 2-player co-op on some missions
Genre: Action/Medical Drama
Publisher: Atlus
Developers: Atlus
Release Date: May 18, 2010 (US); June 17, 2010 (Japan)


I’ll admit that I was a little apprehensive when I first got the Trauma Team disc in front of me. I wasn’t so good at the DS “Trauma” games, after all. In my hands, pretty much every patient was doomed. It was like the worst game of “Operation” on record. I always felt incredibly guilty, too, like someone really died on the table, but I still loved those games.

Characters like Dr. Maria Torres are well-developed outside of the OR through comic-like sequences

However, I can say (very happily, mind you) that “Trauma Team” improves this experience tenfold. Not only was I now able to save patients more often than not, but the additional gameplay modes actually let me take a break between stressful surgeries. I’ll get into that later on in my breakdown of the title.

In Trauma Team, you take on six different specialties – most at the hospital, with a medical examiner position at the Cumberland Institute of Forensic Medicine. Each specialty has a doctor associated with it, and, for the most part, these characters are very well-developed in scenarios outside of surgery, which are all very stylishly done as if from a comic.

You’ve got regular surgery, orthopedics, First Response and endoscopic surgery, which all play a lot like the first few games, but with slight changes, like different tools for different surgery types. For instance, endoscopics require you to control the lighted endoscopic tube while treating tumors and other internal maladies. First Response is a lot like regular surgery, but incredibly fast with more situational tools, since you’re responding to emergencies outside the hospital.

Gabriel Cunningham has to examine some patients before they're sent elsewhere

Where the game really differs from its peers is in the Diagnostic and Forensic sections. These all play a lot like a Phoenix Wright game, if you’re familiar with that series. If you’re not, your job as either Dr. Gabriel Cunningham (who really resembles a House, M.D. in more than just appearance) or Dr. Naomi Kimishima involves a lot of sleuthing and putting the pieces together – much like Phoenix Wright scours crime scenes for clues that he uses in the courtroom.

In Cunningham’s case, you’ll be asking patients what’s going on with their bodies and performing several rudimentary exams to get to a diagnosis, which might end up moving your patient to another doc for surgery. In Kimishima’s case, your patients can’t tell you a thing – unless you’re listening to their final words using Kimishima’s cell phone and the speaker on your Wii Remote, anyway. The one way your victims can tell their stories is through their bodies. You’ll be able to examine corpses (blue, genderless corpses) and look for little things, like a broken finger, or injuries elsewhere on the body.

Much like Phoenix has Maya Fey as a sidekick, Cunningham and Kimishima have counterparts, as well. In Cunningham’s case, he’s bouncing sarcastic lines off a diagnostic computer that keeps track of his patients’ every move, while Naomi has “Little Guy,” who works with the FBI, to research clues while she looks for more.

Dr. Kimishima's patients can't be saved - they're already dead

The diagnostic and forensic sections were my favorites, by the way. They’re a definite breath of fresh air in a bunch of gameplay that is only a little bit new to me. This is the fifth game in a series that has surgery as a backbone, after all. Splitting up the surgery types is nice, but surgery is surgery to me – just nervewracking enough to elevate my heart rate noticeably, even though the process itself is a little different from past games based on controls alone.

Luckily, I can set up my own breaks between delicate procedures. The game is designed on a sort of grid system, which aligns every segment chronologically. You can pick and choose which character’s storyline you want to advance – go through everything one doctor has to offer, if you want, or really work through them all chronologically. Things that happen at the same time are all on the same horizontal line, whether it’s just a cutscene or an actual medical procedure, and if you work one line at a time, you’ll see how everything fits together to come to a dramatic finish.

Tomoe Tachibana is regarded as the best in her craft - endoscopy

And I definitely mean “dramatic.” This game really takes its cues from pop culture, more specifically – American television. If you’ve ever watched House or Grey’s Anatomy or even a soap, you’ll definitely see those shows’ influence in the dialogue and storylines as well as different characters’ mannerisms. (Some characters, however, are just classic Japanese archetypes.) The forensic episodes definitely smack of CSI. If you’re a fan of any of these shows – maybe even none of them – you can see where the game gets its inspiration. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is really up to you.

Something that is definitely a good addition to the series is a selection of difficulty levels. You initially have two, “Intern” and “Resident,” but after completing the game, a super-hard difficulty level, Specialist, opens up,in addition to special Doctor Awards. You’re able to select the difficulty level before each segment, which makes me wonder why more games don’t do that – here, it works incredibly well, and it allows you to tailor the game to your own personal skill level.

This is the kind of mess you'll get yourself into if you want to move up to Specialist difficulty

However, that doesn’t work in two places where skill level isn’t taken into account – the aforementioned Diagnostic and Forensic stages, which both give you a finite number of times to make an error before you’re forced to reload. At least you can save often in those stages, and when you return, your “health bar” will be reloaded. Granted, this isn’t much of a problem in the diagnostician’s stages (unless you have a real problem with “What is the difference between Picture A and Picture B?”), but in Kimishima’s stages, the logic used to answer questions is a little out there. (Yet another corollary to Phoenix Wright, but this time, it’s not so good.) However, even if there was a difference in difficulty in those levels, I don’t see where it would make that much of a difference, so perhaps it’s better that way.

A co-op mode is available and allows you to assign certain tasks during surgery, but I was unable to test this part of the game out, unfortunately. Co-op is not available during Diagnostic and Forensic stages.

The Wii section of the game store has typically been a landscape of shovelware titles and minigame collections. Out of all of my consoles, my Wii typically sees the least amount of use, and with what’s available, that’s understandable. But, once in a great while, a game comes along that reminds me why I haven’t sold the system yet, and I have to say that Trauma Team is one of the best reminders thus far. It’s fun, yeah, but it’s actually good on top of that.

A copy of the game was provided by Atlus, and does not affect the outcome of this review.