Review by doughboy1337
"Great concept ruined by a lack of effort"
Trauma Center: Second Opinion is a great concept for a game, especially on the release of the wii, since it is an original idea that takes advantage of a system that can support its idea. However, there are so many aspects of this game that are broken that it completely ruins the concept, especially since there is a DS version of this game out there that is nearly perfect and fun without any of the drawbacks this game has.
Trauma Center: Second Opinion is a game that simulates surgery by using the wii remote to control all the tool's at a surgeon's disposal. It's definitely unlike any game you've ever played....except.....
For those who aren't familiar with the game, it should be stated that Trauma Center: Second Opinion is a remake. The original Trauma Center came out on the DS originally, but there is a bit of extra material for those who don't want to just play through a game they've already defeated. At the end of each chapter, you unlock a mission for a bonus chapter where you play as Naomi, a new character who has been blackmailed into working for the sinister Delphi orginization. Her missions offer a change of pace as compared to the main storyline as the missions take more advantage of the wii capabilities and of the plot of the game.
Now let's go through the specifics.
This game wasn't made to look good, and honestly if it did, it might be a little graphic and disturbing. Half of the game you will be looking at anime drawings of the various characters during cut scenes and giving you directions during surgery. I've seen this plenty of times in various direct translations of Japanese games, but this game gets a bit lazy with it. In any other game with this kind of style, there are usually far more characters as well as many more expressions for each character. This game doesn't have a menagerie of characters. In fact for most of the game you'll see only see two, with a few supporting characters that appear on occasion and then a few one-shot characters. The main characters have three central expressions: neutral, angry, and happy. A few of the supporting characters have similar expressions, while most have the same emotion all the time, and the one-shot characters are all either neutral or sick. It really takes away from the chance to make the characters seem real or interesting. Also, the backgrounds in all of these cut scenes are awful and look like they were stolen from a Japanese hentai game.
The other half of the game is spent in surgery, and the graphics aren't too bad here. The textures are relatively smooth. However it always looks like you're practicing surgery on a mannequin instead of the real thing. There is a lack of detail in this part of the game as all the body parts are pretty much one color throughout, and it just doesn't seem real. It almost makes sense, since the game needs to tone down the realism of the body as to avoid getting a mature rating for gore or nudity (since all the bodies are genderless with completely flat pectoral sections), however it seems like there was just very little effort to make it look like you're operating on a person
This game sounds awful. So very awful. This game has without a doubt the WORST soundtrack I've ever heard. Every single track sounds straight out of a hentai game, and most will almost make your ears bleed. Luckily, all the most annoying tracks are only heard doing the cut scenes, and the music during surgery stages isn't nearly as annoying, but during these parts you have to put up with the annoying characters yelling at you to do better and stop messing up. Between these two points, putting the game on mute will make you feel like silence is the greatest sound of all. It's very obvious that the developers spent most of the budget on the gameplay and control...unfortunately....
While it seems like most of the time spent making the game was spent on gameplay, it suffers a couple of major flaws that ruin how awesome the gameplay is. Don't get me wrong; for about half of the game you will be having the time of your life and this game will seem awesome. This is mostly because the soundtrack hasn't started to annoy you yet and the graphics aren't boring you, since the gameplay at this point is awesome. Then the flaws set in. The first major flaw is that once you beat the game you will realize how little gameplay there really was. There are only about four or five surgeries in each level. Some levels have extra "surgeries", that are actually just little puzzles that involve using your surgical tools to solve problems.
The next problem is that there is a highly variable amount of difficulty throughout the levels. Every level is either an insanely easy cakewalk, or an impossible exercise in futility. For the first half of the game you won't even notice how easy the levels are since you haven't encountered the impossibly hard ones. Then you will suddenly switch between the two difficulties. It really shows that all the time was spent designing the levels, but not playtesting them. There are a few levels in particular that I can't believe made it into a published game, as they are on par with games like ghosts and goblins in the sense of frustrating difficulty. Don't expect a guide to help you with these levels, as all that really matters is your skill. There are also two levels that are completely impossible to complete without a guide, which is sad since that is a total change from the DS version of the game. You will face two levels where the disease you're battling must be defeated by solving a puzzle. The game explains how to control the puzzle, but there are no suggestions as to how to solve it. The only option is guess and check, and any mistake made will instantly multiply the puzzle to a larger size which cannot possibly be solved. Sure, guess and check works in several games, but when you have to guess 10 moves in a row to make any progress and then do that again another five times without making a mistake, you'll definitely run to a guide instead of reloading the level for the 500th time. There are also points where the patient health will literally drop from 60 to dead faster than you can possibly notice that something was wrong, and long before you even get a chance to grab a healing item.
The final issue of the gameplay is the lack of anything remotely close to actual surgery in the last two-thirds of the game. Before Trauma Center, the last surgery game I can remember being released in America was called Life and Death, and that was in 1988. Obviously, not many people have ever played a surgery game, so the game could easily entertain anybody by simply making the player perform various surgeries throughout the body. However, after the intro to the gameplay all you do is attack a fictional virus that moves around and attacks either the lungs, heart or the intestines. You don't deal with any real diseases or medical abnormalities, just the fictional virus. This makes the game less about being a surgeon and more like a first person shooter where all you do is shoot the moving virus with various tools.
The control of the game is where it really shines. The way the game responds to the movement of the wiimote and the buttons actual feels like performing medical procedures, which makes a big difference over the DS version. For example, in Second Opinion, when you use the forceps, you press A and B together, which feels like you're actually holding them and manipulating them for real. The wiimote is also very accurate for most of the game and doesn't get too specific about you having absolutely perfect aim except for a few particular parts.
There are three mistakes made though, and though relatively minor compared to the primal flaws of the game, they still subtract from the experience in the substantial way. First, switching surgical tools is controlled by the analog stick on the nunchuck, and until you completely master the use of this (and even once you master this), you will constantly select the wrong tool on accident, then try to use it and be punished for using the wrong tool. This is especially true and trying to access a tool registered to one of the diagonal directions, since many times when returning to the center position the overly sensitive analog stick will for a split second hit one of the cardinal directions and give you that tool instead. The second problem is the healing touch, which is absolutely necessary to defeat many of the missions. In the DS version, it is relatively easy to activate, and given time, it can be used multiple times in a single surgery. In the transition to the Wii, all of this is lost. The healing touch does not activate unless performed perfectly, and most of the time you will fail a mission because you were trying repeatedly to activate the healing touch, and meanwhile the virus has multiplied immensely to the point that it wouldn't help you anyway even if it did activate. You can also only use it once per stage, which is extremely annoying in the stages that involve multiple surgeries. Also, the new character in the bonus chapter has the healing touch, but it has a different effect that is completely useless. The final problem with the control is that in a couple missions, the screen becomes so overwhelmed with activity (which on the wii only means about 12 viruses on the screen) that the controls actually break and some tools just won't work, particularly the forceps.
The plot of the game is entirely mediocre and nothing original. I'd give it five points except for the fact that we've all already seen it before in the DS version, and it seemed so much more boring in this one. The plot isn't actually the worst though, it's that the characters are all incredibly boring and while some talk about their pasts in a way that makes it seem as though it may have influence on the plot, it actually doesn't occur, and many points in the plot are left open and confusing. The plot includes plenty of scenes that involve lots of action and intense moments, but because of the dating-game style cutscenes, all the action moments are portrayed by poor sound effects and characters summarizing what just happened. It's like watching an action movie where instead of a car chase scene you just see a character tell you about how the car went off a cliff and exploded.
The redeeming part of the plot is the new stage of the game with the new character Naomi. She is hundreds upon thousands times more interesting than any character in the game, and while she only has five scenes in her plot, I learned more about her than any other character and only played the game through to the end to see what happened to her and couldn't care less about the rest of the cast.
It is pretty difficult for me to not just give the game a flat out zero, but I will admit that game was a great idea, and offered the opportunity for a fun and worthwhile game. Unfortunately all the time was spent brainstorming the idea and pulling it off in the DS version, while all other aspects of the game were diluted and then the concept completely ruined on the wii. Any other company could take the core skeleton of this game and replace the music and plot and control flaws and make a game that should be in every system out there. This is the first time I've ever been disappointed with an Atlus game, and I truly hope that it's the last.
Reviewer's Score: 2/10 | Originally Posted: 11/23/09
Game Release: Trauma Center: Second Opinion (US, 11/14/06)
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