Review by comebackking1

"A game everyone should experience, no "second opinion" necessary!"

Trauma Center: Second Opinion is the follow-up to 2005's highly successful, yet vastly underrated, Trauma Center: Under the Knife. While it is essentially a remake of Under the Knife, Second Opinion adds additional story elements, a new playable character, selectable difficulty levels, and a vastly superior control scheme. It's everything the original should have been and so much more.

For those new to the Trauma Center universe, the story follows the exploits of one Dr. Derek Stiles, a brand new surgeon fresh out of his internship, and the mysterious Dr. Naomi Weaver. The early chapters, follow Derek and his growing pains, which generally consist of patients arriving at the hospital with various types of injuries, and Derek learning how best to treat them. The story evolves, however, into something much grander in scale, as the virus GUILT comes into play, and the fate of the world is at stake. There are a few story-only chapters sprinkled throughout that add to the depth of the game, but they are infrequent and short enough that they never disrupt the pace of the game. There are additional chapters included, so even veterans of “Under the Knife” will have something new to dive into. It's not the most intricately woven story arc, but it's enough for the player to feel the gravity of the situation, all while performing many delicate operations. It really adds a sense of realism as your palms sweat, and your hands begin to tremble.

The graphics don't add a lot of realism to the game, but they take almost nothing away either. The story is advanced through a series of colorful stills and dialogues. The characters all have a distinctly Japanese flavor in their appearance, and they are fairly well-detailed for this sort of game. When the action shifts to the operating room, things shift to a simple, yet clean look. For a surgery simulation, things never get too overly graphic. The patients resemble mannequins, have either a masculine or feminine shape, and can be tall, short, fat, or skinny. As the view shifts to the internal organs, Atlus did a wonderful job making things reasonably detailed, without adding an unnecessary level of gore. It should be much appreciated by the squeamish, and equally so by people looking for some sense of realism. Think of the skeleton in the science lab with all the removable organs, and well, you get the picture.

The games soundtrack, while adequate, definitely isn't awe inspiring. It does feature some catchy tunes to accompany the story boards, as well as some tension building music during the operations. It's fairly enjoyable during the game, but they are not the kind of memorable video game tunes you'll be whistling ten years from now. The text heavy story is accompanied by a few spoken one-liners such as, “I will save this patient!”, but ultimately the game is pretty much devoid of any voice acting. In fairness, it wouldn't add a lot to this type of game anyways.

The rock-solid control scheme is ultimately where Second Opinion garners the majority of its laurels. It marks a significant improvement over its predecessor. Under the Knife's controls, while effective, were often clunky. Many operations were lost while spending time tapping the appropriate surgical tool, performing the necessary action, tapping the next tool, etcetera, etcetera. Second Opinion remedies this problem by mapping each of the games eight tools to a particular direction on the nunchuk's analog stick. This change makes changing surgical seamless, and reduces the likelihood that an operation will be lost by fumbling with your tools. The motion controls work well, and the pointer is spot-on accurate. You'll be applying antibiotic gel, making incisions, zapping tumors, and stitching up patients with the greatest of ease. The only gripe with the control scheme is that the forceps can be a bit touchy and unresponsive. It's occasionally hard to know exactly where to grab a thorn or a shard of glass, and equally tough to pull it out straight. The game does punish less than perfect maneuvers, and this one is difficult to master. It's a minor gripe to be sure, and it detracts very little from the well implemented, motion control scheme.

The game offers 3 difficulty levels and a series of extra missions for the truly hardcore Trauma Center aficionados. Amateur surgeons will find a decent challenge on easy; while hard will frustrate even veteran practitioners. Each operation is graded based on how quickly and effectively each procedure was performed. It offers replay value to a game that is already enjoyable the second time through.

Trauma Center: Second Opinion is an outstanding update to an already good DS game. The graphics are clean and pleasing, and the story is excellent for a surgery simulation. It adds a second playable character, new missions, and an adjustable difficulty level. The motion controls are implemented extremely well, rivaling anything seen on the Wii to date. If you're not into the whole “playing doctor” scene, you might consider a rental. For the rest of us, however, Trauma Center is a great, engaging, and just flat out fun game, that every self-respecting gamer should try once. Forgive, the cliché, but Trauma Center is easily a cut above the rest, no “second opinion needed.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 01/06/08

Game Release: Trauma Center: Second Opinion (US, 11/14/06)

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